Ki tetze: The Jewish Experience…. Just Catch A Ball!
Would you like to say something before we switch off the microphone?
This is an important question to keep in mind in order to understand what the Torah has been talking about over the last parashot (portions) and specifically this week in Parashat Ki Tetze!
And what is Torah’s answer? The largest list of commandments in the whole book! Yes, isn’t this a little bit weird?
No it’s not! This is Torah par excellence.
We are just a few parashot (Torah portions) away from finishing the reading of the whole book, and Torah is trying to leave a message before it is too late.
So we have in “Ki tetze” an extensive list with laws of different kinds regarding different topics, some of which are even being repeated. What kind of a single message can such a long list convey?
The message given before the mic is switched off is this: Judaism is not just about what you believe in, but rather about how with your actions you connect with this world!
When the Torah and Moses himself are running out of time the speech is a TO DO list.
And the reason is because Judaism is learned by Jewish experience, by “na’aseh v’nishma,” “We will do and we will hear” ( Exo 24:7).
You wouldn’t use a blackboard in order to teach a kid how to play soccer with passion, right? You may be able to use the board to teach the rules of the game but you will never be able to transmit passion and to actually teach him how to play!
This is exactly what Torah, with profound wisdom, is doing right now; it is throwing the ball in your direction and yelling: catch it!
So why a long list of laws and not just one or two ideas? It looks like Torah is throwing many balls!
As I mentioned, the law (not just the Jewish law) is the code we use in order to communicate with our society and the world, it is an expression of our identity, values, struggles, confrontations, universality and particularity at the same time.
Taking forward the idea of law as a genuine expression of society it is very interesting to see how Jewish law is a point of meeting between secularism and religiosity. Did you know that dipping the Challah bread in salt is a law? Who cares? But the fact is that most of us do that; tradition, law…. whatever… Sometimes we may do the exact same things, but our drive would be different. God and tradition are not the same. If you do what you do because it is God’s command it’s not the same as doing what you do as a continuation of what your people have done or because you feel culturally or/and philosophically inspired.
This is one of the prettiest things in Judaism: drives can be mixed and it is very Jewish. There are plenty of reasons and ways in which each of us as individuals or as communities find his\their connection. And here is the explanation for the many balls! The variety of mitzvoth is there to give us many opportunities to “plug in”, because it doesn’t work in the same way for everybody. Jewish culture, philosophy, tradition and God have shoulders broad enough to hug all of us with the particularity of our beings.
So Torah’s ultimate message is: Do it and you will feel it! Open your heart, play and then discover the magic of being.
Just catch a ball and let the game begin!
Rabbi Nico Socolovsky