We have mentioned often that the book of Deuteronomy is the final recount and reiteration of what makes life meaningful, and what doesn’t; after the experiences, vicissitudes, and situations lived by the children of Israel before their entering the Promised Land.
The frequently repeated warnings and admonitions against idolatry and living for materialistic desires, fantasies and illusions, are the references for choosing goodness as the blessing that makes life worthy to be lived in this world.
“They roused Him to jealousy with strange gods, with abominations they provoked Him. They sacrificed to demons, no-gods, gods that they knew not; new gods that came up of late, which your fathers dreaded not. Of the Rock that begot you, [you] were unmindful, and forgot the Almighty who bore you.” (Deuteronomy 32:16-17)
God’s “jealousy” is brought up again as the outcome of separation from what we love, cherish and protect more than anything. We are jealous when we separate or lose what or who we love to someone else. Separation or estrangement is the cause. God loves us as much as He shows His “anger” and “jealousy” from His people, His allegorical spouse.
We must understand His “jealousy” as a signal of His love for us that waits for ours, by our cleaving to Him through His ways and attributes that bind us to Him. Idol worship, the engagement to ego’s fantasies and illusions, is the chosen separation from our bond with God. These are the non-gods “unknown to us”, that we eventually invented in forms and manifestations that our forefathers never knew, bringing additional shame to what was already shameful.
The fact that the Creator bore us means that our essence and true identity is goodness, to which we owe what we are, have and do. Hence we are accountable to goodness. Disregarding it is tantamount to be unmindful of God.
“I will heap evils upon them; I will spend My arrows upon them.”, “For they are a nation void of counsel, and there is no understanding in them. If they were wise, they would discern this, they would understand what comes after them.” (32:23, 28-29)
We understand the first of these two verses, not as a direct retribution from God, but simply as the consequence of our choices and actions. This reminds us that Elokim encompasses the immutable Godly principle of cause and effect, the ethical foundation on which His goodness manifests in His creation. In this sense, He created “cause” and “effect”. Therefore, what is caused is His will; and what is effected is also His will.
When He “punishes”, is the effect of our choices and actions; not a “personal” vendetta on His behalf. The other two verses confirm this understanding. As long as we understand that God rules His creation, and relates to it with the ethical ruling principle inherent in goodness, we will share the same awareness of King David, quoted in the haftarah for this week’s Torah portion.
“The God who is my Rock, in Him I take refuge. My shield, and my horn of redemption. My high tower and my refuge my redeemer. You save me from violence.”, “The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands He has recompensed me. For I have kept the ways of the Lord, and have not wickedly departed from my God.” (II Samuel 22:3, 22:21-22)