I once asked my friend, “How are you doing?”
The reply, “No complaints.”
“No complaints?” I echoed astonished, “Surely you’re not Jewish!”
I love my people and we’ve accomplished so many great things for humanity, but there is rarely a day that goes by that God’s chosen people aren’t complaining about one thing or another. To not complain, frankly just isn’t Jewish. The conventional opening to any secular tale is once upon a time, but if you’re Jewish, it’s “OY, it’s hard to be a Jew.”
“Why is life so hard?” “So many problems.” “Why is all this happening to me?” “What does God want from me?” Are sentences I hear daily and ask regularly. It’s reminiscent of a teenager who leaves his room in disarray, blasts music, doesn’t lift his head from the smartphone and then can’t figure out why his parents are always screaming at him and constantly punishing him. The parents are on repeat mode; the kids are on mute mode. And empty answers depend on what’s in mode.
And that’s why I ask, “Are my people hard of hearing?” The question “Why?” when it comes to life’s factor Xs, is a philosophical question. God, the King of all philosophy, has provided a pragmatic answer. The challenge is, do you want to know the answer or do you find greater comfort in the “poor me” swaddling cloth and greater solace in nursing the tear-sodden inquiry “Why me?” like an after-meal brandy?
God has told us through the Five Books over and over again what he expects of us and it is clearly stated in this week’s Parasha: “See, I set before you today a blessing and a curse. The blessing, that you will heed the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you today; and the curse, if you will not heed the commandments of the Lord your God….”
God has told us what he wants from us but we refuse to listen either because it’s not convenient, because we know better or because our nurtured arrogance has filled the void where knowledge and truth should reside. Poor God, for Him it must be like a perpetual Groundhog Day in a Verizon commercial: “Can you hear me now?” “Can you hear me now?” His word keeps echoing unheeded in our environs. Perhaps that’s why this week’s reading starts with the word “See” and not “hear.” We’ve already proven we hear only what we want to hear. Will we now only see what we want to see? Do we leave any sensory aperture hospitable for God’s footprints to enter?