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Home » Family Life, Marriage, Va'etchanan

Vaetchanan: Life’s Little Lessons

Submitted by on July 30, 2006 – 4:49 amNo Comment | 4,747 views

Two Stalled Cars

On a family visit to San Antonio I was called upon to demonstrate my mechanical prowess or, as it turned out, my lack thereof.

It all began when my nephew discovered that both of the family cars had stalled. Hoping to make myself useful, I drove up in my rented car, grabbed a set of jumper cables and attempted to jump start both cars. Which is when the troubles began.

I ran the cables from my rented car to the first stalled car, but try as I might, the car’s engine refused to come to life. As it happened, the trouble was not with the battery, but the starter and no amount of battery juice could resurrect a dead starter.

I abandoned the first car and approached the second car. I connected my trusty cables and confidently awaited results. When I noticed a shower of flying sparks I naively took it to mean that the cables were conducting power. To my utter dismay the sparks soon turned to flames and the cables melted before my's little lessons - innerstream

Yes, dear reader, I crossed my cables and suffered the consequences. I was now left with one smoldering set of cables, two dead cars and three powerful lessons for life.

  1. A stalled car cannot be brought to life if its own starter is not in working condition.
  2. A stalled car can only be brought to life by a car that is itself in working condition.
  3. A stalled car can only be brought to life if the cables are properly aligned.

The Goodwill Bond

Healthy relationships thrive on, what psychologists call, the goodwill bond. This bond is effected when each partner trusts that the other’s intentions are noble even when their actions imply different.

For example, a wife, who accuses her husband of neglecting her birthday out of malice, may expect an angry and defensive response. This is true even when she doesn’t actually suspect him of malice, but communicates with him in a manner that implies that she does.

Infusing new energy into a stale relationship, requires communication without recrimination. Like jump starting a car, all three components must be present.

  1. He must be of goodwill, perhaps forgetful or even neglectful, but not malicious. (The relationship cannot be jump started if his own disposition is not healthy and he is unable to accept her love or hear her pain.)
  2. She must believe in his goodwill, trusting that he meant no malice, but simply forgot. (A relationship can only be jump started by a spouse who is herself of healthy disposition .)
  3. Their lines of communication must be properly aligned. (She must not only trust his goodwill, but also communicate that trust effectively.)

Two Superior Spheres

In the Torah, the Jewish people are commended for two reasons: (1)

  1. Our G-d responds with alacrity to our every call.
  2. The laws and edicts of our Torah are righteous and just.

The skeptic will challenge the first contention: Does G-d always respond when we call? Where was he when my neighbor was ill? She prayed to him, but died anyway! Where was he when my best friend’s business fell apart? He called to G-d, but that didn’t help him feed his family!

These are legitimate challenges, but here too we can apply the goodwill principle.

A righteous G-d

After testifying that G-d responds to our every call the Torah proclaims that his laws and edicts are righteous. The word “laws” refers to the logical commandments, the word “edicts” refers to the supra logical commandments. The juxtaposition of these words teach us that just as the laws are of sound reason, so, must we believe, are the edicts. (2)

Just as we believe that his commandments are reasonable, even when they don’t appear reasonable to us, so must we believe that he conducts our affairs righteously, even when his conduct doesn’t appear righteous to us (3)

The Divine Goodwill Bond

The goodwill bond does not give either spouse cart blanch to behave inappropriately. It is invoked only when  one spouse has  behaved in a manner that seemed disrespectful. Rather than assume the offending spouse intended to cause pain, the injured spouse invokes the bond of goodwill.

We obviously want G-d to respond to our every call, and on most occasions he does. But on those occasions when we feel neglected and cry out, we can either cry in bitter accusation or cry while trusting in his goodwill. As is the case in mortal relationships, accusatory fingers solicit stern responses. Trust and goodwill stimulate loving responses.

Of the goodwill principle’s three rules, the first one is eternally in place.

  1. G-d’s intentions are always loving and in our best interest, even when they don’t appear that way to us.
  2. We trust in his goodwill. We trust that his intentions are noble, loving and just.
  3. We declare our faith in his goodwill even as we lament our troubles. We pray with diligence and full concentration. We study his Torah with dedication and love. We observe his commandments with alacrity and devotion.. We thus  improve our lines of communication

When we activate our goodwill bond with G-d  we can expect him to respond in kind.
After all, one good turn deserves another.  (4)


  1. Deuteronomy 4: 7-8.
  2. See Tiferes Yonasan on Deuteronomy 4: 8 (R. Yonasan Eibescutz, Prague,1690-1764).
  3. This contention is possibly supported by the teaching of Sefas Emet (5642) on this verse. “G-d responds when we call to him,” says the Sefas Emet, when our call is to him, meaning when out desire is to bond with him and to become subsumed by him. Jews, who truly seek closeness with G-d merit hearing the divine call of the Ten Commandments every day. (R. Yehudah Aryeh Leib Alter of Gur 1847–1905). See also Mei Hashiloach on this verse.
  4. G-d is a loving father, who tolerates his children and forgives them repeatedly. This does not, however, exempt us from upholding our side of the bargain. If we demand blind love from G-d then we ought to offer blind love in return. It works this way in human relations (and though G-d is not confined to human limitations) we are duty bound to treat him, at least, as we would another human.