THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS
Bible Offers Comfort
While Provoking Thought
Friday, May 17, 1985
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Special to The Jewish News
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• ! THE JEWISH WORLD:- I
The history and culture of Jewish people
Religion, it has been pointed
out, has two contradictory func-
tions to perform in our lives. On
the one hand, it should comfort us
when we are disturbed, on the
other, it should disturb us when
we are comfortable.
Any student of Jewish history
knows how supremely well
Judaism performed its first func-
tion. Were it not for the life-
restoring reservoirs of strength
and hope that the Jew constantly
found in his heritage, he could not
possibly have survived repeated
efforts to destroy him.
But the same scripture which
can soothe with motherly compas-
sion and fatherly tenderness can
scold with the most bitter con-
demnation. this week's Sidrah
(portion), in presenting the sta-
tutes which the Hebrew people
are to follow, states a promise: "If
you walk by My laws and guard
My commandments and fulfill
them," then you will be blessed.
On the other hand, if you do not
obey God's commandments, the
most horrible consequences will
follow: disease, hunger, famine,
war and drought, and a host of
other horrors. The Tradition or-
dains that this entire passage be
read rapidly from the Torah in an
undertone, so painful is its con-
Heinrich Heine, in a striking
phrase, called our Bible "the
medicine chest of humanity." For
all of life's bruises and aches, for
the soul's distress and anguish,
for our grief and loneliness, for
our disillusionment and despair,
the Bible contains most effective
healing balm. It can comfort the
disturbed as no other book can.
Why this liturgy of punish-
ment? For the Bible, the core of
life is moral. God has hammered
into the very structure of the uni-
verse the principles of justice and
right. To completely violate these
principles is to risk the ultimate
destruction of those states and in-
stitutions responsible for such
evil. Since we live in a universe of
law, there must be penalties and
sanctions for violating the law.
Biblical faith declares that the to-
talitarian states of our time are
under Divine judgement.
But this message needs to be
understood personally. Religion
makes demands on each of us, on
the communal life we share, on
the society of which we are a part.
Religion deserves our respect and
our commitment not only because
of the benefits it brings, but also
because it provides a true picture
of our place in a moral universe.
This week's sidrah begins with
a great "if." In order to reap the
rich harvest of reward, you must
lead a certain kind of life, you
must fulfill your moral responsi-
bility, your spiritual potential.
Religion makes demands of
dedication and commitment, of
saying "no" to certain impulses, of
saying "yes" to certain obliga-
tions. Judaism has never prom-
ised ease for a moment's devotion.
It has never sought to lure con-
verts with the glittering attrac-
tions of comfort, convenience and
Judaism does not promise an
easy life, but a good life; not a com-
fortable life, but a life of value and
meaning; not an untroubled life,
but a sacred one.
This sidrah is meant to shatter
our complacency, so that we feel
the tensions of life — between
what we are and what we can be-
come; between what we habitu-
ally do and what we should be do-
ing; between the Jewish lives we
are leading and the Jewish lives
we could be leading.
For those who are disturbed and
who are laden by sorrow and dis-
tress, we express the hope that
religion will bring comfort. But
for those who are too comfortable,
we voice the plea that Judaism
should disturb us, so that we can
be worthy of Divine blessing.
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