middot humility torah when the truth hurts

when the truth hurts

Written by  rabbi benjamin ehrenfeld

art-bandaidThe truth can hurt sometimes, a lot. In fact, Moses’ words to the Jewish people in parashat Nitzavim-Vayelech contain some of the most difficult truths. For one, the people are told that they will fall short of the Torah, and that this will eventually lead to terrible misfortune. We might try to avoid this painful truth by assuming that Moses’ words only applied to the people he was speaking to at the time.

Deuteronomy 29:13-14 disabuses us of such a notion:


It is not with you alone that I am making this sworn covenant, but with whoever is standing here with us today before the LORD our God, and with whoever is not here with us today.

Well, I guess we’re not off of the hook then. The arrangement still stands and neglect of Torah will have disastrous consequences. One could suggest that the Torah with all its regulations is really too stringent to work. I mean, we’re only human … right?

For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off.  It is not in heaven, that you should say, 'Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?' Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, 'Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?' But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.

Deut. 30:11—14

There’s the kicker. We really don’t have any excuse. God has endowed us with a Torah that meets our capabilities as human beings. It is not too hard. In fact, it might even make us more truly human than we could have thought.

Mercy and forgiveness are just as true as reward and punishment, but the former two do not negate the truth of the latter two. When we look honestly at ourselves we must always confront the fact that we are free to choose blessing or curse. That can be a little scary. It is much easier to set ourselves up to live as if things happen to us without our participation in their genesis. It would be wrong to assume every good thing that happens did so because we’re so great, or that every bad thing happens because we’re lousy. Nevertheless, wickedness and goodness both have their consequences. Sometimes the truth hurts at first. In this case, if we choose life, we’ll be glad for it anyway.

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