Each of my children has a very different personality. You all know Hisda, but most of you haven’t yet met my other three.
Merhavyah, my 16-year-old daughter constantly discovers and develops new skills. She taught herself sewing and photography, plays guitar and piano, and studied music production. Yeshayahu, my 15-year-old, is fascinated by innovative ways to implement or restore ancient traditions. Shelomoh, who just turned he loves playing games, telling jokes, laughing and making others laugh. He’s also a great chess player.
Last Shabbat in Jerusalem, in my address to him at his Bar Mitzvah, I referenced the verse in his Haftarah, “[God] sits above the circle of the Earth, its inhabitants resembling grasshoppers…” (Isaiah 40:22). The verse reminded me of him hovering over his chess board. (My father won, though my son put up a good fight. When I played my son, he won in just a few minutes!)
If the universe is a giant chess board, we are the chess pieces. But unlike a normal chess game, in the Grand Chess Game of Life, the chess pieces have intelligence and make their own decisions of where to move and what to do. God doesn’t just watch the game. God arranges that board and puts us into situations from which we can grow and learn. God often intervenes to help us. God even sometimes bends the rules of the game and rearranges the pieces for us, to make things easier. From our own point of view, our goal is not just ‘winning’. It’s preserving each and every other ‘chess piece’ as well and even protecting and improving the ‘chess board’ we live on.
It may not be the perfect analogy, but as we go through life, feeling God’s presence in our lives, both above and within, is comforting and encouraging, as is meditating on the verses in this week’s Parasha: “And now, Israel, what does God want of you? Only that you remain in awe of God your Lord, so that you will follow all God’s baths and love God, serving God with all your heart and with all your soul. You must keep God’s commandments and decrees that I am prescribing for you today, so that good will be yours” (Duet. 10:12-13).