Devarim: Did You Ask the Boss?

Asking G-d for help with difficult decisions or actions (even though actually an integral part of many prayers) is something that many of us associate more with “Twelve Step” programs, or with “fundamentalist” adherents of other religions, than with Judaism. 

But turning to G-d for “advice and counsel” even outside of prayer is central to Judaism, whether we do this directly or through others who are knowledgeable about Jewish law and values. 

In Exodus, Moses explained to his father-in-law:

"The people come to me and ask me to ask for God’s decision for their problem.  If people have an argument, they come to me, and I decide which person is right. In this way I teach the people God’s laws and teachings.” (Exodus 15-16)

Decades later, in this week’s Torah portion, Devarim, Moses recounts what he had said: 

“…the judgment is G-d’s; and the cause that is too hard for you, you shall bring to me, and I will judge it.”  (Deuteronomy 1:17) 

So, even though Judaism holds that we have free will to decide, it also holds that G-d’s judges our decisions.  To be willing to turn to G-d for help in our decision-making, we first have to trust G-d to give us good advice (though it may be advice we don’t want to hear).  But to trust G-d, we of course not only have to believe in G-d, but, at least in some sense, to love G-d.  Which is itself a challenge for many of us. 

I think that the class that I found most challenging was the one called: “The Love of G-d.”  The instructor, Ronnie Serr, would ask us:

 Have you asked the Boss?”  He wasn’t referring to either our spouses or to Bruce Springsteen!  

As I write this, I am flying from Israel to Ethiopia.  In the front of the cabin stands a man with a tallit over his head and tefillin on his arm and head.  He has been standing there for quite a while – longer than I would think it would take someone practiced in years of praying thrice daily to run through the requisite liturgy. 

Perhaps he is “Asking the Boss” about something.  (The flight is smooth, so it’s probably not an extended plea for safe arrival).  If this is what he is doing, I envy him.  He is not hesitating to turn to a source of wisdom and guidance greater than his reason, whether that source is “within him” or not.  I’m still working on this.  Ronnie Serr also taught us that transforming one’s ego and character into someone who regularly turns to G-d for advice can be a lifetime process.

Problems?  “Have you asked the Boss?”  Why not try it, and see if it helps you reach better, more moral decisions. 

Shabbat Shalom from Nairobi!  

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