The Cart before the Horse

Parshat Yitro

Some people complain to me that they don’t feel God’s presence in their lives. I ask them about their religious observance and they say that they don’t spend much time doing religious things because they don’t feel God’s presence in their lives. But I think that they have things backwards.

In this week’s parsha we read the Aseret Hadibrot, the Ten Commandments, but really it is the Ten Statements. The first statement is, “Anochi Adonai Elohecha, I am the Lord Your God who brought you out of Egypt.”

Presumably, all of the Israelites are hearing this, but many Rabbis note that God speaks in the singular, Elohecha, your God, in the singular, not Eloheichem, your God, in the plural. Rabbi Shabbetai ben Meir HaKohen teaches that this is because each person understands God and their relationship to God on their own personal individual level, based on their spiritual level and their knowledge of religious principles.

I personally don’t feel at one with an airplane, even though I occasionally fly in one. But that is because I know nothing about the engineering of building a plane or how to fly one. I imagine that if I took the time to truly study it and learned how to pilot, then flying would be a much different experience.

The same is true with religion. Waiting around for God to simply appear and connect to you is like me waiting around for a pilot or airline engineer to appear and explain modern flight to me. If you want to feel God’s presence more in your life then you need to take the time and put in the effort to practice your religion, to observe the commandments, to study its precepts. A feeling of connection is not something that you are born with, it is something that is cultivated over time.
Shabbat Shalom,
Rav Sela