Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Choosing and Being Chosen - Tuesday Kavvanah, 1/10/2012

My first job after graduate school in chemical engineering was in Manchester, New Hampshire, and whenever I hear news about New Hampshire (to which few of us pay attention between presidential primaries), I get all misty-eyed.  In thinking about today's election there, I am reminded that democracy affords people choices.  In fact, the modern Hebrew word for elections is behirot - literally, "choices."

And of course, the same is true regarding modern Judaism - we may choose to participate, or not.  Our morning tefillot / liturgy points in several places to God's having chosen Abraham and the Jewish nation as the inheritors of a unique covenant.  Perhaps the most appealing example is this:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה', הַבּוחֵר בְּעַמּו יִשרָאֵל בְּאַהֲבָה
Barukh atah Adonai, haboher be-amo Yisrael be-ahavah.
Blessed are You, God, Who chooses His people Israel in love.

The language is neither passive nor past.  God chooses us on an ongoing basis.

To make this partnership work, however, we choose God.  We do so when we come to weekday morning tefillot, or keep kosher, or light candles for a holiday, or acknowledge the sanctity of the Shabbat by not checking email for 25 hours.

These are the ways in which we uphold our covenant with God, and re-affirm our individual and national relationships based in holiness.  In a world of ever-expanding choice, the democratically-sanctioned opportunity to choose Jewish life and practice should never be underestimated.

Rabbi Seth Adelson

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