By Rabbi Chuck Diamond
We wake up each morning thanking God for putting the breath of life into us. We pray, appreciating the continual acts of God’s creation each and every day. Yet this is not enough. We must remember who we are and where we came from. We must, as Moses enjoins the people of Israel as they prepare to enter the Promised Land, “revere the Lord your God to walk only in His paths, to love Him and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and soul.”
In this parshat, we are told to “circumcise” our hearts: “Cut away therefore, the thickening about your hearts and stiffen your necks no more.” The Etz Chaim commentary teaches us this means the “foreskin” of our heart: “The foreskin is what blocks your heart and renders [it] inaccessible to God’s teachings. It is a metaphor for the mental obstruction that has made Israel stubborn.”
We live in a world filled with the wonders of God. Yet there is so much that calls out for our attention, our caring, our action. We must be “God-like” in that we “show no favor and take no bribe, that we must uphold the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and befriend the stranger, providing him with food and clothing.”
We are a people who have suffered greatly throughout history. How can we turn our backs on those who are suffering? How do we ignore the atrocities both large and small of the world around us? We must open our hearts to the teachings of God and let those teachings guide us in helping to make this world a better place.
There is a lot that needs “fixing,” so many causes that could use a helping hand. If all of us pitch in we can make a difference.
In the famous words of Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers): “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now then when?”
So “circumcise your hearts” and open yourself to the needs of the world around us.
Shabbat Shalom. Be safe!
Rabbi Chuck Diamond is rabbi of Kehillah La La in Pittsburgh.