Kli Yakar Deuteronomy: Haazinu
Before a final exam or some other major challenge in my life, I would often turn to God and pray. “God, please help me do well,” I would think, or “just get me through this bind,” and then I’d promise that I’d behave, or do something good, or something along those lines. The foundation of such thinking was a classic barter system. God will do something for me and in return I’ll do something for Him.
The Kli Yakar (Deuteronomy 32:6) explains that such a premise is entirely mistaken and that I just didn’t understand this aspect of God. God doesn’t ‘need’ anything from us. And He doesn’t do things for us in exchange for some favor or assistance we provided Him. God is unconditionally generous. There are no strings attached. We may and will receive reward and punishment as a consequence of our deeds, but the life, health and good fortune that He provides can be independent of anything good or bad we may have done. He gives because He is faultlessly generous and giving, whether we are deserving or not.
According to the Kli Yakar, the ‘negotiation’ mentality or belief in the quid pro quo system was both ancient and widespread. Moses berates the entire nation for it, calling us “a vile and unwise nation” on this specific point. We just didn’t get it. God is not some deity that we bring sacrifices or gifts to in order to assuage His anger or get on His good side.
So too, the Kli Yakar directs us in our giving. Ideally, it should be free of ulterior motives. We should give, whether it is time, money, assistance or resources, because it is the right and appropriate thing to do. To expect some advantage, some leverage, some payback down the line, while it may be the reality of many relationships, misses the point. Such generosity is conditional and therefore lacking.
May we free our minds of the barter mentality in our relationship with God and others, strive for the level of unconditional giving, and may we all be inscribed in the Books of Life, Health, Success and All Good Things in the coming Year.
Ktivah Ve’chatimah Tovah,
To our parents. Models to us of unconditional generosity.
To the memory of Gavriel Michael of Forest Hills, NY. His life was one of unconditional generosity and kindness to those around him and most especially to my grandmother, neighbors for many decades. He passed away today in NY and will be buried tomorrow in Jerusalem.