Friday, May 22, 2009

The Big Idea

Our annual Tikun Leyl Shavuot at my synagogue has a theme this year...the Rabbi wrote in his announcement:
" Since Shavuot is the time of the giving of our Torah, we´ll spend our study session looking at the Torah in a different way. This year´s theme is, "THE BIG IDEA," and I´m inviting members of our congregation to select one Big Idea from one of the Torah portions and speak about it to the members of our congregation who will be there."
Ok we have about 4 minutes or so each to do this...well the excited Jew By choice that I am got all fun! then doubt set in....they don't want to hear from negative thoughts implored...

But despite the negative self talk I think I will go forward...So please see below the first rough draft of what I think I'm going to present....if you have any ideas, good quote please let me know...I have until next Thursday to work it out!

The Book of Devarim/Deuteronomy Parashat Re’eh 11:26
the "Big Idea": Human Free Will/Freedom of Choice.

26. Behold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse.

Over the past year I have learned and absorbed much . When I read of tonight’s opportunity to share, I was at first hesitant, but also excited. I think much about these types of subjects, and one readily came into my mind.

the "Big Idea"I would like to share is : Human Free Will/Freedom of Choice.

The first Torah book I have read with an intense level of inquiry has been Deuteronomy. This is Because the Shama was the first Hebrew prayer I learned and I wanted to seek out its origins which of course ultimately led me to Devarim.

Upon my exploration of Devarim several themes have stood out . I see it as a clear advocate of monotheism which is obvious seeing that it is the book that is the foundation for the Shama prayer. It also spells out the loyalty /convent between Israel and the divine. additionally Throughout the book there is an emphasis on God's love, justice, and transcendence.

But It is also the book where the concept of human free will/ choice is put forth in a clear dramatic way. In Re’eh 11:26. It is written “Behold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse” This concept of choice is further expanded upon in Deuteronomy 30:15 where it states “ See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction.”

In contrast to many other religions who’s internal debates first extolled then vilified human will and freedom in relationship to the divine, Judaism is clear in its understanding of human kinds power to choose. In the words of Maimonides: “ Freedom of choice has been granted to every man.... This concept is a fundamental principle and a pillar of the Torah and its commandments.” Maimonides in regards to this Torah portion, also explains that Moshe is placing before the Jewish people a stark choice between two life-paths: the path of allegiance to the Torah and the path of turning aside from the Torah to follow the dictates of one's own heart. The different directions of the paths are straight forward if not out right blunt, blessing or curse… Alternatively, life or death…..

Clearly, the concept of human choice, free will, is one that is wrought with consequences….. some might think, would it be easier if it all were predetermined…destiny alone…but not in this faith… our actions and our choices are our own…both positive and negative actions are ours to hold.. without free will could human kind be here now? It is this very concept that has carried the flag of human potential throughout the centuries through to today and the modern form of democracy which we are privileged to experience.
Human will and freedom to choose is a concept/philosophical point that is close to my heart…
We are here today to celebrate to honor shavuot…on this holiday we read the story of Ruth….I recently comment to a friend, Ruth has big shoes…..the strength of her convictions, her will , her choice are strong and unwavering in the face of incredible difficulties and strife…..she chooses.. without hesitation

“ Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.”

She is deep into the choice presented by Parashat Re’eh….she had free will and she optioned it! May we all have the strength of Ruth when faced with the choices detailed in Parashat Re’eh…hopefully we all can strive to fill Ruth’s shoes…..

No comments:

Dunking Rachael

Love, Faith and Life