Sunday, November 16, 2008

Reading the Instruction Manual

"Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that change darkness into light, and light into darkness; that change bitter into sweet, and sweet into bitter!"

Like any good product creator, G-d provided His world with a blueprint for successful and happy lives. G-d gave us His holy Torah so that we should live lives with more meaning and more blessing. The Torah is the path to reaching G-d and safely maneuvering through life's obstacles. As the Sages teach, "delve into it and continue to delve into it, because everything is in it". The secret to overcoming every problem and mishap is contained in G-d's Torah. In even the most seemingly trivial verse, there is eternal and divine wisdom for all ages. Whether we are dealing with ancient halachic problems or modern controversies, the answer lies in the Torah.

If a person buys a new gadget but neglects to read the instruction manual, he will quickly find that he has trouble working the device. A person may only watch basic cable because he never took the time to learn how to install satellite TV. When we ignore what the instructions tell us, we barely use a minimum of our potential, simply because we never knew that more existed. G-d says of His Torah: “The Torah I give you, is a good acquisition; don’t abandon it.” (Proverbs 4:2) What is a good acquisition? The Torah is the path to reaching G-dliness, to rising above the emptiness and materialism of the world and elevating the mundane into the holy. Torah enable us to find holy everywhere, to invite G-d into our lives and to become worthy of His Presence. When we follow the Torah, we can see clearly with divine intuition. It enables us l'havdil, to differentiate, between right and wrong. It is the key to a moral society, which is why all people and nations have adopted at least aspect of the Torah. Only a society based on the Torah-notion of ethical monotheism, of a G-d who demands morality and justice, can flourish and prosper.

Unfortunately, when we abandon the Torah, we abandon our moral compass. In the portion of Haazinu, Moses calls the nation of Israel a "foolish people and unwise" (Deut. 32:6). In his rebuke of Israel, he warns them that if the disobey G-d, they will be stricken with "the blindness of Egypt". What was Egypt's great blindness? In their stubbornness, their resistance to listen to G-d and their persistence in their wicked ways, they brought down their great civilization. When we have no Torah to guide us, we are empty and cannot effectively label right and wrong.

Today, we are in precisely this situation. Due to our rejection of the Torah and our insistence of following the foibles of our own heart, we have subjected ourselves to a catastrophe of our own doing. The greatest tragedies of the modern era, Nazism, Communism and the rise of Islamic fascism, all go to demonstrate what happens when man forgets the moral G-d of Abraham. The former show the dangers of a man-made morality which will eventually lead to moral relativism and wholesale slaughter, while the latter represents the evil of religion without "thou shalt not murder". It is in this sick and twisted world that murderers who shoot teenagers studying in yeshiva or rain rockets down on schools are called 'militants' while denouncing as 'disproportionate' those who seek to defend themselves.

When man does not use the Torah to guide him, he is prone to moral relativism. It is this relativism that creates a culture of permissiveness, where 'intolerance' and 'being judgemental' are the greatest slurs. It is a society in which two men are allowed to marry, where the sanctity of life is constantly under attack, whether for infants, the elderly or the disabled. It is a society that will allow anything at any time and that refuses to call people to task for their actions. In this dangerous moral void, people cringe at the word 'evil', or laugh derisively at at, considering it archaic and unenlightened. People prefer to hide their heads in the sand rather than confront terror and hate. Honour killings and female genital mutilation are tolerated in the name of "cultural diversity". Tyrants and despots are lauded as freedom fighters and human rights activists. A leader who calls for the destruction of another state and its people is cheered before the assembled nations of the world. Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil, that cannot draw any lines, who allow evil to fester and spread.

G-d gave mankind free will and in doing this, He abdicated Himself from responsibility. That is one of the most frightening and empowering concepts in the entire Torah. "See, I have set before you today life and good, and death and evil. I have commanded you today to love Hashem your G-d, to walk in his paths, and to keep His Commandments, Decrees, and Laws. You will then live and flourish, and Hashem your G-d will bless you... But if your heart turns astray, and you do not listen... I am warning you today that you will be exterminated... I call heaven and earth as witnesses. Before you I have placed life and death, the blessing and the curse. You must choose life, so that you and your descendants will live." (Deut. 30:15-19) G-d commands us to choose life, to embrace His Torah and to perfect His world. The choice is stark: either Torah and moral clarity, or be condemned to emptiness and vanity, blindness and triviality. G-d laments: "If they would have abandoned Me but kept My Torah, its inherent light would have brought them back to Me." The power is in our hands. We need to read the instruction manual.

Cross-posted to Goat's Barnyard and Jewish Vengeance


Anonymous said...

So true!

66 Teach me good discernment and knowledge,For I believe in Your commandments.
67 Before I was afflicted I went astray, But now I keep Your word.

113 I hate those who are double-minded, But I love Your law.
114 You are my hiding place and my shield; I wait for Your word.
115 Depart from me, evildoers, That I may observe the commandments of my God.
116 Sustain me according to Your word, that I may live; And do not let me be ashamed of my hope.
117 Uphold me that I may be safe, That I may have regard for Your statutes continually.
118 You have rejected all those who wander from Your statutes, For their deceitfulness is useless.
119 You have removed all the wicked of the earth like dross; Therefore I love Your testimonies.
120 My flesh trembles for fear of You, And I am afraid of Your judgments.

Marcel said...

His watchmen are blind:they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber. Isaiah 56:10

Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help. Psalm146:3

Anonymous said...

"Hear, O My people, and I will speak, O Israel, and I will testify against you;
I am God, your God!..........
Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me."
But to the wicked God says: "What right have you to declare My statutes,
Or take My covenant in your mouth,Seeing you hate instruction And cast My words behind you?
When you saw a thief, you consented with him, And have been a partaker with adulterers.
You give your mouth to evil, And your tongue frames deceit.
You sit and speak against your brother; You slander your own mother's son.
These things you have done, and I kept silent; You thought that I was altogether like you;
But I will rebuke you, And set them in order before your eyes.
"Now consider this, you who forget God, Lest I tear you in pieces, And there be none to deliver:
Whoever offers praise glorifies Me; And to him who orders his conduct aright
I will show the salvation of God."
Psalm 50

Batya said...