You deserted the Rock, who fathered you; you forgot the God who gave you birth. Deuteronomy 32:18
The Torah portion for this week is Ha'azinu, which means "listen," from Deuteronomy 32:1-52, and the Haftorah is from 2 Samuel 22:1-51.
There's a joke about a couple standing in line at the airport waiting to check their luggage. The husband says to the wife, "I wish we had brought the piano, too!" "The piano?" the wife exclaims. "We already have 16 pieces of luggage!" The husband answers, "I know. But the plane tickets are on the piano!"
While forgetting things can be a nuisance sometimes, the truth is that God gave us the ability to forget as a gift. The Jewish sages teach that if we remembered every bad thing that happened to us, every time that we made a mistake, and every other traumatizing event in our life, it would greatly infringe upon living a happy and healthy life in the present.
But in this week's Torah portion, Moses foretold how the Israelites would become prosperous in the land of Israel and then forget God who had made it all possible for them in the first place. They would forget the God who took them out of the slavery of Egypt. They would forget the Lord who fought their battles so that they could live in the land of Israel. They would forget their creator and their maker. As we read, "you forgot the God who gave you birth."
The rabbis explain the gravity of this sin with the following story: There once was a man who was perpetually in debt. His friend gave him advice to feign insanity every time a creditor came near so that they might think he was crazy and give up on recovering the loan. Then one day, the same friend who had given this advice went to ask for the money back that he had lent the man. Immediately, the man began acting like a crazy person. The friend, who knew all too well that he was being had, exclaimed in anger, "You can't use that tactic on me! I'm the one who gave it to you in the first place!"
In the same way, God gave us the ability to forget to help us through life. When we use that ability to forget God, we are taking the very gift that He gave to us and using it against Him! In fact, God is the one thing in life that we should never forget.
No matter how things are going in your life today, take a moment and remember that everything is from God and all is for the best. In good times and bad, God is the greatest gift we have. We dare not forget it or Him!
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President