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Monday, 15 September 2014

Are you an atheist in the trench?


Daf Yomi Chagigah 7

Shlomo and Itzik were best of buddies.  They served side by side in their elite sniper unit of the Israeli Defense Force.    They could talk about anything with one another – politics, sports, family life.  But one subject was taboo – religion. 

The two young men had grown up on different ends of the religious spectrum.  Shlomo’s parents were devout Religious Zionists who had made aliyah from Canada when he was a child.  Itzik grew up on a staunchly secular kibbutz.   No matter how hard Shlomo tried to discuss Judaism with his friend, Itzik always changed the subject.

One day, they were together on a mission in Gaza when they suddenly found themselves surrounded by the enemy.  Fearing that this was their final moment, Shlomo crouched down, picked his right hand up to his eyes and cried out, “Shema Yisrael – Hear O Israel, Hashem is our G-d, Hashem is one!”  

All of a sudden, a shiver runs down his spine as he hears his best friend chanting the verse along with him! 
“Itzik!” he cries, “what are you doing?  I thought you don’t believe in G-d!”
With tears streaming down his face, Itzik responds, “Well my friend, just in case…”

The Mishnah in tractate Peah states: The following mitzvos have no limit: Leaving the corner of the field to the poor, the first fruits, being seen in the Temple for the pilgrimage festival, acts of kindness, and Torah study.

What is the mitzvah of ‘being seen in the Temple’?  Rabbi Yochanan understands the mitzvah as referring simply to appearing in the Temple, whereas Reish Lakish teaches that it refers to showing up with a sacrifice in hand to offer.  

Rabbi Yochanan challenged Reish Lakish: The obligation to appear in the Temple reads ‘he shall be seen,’ but in fact it is written ‘he shall see.’  The meaning of this dual implication is that just like G-d sees us freely, with no strings attached (i.e. without offering a sacrifice to us), so too may we show up and see Him freely with no strings attached.   

Many people refuse to believe in G-d because of the implications such belief has.  If I believe, then there are consequences to my actions and my lifestyle.  If I believe in G-d, then I must heed His Word.  If I don’t, then I can simply go on living my life how I’d like to live my life, guilt-free.  And so we ignore the big, tough questions of life along with its meaning and purpose.

But the Almighty says: I come with no strings attached.  Let’s start a conversation.  Invite me into your life.  Don’t feel that you can’t talk to me without making a commitment.  I want to have a relationship with you, regardless of your commitment to religious observance.

Are you afraid of having a relationship with the Almighty?  Don’t be!  G-d is in no rush; He has all the time in the world.  He wants to be part of your life now and He can wait until you are ready to make any lifestyle commitment.  Let Him in today, even if it’s only just in case…