As we come to the final chapters of the Torah, we find Moses finishing his service to the nation of Israel (and to God) with a song, just as he did after crossing the Red Sea, when he was just starting.
This “Song of Moses” is both a stern chastisement and a promise of hope for the future. He recounts how God has been faithful, loving and generous, forgiving over and over the sins of the child who was given everything and has shown only rebelliousness and rejection. Moses tells of the way God has taken care of Israel, and all Israel has done, in return, is reject and rebel. Moses further tells them what will happen in the future, how their rebellion will be punished, but ends with the hope of salvation and, eventually, the promise that God’s loving presence will return once the nation returns to God.
There’s an old song called, “We Always Hurt the Ones We Love.” I often think how many times, over the millennia, have we hurt God. When I say “we”, I don’t mean Believers, or Jews, I mean “we”- i.e., everyone. Believers, non-Believers, Jews, Christians, Buddhists, New Wavers, Skin-heads, whatever and whomever; in other words, people. Just plain people, no matter what their spiritual beliefs.
All people are God’s children, and we all hurt Him when we reject Him. Really, no one likes being hated or rejected; no one likes having those they love turn their faces away as they approach. No one likes being told, “You have no place here!”; and when you think about it, that is exactly what this nation, America, has told God. We have told Him that He has no place in our schools, no place in our courts, and no place in our work areas.
If we, as simple human beings with limited capacity to love, don’t like these things, can you imagine how much it must hurt the Lord when He is the object of derision?
To be even more direct, when it comes to rejection of God and hurting Him by not obeying His laws and commandments, which He gave us so that we will live and be happy, I should be saying how I have hurt Him. Yes, we have, but I have, too. I have disobeyed, I have done wrong in His eyes, I have rejected Him, and I can’t feign ignorance because I do know better!
Through 40 years in the desert, the children of Israel had God with them always; a cloud by day and fire by night, feeding them, watching over them, yet all the time they kept ignoring Him. They took advantage of Him, they grew (as Moses says in his song) fat and kicking (to represent an over-fed ox that won’t take the yoke) and yet God still remained with them and took care of them.
I can understand how God must have felt because I have two children (from a previous life) that I visited when they were growing up and living with their mother. I drove from Philadelphia to Queens, NY every weekend at first,when they were just 6 and 1. Then, as they got older (and I got older, too) I went every other week, then eventually my daughter rejected me and, finally, after child support was over and my son was in college, he rejected me, too. This was, of course, partially my fault, but in honesty it was mostly their mother’s hatefulness that she force-fed them their whole lives, addicting them to ADHD drugs (they were never diagnosed by a medical professional) and filling them up with half-truths and complete lies, using them as weapons to get back at me for leaving the marriage.
Despite the cruel, disrespectful and hateful things they constantly did and said to me, I still kept going back for more. Why? Because I’m some sort of saint? No way. Because it made me feel good to be yelled at and insulted? I don’t think so. Maybe because there was a monetary reward for it? C’mon! I used to drive an extra hour or two just to avoid tolls when I first started seeing them, and when I did have some money I spent it on movies, or archery, or breakfast, or anything to get them out of the house (the mother never took them anywhere); we went to the City (New York City, of course) and visited museums, we went to parks, we went to events, etc., all of which cost money.
Never, ever did I get so much as a “Gee, thanks Dad! That was really fun!” Not even close. In fact, usually we ended up in an argument that was created long before I ever got there- they were primed and ready for me before I even picked them up.
So, nu? Why did I keep going back? I kept going back because they are my children and I love them. Even now, all I want is to be reconciled with them.
I am not telling you this for any pity or remorse- please, that is not the point. I have God, what else could I possibly need to give peacefulness to my soul? And I have forgiven them, mother and children, because that is what we are expected to do.
No, the point is that I can understand how God feels. Anyone, any of you reading this, who have ever loved and not had that love returned, knows (at least) a little bit how God feels when His loving kindness and compassion is returned with rejection.
And when we try to tell God how He is supposed to feel, such as people who say, “Oh, that’s OK because God will forgive me” or “It isn’t that important- God didn’t really mean that” or even worse, “I don’t really believe in God: it’s all just a made-up story”, I can only imagine how much God wants to just shake them up a little; maybe throw some lightening, drop a fireball or two, possibly split the earth under their feet. You know, just a little wake-up call to let them know, “Hey- I am here, and I AM!”
But that’s not His style, and I can say that because He has shown us His ways throughout the Tanach. Yes, He has thrown fire now and then, and He has shown His majesty and power through miraculous events, but overall He has let others, humans, perform the work in order to have His plans come to fruition.
There are so many ways we can accept that God exists, everyday miracles we see all around us, but we refuse to accept the truth of His existence, and thereby, reject Him. That is what Moshe (Moses) is telling the Israelites in his song. And he calls heaven and earth as witnesses.
God is here; He always has been here, is here this very instant, and He will be here always. Here- just within reach, always reaching out to you, always wanting to be in communion with you, always willing to forgive you when you do T’shuvah (repent), always loving you with a love that is so complete and overwhelming that you can never fully grasp the depth of it.
That is what Moses is telling the people, and that is the hope we have, each of us, every day. God is not there- He is here! He has never left, and He will always be close enough to touch.
All we have to do is reach out.