Aug 26, 2010

I Choose You ... PikaJew!

From this week's parshah,

(17) You have selected the Lord this day, to be your God, and to walk in His ways, and to observe His statutes, His commandments and His ordinances, and to obey Him. (18) And the Lord has selected you this day to be His treasured people, as He spoke to you, and so that you shall observe all His commandments.
I wrote about this back in 2007, and it's interesting because I feel much the same about this particular section of the parshah as I did then. I have bolded the sections "You have selected HaShem this day" and "HaShem has selected you this day," because, for me, as a convert, this is incredibly poignant, especially during this super special month of Elul (renewal, reflection, reconsideration). As someone who literally chose Judaism and HaShem, these words sing to me.

The interesting this is that clearly, HaShem chose me first (for converts, the understanding is that you are born with a Jewish neshama and that it takes time for the neshama to sort of, crawl out -- like "Alien," but less creepy), and I chose to choose HaShem, embracing the agressive neshama within. However, the fact that it says "this day" suggests something further. A constant, perpetual, renewing choice. Every day I wake up, I choose HaShem, I choose Judaism. I choose to say my morning blessings, to cover my hair, to put on a nice tzniut (modest) outfit, to eat kosher and say my blessings over foods, to treat others in the way of a mensch, etc. The way this is worded -- and I think everything in the Torah is worded so very precisely, with a specific, basic meaning -- suggests that we must choose to be Jews every day, chose to carry ourselves in a certain way, and that, in turn, HaShem chooses us back.

All of that being said, it's a weird choice to make daily. I quipped in 2007 that "I'm sure I'm not the first to admit that the compelling pull of Judaism is as indescribable as is the idea of Noah's flood." That, I'm sure, makes sense to many of you. It is almost as if ... even if I would wake up tomorrow and say, "I'm done, no more Judaism for me," the pull would be so intense that I wouldn't be able to walk away, no matter how hard I would try.

About these verses Rashi says,
you have selected; has selected you ~ Heb. הֶאמִיר‏ְ We do not find any equivalent expression in the Scriptures [which might give us a clue to the meaning of these words]. However, it appears to me that [the expression הֶאמִיר] denotes separation and distinction. [Thus, here, the meaning is as follows:] From all the pagan deities, you have set apart the Lord for yourself, to be your God, and He separated you to Him from all the peoples on earth to be His treasured people. 
Conclusion? I think Rashi would agree with me.

Lesson? Choose Judaism, choose your path (if it's not Judaism, then, choose what makes your heart sing, just do it with all of your heart and soul), and you'll be chosen in return.

Shabbat Shalom!

11 comments:

Suburban Sweetheart said...

You know I'm no Judaic scholar, but I sure do love this title. :)

David Tzohar said...

Chaviva-The word "he'emir(A-M-R in the hiph'il)has a number of meanings besides "chosen" as you quoted from Rashi. It also means "to raise up, to make high" the top of a tree is "amir". The great 19th c. commentator, Malbim,said that he'emir means to make holy. His source is from yibbum (levirate marriage)the status of the woman given to her late husbands brother is "ma'amar" literally a statement, but meaning a statement that sets her apart to be with this one man only.This is parallel to "kiddushin", marriage, literally holiness, being set apart for her husband only. So we can say that he'emircha means to be chosen, raised up and set apart as holy. As Harav Kook points out this is something that Hashem does for us and we do for him. Hashem above and Am Yisrael below. This is a Kabbalistic concept which is central to the thought of HaRav Kook.
There is something else I wanted to write to you about. I wrote that there are tzniyut issues with sheitels, but the truth is that there are many tzniyut issues with the internet. I think that you should give some thought to putting your picture on and modeling clothes, however tzniyusdik on your blog. I can say that after reading your past and present posts I feel that I sort of know you( this is a tribute to your excellent writing).After seeing your picture and connecting it with the personality it causes affection (chavivut, just like your name Chaviva which I think is bashert)Perhaps for an old guy like me this isn't important since the affection is like that I would have for a daughter or a niece But I guarantee you that it can arouse very different feelings in younger men. AS I said above you are set apart, exalted and holy for your husband only.

Daniel Saunders said...

even if I would wake up tomorrow and say, "I'm done, no more Judaism for me," the pull would be so intense that I wouldn't be able to walk away, no matter how hard I would try.

Reminds me of one of my favourite passages in Tanakh: "If I would say, 'I will not mention Him and not speak in His name any more,' He would be like a burning fire in my heart, stored in my bones, I would become weary trying to contain it, but I would not be able." Yirmiyahu 20.9

Chaviva said...

@Daniel Wow, that passage IS powerful. I must lock it away to write about ... amazing. Thank you!

@David I once was berated on the phone by a rabbi for an hour, before my Orthodox conversion, about how untzniut it was that I blogged. Another rabbi on my beth din adored my blog, he appreciated what I was doing. I consider my blog a PSA (public service announcement) for positive, healthy Orthodox Judaism -- for converts and those Jewish from birth. It's what I see as my mission, my path for HaShem. And this is the way that I choose to do that, and it has been exceedingly successful ... I can't tell you how many off-blog emails I get from people with questions and positive words. I don't take sexy photos, I don't take photos that show skin or suggest anything. I dress modestly, I take photos of me dressed modestly. Thus, what any other man or woman get out of this blog is not my problem, per se. If someone expresses concern over a certain photo, then we can talk. But until then? I appreciate your concern, I really do, but I just see more positives than negatives in my blogging!

gamzoo said...

>for converts, the understanding is that you are born with a Jewish neshama and that it takes time for the neshama to sort of, crawl out -- like "Alien," but less creepy

Do you think someone who was raised with Judaism but became uninterested in it as they got older, doesn't have a 'Jewish neshama'?

>if it's not Judaism, then, choose what makes your heart sing, just do it with all of your heart and soul

I agree this is a nice way to live. too many people (Rabbis, parents) try to guilt others into following Judaism even if Judaism makes that individual unhappy

Chaviva said...

@gamzoo A Jew is a Jew is a Jew. If you go "off the derech," that's your battle with HaShem, but you still have a Jewish neshama, you can't hide from it.

My note about choosing what makes your heart sing was largely a note for my non-Jewish readership :) I think all Jews should take a chance to embrace Judaism in the way that they feel is appropriate. It makes me sad to see Jews who move away from their Judaism because of OTHER people. After all, the pressure and guilt that others push upon you shouldn't play any role, and you shouldn't let it define what you believe.

gamzoo said...

>that's your battle with HaShem

you know the name Israel is supposed to derive from "Battles with God"? maybe that's what we're supposed to do

Mark said...

Chaviva - I appreciate your concern, I really do, but I just see more positives than negatives in my blogging!

MUCH more positive than negative. I would go as far to say that in providing such a good role model for young Jews and publicizing that in your blog is even a mitzvah!

And I strongly disagree that this method of reaching people is not tzanua - there is NO requirement that women must hide themselves away at home behind closed doors and avoid all public contact. In today's world, social networking (including blogging, etc) is a form of public contact. The only public contact that must be avoided is the kind that is forbidden.

Mark said...

And I forgot ... Shabbat Shalom to everyone!

gamzoo said...

>I think all Jews should take a chance to embrace Judaism in the way that they feel is appropriate

the problem is that I'm a Pagan and therefore can't embrace Judaism of any stripe. Pressure or guilt has nothing to do what I do or do not believe. I wish it were different, but that is the way it is

Chaviva said...

Thanks for the support @Mark :)

@Gamzoo I've never met a real-life pagan! Pleasure. *hat tip*

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