This week, we sang the familiar words of Dayeinu – it would have been enough.
“If God had brought us to Mount Sinai and not given us the Torah – Dayeinu!”
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev taught that this makes no sense. Just to bring us to Mount Sinai wouldn’t have been enough! Why bring us all to Mount Sinai if not to share the gift of Torah?
He answers with an extraordinary teaching. The Israelites who gathered at Sinai passionately wanted to hear God speak to them. So open and sincere were they in their desire that they made an amazing discovery: God had already implanted the entire Torah within their own hearts. It was in there, all along, just waiting for us to turn inward to find it.
In that moment we discovered that God speaks to us – not from fantastic plagues or from parted seas; not from the miracles of water from a rock or manna from heaven; not in the thunder or lightning on a mountain – but from that place deep within, where God dwells inside us.
Why is it so hard to listen to that inner voice? Why is it so hard, once we hear that voice speak to us, to decide to do what we’re told?
Sometimes that voice tells us the things we really don’t want to hear. It calls us to tell the truth even when the consequences of that truth will be difficult to bear. It tells us to persevere, even when perseverance will require more effort than we think we can give. It tells us to forgive, even though our pain remains, and our resentments are real.
“We change when we decide to change, and we grow when we decide to grow,” writes Rabbi Karyn Kedar. “Decision is the consciousness that we must try another way. When we decide to be better, we are. When we decide to embark on a path of greatness, we do. When we decide to live another way, we can. When we realize that every day we are once again invited to live a life of beauty, then we need only say yes.”
But making that decision is often scary. Sometimes we’re afraid of failure. Deep down, we worry: what if I try and I don’t succeed? What if I make mistakes? What if I do my best, and it’s not enough?
Or we suffer from a fear of success: if I take that promotion will my colleagues be jealous and stop being my friends? Am I worthy of the attention and position my success might bring?
Sometimes we suffer from a fear of the unknown. My life feels unfulfilled. I know I am not where I need to be. But what if I make a change and it gets worse? What if I get out there and I don’t know where to go or what to do?
But we have to ask ourselves: why are we listening to those voices of fear and doubt rather than the voice of God calling us to have faith?
And while we sit and agonize over how or even whether to confront our fears: the clock is ticking.
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel taught: “Judaism is a religion of time aiming at the sanctification of time… Every hour is unique … exclusive and endlessly precious.”
What makes time so valuable is that there is so little of it. We sanctify time by choosing how we use it. To defer and delay the decisions that could enhance our experience and quality of life, that too is a decision.
In the Torah portion we read this Shabbat, God brings Moses to the summit of Mount Sinai. There Moses beseeches God: “O let me behold your presence!” And God replies, “I will make all my goodness pass before you.”
Look out at the extraordinary goodness that passes before us in every moment of every day. Look inward to hear how God is speaking to you – urging you to decide to walk forward on a path that will lead to renewed purpose, inspiration, understanding, healing, and fulfillment.
Decide today: I will begin.
Rabbi Dan Levin
Temple Beth El of Boca Raton
“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem…”