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It shall be when he hears the words of this curse, and he will console himself saying that it will go well with me, though I go in a way that my heart sees fit - thereby adding the watered on the thirsty (29:18).
The context of above curse is idol worship. The passage warns the Israelites of the dire consequences of individuals, as well as whole communities, being tempted to follow the lifestyles of the Egyptians and other nations that they encountered and observed. The expression therefore "adding the watered on the thirsty" is understood by Rashi to be a metaphor. Thirsty refers to sins done intentionally - a thirsty person is still rational, and he seeks a way to satisfy his desires. Watered denotes sins done by accident - when someone has had too much to drink and becomes drunk, he is liable to sin without knowing what he is doing. So the sense of the pasuk (verse) is that in normal circumstances G-d treats leniently those who sin accidentally. But when an individual behaves in such a way that he believes that he may sin as he pleases, G-d holds him responsible for even unintentional sins. So the punishment for the unintentional sins is added to the intentional ones.
In addition, Moses framed this warning at the end of a narrative. After he pronounced the fearful consequences that the Israelites would face if they chose to go astray, he proceeded to recall the narrative of the Exodus and forty years of wandering in the wilderness. Indeed, he joins the past to the present with the opening words of the Parasha: "You are standing today before G-d - passing through a covenant… today… in order to make you into a nation… for you know our experiences in Egypt and of nations we encountered on our journey…" (29:9-15).
It is the narrative that strikes commonality and keeps people together at various levels. Indeed, the Torah was not given until the Israelites had gone through a range of experiences together - slavery in Egypt, the series of miracles of the Ten Plagues and at the Red Sea, facing shortages of food and water, and keeping new practices as a community together, such as the first Passover. That was their narrative. Those events gave them common experiences, even if they were unpleasant. And later on they were actively engaged in creating their own narrative together where each contributed to the Tabernacle.
Perhaps this underlies Moses' message. When a person "consoles himself saying that it will go well with me" with "I go in a way that my heart sees fit", he is cutting himself off from the sustaining communal narrative. He no longer considers himself as a part of the community, and no longer sees the communal narrative as being part of him. There may be much to criticize in the community - as the words of Moses and the Prophets testify. But that is not a reason to leave the community, but to face up to its shortcomings and its failure to live according to its ideals. For Moses warns: once a person leaves the community, he loses the positive bearings that community's ideals give. And the case of the Parasha, it is the teachings of the Torah.
This gives an insight into the words "adding water on the thirsty". As mentioned before, "watered" denotes sins done by accident - when someone has had too much to drink and becomes drunk, he is liable to sin without knowing what he is doing. So the sense is that in normal circumstances G-d treats leniently those who sin accidentally. But when an individual deliberately cuts himself off from his people by going bishrirut libi - on his own path in leaving the community, it is the norm that he will sin without knowing that he is sinning - for which G-d will also hold him liable for…
For those looking for more comprehensive material, questions and answers on the Parasha may be found at http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/questions/ and on the material on the Haftara at http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/haftara/ .
Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: email@example.com for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.
Parashiot from the First, Second, and Third Series may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site: http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/archives/archives.htm
Also by Jacob Solomon:
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