First posted on The Times of Israel at: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/haazinu-voodoo-judaism/
Netziv Deuteronomy: Haazinu
It is superstitious to put one’s hopes in formalities, but arrogant to refuse to submit to them. -Blaise Pascal
In Judaism, we have rituals and sacred objects. There is also a belief that performing these rituals and utilizing these objects can have a positive influence on our lives and world. However, if we limit ourselves to merely this method of operation, it is a shallow understanding of how the spiritual world interacts with our physical one.
It is not merely some sorcerous trick, that by putting the traditional mezuza by the door, that one’s home will be protected. It is not slight-of-hand that determines that a person who gives a tenth of his income to charity will see financial success. It is not magic that the reciting of Psalms is known to give solace as well as influence the world around us.
However, when a person deficient in multiple aspects of their lives, blames their ill-fortune on the quality of their mezuza, then there is something wrong with their concept of Judaism, commandments and a relationship with God.
The Netziv on Deuteronomy 32:2 explains that these simpler, ritual commandments are good and have a positive influence on smaller things. But he clarifies that the ultimate benefit comes from hard-earned knowledge of the Torah, of God’s laws and will in this world. That familiarity, when the Torah becomes a part of oneself, influences all other successes.
The little acts are good and important, but they are only the edges of a much vaster system of influences. At the heart of that system is the work and effort we put into understanding God’s directives to us. His Torah. A connection to God via his laws is the ultimate guarantor of eternal success.
May we strengthen ourselves in this New Year to reacquaint ourselves with the rulebook, with the expectations God has of us, which in the end guarantees a deeper, more meaningful and more successful existence.
Shabbat Shalom and Ktiva Ve’chatima Tova,
To Misha Beshkin, creator of the “Is It Kosher?” app. He is facilitating the world’s familiarity with Kosher products and has helped bring our Uruguayan list to wider use.