For the week of August 25, 2018 / 14 Elul 5778
Torah: D’varim/Deuteronomy 21:10 – 25:19
Haftarah: Isaiah 54:1-10
Download Audio [Right click link to download]
When you build a new house, you shall make a parapet for your roof, that you may not bring the guilt of blood upon your house, if anyone should fall from it. (D’varim/Deuteronomy 22:8)
I hate being wrongly accused! I remember when this first happened to me. My mom didn’t ask me if I did whatever it was. She demanded to know why I did it, and I blew up. I was too young at the time to fully understand the complexity of this injustice, but that she would attach to me something I had nothing to do with was absolutely scandalous in my eyes.
I take my responsibilities very seriously. I am not saying that I always successfully deliver on what’s required of me. It’s that I am very aware of what’s happening around me and am constantly asking myself if the burden of action is on my shoulders. Perhaps this is why I find it hard to handle when those close to me appear to insinuate that I am not doing my part.
What I didn’t realize until recently, however, is that what I thought was an overly developed sense of responsibility clouded my perception of the world and crippled my ability to accept what actually comprises my God-given roles. It wasn’t responsibility that motivated me after all; rather it was the fear of guilt and shame. I can’t say for sure, but it might be the accusation incident with my mother years ago, that instilled in me the perceived need to defend myself against the threat of disapproval. I am now beginning to understand that biblically based responsibility is an act of obedience to God built on a foundation of trust based on God’s love and goodness.
God gives his children responsibility. This stems back to the beginning when Adam and Eve were made stewards of the creation. It is what is behind every human being’s calling to make a positive difference in the world. Yet due to our alienation from God, the gift of being caretakers of the planet has been twisted in all sorts of ways. Instead of sharing in the splendor of God’s mission on earth, we are driven to find our identity in what we do instead of in who we are as God’s children.
As believers in Yeshua this can take on all sorts of spiritual overtones. In my case, I could be so intent on doing the right thing or saying what needs to be said that I may not be sufficiently sensitive to the people around me. The irony is I claim to be the “big picture” guy, quick to point out the implications of things that apparently others are missing. Yet, at the same time, I miss the big picture of life around me, oblivious to how my sense of urgency may be negatively affecting others.
In this week’s parsha (Torah reading portion), we learn about the need to take responsibility. God directed the people of Israel to make a protective barrier around the perimeter of their roofs to avoid injury. How often are we so keen to build our lives without taking the time to care for the welfare of others. We drive ourselves in the pursuit of our goals and neglect those things that we should be most concerned about.
Notice that the protective barrier was only necessary if and when a house was built. No house, no barrier. Houses can be dangerous. That’s why God directed the adding of the barrier. While I might focus on the building and neglect the protective barrier, your preference might be to avoid building at all. That way you keep yourself from ever being in the position where danger is a remote possibility.
Both approaches amount to similar things. Just because I might be really intense, expressing concern about almost everything doesn’t mean I am doing what I am supposed to be doing. Building wrongly and not building at all are both ways to skirt our responsibilities. Let us not be afraid to fulfill whatever it is God is calling us to do. As we do, let us remember to include those things that care for others along the way. We are responsible for both.
Scriptures taken from the English Standard Version
For further discussion, watch this episode of TorahBytes Live, scheduled for Wednesday, August 22, 2018 at 4:30 p.m. Eastern Time. Recorded version will be available immediately following: