Grammar and Love
It’s halfway through Elul. How’s that heshbon hanefesh coming along, Harry?
I’m just going to cut to the chase.
This week we read Ki Tavo (Devarim [Deuteronomy] 26:1 – 29:8).
There’s a nice part about bringing fruit to the Temple. More blessings. More curses. More things to avoid doing so you won’t be cursed. Threats of never-ending hemorrhoids. Seriously. Never-ending hemorrhoids. Check it out: Devarim 28:27.
But in the middle (before the hemorrhoids) there’s this, which is more important (26: 17-18):
אֶת-יְהוָה הֶאֱמַרְתָּ, הַיּוֹם: לִהְיוֹת לְךָ לֵאלֹהִים וְלָלֶכֶת בִּדְרָכָיו, וְלִשְׁמֹר חֻקָּיו וּמִצְוֹתָיו וּמִשְׁפָּטָיו–וְלִשְׁמֹעַ בְּקֹלוֹ
וַיהוָה הֶאֱמִירְךָ הַיּוֹם, לִהְיוֹת לוֹ לְעַם סְגֻלָּה, כַּאֲשֶׁר, דִּבֶּר-לָךְ; וְלִשְׁמֹר, כָּל-מִצְוֹתָיו
26:17 Today you have selected Adonai to be your God, to walk in His ways, to keep his hukim and his mitzvot, and His mishpatim, and to listen to His Voice.
26:18 And God has selected you today to be His treasured people, as He told you, and you should keep all his mitzvot.
Hukim are statutes and mishpatim are ordinances. Both are important.
I’m just going to keep thinking of mitzvot as connections.
Traditionally, mishpatim are laws that reason would suggest are necessary. Laws against murder, robbery, adultery—that sort of thing. Hukim are different. They don’t make sense. Laws about not mixing wool and linen in the same cloth. It doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Hold onto that thought for a minute. It’s going to be important, I promise.
I suck at Hebrew grammar, so I will probably get this completely wrong, but the verb form that the word for “selected” takes in those verses is the hiphil which is often used to denote the causative. In fact this extremely informative video explains just that.
So, the verses could be read: “Today God is causing you to select Him…” and “And you are causing God to select you…“
Honestly, that’s not my interpretation. Rashi’s grandson, Rashbam said it first.
God caused the Israelites to select Him. The Israelites caused God to select them.
Remind you of anything?
“You told me that silly story, and it made me fall for you.” “You always listened and remembered, and it made me love you.”
God and the Israelites fell in love.
Love is a connection.
Love involves some rules that make sense: “Don’t cheat on me.” Or “I want you there with me on the best day of my life and on the worst day of my life.” Those make sense. They are logical. Right?
Sometimes love involves rules that don’t make any sense: “I took out the garbage last time, it’s clearly your turn.” Seriously, who cares as long as the garbage goes out?
Love sometimes makes sense, and sometimes it makes no sense at all. But it’s always a connection. It should always be a rootedness.
If it doesn’t have that connection, that rootedness, no amount of making sense will make it work. And, I suppose, if it doesn’t have that completely illogical part, it will be boring.
How often have I missed that?
Welcome to my Elul.