For the week of September 24, 2005 / 20 Elul 5765
Torah: Devarim / Deuteronomy 26:1 - 29:8
Haftarah: Isaiah 60:1-22
Then Moses and the priests, who are Levites, said to all Israel, "Be silent, O Israel, and listen! You have now become the people of the LORD your God." (Devarim / Deuteronomy 27:9)
Last week I commented on how our desire to find meaning in the midst of disasters such as Hurricane Katrina is evidence that human beings are not the product of cosmic chance as many claim. This is just one of many aspects of our existence that should encourage us to consider that our origins are of a far more meaningful source than that of accident.
Another aspect of human experience is our need to belong. Every created thing, plant, animal, and human has a fundamental need to connect, to belong. Some creatures spend much of their existence fairly alone, while others are more communal. Humans are communal beings. While one may assert that our desire for community has been artificially imposed upon us, I don't think that explains the intensity of our drive to belong.
Even though we live in a day where many cultures have become more and more individualistic, where people claim to value self-sufficiency and independence, most people are not content to live in isolation. And that's with technology presenting us with the opportunity to be more self-sufficient than any other time in history. We can gather and prepare our food ourselves (there are even self-serve checkouts in stores now), we can get to places on our own, we can entertain ourselves in isolation. Even the fulfillment of romantic desires has been somewhat removed from community in that it is possible to engage in such without facing the responsibility of having and caring for children.
Yet how many people really want this kind of life? While there will always be some people who prefer to be loners (which is a lifestyle I am not criticizing by the way), they will always be few and far between. Most people want to belong.
That is why we like to do all sorts of activities with others, even when we don't really need a group to effectively do those things. Most people would rather share the experience of watching television or movies rather than do so by themselves. Chores are also more enjoyable when we do them together, or even just having other people around when we do them. This is not to mention all the things in which we truly need others to do, which is why we have companies, teams, and families.
Where does this desire to belong come from? The Torah teaches that it because we are the product of a Creator who himself is fundamentally relational. God's workings with the people of Israel through Moses was both based on and for the purpose of relationship. God entered into a relationship with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He bound himself through his promises to them to establish a nation and care for them like a father.
His goal in delivering Israel from slavery in Egypt (which was a bad, unhealthy form of belonging) was not one of simply relieving their misery, but rather a process of the development of a people who would belong to him. The special relationship between God and Israel was designed to be an example to the rest of the world of the kind of relationship we are all meant to have. It is only when we are in a right relationship with God that our sense of belonging can ever be truly satisfied.
Having that right relationship with God - something that can only happen through the Messiah - is just the beginning of our experience of true belonging. God never intended that we would live isolated from others. He purposed that we should live as family or community. With God as our Father, other people - as they too come into right relationship with God - become our brothers and sisters. It is here - in the context of this family - that we discover the belonging we were created for.
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