Friday, August 23, 2013

Parshat Ki Tavo: Complaining You Want to Hear

Having kids, there is a fair bit of complaining that you have to endure.  "I want to stay up later," "I want to have more cookies," I suspect you get the picture.  But every now and then, you get a complaint that let's you know that maybe just maybe you aren't the worst parent out there.

This happened with my five year-old with regards to a homeless man we saw.  "I don't want there to have to be any grandpas that have to live on the street."  Even after giving the man some money and talking to him, my son was still bothered about it.  But that's the type of complaining about the world that you are proud to hear your kid do.

Moses has such a moment with the Jewish People this week.  The first of many "good complaints" the Jews have been known to make over the years.  After having endured years of complaining about having to eat mannah and the journey being too hard and countless other things, we are told of a different complaint.

In Deuteronomy 29:3 we are told that the Jews come to Moses to complain that he has presented the Levite tribe with the Torah (Rashi refers to Deuteronomy 31:9 being where that happens - we'll leave aside for now the fact that passage is after this one) when they too, all the Jews, had accepted it at Mt. Sinai.

As a response we get the words of this verse which in English says, "God did not give you a heart with which to know or eyes with which to see or ears with which to hear until today."  It wasn't until this point, Moses is saying, that I knew you really cared about the Torah in your hearts and for yourselves, but with this complaint, I see that you finally "get" it.  The Jews had shown Moses that maybe they'd be okay even after he was gone.  They had learned to complain about the right things.

We Jews have a long history about being there to complain about things when they are wrong and deserve to be fixed.  The Torah as a whole is such a complaint against a life lived without reverence for the world around us and the people in it.  

Let us be proud of our well-deserved reputation for complaining, just so long as we complain about the right stuff.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Benson

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