Invisible Hand: D’varim 2018

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: To what extent do you feel that you have control over your destiny? Have you been tempted to try to control forces in your life that are beyond your reach? Or do you believe that you have full agency to live as you choose?

As the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness closes, the Israelites are reminded that God has always been with them — whether they’ve recognized it or not.

The Pitch: “Indeed, the LORD your God has blessed you in all your undertakings. He has watched over your wanderings through this great wilderness; the LORD your God has been with you these past forty years: you have lacked nothing.” – Deuteronomy 2:7

Swing #1: “‘All your undertakings’ [means] literally, ‘the work of your hands.’ It sometimes interchanges with ‘all that you put your hand to.’” – Moshe Weinfeld, Deuteronomy 1-11

Swing #2: “[Moses] has known his people for forty years, and the text conveys a depth of acquaintance with them that is not apparent in the preceding books. Never hesitant to criticize the people of Israel, he nonetheless speaks to them now with affection. … He has also known his God for forty years, but their singular acquaintance – unique among all divine-human encounters in the Hebrew Bible – is now among the most thunderous of the Bible’s loud silences. God speaks very little to Moses in Deuteronomy, and Moses never says a word to God, even in the chapters following his speech.” – Richard Elliott Friedman, Commentary on the Torah

Swing #3: “Therefore, do not reject His goodness by appearing as if you are poor. Rather, present yourselves as wealthy.” – Rashi

Late-Inning Questions: Do our commentators seem to think that the Israelites won’t give proper credit to God for their good fortune? Why are we sometimes reluctant to show gratitude for our blessings? Is it because we wish to give ourselves more credit for our accomplishments, or because it might be difficult to imagine a force beyond our power helping us in ways we don’t quite understand?

Summer Training: How much weight can you lose by giving blood? I have no idea, and that’s certainly not the reason to do it … but how great is it to do something that forces you to drink a lot of water and give to people in need? If you’re in Charleston and can donate, our synagogue’s blood drive continues until 4:00PM today!

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of underappreciated helpers, baseball has been notoriously slow in recognizing pioneers of the game, people who made the sport better both for players and fans. On the 40th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s first Major League game, Sports Illustrated reported that many contemporary players knew who he was. Thankfully, MLB now honors Robinson annually. In that spirit, I hope the National Baseball Hall of Fame finally inducts Marvin Miller, the first head of the player’s union, whose overwhelming influence enabled both players and owners to prosper financially.

Shabbat Shalom!