Does G-d Play Games With Us?

August 14, 2014


It wasn’t easy to do, but I made the decision impulsively. It wasn’t just the fact that my toddler grandchildren had emptied the cards on the laundry room floor for the umpteenth time this summer. No, after much thought, I decided that my family would probably never want to play Would You Rather? After all, I think we played it only once–somehow I remember getting it as a gift–and I couldn’t stand it.

I picked up a random card just to make sure I still felt the same way. I forget exactly what the card asked, something about choosing between having arms or legs. I decided once and for all that there would never be anything fun about debating ridiculous, theoretical challenges, and I tossed the box and the cards in the garbage. My grandchildren will just have to be content with throwing the cards from Apples to Apples. (Don’t feel bad for them; we have the Original, Junior and Jewish versions so there are are plenty to throw around.)

We are fortunate that, in real life, we don’t get to choose our challenges. G-d, infinitely smarter than we are, has a Divine plan all figured out; the fact that it may be difficult or confusing for us to see His plan is all part of the challenge, both individually and globally.

What kind of game is that and why is it so hard?

Maybe it has something to do with the deal that G-d made with Moshe as the Jews were about to enter the land of Israel, exactly what we read about in the Book of Devarim.

The Jews who had left Egypt “saw” G-d clearly and unequivocally. Not surprisingly, Moshe  pleaded with G-d that the He should also endow the succeeding generation of Jews with that same degree of Divine perception.

I mean, wouldn’t you rather “see” G-d than “hear” G-d?

We all know that seeing is believing. Yet G-d made the rules otherwise: that when it comes to spirituality, our faculty of hearing is what gets us though. “Hearing” G-d requires our involvement and takes us to a place of deeper understanding.  True, the object of the game is to ultimately “see” G-d, but we merit to do this through our effort, not because He has overwhelmed our senses.

The first Rebbe of Chabad, Rabbi Shneur Zalman, has enjoined us to “live with the times.”  No matter how in touch we are with the Torah, its contents provide a particular Divine flow that enlivens the week, even the day. The question is only if we are listening, how synchronous we are with this G-dly energy. (I kept thinking about this analogy last month when I saw Google’s playful but incessant icons referring to the World Cup; I was totally out of touch with the World Cup, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t happening.)

I’m a little embarrassed to say that I never really listened to this last book, Devarim. For years, I was always trying to play catch-up– having to learn Torah as an adult was a challenge that took many years to be grateful for–and there were so many lessons, so much story, that by the time I got to the end of Bamidbar, I was exhausted. Devarim was all repetition anyway. Maybe it was the English name, etched into my memory from my upbringing–“Deuteronomy”–a word I have never heard anywhere else and seemed to have no connection to anything. (It turns out that it’s derived from Latin, meaning “second”–is it any wonder it didn’t seem so important?)

But this year, I understand Devarim a little differently. (If you ever wonder why we learn the same Torah every year, all it takes is an experience like this to affirm the need–did I forget it, never learn it, or just not internalize it?)

Devarim is the Book that’s written exactly for Jews like us.

Jews who didn’t “see” the miracles of the Exodus from Egypt, Jews whose very mission is to “hear” about G-d from Moshe and his successors throughout the generations.

Because It is through these efforts to “hear” that all of us ultimately win: the ability to “see”    G-d clearly, not only in our own lives, but together with the whole world through the coming of Moshiach.

If games will be part of the Messianic era, I would like to play Would You Rather? The Jewish Edition.

There will be many difficult challenges to choose between, but at that wonderful time, they will be behind us forever.

Come to think of it, that sounds like a lot of fun.



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