Imagine the following scenario: A man said something that insulted his wife or did something that upset her. He approaches her to apologize and says to her:
” I’mreallysorryforwhatIsaidandIwon’tdothatagain! So, what is for supper?”
Wow…such a mumbled-through, jumbled mass of words; unfeeling; insincere and lacking any emotion whatsoever! One can only imagine the response (or lack thereof) from the wife.
And yet….when we do or say things that go against Hashem’s will–when we do an avera (a sin) we approach G-d very often with the form of apology noted above…a mass of slurred words; rushed and hurried; and lacking any feeling. And for some individuals, that is a sufficient way to say Shemona Esray. We would never accept that form of apology from a fellow human being; yet, many seem content on asking G-d for forgiveness in that way.
Another scenario: A person who has been driving the same route to work every day arrives one day at the office with NO recollection of the trip itself. He was on auto-pilot (not the car…the driver himself!) and somehow arrived without a conscious awareness of that trip. Merely out of routine and habit, he was able to drive, stop, slow down, turn and park…without even being aware of what he was doing!
Sadly, in so many ways, people serve G-d merely by going through the motions, as well. Many serve G-d merely through MOTION but not through EMOTION. There are actions, statements, prayers, mitzvot being performed–but merely on auto-pilot. The acts, the prayers, the mitzvot–all lack the emotional attachment, the sincerity and the emotion of serving our Creator.
In the book of Yeshayahu (Perek 29) we read the following Pasuk, wherein Hashem “bemoans” the fact that people worship Him out of habit and rote and not from the heart.
“יען כי נגש העם הזה בפיו ובשפתיו כבדוני ולבו רחק ממני, ותהי יראתם אותי מצות אנשים מלומדה”.
The meaning of these words is ” And Hashem said: For as much as this people draw near, and with their mouth and with their lips do honor Me, but have removed their heart far from Me, and their fear of Me is a commandment of men learned by rote…”
The idea is clear: Hashem is not looking for robots. Hashem is not looking for us to speed through the words of Tefilla. He is not looking to have us ask for His love or His forgiveness like a drone and with no feeling! Hashem is interested in our HEARTS and in our EMOTION in our service of Him. (רחמנא ליבא בעי ) Hashem wants us to have a relationship with Him, and we should desire a relationship, as well. Compare a “human” relationship in which the spouses or friends merely mouth words of love to each other with no emotion. Imagine that kind of relationship when one mumbles through an apology with the express desire of getting it over with, as fast as possible. Not a good sign of a healthy relationship, would’t you agree?
If we don’t put up with that lack of emotion in our relationships with our spouses, our friends, our colleagues, our kids…then why is it ok when it comes to our relationship with Hashem?
When G-d punished the snake in the Garden of Eden, at first glance it seems like this curse was, in fact, a blessing! After all, the snake is told that he will eat the dust of the Earth; and there is dust everywhere! That is tantamount to a human being hearing that his refrigerator will be stocked with food at all time, with no need to go shopping. So, how is that a PUNISHMENT of the snake?
The answer is that Hashem was telling the snake: Here is everything you will ever need. Leave My presence and do not return. You have no reason to call upon Me. The greatest punishment one can possibly have is to have G-d sever His relationship with you.
At least for humans, the relationship between G-d and you is never severed in perpetuity. There is always hope; there is always Teshuva! Yet, why resort to putting yourself actively in that situation. Hashem has told us quite clearly that He wants our EMOTIONS and not just our MOTIONS.
A person who is not in the habit of putting his heart and soul into the service of G-d, may find taking that first step a little awkward or even daunting. Fear not…there are so many wonderful resources out there to help you forge a true relationship with G-d. There is no need to wait until Elul to decide to take such a step.
That change in you can begin ….right now!