On it’s tenth anniversary, it’s time to share this musing with all of you again. Enjoy
This week, I focus on the Haftarah this Shabbat Chazor, from Isaiah Chapter 1.
We think it means “let us reason” or “reach an understanding.” But we don’t really know. As much as we like to be absolutely sure that the text as handed down to us is pure and unblemished, we’ve got an undecipherable word here.
Whatever its true and accurate meaning, the most amazing part is who is saying it. The rest of the phrase is “yomar Ad”nai.” “Says Ad”nai.”
This is quite fascinating. G”d is inviting us, through the prophet Isaiah, to reason with G”d, or come to an understanding. It’s a negotiation. Hmmmm.
The Master of the Universe can’t seem to make this recalcitrant people, the stiff-necked Israelites bow to G”d’s will, can’t get them to behave. It is as if G”d had tried everything else and was now ready to try reasoning with an infant. Just as parents sometimes do with the infant children-trying to reason with them or have them understand abstract concepts of negotiation or give-and-take that are somewhat beyond their developmental level.
The question must be asked, however–were, by the time of Isaiah, the Israelites still like infant children? Had they not the item to mature and grow? After all, they had become a nation, with Kings and cities and armies and farming –no longer the nomads wandering in the desert.
Clearly, G”d felt we could be reasoned with, or G”d would not have suggested it. Perhaps the problem was that the Israelites did not see themselves as a mature people? That seems most unlikely considering their present circumstances.
We all know people who, though mature in age, are not quite so mature in other areas of their personalities. I daresay that I can be like that, and I am sure many of you feel the same, at least at times.
We sometimes rail at ourselves for our inability to control those less immature impulses we sometimes have. However, let someone else dare to suggest we might be behaving in a less than mature manner, those defensive screens go right up. Is that how the Israelites reacted to the prophets? “Who, us? Dissing G”d ? No, it’s not us. Things are just fine between us and G”d.”
Yet G”d doesn’t think so. Time and again, G”d pleads with the people, G”d punishes, cajoles, entices. And nothing changes. This time, G”d is so fed up that G”d says that all the people’s sacrifices to G”d are empty, meaningless, even annoying. Yet G”d is going to try, one more time. L’chu-na, v’nivach’chah. Come, let us reason. Come, let us reach and understanding. I’m gonna lay it out for you one more time. No matter how grave your sins, they can be forgiven and you can learn to walk the righteous path. But..if you blow it, I’m gonna create more havoc.
Is G”d co-dependent? Is that why G”d keeps observing the same thing over and over and expecting different results? Is that perhaps why, in apparent desperation, G”d offers to reason with us? Is the outcome of this negotiation really in doubt? Hardly. Israel, like the addicted spouse, will continue on its errant ways. And G”d, the raging co-dependent, will continue to forgive and forget, to enable, to be passive-aggressive and never truly detached and espousing “tough love.”
Truly, as I have suggested before about that book I’m going to write some day, the idea of b’tzelem Elokim really does seem to mean just as much that G”d is like us as we are like G”d.
Maybe G”d has learned? Maybe G”d read “Codependent No More” and that is why G”d is now really practicing detachment–that perhaps this is why G”d doesn’t seem to be so apparently and obviously taking a direct and active role in the world (though I’ve no doubt a huge unseen role is involved.) G”d is detaching in love from G”d’s people Israel, so that perhaps, by “bottoming out” we will discover that there is hope, a way out of this mess. So far, however, we haven’t fared very well, sinker deeper into our addictions and bad behaviors. I sure hope we hit bottom soon. And for us, instead of railing against G”d, angry at the apparent abandonment of us, maybe we can adjust our attitudes and learn to accept the G”d’s detachment from us is a detachment with love. The ever merciful and compassionate G”d is still there, still with us. G”d is just doing what G”d finally realized needed to be done. To detach, and let us discover for ourselves how much we really need G”d, and thus be motivated to do what we must do (i.e. keep our end of the covenant) in order to have G”d back in our lives, actively and always.
At least every Friday night we get to welcome that loving aspect of G”d known as Shabbat, and get a taste of what life could be like if we would but mend our ways, get sober, work our program, and keep G”d’s eternal covenant with us. Ken y’hi ratson. Ken y’hi ratsoneinu. Be this G”d’s will. Be this OUR will.
Shabbat Shalom and Tzom Kal,
© 2012, 2002 by Adrian A. Durlester