Ramifications of Shema II – Psalm 63:4
In my article entitled “Ramifications of Shema”, I presented the concept that with the knowledge that God is the only power firmly planted into our hearts, we come to the realization that we can never gain any pleasure through an act of disobedience nor will an act of obedience bring us to any pain.
I have since been asked a question. The questioner presented me with the following scenario: Imagine that a Jewish man is driving down the highway and he runs out of kosher food. Right there on the side of the highway he sees a shop that only sells non-kosher food products. Now let us follow the two hypothetical paths that this situation can lead to.
# 1 – This Jewish fellow buys a non-kosher sandwich, he eats it and drives on his merry way. Or # 2 – He does not buy the sandwich and he starves for the next several hours until he arrives at a place where he can get kosher food.
In scenario # 1, he was disobedient, but he escaped the pain of hunger and gained the pleasure of eating tasty food. In scenario # 2, the same fellow was obedient, but he lost out on the pleasure of the food that he could have enjoyed and his obedience caused him to suffer hunger. How then can I make a blanket statement that you never lose through obedience and that you never gain through disobedience?
In order to answer this question, let us look a bit deeper into these two hypothetical scenarios. In scenario # 1, where the person ate that which his God commanded him not to eat, how do you think his connection to God was affected? Let us assume that this person is not plagued by guilt (which more often than not, is not a healthy place to go). He justifies his disobedience to himself by saying; I had no choice; I was starving. But his eating certainly did not bring him any closer to God.
Let us now look at scenario #2. Perhaps as the person was driving down the highway, he was feeling the pangs of hunger and he was not enjoying the experience one bit. But the next time he approaches God in prayer, he will feel a connection that he would have never felt had he chosen the other path. I am not talking about feeling proud that he obeyed God. That could never be considered a connection to God, for God hates pride (Proverbs 16:5). A feeling of pride in obedience is actually an attitude that creates a distance from God. What I am talking about is a feeling of closeness. When this person looks back at the opportunity for obedience that came his way, he realizes that the Creator of all gave him an opportunity to show his love and his loyalty to the God of Israel. He looks back at the temptation and he realizes that by overcoming the urge to violate God’s command, he brought his life in line with God’s truth – he recognizes his obedience as an embrace with God. He recognizes the situation as an opportunity to live out the concept that as Jew, he is a firstborn son of God. He recognizes that his act of obedience towards God brings him in line with the full stature of Eternal Israel. His obedience is woven in with the obedience of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the beloved of God (Deuteronomy 10:15) and all of their descendants who have been loyal and who will be loyal to their calling as a holy nation.
The closeness to God that is generated by following scenario # 2 surpasses anything that scenario # 1 has to offer. I stand by my original statement; you will never gain through disobedience towards God and you will never lose through obedience towards your Father in heaven. You just have to open your eyes and your heart.
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal