Monday, November 7, 2016

Proverbial Path

In the Book of Proverbs it is written: “A person’s heart devises his way, but the Lord directs his steps” (ibid. 16:9). This is, perhaps, the origin of the common phrase, “Man plans, God laughs.” However, it is an excellent insight into the concept of free will, which is critical to understanding Judaism and how one should dedicate themselves to serving God in a Jewish fashion. While a person chooses the direction in which they would like their life to go, and in so doing makes countless smaller choices each day how to precede–it is God, however, Who creates those choices along the path.

Several verses earlier, King Solomon, the author of Proverbs, wrote: “Commit your works to the Lord and your thoughts shall be established” (Proverbs 16:3). This seemingly simple statement encapsulates an important aspect of Jewish ideology and provides an excellent means for understanding verse 16:9.

“Commit your works to the Lord” -- by dedicating yourself to serving God. Terminology such as this may make one think of sequestered nuns or missionaries knocking on doors. But, in Judaism, dedication to serving God is more about bringing the Divine into the mundane. For instance, by making a blessing before eating, a person adds an element of the Divine to the very physical act of eating.

Committing one’s work to God is often as simple as focusing one’s intent. Instead of just exercising to feel good and look fit, one can also have the intention of fulfilling the mitzvah of taking care of one’s body. When one does business, one can not only make certain to do so in an honorable and honest manner, but also to use some of the proceeds for charity.

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