With the Day of Atonemen around the corner, it's time to remember exactly what the Torah thinks of good behaviour and sins, reward and punishment.
Too often we arthropomorphize God into something we can understand. We are simple, therefore we simplify the Divine. We can be petty, therefore we imagine that God can be. We conceive of revenge being a suitable behaviour in certain situations and therefore we can't imagine that God wouldn't want to get revenge on us for our misbehaviours. If we say sorry nicely enough, maybe we'll convince Him to leave us alone for another year. Maybe if we convince ourselves that we're not so bad, God will agree with us and forgive us.
Take a moment to read this article by Rav A. Henach Leibowitz on the intention of Divine reward and punishment. It's a welcome reminder that God is not some vindicitve schoolmaster watching and waiting for us to sin so that He can go "Aha! Gotcha!" and write down our misdeed in a book somewhere (what, he doesn't use Microsoft Access?). He is our loving Father who wants us to do what is right and guides us, through fortune and misfortune, towards the goal of leading a proper and fulfilling life. Like children who don't understand why parents force them to do homework, eat their vegetables and go to bed on time, we ascribe the worse of motives to Him, assuming that just as we see things in terms of reward and revenge, so does He. This article is a reminder to us what we should be thinking in our souls on Yom Kippur. God loves us, He wants us to succeed, He craves our triumph over our evil inclinations. And considering all He has given us, we would be less than ungrateful not to return the effort and try to live up to His expectations.
An easy and fulfilling fast to you all.