Parshat Vaetchanan

The Golden Calf
Devarim 4: 27-30

The LORD will scatter you among the peoples, and only a scant few of you shall be left among the nations to which the LORD will drive you. There you will serve man-made gods of wood and stone, that cannot see or hear or eat or smell. But if you search there for the LORD your God, you will find Him, if only you seek Him with all your heart and soul — when you are in distress because all these things have befallen you and, in the end, return to the LORD your God and obey Him. For the LORD your God is a compassionate God: He will not fail you nor will He let you perish; He will not forget the covenant which He made on oath with your fathers.

Why is suffering linked with reconnecting with God? Might suffering also be a block?

Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe
… Hashem is close in many different ways. Although idols seem close, in reality they are as distant as can be. A person might carry his deity in his hand, but he can cry and scream until he turns red and the idol will still not hear him. In contrast, Hashem appears to be distant, but there is nothing closer than He.

An idol appears close because it is a tangible, physical form; our senses help us perceive it as a reality. … each generation has its own form of idolatry garbed in a unique attire. … [God]] is so far removed from our physical comprehension that we have difficulty perceiving Him.

[God] is not bound by physicality, and He is as close to our lips as a confidant’s ear is to our mouth. “A person who prays should envision the Shechinah standing before him”
(Sanhedrin 22a).

What are idols for us?

How might God be close to us in many different ways? What might be practices that help us notice God?

Why is remembering the covenant important to reconnecting?

Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe
Before a person begins to work on rectifying his negative character traits, it is imperative that he recognize his positive character traits. Otherwise … he will concentrate solely on the negative aspects of his own personality. Such a focus is a surefire way to bring about depression or to cause a person to despair of remedying his spiritual maladies. … Even just thinking about the greatness attained by our predecessors helps us to achieve the goal of becoming great.

Rabbi Wolbe focuses on a psychological dimension. How might you understand the Torah verses from other perspectives?