Well, I have been writing. But I have been slacking on my Torah study/commentary. I skipped the week that was all about death, I just couldn’t get inspired, and then other things came to mind and I wrote about them instead.
So this past week was one of those “combo” portions, Matot-Masei, and as with all Torah portions, there was a lot to think about. As a former murder lawyer the fact that G-d clarifies the murder laws in Masei could have been inspiring. But that wasn’t what grabbed me, and when it comes to this you just never know what will stand out.
The other thing that gets clarified in this portion is the “law of oaths”. And as I read I didn’t care so much about what the laws were that were handed down as about the notion of oaths themselves. Life is full of promises. Promises we make to others, promises others make to us. Promises we make to the world, our jobs, our culture and those that we think are or should be made to us by those self-same things.
And just as life is full of promises, it is also full of broken promises. Now it is a very Jewish value to honor your promises, but there is nobody who hasn’t broken a promise. Sometimes it seems unimportant and sometimes the knowledge is insanely painful. Sometimes we are willing to make amends right away, and sometimes we just carry the burden. And there is nobody among us who hasn’t been the recipient of a broken promise. Sometimes it seems unimportant and forgivable, sometimes it is insanely painful and seems quite unforgivable.
The truth is that promises should be honored. If I work, I should get paid, that is a simple one. But we have expectations of the world, if we recycle there should be less trash, if we are kind people will be kind to us. But none of that necessarily happens. These are promises we make to the world and we keep them with no expectations. There are promises we make to other people and that they make to us. If a friend needs help we show up, if we marry we are faithful. And we hope the reverse will be true.
Life is full of broken promises and promises kept. Sometimes the most important promises to keep are the ones we make to ourselves. To eat better, exercise more, do the things we love and love others without condition; to sing louder, dance more, find joy. That is what the Torah taught me last week.