In Parashat Eikev in Deuteronomy, we find some new tones and nuances in Moses' explications of the covenantal love that will be necessary to build a nation and a society in the Promised Land. (In fact, the very word "love" --ahavah-- appears a lot here in Deuteronomy, e.g. that we must not only not oppress the stranger --as stated previously in Torah-- but that we must love them actively.) Two of these explications are rehearsed twice daily in our prayers that go with the Shema. One focuses on the covenantal love of an individual qua individual and one of an individual qua part of a collective. We live in a society today that cannot relate to the latter. Every institution from government to education to religion are all as corrupt --we believe-- as the corporations that have been instrumental in our decline. And we have reason for our skepticism and despair. Millennials think they can build economies by writing an app in their living room, be religious by liking certain authors and hitting the yoga mat, and wisely be skeptical of all institutions. But the second kind of covenantal love teaches us avoid the fallacy of thinking that the first kind of love is enough. Which one really produces the results of changing the world? Which one is the foundation of Yom Kippur?
Two massive surprises are revealed by Moses to begin Deuteronomy. The backstory to the great sin and punishment of the Israelites in Numbers is revealed, totally shifting our understanding of it. Then, to top things off, Moses nonchalantly disobeys God's direct order! What is going on? With the help of Nehama Leibowitz, Rashi, and Midrash Tanchuma, the solution seems to be a major Torah teaching about how we handle power, resentment, and confrontation, and God's demand that we consciously leave the comfort zone of being right.
(Forgive the audio: I was not wearing my microphone during this sermon.) Is it alright to claim to be African-American, Native-American, or a Jew just because you identify with it? Is identity a matter of personal choice, or is it wrong to claim a history and inheritance --especially one that involves severe persecution-- that isn't yours? Today a new form of identity theft is spreading by Christians claiming to be "Jews" and our "friends." They are "Jews" just like us,they say, except they believe that Jesus was the Messiah and our salvation is only through acceptance of Jesus as our savior. What should we think?