Hello New Friend!

My wife and I have just returned from an amazing visit to Israel. One feature of the population stuck out, delighting us both. While Israel has many unique facets, in one way we felt that we had stepped into a time warp, beaming us back to healthier days in the United States. Regardless of actual religious observance, by far the majority of Israelis feel a connection to God in their souls. This promotes a happy confidence about the future and helps explain a sky-high fertility rate. We saw young couples with children everywhere we looked. It is a country where strangers help each other and strike up conversations on buses and trains. Despite the ubiquitous ownership of cell phones, people still sit in cafes and engage in long conversations with friends.

This is precisely what God wants His children to do — connect with as many of His other children as possible. Just like a human parent, our Father in Heaven smiles when He sees His children connecting with one another. And in just the way that smart human parents incentivize their children to connect and collaborate with one another, so does God.

I’d like to show you two verses. Conventional English translations mistakenly suggest that the two verses are similar. Only the original Hebrew reveals the astounding truth.

Verse 1:

And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your means. (Deuteronomy 6:5)

Verse 2:

And it will be if you listen to my commandments that I command you this day to love the Lord your God and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul. (Deuteronomy 11:13)

Both verses seem to be addressed to “you,” the second person, singular. However, in the Hebrew original, only verse one is addressed to “you,” the singular individual. Verse 2 addresses “you” in the plural, a group, society, or nation.

This is a crucial distinction. Verse one, to the individual is followed by the remainder of the chapter; another 20 verses containing more admonitions to follow carefully God’s directions.

But verse 2 is followed immediately by a listing of many beautiful blessings such as rich harvests, abundant economic satisfaction, length of days and military security. These are tangible benefits for following in the ways of God.

Why do assurances of God’s blessings for good living and long healthy lives follow only the occasion on which God is addressing a large, collective group?

Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that while as individuals we are called to obey God and love Him, it is as connected humans that we really please Him. Friendships, families, close-knit societies, and yes, business partners and associates are how He plans for us to live. Not surprisingly He incentivizes us to be connected.

Blessings flow in accordance with our connectivity. First, the moral challenges are far greater for people in close contact and interaction with many other people. After all, how hard is it really to be saintly as a hermit? Second, no matter how virtuous he wishes to be, in his isolation he is already in violation of one of God’s earliest directives to us: “…it is not good for man to be alone…” (Genesis 2:18) Not surprisingly, no matter how saintly a lonely and isolated person tries to be, he is unlikely to enjoy the blessings of abundance.

I encountered this blessing soon after immigrating to America; this was a land that encouraged connection. Back then, the U.S. telephone system was far more advanced than that of other countries, as was its highway network and trains. For the most part, citizens spoke the same language and shared a common vision of norms and values.

Tragically, much has changed. While we can debate whether it is deliberate or not, large parts of the government, academia, and mass media promote division and isolation. As I teach in Tower of Power: Decoding the Secrets of Babel (on sale now) socialism, so popular internationally among too many people today, depends on destroying connections between fellow citizens and replacing them with radial links connecting each citizen to the state at the center of his life. Nonetheless, as individuals, we still have the ability to forge friendships, initiate relationships and engage with each other in mutually beneficial arrangements. The spiritual blessings of joy and fulfillment we experience as well as the material blessings of health and wealth we enjoy are in direct proportion to how much we connect.

What do you think? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this Thought Tools post.
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