Thursday, August 26, 2010

Seeing VS Believing

The end of this week's Parsha, Ki Tavo, has an important idea. In fact, it is essential to understand this idea in order to truly connect to G-D, in my opinion. The Parsha says (Devarim 29:1-3):

א. וַיִּקְרָא מֹשֶׁה אֶל כָּל יִשְׂרָאֵל וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵהֶם אַתֶּם רְאִיתֶם אֵת כָּל אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה יְ־הֹוָ־ה לְעֵינֵיכֶם בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם לְפַרְעֹה וּלְכָל עֲבָדָיו וּלְכָל אַרְצוֹ:
1. And Moses called all of Israel and said to them, "You have seen all that the Lord did before your very eyes in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh, to all his servants, and to all his land;

ב. הַמַּסּוֹת הַגְּדֹלֹת אֲשֶׁר רָאוּ עֵינֶיךָ הָאֹתֹת וְהַמֹּפְתִים הַגְּדֹלִים הָהֵם
2. the great trials which your very eyes beheld and those great signs and wonders.

ג. וְלֹא נָתַן יְ־הֹוָ־ה לָכֶם לֵב לָדַעַת וְעֵינַיִם לִרְאוֹת וְאָזְנַיִם לִשְׁמֹעַ עַד הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה
3. The Lord has not given you a heart to know, eyes to see and ears to hear until this very day.

This seems odd. Moshe is telling us that G-D did all these miraculous things, but it is only today, the day Moshe dies and the Jewish people go into Israel, that the Jewish people finally realize that G-D is G-D? Moshe is saying that the Jewish people did not know, see G-D or hear G-D until this day, does this make any sense whatsoever? Obviously, there is a deeper meaning to these words which must be examined. 

Rashi attempts to clarify what Moshe is saying by relating to us something he once heard. This seems odd because usually Rashi quotes where he heard things from, but here it is:

עד היום הזה: שמעתי שאותו היום שנתן משה ספר התורה לבני לוי, כמו שכתוב (לקמן לא, ט) ויתנה אל הכהנים בני לוי באו כל ישראל לפני משה ואמרו לו משה רבינו אף אנו עמדנו בסיני וקבלנו את התורה ונתנה לנו, ומה אתה משליט את בני שבטך עליה, ויאמרו לנו יום מחר לא לכם נתנה, לנו נתנה. ושמח משה על הדבר, ועל זאת אמר להם היום הזה נהיית לעם וגו' (לעיל כז, ט), היום הזה הבנתי שאתם דבקים וחפצים במקום:

Until this day: I heard that on the very day that Moses gave the Torah scroll to the sons of Levi-as the verse says, “And he gave it to the kohanim , the sons of Levi” (Deut. 31:19)-all Israel came before Moses and said to him: “Moses, our Teacher! We also stood at [Mount] Sinai and accepted the Torah, and it was [also] given to us! Why, then, are you giving the members of your tribe control over it, so that some day in the future they may claim, 'It was not given to you-it was given only to us!’” Moses rejoiced over this matter and it was on account of this, that he said to them, “This day, you have become a people [to the Lord your God]” (Deut. 27:9). [This meant:] “It is today that I understand that you cleave to the Omnipresent and desire Him.” 

The problem that I have with Rashi is that this is clearly NOT what the verse says. This understanding THROWS OUT any reading of this verse. G-D has given you eyes to see, ears to hear and a heart to know can not mean that the Jewish people have revealed that they always loved G-D. That is not G-D giving something, that is just the Jewish people showing that they love G-D and cleave to Him. There must be a different meaning that can explain what in the world Moshe is, in fact, talking about. 

I want to suggest the following explanation of the verse. Moshe says that G-D has performed all of these miracles for the Jewish people and yet it is only today, the day before the Jewish people enter the land of Israel and Moshe dies, that G-D finally gives them the ability to know, see and hear Him. What is Moshe telling the Jewish people? 

The Ibn Ezra will help us understand this puzzling problem. He says (on the first verse of Devarim 29):

ויקרא משה אל כל ישראל -
לכרות הברית, על כן אחריה אתם נצבים היום.

And Moshe called to all of Israel: To make a covenant, therefore (the verse states afterwords) "You (PL.) are standing here today."

The Ibn Ezra allows us to understand what Moshe is telling the Jewish people. The Jewish people were taken out of Egypt with miracles, but they did not make this covenant. The Jewish people received the Torah after speaking with G-D, but they still did not make this covenant. The Jewish people were covered with the cloud of glory, got the water from a supernatural well, and received the Maan, but still they could not make this covenant. However, now they were able to receive this covenant. WHAT HAPPENED?

I think we can now bring Rashi's idea back and explain it so it does fit with the language of the verse. Rashi says that the Jewish people got upset when Moshe gave the Torah to the tribe of Levi and not to everyone. This sparked an EMOTIONAL passion in the Jewish people, that had not existed until this point. The Jewish people's passion and emotions for G-D were uncovered and came bursting forth. It was only when this emotion was uncovered and brought bubbling to the surface were they now able to receive from G-D "A heart to know, eyes to see and ears to hear" Him.

However, why must emotion be evoked before one can truly know, see and hear G-D? This is simple. If a person simply chose to follow G-D because of rationale, that service of G-D would be stone cold and there would not be a very great connection to G-D. However, Judaism is not about simply seeing and believing, it is about emotion, love and passion. This is why a person connects to G-D in the best possible way through love and awe of G-D. Emotion allows a person to "know, hear, and see " G-D in his or her life. This is the only way to really connect to G-D, simply coming to a rational state of G-D's existence leads one to have a "cold" connection to G-D. However, a person that evokes his or her emotions can bring G-D into their life and have a "warm" connection. This is why the Jewish people were only ready to make this covenant with G-D at this point, because they finally tapped into the most important part to achieving a connection to G-D, emotions. Thus, G-D NOW allowed them to really have "a heart to know, an eye to see and an ear to hear."


InvestigatorG said...

Only at that point did Am Israel's emotions become aroused and not before then? Even after all those miracles?

E-Man said...

Right, even though they saw these miracles they continued to complain about everything. They were not emotionally involved. They realized G-D was G-D, but were not overcome with passion to follow Him, they followed Him because He was clearly there. This is evident in the Chumash since the Jewish people continuously "tested" G-D. It was only at this point that the Jews were overcome with emotions and desire to follow G-D and it wasn't just because of His performance of miracles and revealing Himself.

Baruch Pelta said...

Hey E-man, I responded to your post on my blog:

E-Man said...

I responded to you on your blog Baruch.