For the week of May 28, 2005 / 19 Iyar 5765
Torah: Vayikra / Leviticus 26:3 - 27:34
Haftarah: Jeremiah 16:19 - 17:14
This is what the LORD says: "Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD…But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him." (Jeremiah 17:5,7)
This week's Torah portion concludes the book of Leviticus. It is one of the passages that lists the blessings for obeying God and the curses for not obeying. I have a feeling that most people read passages like this as if it were something from a sport rule book, as in "Section 5, sub-section 2, point 'b' states: 'Anyone who chews gum while playing will be suspended indefinitely and will be subject to a fine no less than one thousand dollars to a maximum of five thousand dollars.'"
This is not the spirit of the Torah. The Torah is God's directions to let us know how life really works. If we follow in his ways, life will go well. If not, we will suffer the consequences. God is not vindictive as if he is out to get us. Rather he longs for us to live good and productive lives. The problem is that we think we can live life on our own without God and his help. We don't realize how destructive self reliance is.
This is the essence of what God says through Jeremiah in this week's related Haftarah reading:
God, through Jeremiah, makes clear the negative results of a self-reliant life. Whatever it may look like in the short term, trusting in ourselves will eventually lead to a fruitless existence and to death, followed by an eternity without God and goodness.
It doesn't help that our society has made self reliance such a high value. We are encouraged to make it on our own, to prove ourselves. Getting help, whether it be from God or another person, is viewed as weakness.
But that is not how we were intended to live. Jeremiah also says,
We were not created to be self reliant. God's intention was for us to live as his children. As part of God's family we are to live life, trusting in God, in his love, power, provision, and goodness. Placing our roots deep in him, we can then live fruitful lives which richly bless others.
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