Re’eh: The Choice is Ours…
See, this day I set before you blessing and curse…
First verse in Torah portion Re’eh
Travelling in Prague this past summer, I had the honor of speaking (twice) at the Masorti/Conservative Synagogue in the old Jewish Quarter. Among the interesting people I met were two, young individuals born in the Former Soviet Union. If I recall, they were both studying to become Jewish. They met while each was travelling in China; otherwise, the distance between their homes never would have brought them together. Their journey toward Judaism, and toward each other, was long and just a tad unusual. Most of the small group I met shared similar odysseys.
What most impressed me was that these individuals discovered Judaism without any of the resources (community, places of learning etc) so readily available to us. The potential for living full and satisfying Jewish lives is practically in our faces and yet our collective American Jewish community is so dismissive. On the other hand, in Prague there were young individuals growing up far from any Jewish environment yet eager to identify as Jews.
The portion of Re’eh begins with a choice between two, alternative paths: The path toward a serious Jewish life and the path heading in an opposite direction. The Torah never suggests that the path toward is rigid and uncompromising. Therefore, we cannot dismiss Judaism because it allows us too little personal say. On the contrary, how to live a meaningful Jewish life is left to us. The Torah does present specific laws and statutes but ultimately each of us determines the contents of our Jewish lives. Choosing the contrary path is a conscious decision reflective of our character rather than being an indictment of Judaism itself.
The individuals I met, despite overwhelming odds, have chosen a path toward serious, Jewish identification. We, who benefit from far greater Jewish resources, have opportunity to do similarly. If we choose otherwise we do so without holding Judaism accountable for our decisions.
The choice is ours…