Religion, for many Jews, is a meritocracy. Where you went to college/yeshiva, what branch of Judaism ordained you, what rabbis you studied under, what level of kashrut, negiah, shabbat you keep. This is a litmus test for how-Jewishly-you-can-be-trusted. The more hardcore you are, the better, even if people think that your understanding of Judaism is bogus. At least you have the spiritual resume to back it up.
But really, is this where holiness comes from? Does a person who goes to a black hat yeshiva really cleave to G-d and the Torah more than someone who went to a community college?
Moses seems to think that our destiny is not in the shul or the centers of learning. In fact, it seems like we’re going to seek G-d from the outside.
“And the Lord will scatter you among the peoples, and you will remain few in number among the nations to where the Lord will lead you. And there you will worship gods, man’s handiwork, wood and stone, which neither see, hear, eat, nor smell. And from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him, if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deut. 4:27-31)
This doesn’t seem like a really good ad for Jewish higher learning or Israel immersion. In fact, it seems like us Diaspora people have been part of the plan all along.
I’m really turned on by the phrase, “And from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him, if you seek Him.” It doesn’t say, “from the Chabad house, you will find G-d” or “in the corporate offices of the Jewish Federations you will find G-d” or “in the house of some learned scholar of the Torah, you will find G-d.” No! It says that from a place of idol worship, of disconnection from the greater Jewish community, from a place of sin…that is where we will find G-d.
Suddenly, the Diaspora looks a little nicer.