Imperfections and All

Double Mitzvah Jewrotica Parsha

Written by Sender Rozesz. Sender Rozesz is a practicing attorney with a background in Jewish pluralistic education for adults. Sender Rozesz is Jewrotica’s resident Double Mitzvah columnist. The views reflected in his writing represent his own personal views, and are not intended to reflect the views of any organizations, institutes or associations with whom he may be affiliated.

Rated PG

We are now standing in the fascinating time between the awesome and intense day of Yom Kippur, and the joyous and fun holiday of Sukkot — and I will do my best to ensure that this week’s column reflects this odd juxtaposition.

Yom Kippur for me — as I imagine it is for countless others — is a time for sober and honest introspection and self-reflection. What are my responsibilities? What are those things for which I am and should be held accountable? What might be fairly considered to be G-d’s responsibility? Where am I at in my relationship with Him?

As we appealed countless times to “Our Father, our King,” I really tend to focus on G-d’s fatherly role. I don’t have a whole lot of experience being the subject of a king, and I so I don’t have a basis to relate to G-d within that context.

Familial relationships, however, I do know. And I know that, while there are many ways that a child might upset or disappoint a parent, not all such failings are of equal impact. For example, rebelliousness and churlishness might try a parent’s patience more than sneaking extra cookies from the cookie jar. Blatant disrespect will likely evoke a harsher response than staying awake past bedtime with a flashlight under the covers. And signs of kleptomania might be of greater concern to a parent than indications of laziness.

There is an interesting clash of commentaries in this week’s Parshah of Haazinu, which highlights the different perspectives in which we might view our own relationship with our Father in Heaven.

Haazinu is a song; but it is a song of gentle rebuke, that calls upon the Heavens and the Earth to bear witness to G-d’s expectations of His people, and what they might expect if they fail to live up to those expectations. Among the more sobering verses of the song is this one: “They provoked His zeal with alien worship; they made Him angry with abominations.” [1]

There’s that word “abomination” again. Rashi notes the familiarity of that expression and explains that this refers to “abominable deeds, such as homosexuality and sorcery, which are described by Scripture as ‘abominations.’” Of course, this would likely include all of the many sexual sins that are all painted with that same brush.

Ramban, however, disagrees. He says that the only subject of this song — the one thing that truly speaks to the depth of our relationship with G-d, and the turbulence in that relationship that our poor judgment will cause — is idol worship. It is that infidelity, that rebellion, that ultimate rejection of our bond with G-d, that preoccupies G-d in the song of Haazinu.

That is not to say that following all of G-d’s laws is not important — and even important enough to bear upon our relationship with Him — but it is G-d who has created us, complete with our urges and passions, and who knows us even more intimately than we know ourselves. So our occasional weakness in overcoming the many temptations that populate our world should not be a reflection of the depth of our commitment to G-d, to our Jewish family, and to our constant efforts to better ourselves.

And that’s where we stand immediately after Yom Kippur. We spend the day of Yom Kippur recommitting ourselves to our relationship. Idolatry and betrayal are not on our minds as we emerge from a 26-hour fast and a day of prayer. Oh, we are still far from perfect. We still have those same urges, passions and temptations. But we are still firmly in G-d’s camp; and it is in this spirit that we move on to the holiday of Sukkot.

The Torah commands us to “dwell in the Sukkah for seven days.” The Talmud notes that the commandment to “dwell” requires that we essentially transfer our home to the Sukkah. In other words, whatever it means to live in a home the rest of the year, that is how we must live in the Sukkah during Sukkot.

Would you hazard a guess as to what immediately springs to the Talmud’s mind as reflecting the key characteristic of a home? Dwelling in a home = husband and wife [2] (which is why the importance of having sex in the Sukkah cannot be overstated! :))

In terms of our relationship with G-d, however, it is immediately after the renewal of our commitment on Yom Kippur that He takes us — imperfections and all — into the Sukkah, for a loving and intimate embrace.

Shabbat Shalom, Chag Same’ach and Happy Sukkot!

Works Cited

[1] Deuteronomy, 32:16.
[2] Babylonian Talmud, Sukkah 28b.