Monday, August 16, 2010

because i said so...

Let me just begin by saying that this issue had me perplexed for months, but I can finally put it into words, (hopefully coherent ones!) Perhaps you've heard of the "deed over creed" understanding in many areas of Judaism today. It was really brought to my attention when I was reading a book on parenting using Jewish principles, "The Blessing of a Skinned Knee," by Wendy Mogel M.D. Though intriguing, I wasn't completed satisfied with the idea. However, through this author's explanation coupled with a message I heard my rabbi teach on spiritual maturity, I have come to understand it much more fully now. Oh, the wonderful lessons we learn from parenting children! (and books on parenting!)
Towards the beginning of the book, the author sums up this "deed over creed" idea as follows: "In Jewish theology, deed carries more weight than creed. This means that G-d is more interested in our actions than in pledges of faith, in how we treat others than in the quality of our prayer. The sages of the Talmud taught that G-d said, 'Better that my people should forsake me but observe my laws, than believe in me but not observe my laws.'" (pp.63-64)

As I read this over and over again, it seemed that something was missing. Doesn't it matter what I believe and how I feel as well as what I do? Then I heard my wise rabbi teaching about spiritual maturity... and the pieces came together. In order to become spiritually mature, we have to "do things" that we don't necessarily understand and/or feel positively about. We have to take G-d at His Word and do what He says, just because He said it. Taking Mogel's words into consideration, she is speaking about parenting children... and we are often like children when it comes to our spirituality. When G-d, our Father, tells us to do something, we sometimes ask "why?" just as we asked our own earthly mothers and fathers when we were young. (And I kid you not, I'm certain I have heard my own daughter ask me "why", and she's not even two years old!) Sure enough, just as it did so many years ago, the answer comes booming back, "Because I said so!" As Mogel mentions, it is commonly understood that in Exodus 24:7, "na'aseh venishmah-- you will do and you will understand" was written in that order for a reason. She writes, "First you do. You are welcome to take your doubts along... Every day, you mine the details for opportunities to elevate, to sanctify, to make order and find meaning. From your actions, you begin to learn G-d's wisdom and see the mark of G-d's touch." (p.241) In other words, just do it and understanding will come eventually.
Just as G-d tells us, "do it anyway," we expect our children to obey us, to not play in the street with matches, to respect others' property, to have manners... even if they don't understand what the big deal is, even if they feel like doing the opposite of what we say, and even if they do it while cursing us under their breath. We are responsible for disciplining our children for disobedience, so that they will learn to do what we say, and more importantly, learn the difference between right and wrong. We cannot alter their feelings, but we can alter their behavior. Likewise, G-d has given us commandments to obey (for our own good). Unfortunately, many of us who are adults physically are still children spiritually, so Mogel's comments apply to us as well. In striving to become mature believers, we must do what G-d says. One day, whether it's here in this world or in the next at the Rabbi's feet, when we become mature, we will understand why we did it....


  1. Just found your blog...but thank you for reminding me of this book! I own it and read it years ago when my kiddos were younger (they are 10 and 8 now)...but had forgotten about it. I may find new insights since becoming Torah-observant! Also looking forward to reading more from you here and in your book-to-be! Blessings in Yeshua...
    Lori B.

  2. Thank you for this reminder! The Lord convicted me of this many months ago, and it is good to be reminded to obey even when I don't understand!