For those of my friends who asked to see a copy of my d'var (from my Anshei Mitzvah class).
I am grateful to Rabbi Weiss and Cantor Green for their dedication, their humor, and the generous hours they spent to help me achieve my goal of becoming bat mitzvah in this spiritually meaningful way. And to those of you sharing this time with me, my sister Helana and my brother-in-law Walt, my youngest daughter Ericka, and to all my friends, my beloved study partners, and my havurah. I could go on.
I also mark this occasion as the 60th anniversary of my confirmation at Temple Anshei Emeth in Peoria. I think I am genetically predisposed to immaturity and today’s Bat Mitzvah marks a deeply significant and radical change in my thinking about myself and my Jewish life.
God’s Love and God’s Loathing – One and the Same?
Roberta “Dolly” Baruch May 19, 2012
When I chant my Torah portion (Lev 26:11-13), I am going to sing tig’al, which will be translated as “spurn.” It could be variously interpreted as “loathe,” abhor,” even “vilely cast away.” What a strong declaration. It’s God’s word – His promise, which He makes to all of us, the Israelites at Mt. Sinai – He says “I will not spurn you.” In these verses of Leviticus, it is a contingent statement, an “ If…then…” “If you follow My laws and faithfully observe My commandments, I will not spurn you.”
But here’s a paradox. In other places in Leviticus, God says He will not spurn us whether or not we follow His Laws. God says: "Yet, even then, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them or spurn them so as to destroy them, breaking My covenant with them, for I the Lord am their God."
The Zohar comments: "Come and see the pure love of the Blessed Holy One for Israel. A parable: There was a king who had a single son who kept misbehaving. One day he offended the king. The king said, 'I have punished you so many times and you have not [changed]. Now look, what should I do with you? If I banish you from the land and expel you from the kingdom, perhaps wild beasts or wolves or robbers will attack you and you will be no more. What can I do? The only solution is that I and you together leave the land.'
So . . . the Blessed Holy One said as follows: 'Israel, what should I do with you? I have already punished you and you have not heeded Me. I have brought fearsome warriors and flaming forces to strike at you and you have not obeyed. If I expel you from the land alone, I fear that packs of wolves and bears will attack you and you will be no more. But what can I do with you? The only solution is that I and you together leave the land and both of us go into exile. As it is written, 'I will discipline you,' forcing you into exile; but if you think that I will abandon you, I Myself too [shall go] along with you."' This is the never ending love we are promised whether or not we are able to keep the laws and commandments.
As I contemplate this affirmation, I think of what it means– to have a God who will not forget us, will not spurn us, will not abhor us, will not loathe us, will not vilely cast us away. When I was in Cairo last year at the awe-inspiring pyramids, I thought about the Egyptian pharaohs, self-proclaimed gods who had elaborate earthly reminders built so they would not be forgotten, would not be spurned by the generations to come. But God promises us something entirely different from what the pharaohs sought. Rather than demand our remembrance, God promises that we will not be forgotten by Him. His love abides and comforts us in our personal prayer – when we are anxious, troubled, afraid of dying, afraid of being alone forever, afraid of our body’s aging, afraid of being too hard or too easy on ourselves.
This promise knits the ragged edges of our souls together and brings us peace. He says to us “My own children. I am here with you forever. I will always be on your side, at your side. You cannot make me loathe you no matter what you do. I’ll be close by and won’t let you withdraw too deeply. I’ll always be there to help you come back. I will listen to you whatever you have to say. I’ll question you to help you discover what you think about things and I’ll say ‘tell me again’ if you’ve already told me. I’ll never forget what you’ve said to me and I’ll help you remember what you need to remember and I’ll never berate you for forgetting. I’ll never get tired of you even if you get tired of Me. I shall love you forever and nothing in the world or out of it can change that. I and you together, both of us.“
Quite a comfort. Quite a promise. Our souls will be raveled, knit up. Ours is a living God who will not spurn, will not abhor, will not loathe, will not vilely cast away. Ours is a God who will be with us.