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True Friendships; never give up

 In this week’s Parsha, Eikev, Moshe reprimands his people for forsaking HaShem so soon after receiving the Torah. A mere 40 days after hearing directly from HaShem that we may not create images and worship them we created the Golden Calf and worshiped it! Moshe reminds us what HaShem did for us; the miracles and signs by which He brought our oppressors down to their knees. How He showed the world that He chose us to be His people and how He cared from us in the desert and in spite of all this we turned our backs on His expectation to remain committed to Him and to nobody else. How outrageous our behavior was! All HaShem wants from us is a genuine commitment to Him just as He is committed to us. How do we reject this request from the One Who grants us life itself!

Moshe reminds us how HaShem gave us a second chance to return to Him. In fact, He instructed Moshe to bring two stones of sapphire back up the mountain and HaShem wrote the Ten Commandments upon them. Behold! He even gave us back the Two Tablets which were broken on account of the Golden Calf.

The memory of this event is bittersweet. On one side it reminds us of how low we fell. On the other side it shows the great extent HaShem is committed to our relationship – even when we fall so low He allows us to pick ourselves up again. This is truly an appropriate Parsha to read in the period of the year which is designated to console us over the tragedies of Tisha b’Av.

However, we might still ruminate on the possibility that after so many years of being exiled from our land never having a peaceful period in which nobody is chasing us to destroy us, perhaps G.D forbid, HaShem has forsaken us. The Christians have been telling us for 1900 years already. Could it be that they may be right?

To this concern we will read our Haftorah, written by Yishayahu (Isaiah) to be read and reread throughout the history of our people. The Haftorah opens with the scene of Tzion (Jerusalem), the once world class capital of the world, now sitting in misery and mourning over the loss of her children who have been exiled for thousands of years. ‘Tzion says HaShem has forsaken me’ and HaShem responds ‘Can a woman forget her nursling, withdraw from feeling compassion for the child of her womb? Even were these (women) to forget, yet I will not forget you…” HaShem’s response draws of a picture where even a mother would forsake her child and in that situation HaShem will still never forget us. Only for something which is absolutely unforgivable could a mother forsake her child. And in such a situation HaShem tells us that He will never abandon us.

 How fortunate we are to be secure in our relationship with HaShem. No matter how far we find ourselves from home we know that HaShem awaits our return. The return is our responsibility and the moment we move in that direction HaShem returns to us as well.

There is a mitzvah in our Parsha to walk in the ways of HaShem. The manner in which we achieve this mitzvah is by emulating the way in which HaShem conducts Himself. For this reason it is a mitzvah to visit the sick and share in the pain of one who lost a close relative as well as sharing in the joy of one who just married and so on. These are examples of HaShem's way of conduct.

Given the message our Parsha teaches us with respect to HaShem’s relationship to His people perhaps we can extend the mitzvah of emulating HaShem’s ways to include the way in which we conduct our relationships.

 It is not uncommon for us to have a close friend whom we have come to trust and respect when suddenly they do something out of character. There is an immediate reaction to shun our friend as the realization that we mistrusted them with our friendship. However, if we are courageous enough to give our friend the benefit of our deeper consideration we will discover that there are events and situations which our friend is subject to which are bending their character. If we can allow for that understanding and wait for our friend to pull through we will have supported our friend in their most trying moments. This is what HaShem did with us. He allowed Himself to understand what predicated our defection and waited for us to return. Even while suffering the punishment of what appeared to be His forsaking us, He nevertheless shared in our suffering. He made it a point to tell us that He will never forsake us. He told us that even when a mother will forsake her child He will never forsake us. He wants us to know that He will always be there for us.

With this forbearance towards our fellow Jews we can pray that very quickly HaShem will take us back home and finally bring joy and happiness to Tzion with her children returning to her.

Have a wonderful Shabbos.

Paysach Diskind

 

Achim is a non-profit organization located in Baltimore, Maryland dedicated to helping families of the Russian speaking Jewish community connect with their Jewish heritage and traditions.