Midreshet Amit


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Independence and Responsibility

By: Paige Unterman, Los Angeles, California

“G‑d has not given you a heart to know, eyes to see and ears to hear, until this very day.” In this week’s Parsha, Ki Tavo, Moshe says this statement to Bnei Yisrael. This statement leads us to ask many questions about free will. At first glance, it appears that Moshe is claiming that up to this point, the Jews had not been given control over their actions. However, R' Moshe Hefez, a 16th century Italian Jewish commentator, explains that Moshe meant this rhetorically. Up to this point, the Jews had not fully appreciated the loving and giving relationship Hashem had with them. They had experienced countless miracles, had witnessed Hashem’s power, and had been there for some of Hashem’s most astounding feats. However, they still lacked in their gratitude, still failed to appreciate Hashem’s role in their daily lives. 

When we are in close proximity to something incredible, the incredible thing tends to lose its magnificence and power in our eyes. We fail to realize its importance to us. This can be explained using a parable that I read in The Power of Teshuva.  A boy enters a candy store with his father. Immediately, he spies some intriguing candy and takes off, leaving his father. As soon as he disappears, the father begins to search for him. The boy, however, is oblivious to this as he goes through every aisle, infatuated by the sweets. Soon, he tires of the excitement brought on by the lollipops and candies and begins to yearn for his father. He is no longer entrenched in the wonders of the candy store; all he wants is his father. Suddenly, his father approaches him and he runs into his father’s arms, relieved and grateful. 
Similar to the experience of the boy in a candy store, the Jews also were oblivious to the extreme reliance they had on Hashem. They were too close to Hashem to see the miracles he had made for their benefit. Only when they were no longer seeing overt proof of Hashem’s love for them would they finally be able to comprehend His power. Moshe says “until this very day” because they were now going to have the distance from Hashem to finally appreciate his loving actions. They had experienced all these amazing miracles but only once they ceased, were the Jews able to realize Hashem’s powerful nature. 

Now that I am in Israel, living independently and suddenly responsible for my own chores, I have become aware of the overwhelming reliance I had on my mother. Like many of my classmates, I had never really comprehended how much I depended on my family until I didn’t have them around to help me. As the age old adage goes, “We don’t realize how good it was until it’s gone.” Only once the Jews were no longer witnesses to Hashem’s daily miracles did they become faithful. Only once the boy was disconnected from his father did he appreciate his father’s love. And only once I had flown more than 7,000 miles away did I feel the overwhelming gratitude I felt towards my family. So instead of waiting until it’s too late, express thanks for all you have right now. Before the new year begins, challenge yourself to display your appreciation and recognize the roles others play in your lives. After all, we don’t want to wait until we’re lost in a candy store to show our love.  Shabbat Shalom!