This is Only a Test: Vaethanan 2019

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: Have you ever felt that you were being tested? If so, was this test fair to you? What kinds of skills did you need to “pass” it?

As Moses continues his closing speech to the Israelites, it’s clear that when the people have tested God, it tests God’s patience:

The Pitch: “Do not try your God Adonai, as you did at Massah. Be sure to keep the commandments, decrees, and laws that your God Adonai has enjoined upon you.” – Deuteronomy 6:16-17

Swing #1: “The meaning of ‘as you did at Massah’ is that you should not question whether the Lord is in the midst of you to perform miracles or that you make your worship of Him dependent on material success … and only then shall we observe His Torah. For their intention at Massah was that they would follow the Lord if He gave them water through a miracle. Otherwise, they would forsake them. This was accounted a great iniquity.” – Nahmanides

Swing #2: “This means: Do not test one of God’s prophets by issuing a challenge to perform miracles.” – Maimonides

Swing #3: “In times of distress, the people try their God to see whether he can help them. This theme comes to the fore during the wanderings in the desert, and especially at Massah or Meribah, when the people were thirsty and had no water. … In fact, the same event of distress may serve as a test by God as well as a test by man: God tests the man to see whether he remains faithful in spite of suffering, while man tests God to see whether he will prove himself as God and release him from suffering. This actually happened in the case of Massah.” – Moshe Weinfeld, Deuteronomy 1-11

Late-Inning Questions: Do our commentators feel that the Israelites have tested God fairly in the past? Has God tested the Israelites fairly? How do we best teach ourselves to trust others? Are tests always necessary, or can we find faith without them?

On-Deck at Emanu-El: I’m pleased that our Adult Education classes will resume next week. We invite those who would like to study for an Adult B’nai Mitzvah to come to the synagogue Tuesday, August 20th, at 7:00PM. That night at 8:00PM, Judaism 101, our introduction to Judaism, will begin a new year. And after morning minyan on Wednesday the 21st, please join us for breakfast and Morning Mo(she), our continuing series on the wisdom of Moses Maimonides. More to follow!

The Big Inning at the End: According to Lehman’s Baseball, “No athletic performance test or series of tests will ever be able to accurately predict baseball performance due to the strong emphasis that the game places on skill.  You don’t need to have blazing speed if you can ‘hit ‘em where they ain’t’”. So maybe testing is overrated …

Shabbat Shalom!