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Home » Ki Tetze, The Jewish Faith

Ki Teze: Earn Your Blessing

Submitted by on August 28, 2006 – 2:05 pmNo Comment | 2,492 views

Content to Take

Inherent in human nature is the desire to make our own way in life. Constant dependence on the largess of others is abhorrent to us. How many children of Billionaires opt for a life of leisure and constant dependence? Most want to contribute to their parents business or establish one of their own. The desire to earn our keep is simply intrinsic to life.

It is curious that we are often willing to accept G-d’s largess with no consideration as to whether we deserve it. When something goes wrong in life we demand that G-d correct it. We don’t resolve to take on an additional Mitzvah and thus earn his goodwill. We rather demand that, as a father, he must be merciful toward us regardless of our behavior toward him.

A woman recently told me that she and her husband experienced a miracle and were so inspired that they resolved to attend Synagogue on Shabbat. Yet when Shabbat arrived and they were no longer in turmoil, they were tempted to renege on their commitment. To their credit they overcame the temptation and forced themselves to repay their debt.

We are often content with a token commitment to G-d, but expect a total commitment in return. I send my children to Hebrew School, I pay my dues and I contribute to the annual campaign. That makes me a pretty good Jew. Never mind that the Torah asks for more. I can only do what I can do. I’m only human after all. G-d knows that.

Yet, from G-d, we expect a total commitment. He must provide for my every need and if he denies me then he has failed at being G-d. I cannot accept such a G-d. Why? Why should G-d be held to a higher standard than I hold myself? Well because G-d is merciful and his capacity for compassion is infinite. I, on the other hand, am only human.

G-d is indeed loving and compassionate and he does provide for us even when we renege on our commitments to him. He is happy to see us collect from him even when we fail to pull our own weight. G-d is content with that, the question is, why are we? Why are we  content with begging for mercy when we have the wherewithal to earn our keep?

Send Away the Mother

When we come across a bird-nest that contains birds or chicks the Torah instructs us to send away the mother before taking the young for ourselves. earn your blessing - innerstreamBeyond their literal meaning, the words of Torah contain a panoply of messages. What are the deeper messages inherent in this commandment?. (1)

The instruction to send away the mother represents the idea of dispensing with reliance on divine compassion. 
In metaphoric terms mothers represent compassion. A mother is merciful and forgiving toward her children even when they don’t deserve her compassion. Sending away the mother represents sending away our need for, and reliance on, divine motherly compassion that we don’t deserve.
The instruction to take the child for ourselves represents the idea of striving to become G-d’s dutiful children and working to earn his blessing and love.

Love is not always borne of mercy. On the contrary, our love is, more often than not, offered to those who deserve it. Parents love their children indiscriminately, but children when children strive to behave appropriately and earn their parental love they are granted a love that exceeds that which their parents would have otherwise offered.

This is the deeper message of the Torah’s instruction, “Send away the mother and take the children for yourself.” Send away your relationship with G-d that relies on his mothering trait, the trait that treats you with compassion even when you don’t deserve. Take the child relationship for yourself instead, the relationship that offers the love you have earned through your actions.

Shrouded in Mystery

The Torah concludes with the words, “So that it will benefit you and you will prolong your days.” The Torah makes a pact with us. If we dispense with our dependence on G-d’s motherly compassion and resolve to be loyal and devoted children, G-d will in turn provide us with good and long days.

Yet how do we explain the fact that the wicked often live prosperously while the righteous suffer?

The answer is that we are of limited vision. We do not see the reward of the righteous because we cannot always perceive the realms where such rewards are given. The reward of the righteous is often reserved for the world to come and that world is shrouded in a veil of deep mystery.

Delayed, but Enhanced

The Talmud taught that the Torah’s promise, “it will benefit you,” refers to a world that is completely beneficial. The Torah’s promise, “you will prolong your days,” refers to a world that is eternally long.

This is not to say that semblance of such reward and punishment are never seen in this world,  it is simply to say that the great portion of such reward awaits us in the world to come.

On the one hand we prefer instant gratification. On the other hand, waiting benefits us too. The world to come is much more acute than our world. In that world blessings are infinitely more rewarding and punishment is infinitely more painful.

G-d enhances the reward of the righteous by withholding it till they arrive in the world to come. G-d mitigates the reward of the wicked for their good deeds by offering it in this world. The very same Mitzvah and the very same reward, when received in this world is mitigated, when received in the world to come is enhanced. (2)

Footnotes

  1. Deuteronomy 21: – 7.
  2. This essay is based on the commentary of Avodas Yisrael (R. Yisrael Haupstein, Koznitz, 1737-1814)  to Deuteronomy 21: – 7

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