“If you are breathing, that is nature’s way of saying that you belong here. You are enough.” I saw this on a teacher website, something that a teacher said to his students every day as part of a breathing meditation.
I would adjust that to: If you are breathing, that is God’s way of saying that He loves you at this moment, just the way you are and He wants you to be alive and here.
The essential point is that you don’t have to deserve this love or this life. You are given your daily breath (and bread) as free gifts simply out of love.
Moshe emphasizes this point in this week’s parsha. He spends a long time talking about the people’s sins, not to make them feel guilty, but to make a different point — God is giving you the gift of the land of Israel not because you deserve it, but because He loved your ancestors and He loves you. Again and again, Moshe says: lo betzidkatekha – not because of your merit or virtue or righteousness. On the contrary, he goes to lengths to show how from beginning to end, the people angered and rebelled against God. Why does he go to such lengths? To make the clarity of God’s love even stronger — this is a love that is not based on merit. You don’t have to deserve this love and therefore you cannot lose it. You have already done all the terrible things you can do and He nonetheless stuck with you and is giving you the gift of the land.
Last week, the parsha started with a word that makes a similar point. The word used to describe Moshe’s prayer is va’ethanan. Rashi says this means that Moshe prayed for a matanat hinam, a free gift. Even though Moshe did have merits to rely on, he understood that when you appear before God, you ask for a free gift. That is God’s way.
It should be our way, too, both in relation to ourselves and others. We live in a society that values productivity above all else. The question in our minds is always – how productive have we been? What have we accomplished, gotten done, today. This is a fine question as long as it is not tied in any way to our sense of self-worth. We do not need to prove that we deserve to exist based on our productivity. We deserve to exist simply because God loves us. Life is a matanat hinam, a free gift.
And sometimes, if we feel that we have erred and done the wrong thing, even then we should know that there is still love out there for us, that in any case, the gifts that God bestows upon us daily, like the gift of the land, are lo betzidkatekha, not given for our righteousness. We are human and often not so righteous and God gives us these gifts anyway, simply out of love.
This attitude does not deter teshuva, return and repentance, but on the contrary, I suspect it is the first step to change. Self-doubt and a feeling of low self-esteem lead to inaction and depression. Change happens best in the protective climate of love.
We do not need to deserve this life. It is a free gift. We should recognize the steadfast divine love behind our every breath.