Find Yourself

Friday, 14 October, 2016 - 3:02 pm

Find Yourself

The Song of Haazinu - the song Moses sang to the Jewish people on the final day of his life, the song that encompasses all of Jewish history, from the “days of yore” to the future redemption - begins with a description of the great kindness that G-d expressed to the Jewish people. G-d protected them in the desert and gave them his most precious treasure - the Torah. As Moses tells the people in beautiful, poetic, language: 

He (G-d) found them in a desert land, and in a desolate, howling wasteland. He encompassed them and bestowed understanding upon them; He protected them as the pupil of His eye.[1]

Most of the verse is understood: “He encompassed them” - G-d surrounded them in the desert and protected them with the “clouds of glory”. “bestowed understanding upon them” - He gave them the Torah. But what is the meaning of “He found them in a desert land”? The word “found” implies that the finder found something unexpected. Did G-d just happen to find the Jews roaming in the desert? Did He not take them out of Egypt and lead them into the desert? How could Moses say that G-d found them in the desert?

Rashi, the primary Biblical commentator, explains that, indeed, G-d did find the unexpected in the desert. As the Jews expressed profound faith in G-d, following Moses into an inhospitable desert, and committing to accept the Torah. As Rashi explains:

He found them in a desert land: God found them [i.e., Jacob’s sons] faithful to Him in a desert land, for they accepted His Torah, His sovereignty, and His yoke upon themselves-something that Ishmael and Esau did not do, 

and in a desolate, howling wasteland:An arid, desolate land, a place of howling (יְלֵל) jackals and ostriches. Yet even there, Israel followed their faith. They did not say to Moses, “How can we go out into the desert, a place of drought and desolation?”

In the desert G-d found the unexpected, he found a people that were committed to him, that believed in him, in a way that was beyond reason.       

Many relationships are rational. People fall in love because they mutually benefit each other. There is a give and take between that which benefits both parties. The love is rational as it is based on the benefit each party receives from the other. But then there comes a time, that in order for the relationship to survive, what is necessary is not a calculated love, where one gives of him or herself in exchange for what he or she receives from his or her partner, but a love and commitment that is beyond the calculated, business-like, relationship.

Every relationship begins with two happy partners who both feel that they are gaining from the relationship, but what separates the enduring relationship from the transient one, is that somewhere along the way, a deeper, unexpected, commitment was “found”. At some point a person looks at him or her self and is surprised at the level of feeling and connection he or she feels, a connection and commitment that is beyond the logical calculation of investment and reward. When a couple “falls out of love”, when the reason for the initial attraction no longer exists, the relationship will not endure unless, along the way, a deeper connection was “found”.

When a person becomes a parent he or she is overwhelmed with love and devotion to his or her little baby; but no matter how great the love at the moment, at some point later on in life, there is usually a surprise. The parent looks at him or herself and is surprised to have found a devotion and commitment to his or her child that is far greater than what they have ever imagined.

The same it true about our relationship with G-d. Initially the connection between G-d and the Jewish people was a contractual one, where each party was supposed to give something in return for what he would get. G-d would redeem the people from Egypt, bring them to their ancestral land, the land of Israel, and in turn the people would uphold their part of the deal by keeping the Torah. This was a reasonable deal for both parties. But then the unexpected happened. In the desert, G-d found a deeper dimension of the relationship. In the desert G-d discovered that the Jewish people were loyal to him, following Moses into the frightening desert, beyond the dictates of reason.[2] This was no longer a calculated relationship, the people dug deep within their hearts, and found within themselves a commitment to G-d that was deeper than they themselves had ever anticipated.

The portion of Haazinu is read in proximity to Sukkot, the festive seven day holiday that follows Yom Kippur and is an expression of the deep joy in the connection between G-d and the Jewish people. Celebrating in the Sukkah, commemorating G-d’s placing our ancestors in Sukkahs as they left Egypt, we must “find ourselves”, just as G-d “found” the Jews in the desert. When we leave our home to dwell in the Sukkah we must leave behind the notions of self that limit us. We must realize that within each of us there are hidden, unexpected, treasures waiting to be mined and discovered.

We each have infinite hidden strength, courage, kindness and holiness. As we begin the new year, as we sit in the Sukkah celebrating G-d’s embrace, let us surprise ourselves. Let us “find ourselves”. Let us find our true selves.[3]   



[1] Deuteronomy 32:10.

[2] Just a few months later, when the people sinned and violated the covenant by creating the golden calf, G-d forgave them. Not because they were worthy of forgiveness but because the relationship between G-d and the people of Israel reached a point that was deeper than a cost-benefit analysis. The forgiveness was an expression of love that was greater than reason.  

[3] Based on the teachings of the Rebbe, Lekutey Sichos Haazinu, Vol. 34. 

Comments on: Find Yourself
There are no comments.