Saturday, September 24, 2011

Response to "Apples and Honey"

Rabbi Sack's commentary on Parashat Nitzavim-Vayelech combines a number of scriptures in a very taut manner. I was not previously informed that the midrash compares the Mount Sinai to an apple tree, where the Jews first received the Torah.

Why stop there, though? Why not make a more apt comparison to another tree, one which embodied right and wrong: the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

In both cases, God presented to man the option of knowing right and wrong for themselves.

In Genesis, the Lord clearly warned his first creation:

"But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." (Genesis 2:17)

In this verse, "surely die" is actually "מֹ֥ות תָּמֽוּת׃ or "die die", die superlatively.

Then the LORD presented His chosen people, drawn out of Egypt, with a choice after they had received the Torah:

"I call heaven and earth to record this day against you that I have set before you life and death blessing and cursing therefore choose life that both thou and thy seed may live" (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Yet Joshua, Moses' successor, rightly denounced the Israelites when he declared:

"Ye cannot serve the LORD for he is an holy God he is a jealous God he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins." (Joshua 24:19)

No matter how hard we may try, we cannot keep Torah by our efforts.

However, Solomon's Song of Song's presents our needed sustenance in a true light:

"As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste." (Song of Solomon 2:3)

Here, it would appear that the lover feature in the Song is in a posture of receiving, not taking, as Adam and Even foolishly did in the Garden of Eden.

This Beloved, then, is not so much our getting, but our accepting the Lord's goodness for us.

Yet how can anyone of us do that? For did not the Lord say to His people Israel:

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD." (Isaiah 55:8)

How then will our Beloved Lord come to us?

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