Bargaining with God

[First posted on The Times of Israel:]

Ibn Ezra Exodus: Bo

Bargaining with God

“As I grow older, I pay less attention to what people say. I just watch what they do.” -Andrew Carnegie

The roots of commerce must be deeply ingrained in the human psyche. It has become second-nature to want reward or to give reward for products or services. However, when it comes to God, humans have a curiously different approach.

We will call to Him in a time of need. We will pray fervently for His help. We are so desperate for divine assistance that we start to promise things. “God, if you will do x for me, I promise I will do/be y.”

Some people take their promises to heart and those are often life-changing events. Many however soon forget their promises once the heavenly boon has been granted.

The Ibn Ezra hints at a more successful approach. He explains (on Exodus 13:8) that though we eat Matza on Passover to commemorate the Exodus from Egypt, in fact, the Matza was the final cause of our liberation. Eating Matza was amongst the first commands God gave the nascent Jewish people. Because they ate the Matza, because they obeyed the word of God, they merited the historic emancipation that created our nation.

God prefers to see those positive acts up front (cash) – He doesn’t always grant wishes based on promises for the future (credit).

Shabbat Shalom,



To Rachel and Ariel Tepperman on the birth of their daughter. Mazal Tov!

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