Parshat Sh’lah L’kha

This week’s parashah, Sh’lah L’kha, ends with God reminding us that “I am YHVH your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God. . . “ [literally “to be for you for God”].

Rabbi Yisrael of Ruzhin understood that phrase to mean that what is “for you” should also be “for God.” In other words, religious life is not a zero-sum game, in which God can win only if we lose. Religion is not about surrendering our own needs and desires for the sake of something greater. Instead it is about sanctifying our needs and desires, raising them to a higher level, so that they are no longer only about us. That is what we are doing when we say blessings over things that bring us pleasure, such as eating. By taking what is for us, and making it an opportunity to serve God as well, we help to bring heaven and earth together.