Currently, South Florida is in the midst of its rainy season- ken yirbu- may the rains continue! Listening to meteorologists discussing the various types of rains that need to sweep through Florida, I was reminded of the verse from the Book of Isaiah:
“For I will pour water upon the thirsty land and floods upon the dry ground; I will pour My spirit upon your seed and My blessing upon your offspring” (44:3).
I asked myself: If the thirsty earth benefits from life-giving water and refreshing rains, with plants, grasses and wild flowers, exploding in unrestrained growth and riots of colors and aromas, then how should we as Jews react to other Jews response to spiritual rains emanating from God and falling upon them and our world?
Isaiah answers my question in his next two verses:
“And they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses. One shall say, I am the Lord’s;another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; another shall write on his hand ‘The Lord’s’, but call himself by the name of Israel” (44:4-5).
Similar to nature responding to God’s rain, so too will the Jewish People burst forth in creativity, colors and different expressions of their Jewish identities. As grass follows its nature, which is not the same as the wild flower, so too will the People, if empowered to trust themselves, express their Jewishness in ever creative, beautiful and diverse ways.
We marvel at the beauty and diversity of nature coming to life after a rain, not questioning whether a certain flower is the right color or concerned whether a specific blossoming wild plant belongs in a certain part of field or not. Why then are we so upset and angered about other Jews, when touched by the the spiritual life-giving rain of God, respond to in ways different from our own?
Why do so many Jews feel that their understanding of Judaism is the only proper way to respond when God’s rains fall. Why do so many Jews feel that theirs is the correct way to do Jewish and everyone else is wrong?
Why do too many of think that they, and only they, have the truth?
God’s word is like “a hammer on the rock” (Jeremiah 23:29), resulting, according to the Midrash, in 70 sparks scattering in different directions. To ask which of those sparks is the real one, the only one that is true and certain is absurd; it is equally absurd and takes a lot of chutzpah to claim that only yours is that one spark.
Unfortunately, the Jewish religious world of today seems to overflow with that type of chutzpah. It doesn’t make a stronger Jewish People nor does it make a more beautiful or truthful Judaism, just a more stunted and desiccated one. We enjoy the beauty and diversity of nature in its celebration of the creativity of God, why then do we find it so difficult to marvel at and celebrate that same beauty in the diversity of practices and traditions of Am Yisrael?
This Rosh HaShana, perhaps one of our resolutions should be to become more accepting of the differing religious practices of Am Yisrael as it responds to the life-giving rains from God. If unable to do that, then on Yom Kippur, we should add the sin of “religious chutzpah, arrogance and intolerance” to our personal list of sins.
“One shall say, I am the Lord’s; another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; another shall write on his hand ‘The Lord’s,’ but call himself by the name of Israel.”