The book of Devarim begins with Moses recounting the wandering of the Israelites through the desert. Coming to the end of his tale, Moses recalls their passing through the lands of Seir, and how God instructed him, “What food you eat you hall obtain from them for money; even water you drink you shall procure from them for money” (Devarim 2:6).
Why though do the Israelite need instruction to pay for food and water? God sustained them with Mon that fell from heaven and water that flowed from rocks. They should have had no need to purchase these goods along the way.
In pondering this question, Carrie pointed out that this is very similar to our modern usage of Amazon. Most of the time we could go to the store and buy an identical product, yet we so often chose convenience and order our goods online instead.
The question then becomes, what do I gain by buying from my neighbor? What do I lose from solely relying on AmazMon?
Modernity is plagued by a certain irony of technology. While the internet, specifically social media, allows us to connect with more people who are farther away, these electronic relationships often leave us feeling more lonely than ever before. We are able to hide behind our screens, thereby avoiding interacting with the world around us.
In this way, God is teaching the Israelites a very deep lesson. Although we could have continued relying on Her to provide for our sustenance, instead, He tells us to look to our neighbors. Much like going to the store, by acquiring food and water from the inhabitants of Seir, the Israelites were forced out of their little bubble. Looking to others for help necessitates interacting with someone that is other. No matter how minor this interaction may be, through it, we see the world, broaden our horizons, and build relationships.
God is telling us to go out and interact with our neighbors because – interactions are the foundation of relationships, relationships lead to understanding, understanding yields to acceptance, and only through acceptance can peace exist in this world.
Hence God says, “do not provoke them” (Devarim 2:5).
The gap between people seems to grow larger by the day. It is vital that we not sit by and provoke others through jealousy or misunderstanding. We must instead, go out and obtain from them bread and water – even if it comes at a price.
It is my hope that over this day of rest, we all interact with a new person, build a new relationship, come to a new understanding, accept something new – and by doing so, bring a little more shalom to this Shabbat.