When we need help in life, we turn to others for advice and guidance. What happens, though, when there is no one else to turn to? Where do we go for guidance when even the advisors are in need of guidance?
In the Torah, Moses was the ultimate authority for all disputes. Exodus describes how the people "brought the most difficult cases to Moses" (Exodus 18:26).
Early in the book of Numbers, Moses was approached by a group of men who were ritually unclean during the time of the Passover festival. They want to know what they should do, given that they were not able partake in the obligatory Passover offering because of their impurity. Moses turns the question over to God. He says, "Stand still so I can hear what Adonai commands for you" (Numbers 9:8). God instructs that the men should make the Passover offering a month later.
Later, while the Israelites were traveling through the desert, a man was found desecrating Shabbat by gathering wood on the day of rest. Not knowing what the law and punishment were for such a case, the people brought the man to Moses. Only then did God tell Moses what the proper ruling was in that case; the man was stoned to death (Numbers 15:32-36).
Finally, we read about the five daughters of Zelophechad who brought a case to Moses in which they claimed the right to inherit property because their father died without leaving a male heir. Again, Moses heard what the women had to say, and then, "Moses brought their case close before Adonai" (Numbers 27:5). God ruled in favor of the women and their right to perpetuate their father's name by inheriting their father's portion of land.
But, how does this help us? When we have an ethical dilemma, a dispute, or a problem in our lives, we cannot do what Moses did. We cannot just pick up the phone and talk directly to God to receive the guidance that will tell us what to do.
Or, maybe, we can. A verse in this week's Torah portion (Devarim) suggests that bringing our questions to God is a path that is available to everyone.
In the first chapter of the book of Deuteronomy God instructed the Israelites, "You shall give no recognition to rank in rendering judgment; you shall hear both the small and the great alike. You shall not fear anyone, for judgment belongs to God. You shall bring a matter that is too difficult for you close to Me and I shall hear it" (Deuteronomy 1:17).
Here we have God actually instructing the Israelites to do exactly what Moses did when they have questions they cannot answer. God says: "Bring the matter to Me." How are we supposed to do that?
Obviously, it is not going to be by phone. However, a close reading of the verse suggests a path for hearing God's answers to our deepest questions: "Give no recognition to rank… hear both the small and the great alike… do not fear anyone…"
Bringing difficult questions to God—whether they are legal cases or the questions we keep locked up in our own hearts—is what we do when we let go of all our preconceptions. We bring ourselves close to God when we recognize that there is, in reality, no difference between human beings—the small and the great are all alike. When you let go of the idea that you are less worthy than others, or when you release yourself from the grip of ego and arrogance, you are more likely to find your own answers to questions about what God wants from you.
We also bring our questions to God when we release ourselves from fear. Fear is our inbred response to situations that call for "fight or flight" reaction. Yet, when fear is triggered by situations that are not truly life threatening, it can incapacitate us. Fear and anxiety keep us from seeing the truth of the moment—where we stand and what our choices are. Letting go of fear is a way of "letting God." Releasing ourselves from things we need not fear, we discover God's direction.
When we are able to place ourselves into this mindset—free of despair, arrogance and fear—then we are ready to bring our deepest and most difficult questions to God: "Who am I?" "What is the purpose of my life?" "What am I supposed to do?" When you recognize that all your previously held notions about yourself are fantasies, when you recall that life was given to you as a gift, when you know yourself to be a part of God, you will get your answers.
You will bring yourself close to God, and God will hear you.
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