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The Systems of the Jewish Year

Going Casual

By Rabbi Yaacov Haber

The Torah tells us in stark terms what the outcome will be if we do not live up to specific expectations.

The recurring theme is that we must not do what is described as ‘going with G-d ‘b’keri’ or indifference - casualness. “If you will be indifferent to Me; I too will be indifferent.”

This phrase is mentioned numerous times and seems to be the main cause of a negative response from G-d. Are we indifferent?

There are three main events in the last hundred years which stand out as being unique in the long history of the Jewish people. Each is remarkable. They are the Holocaust, the mass return to Eretz Yisrael and the rise of the State of Israel, and massive assimilation despite a major teshuva movement.

It would be quite possible to say that all this is part of a cycle, or a coalescence of historical factors, or that it’s just the way the cookie crumbles. But that would be to ignore the enormity of each of these events. How can we be indifferent to the massive return to Eretz Yisroel, quite possibly the most miraculous event in Jewish history since the exodus from Egypt?

The Ramban writes that many nations tried to settle the land after we left, but not were successful. He himself came to Israel and famously found Jerusalem lacking even a minyan of men when he arrived. He writes that the Land of Israel is like a wife whose husband has left her, but she refuses to seek another husband, waiting for his return all the while. Rather than being depressed by the desolation around him, the Ramban chose to see the emptiness as a portent of a future when the Jewish people would return.

One could understand G-d’s involvement in the world in a philosophical sense. Everything is programmed to work in a particular way and that G-d oversees all the details.

However Rabbi Yaakov Emden, writing in his siddur, makes clear that the point is a two way relationship, comprising every detail, such that everything we do alters the way G-d responds to us.

Going ‘b’keri’ means that we take events, even big events, as being just the way it is.

The admonishment of Moshe is to behave as if everything we do matters and is part of a two way, responsive interaction. Recognize G-d’s hand in history and how that may be a reaction to our hand in toiling for G-d and the world.

(TRANSCRIBED BY DR. BEN BRADLEY)

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