He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he. Deuteronomy 32:4
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.
Even people who believe that God created the world sometimes have trouble believing that God is intimately involved in every detail of today's world. Is God really involved in everything from what we eat for breakfast, to the traffic on the way to work, to the person we unexpectedly meet, to the time we get home at night? And, how could a good God be involved in a world that looks so bad?
In this week's portion we read, "He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just . . . " This isn't a teaching for those times when everything in life is going smoothly; the rabbis explain that this teaching is specifically meant for the times when life is difficult and no one appears to be at the helm steering this world.
They explain with the following parable: There once was a Jewish businessman who, in the course of his travels, spent the Sabbath in another community. He was confused to see that contrary to the standard way of doing things, in this synagogue all the most distinguished members sat in the back while the paupers and beggars sat in the front.
After the services, the man asked the rabbi why he treated the most prestigious men with the least honor. The rabbi explained, "You are confused because you are only here for one Sabbath. If you were here every week, you would see that in our synagogue, we rotate seats every week so that everyone has a chance to be up front."
In the same way, according to Jewish tradition, we are only in this world for the equivalent of one weekend. In contrast, God has existed for an eternity. How could we possibly understand the full picture when we are only here for 70, 80, or 90 of those years? It's like looking at a puzzle that is not quite finished.
Friends, when life looks confusing to us, like God has forgotten about our world, let's remember that we are looking at an unfinished puzzle. There are more pieces to be put in, and it is only when the last piece is in place that the picture will be complete. Then it will be clear to us that "his works are perfect." For now, our challenge is to believe this is true.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President