Loyalty and Being Informed

To what or to whom are you loyal? In the Jewish tradition, we are commanded to be loyal to one thing: G-d. In the blessing after the Haftarah which Abe chanted, he readונאמנים דבריך  נאמן אתה הוא ה אלקינו “You, Adonai our G-d, are loyal, and your words are loyal.” In Parshat Eikev, G-d commands us to observe all of the commandments. We need to be faithful and loyal to G-d; it is contingent on having possession of the land of Israel.

Similarly, throughout Eikev G-d commands us to remember and take heed of what we are being told. The word זכור, remember, appears 200 times in the Torah. The word שמע, to take heed, appears 92 times in the book of Deuteronomy alone! Incidents which occurred long ago, such as provoking G-d with the golden calf, or testing G-d when there was no water in the desert, are repeated at length here. These are drummed into this new generation, about to enter the Land of Israel so that none of them can say they were not informed of the importance of observing G-d’s commandments.

In Judaism, we are required to have loyalty to G-d and to be informed of what G-d wants us to do in the Torah; in return G-d will be loyal to us. However, we are not commanded to be loyal to anything else, whether a person, institution or political party. One can say, in contrast, that one should not be loyal to anything other than G-d. We read as we were taking out the Torah “I do not put my trust in any mortal, nor upon any angelic being do I rely, but rather on the G-d of Israel who is the G-d of Truth, whose Torah is Truth, whose prophets are prophets of truth and who abounds in deeds of goodness and truth. In   G-d alone do I put my trust and to G-d I utter praises.”

We are required to be informed, which is why we read the Torah over and over again, year after year. Humans by nature have short memories, and we need to read and repeat until things become second nature and we develop positive habits. Once again we have in Parshat Eikev words that demonstrate this. G-d says to us “impress My words upon your very heart; bind them as a sign on your hand and let them serve as a symbol on your forehead, and teach them to your children-reciting them when you stay at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up; and inscribe them on the doorpost of your house and on your gates.” If that’s not ensuring that we’re informed, I don’t know what is.

Nowhere in there does it say that we need to have one opinion. Judaism is not a cult where everyone has to drink the kool-aid; in fact, one of my favorite things about Judaism is that it encourages us to be independent thinkers, to question things, to take what we have and to arrive at our own conclusions. We are given a roadmap towards life in the Torah but we have the freewill to choose to do with it what we will. We are a people where belief is secondary to action, where we do not have a set dogma. Judaism encourages us to inform ourselves through repeating and acting out our core values but when we receive information about the world, we are encouraged to use it as we see fit. That is what makes our community at Bet Shira so wonderful: the opportunity to have multiple opinions and at times vehemently disagree but to continue to come together as a unified community.

I hope and pray that we will always be united rather than divided, coming together for the greater good. You are fully welcome at Bet Shira regardless of what you believe. We appreciate you for who you are rather than how you vote.

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