New Year: Don’t Forget God

Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim

Moses first describes how much goodness God provided for the Jews. Then he accuses them:

They forsook the God who made them and spurned the Rock of their support  (Deut. 32:15).

You neglected the Rock who begot you, forgot the God who labored to bring you forth (Deut. 32:18).

These accusations come just before Moses says God will hide himself from the Jews, seeming to indicate that this is the “last straw.” Additionally, this accusation of forgetting God is repeated. What is this specific flaw?

“So Jeshurun (Israel) grew fat and kicked—you grew fat and gross and coarse” (Ibid. 32:15) shares the dangers of success. Growing fat and kicking refers to success and subsequent rebellion. Moses' lesson is not to look at yourself a self-made but to remember who formed you: “You forgot the God who labored to bring your forth.”

Pride is prevalent and blinding. Rosh Hashanah aims to correct our self-aggrandizement and replace it with the recognition that we are creations, “we are clay in the potter’s hands,” “cloth in the tailor’s hand.” God created us all from nothing. He is king. Perhaps it is this specific facet of idolatry which is most grave: we are blinded by ego, and forget that we were formed: once we did not exist. And eventually our bodies return to dust. 

Idol worship, mysticism and human deification that follow our successes are mere expressions of the underlying need for our security. It is then here that we must make a correction and accept our “dependent” existence as a created entity. With this realization of actually being created, only then can man focus on Who created him.

Moses focuses on the defining difference between God and all other imagined forces: God is the creator...the one who formed you...Who formed everything. It's astonishing that one can lose sight of this, but it is clear that pride is very blinding. Furthermore, this is very poignant because as God made you, He alone can give you what you’re seeking from other gods, namely security.

Belief in and worship of false gods and mysticism is a result of the core error: forgetting the Cause of all existence. But if one clearly sees there is only one Cause for the whole universe, he could not possibly seek anything but God to guarantee a good life.