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have we met god's expectations?

04/29/2021 08:26:41 AM

Apr29

Rabbi Jeffrey Myers

We read the following in Genesis 1:28: God blessed them [Adam and Eve] and God said to them, “Be fertile and increase, fill the earth and master it; and rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and all the living things that creep on the earth.”  God then makes provisions to sustain all life on the planet, and at the conclusion of Chapter 1, God found all that God had made to be very good. (JPS, 1985) It is clear from the text that humanity was appointed caretakers of this planet that God created. We are never given ownership, but the task of responsibly supervising God’s creation. I wonder how God might grade us on a Divine report card on our stewardship of this planet. We continue to demonstrate that we cannot get along with each other, from H speech to violence to wars; we have driven countless species into extinction; we have polluted the soil, the air and the water. I’ve mentioned numerous times that after God flooded the earth in an attempt to reboot the Creation after observing how great was man’s wickedness in Chapter 6:5, upon the conclusion of the flood and Noah’s subsequent sacrifice to God in gratitude for saving him, God states in Genesis 8:21: “Never again will I doom the earth because of man, since the devisings of man’s mind are evil from his youth.” God recognizes our imperfections as a reality that even God cannot change, but God does promise that as long as the earth endures, seasons will follow in a regular cycle, as will the 24-hour period that we call day. God has placed all the possibilities at our hands; it is up to us to determine how to best use them. God also acknowledges that any doom that the earth faces is our doing.

At some point, each of us must face the coming end of our days on earth. The Talmud frequently reflects upon this, as we find the following entry in Masechet Shabbat 31a:Rava said: After departing from this world, when a person is brought to judgment for the life he lived in this world, they say to him in the order of that verse: Did you conduct business faithfully? Did you designate times for Torah study? Did you engage in procreation? Did you await salvation? Did you engage in the dialectics of wisdom or understand one matter from another? And, nevertheless, beyond all these, if the fear of the Lord is his treasure, yes, he is worthy, and if not, no, none of these accomplishments have any value (translation from Sefaria).

How can one notice not merely the brevity of the list to ponder, but the concluding question: does one fear the Lord? The Hebrew word is yir’ah, which suggests awe and fear wrapped together. Before yir’ah, there needs to be a prior question, which perhaps is understood in the text, but nevertheless not vocalized: Did you let God in?

God is around us in all that we do every single day of our lives, but God cannot be part of our lives unless we invite God in. How do we do that? Every time we perform a mitzvah, an act of lovingkindness, something that models our potential for a higher form of humanity, we let God in. The challenge all of us face every day is to evolve from inviting God into our lives to wanting God to take up residency. For when we do so, then people will take note of all that we say and do and call our actions Godly. We may never achieve that level with consistency, but is it not worth the effort? Don’t we need more Godlier people in this world?

God awaits your invitation, and I am confident that God’s response will be Hineni: Here I am.

Sun, May 9 2021 27 Iyyar 5781