(Torah Portion Yisro) A Bumper Sticker
Last week, as I was pulling out of a parking space, a bumper sticker on the car in front of me caught my eye. The insight was profound, “G-d does not believe in atheists!”
That same day, I shared this powerful one liner with one of my friends. He promptly pulled out of his pocket a page taken from Newsweek magazine, which had a graph based on research done by the American Jewish Committee that indicated that only 27% of Jews polled, believed in G-d!
Shocked, and quite honestly embarrassed by such findings, I checked out the study. It was conducted in 2005, and it contained other bothersome statistics. From the Jews polled:
Frequency of prayers, 25.5%. Attend religious services weekly, 7.4%. Believe the Bible is the exact words of G-d, 10.8%. Believe in Life after Death, 42.8%.
Our Sages make a bold statement, “Jews are believers, children of believers!” This means that belief in G-d is the basic ‘bread and butter’ of a Jew.
If so, why are so many Jews struggling with the basic tenets of our beliefs?
I will venture to say that it is due to a lack of genuine Jewish Education – the lack of basic knowledge of what we are all about and stand for, and the consequence of other influences and persuasions.
To illustrate this point: A few years ago, a Jewish woman told me that she gains her religious inspiration from watching the non-Jewish religious sermons offered on TV. “It is only when they start preaching about their savior do I turn to a different channel.”
Today, with computers hooked up to the internet in practically every pocket and home, we at least have the ability to navigate to the right sites, where we can easily reach and gain spiritual inspiration from reliable, trustworthy and traditional sources. (Try aish.org, ou.org, torahanytime.org, just to name a few.)
Better yet, if you take the time to review Yisro, the Torah portion that we read this week, you will see that it contains the narrative of G-d’s encounter with the Jewish nation when He proclaimed the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai.
G-d’s Revelation is the one time event that our entire belief in G-d and His Torah is based upon.
It would seem so straightforward to gain and acquire a belief in the Divine Authorship of Torah, so why is there so much static and uncertainty?
The Torah relates that before G-d proclaimed the Ten Commandments there were awesome sounds and sights of thunder and lightning and a loud Shofar blast. However, our Sages tell us that during G-d’s Proclamation, there wasn’t a sound in the world other than G-d’s voice. The birds were silenced, the trees did not sway, the angels did not sing, no one and nothing made a sound; it was just G-d.
I think the lesson of this is that to recognize G-d, appreciate Torah, its meaning, laws, and lessons, requires that one pay attention to it without distractions. It needs clarity of mind and an ability to focus without disturbance – similar to the stillness in the air that was apparent at the giving of the Torah.
It seems impossible to have this calm and clarity in our tumultuous and increasingly distracting technological world that we’ve become accustom to. However, we are taught that anyone who makes a move towards appreciating G-d and Torah will receive special Divine assistance in achieving his goals.
All we have to do is to open our heart and make the move!
Wishing you a restful, peaceful
and inspirational Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid and Malki Saks