Why is G-d distancing from us?

Earlier this week my phone rang.

I looked at the screen. It was a call from someone who I wasn’t in touch with for close to 10 years. And it was a video call.

I had no clue what this was all about, but answered the call nevertheless.

Turns out, this fellow (perhaps too bored by the quarantine?) initiated a video conference with me and a few other people he knew. By the time I answered the call, another person was on it, someone I never met before.

So after the polite “hi, how are you?” and “nice to meet you” X3, the conversation turned to Torah. Our video call host started discussing the Shema, focusing on the second paragraph where G-d seems to threaten the Jewish people to follow his ways, or else they will be punished.

“Why is G-d talking to us this way?” he asked.

I responded:

I once heard a beautiful parable that might explain it.

Two high officers are coming to the king, asking to retire. The king accepts their request. He is giving one of them a great condo in Boca overlooking the water, a credit card with no credit limit, and sends him on his way.

To the other, the king says: “I want you to come here once a month to collect your pension. You will come to my office, see me and receive your check”.

In your mind, who is more beloved by the king?

You’d think the king loves the first one better. He gave him a beautiful condo and a credit card to spend as he pleased.

But no. The king doesn’t like him too much, which is why he sent him to Florida. The king actually loves the second officer and craves to have a relationship with him. This is why he makes him come back every month – he is looking for the relationship to continue.

Maybe – I suggested – this is why when we deviate from G-d’s ways, he is withholding his blessings. That’s his way to make us come back to him and renew our relationship. It’s not about the punishment, quite the contrary: because He loves us, He is looking for an opportunity to get close to Him again.

In the Jewish calendar, we just entered a period known as the “three weeks”. Those are days of mourning for the loss of the Beit Hamikdash, the holy temple in Jerusalem. More than just a physical building, the holy temple represented an intimate bond between G-d and the Jewish people. With the Temple destroyed, we are in a spiritual state of “exile”, when G-d’s presence is hiding and at times might even be seen as absent.

But this distance is all about creating closeness.

When we enjoyed the revealed connection with G-d, maybe we took that relationship for granted. So G-d took a step back and said: I want you to appreciate our relationship again. I want you to seek, find and connect with me.

So during this period, let us focus on creating more closeness with G-d – and more closeness with our fellows! – and pray: G-d, we had enough distancing.

Time for closeness. Full, real, all encompassing closeness.

It’s time for Moshiach to come.

About the Author
Rabbi Mendy Kaminker is the Chabad Rabbi of Hackensack, and an editorial member of Chabad.org.
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