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V'Zot HaBracha(Deuteronomy 33-34)

Direct Line

The Torah does not tell us where Moses is buried. A number of explanations are offered for this, but one stands out for me. Moses, great as he was, was still a human being. The danger of his grave becoming a shrine and the Jewish people making him into a demigod was just too great. There is nothing wrong with people praying to God at the grave of a righteous person. But in the case of Moses, it wouldn't have been a large leap for people to start praying to him instead.

Idol worship has been the great test of the Jewish people from day one. We have always looked for intermediaries between ourselves and God. The Sages tell us that the first two of the 10 Commandments were spoken directly by God to the entire nation. But the intimacy of the experience was so overwhelming that they asked Moses to listen to the rest and convey what God had said. This was the start of a slippery slope that ended only 40 days later with the building of a Golden Calf. In truth, it is a slope that we are still sliding down.

A direct relationship with God is an incredibly challenging concept. We'd rather have something in between. We see an example of the Jewish people slipping even further in the book of Samuel when they ask for a king. Samuel is upset and one of the explanations given is that the same problem has arisen. Direct relationship with God was too difficult, so God communicated via prophets. Now even this was too heavy. They wanted a secular government - "like all the nations" - so that they could put God just a bit more at arm's length.

Maimonides tells us that the first step toward idol worship is giving too much honor to God's intermediaries. Once people do this, the next obvious step is to set up their own intermediaries. And finally, the intermediaries take on a power of their own as God recedes further and further into the distance.

Each and every one of us has the opportunity for a deeply intimate and intensely personal relationship with God. Children need no intermediaries to talk to their parents. We need no other human beings to intercede for us or bless us. We need no good luck charms or trinkets to fight off the evil eye.

God will be as direct with us as we choose to be with him. Back in the days of Samuel, God allowed the Jewish People to appoint a king. He leads us in the way we want to go. But if we want - as surely we all do - to have our own personal and direct line of communication, then all we need to is set it up

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Published: September 27, 2008

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(1) Anonymous, October 16, 2008 1:46 PM

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