Sunday, May 26, 2019

Parshat Behar: God or Mercury (by Rabbi Norman Lamm)

I recommend that you read Rabbi Lamm's entire d'var Torah here.

Here are some excerpts:

"in modern times, Judaism became fragmentized. Judaism became a matter of where you prayed, not how you lived; what siddur you used, not how regularly you paid employees or bills; how long was your Shemone Esrei, not how faithfully you worked for your salary; how good a tenor you got as a cantor, not how sincere your davening was; how ferociously you destroyed a competitor or “took in” a customer, not how much of your profits you gave to charity. Our whole sidra of this morning was forgotten, and business life became Godless – or better, became itself an object of worship and blind obedience.

And so Jews rejected the Lord, God of Israel, and accepted Mercury, god of commerce.

. . .

What is necessary for the revitalization of Jewry in our day is a new appreciation of the fact that Judaism. . . is not relegated to one holy place and one holy day. When a local Jewish fraternal and social organization organizes a baseball picnic on Shabbat, it is violating the integrity, the wholeness of Jewish life. When another group, part of a great nation-wide organization, organizes a golf tournament on a Jewish fast-day and serves a luscious treif dinner – it reveals its paganism, especially when it resents a rabbi rearing his head out of the pulpit and extending it into the secular clubs and their activities. And even golf itself must be treated as part of a way of life – that is, it too is not immune from Jewish opinion. That is why a country club must conduct itself Jewishly, both in matters of diet and holidays and business-wise.

. ..

Under the influence of . . . the effect of this Mercury cult, some of us may be surprised at how great a literature we have concerning activity outside the synagogue. All one has to do is open a Shulĥan Arukh or a Rambam. There are laws of prayer and interest; tefillin and profiteering; tallis and sexual relations; mezuza and tax evasion; Shabbat and larceny. . ..

We today must return to this fuller and greater understanding of Torah, as it is presented to us in today’s sidra. By subjecting all of life to God’s influence, we will have smashed the statues of Mercury, instead of merely throwing pebbles at it. By opening all areas of our existence to the teachings of our tradition, we will have acted as genuine Jews, not as half and one-quarter Jews. We will have grown to the fuller spiritual stature of one who realizes that “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof ” (Psalms 24:1), and therefore all life must be lived so as not to be embarrassed by His presence. “A man must always be God-fearing, in private and in public” – not only in private but also in public. Then and only then can we conclude with the phrase, “umodeh al ha’emet,” “acknowledging the truth” –

Here's a link to my favorite post about Parshat Behar.


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