May 22, 2014

60 Days of Growth – Be Real (Day 24)

Over the summer, Jews all over the world read a section from Isiah, the Shabbat on which it is read is called Shabbat Chazon – Shabbat of Vision, because it is the Shabbat before Tisha Be’av, our national day of mourning in honor of all Jewish tragedies, and on it we read Isiah’s vision of the beginning of all this tragedy. He tells the Jewish people, “לֹא תוֹסִיפוּ, הָבִיא מִנְחַת-שָׁוְא–קְטֹרֶת תּוֹעֵבָה הִיא – Don’t bring me anymore of your empty sacrifices, they disgust me” (1:13). This is the root of all our tragedies and the root of all problems in the world.

What is an empty sacrifice? A sacrifice to God is supposed to symbolize something, it is supposed to mean that a person is appreciative, regrets his/her actions, wants to build a relationship with God, his fellow Jews, etc. But when a person brings an empty sacrifice, it is fake. He is merely going through the motions and slaughtering an animal for his own personal gratification and not for any other reason.

shutterstock_100248338Later on Isiah tells us, “לִמְדוּ הֵיטֵב דִּרְשׁוּ מִשְׁפָּט, אַשְּׁרוּ חָמוֹץ – Learn to improve! Seek justice, help those whose life is bitter” (1:17). He is explaining to us what God really wants from the Jewish people and from each and every one of us, he doesn’t want empty words and sacrifices, he doesn’t want us to be fake and put on a facade to impress others, he wants us to be real, to really care about those around us and to really want to make the world a better place.

“God wants our hearts” (Sanhedrin 106b) God doesn’t want our black hats, or our fancy clothes or our lip-service, He doesn’t want our fake friendships our facades, what he wants is our emotions, he wants us to care with our hearts and help each other.

Today’s Jewish mission is to be real. Help someone, pursue justice, care for someone, or build a relationship (either with a person or with God) but do it for real, not because you want to look good or because your friends are doing it, do it for real. Be real.