Here is Zeke's Davar Torah.
Shabbat shalom. When I was reading through my Torah portion, I noticed something peculiar. Two times, God asked questions, probably already knowing the answers. This captured my attention because why would God ask these interrogations if God is all-knowing? Is there some deeper meaning behind them? The first instance is after Adam and Eve eat from the Tree of Knowledge. God asks Adam where he is and Adam says he heard God and because he is naked, he hides. With only this one question, God asks Adam if he ate from the Tree of Knowledge. But why does God have to question? The second time is after Cain kills Abel. God asks Cain where Abel is. Cain then says, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”. This time God’s response is even more puzzling. God blames Cain when all he has done is ask if he is in charge of his brother. God is correct, but once again, why does God ask and jump to conclusions so quickly? Today, I will be exploring the possibilities of God’s perplexing and repetitive actions. Are there any other times in the Tanach when this happens? Let’s find out.
What I discovered is that yes, there are many instances when God or God’s angels do something like this. One time this occurs is in Jonah. After God decides not to kill the people of Ninevah, Jonah says that he’d rather die than see the people not get punished. Next, God proceeds to ask what is wrong, when quite frankly, it is obvious! Another example of this is in Vayera. Hagar’s baby almost dies, and God asks what’s wrong. If a friend of yours almost loses someone close, you wouldn’t ask them what’s wrong. If anyone should know social cues, it should be God. Plus, God should have nothing to learn; God should know what’s wrong. But God always has reasons for God’s actions. An additional time is in Vayishlach. After wrestling with God’s Angel, the angel renames Jacob to Israel. Jacob then asks what the Angel’s name is. The angel asks why Jacob would ask. If someone wrestles you and renames you, wouldn’t you want to know his or her name?
We know God as an all-powerful, tells-you-what-to-do, serious being. It doesn’t seem like God is the type to laugh. Or so we think. I believe that God is being sarcastic. But this is not just humor, it’s humor with a deeper meaning. God’s strange questions are God’s way of conveying something to us—in these cases, that God is not always so formal. True, God’s questions do not seem like sarcasm, but the Torah would never say, “Gee, I wonder where Adam is.”. Sometimes, we can overlook these moments because the Torah’s way of expressing sarcasm is different, but we have to remember that this position is critical to our understanding of the Torah.
Sometimes people today use satire to open a new perspective on people or things. There is a YouTuber named Rob Lopez who made a video about if Airpods commercials were honest. He highlights all the unnecessary features: how they are lost easily, how they fall out of your ear, and most importantly how incredibly overpriced they are. Although the delivery was humorous, it questions why so many people buy this unnecessary product to go into a rich guy’s wallet when there people dying on the streets from hunger. Also, I saw a Key & Peele skit about if teachers got treated like football players. The skit went into an imaginary world where teachers got paid millions a year, there were teacher drafts, and the teacher’s choices of who to call on were competitive. Even though this was comical, it got me thinking. Why do football players get so much more attention? Should we do something about it? This is another example where comedy opened my eyes. Before watching this, I hadn’t really put much thought into it, but it gave me a new perspective.
Now that we think we have the answer, what should we learn from it? What we acquire from this is a more authentic relationship with God. We can look at God as more of someone to relate to, instead of an all-powerful, above us being. Sure, we still need God as our leader, but we will be more likely to want to follow God as someone slightly like us. This makes God more of a friend, as well as a leader. God is already different enough from us that we can distinguish, but this is a slight overlap in personality. After watching the fake Airpods commercial, we are still going to keep using Apple products, but we might rethink why we need all this. Maybe not get every single model every single year—a more authentic relationship with the products we buy. Relating to the Key & Peele sketch, people are not going to all of a sudden stop watching sports, but maybe we can advocate for teachers! There is so much we can learn from satire, even if it first doesn’t seem like it has a deeper meaning.
For my mitzvah project, my sister Nami and I are creating another way to learn. We want to create an app that will help people decrease their animal product consumption. We know it’s unrealistic to make everyone vegan because it’s intimidating to change your diet so drastically, but if everyone ate slightly less meat and dairy, it would save hundreds of thousands, even millions, of animals. It would also significantly improve climate change. Users will log their food intake and the app gives them a “reduction score”. Whether you are a vegetarian looking to have a little less milk, or a big meat-eater trying to decrease your red meat consumption, the app will help you improve. In addition, the app may include a social aspect, so users can compare scores with their friends, family, or even complete strangers. Users will also be able to earn coupons to vegan or vegan-friendly restaurants or products. While Nami is exploring the coding side, I am focusing on the business side. Whether you want to reduce animal product consumption to help animals, help the planet, or improve your health, SaveDatCow will work for you.
I’d like to thank Rabbi Adam for helping with my D’var Torah, Rena for teaching me the material for today, all the relatives and friends that came here in person, and all the relatives and friends that came through Zoom. I’d also like to thank my sister Nami for helping with the app, the slideshow, and the siddur. Finally, a huge thank you to my parents for organizing the whole event.