In a gentle, perhaps nudging and poking way, Seuss' work asks us the question, "Have you at least tried it?" The "it" in this question is a tremendous variable and can apply to anything in life. For purposes of this commentary, let's use "it" to address the process we go through in deciding to enhance our Jewish journey with new spiritual and religious practices.
In my experience as a rabbi I have regularly found that it is easier to describe "what we don't do" rather than speak proudly about "what we choose to observe." It seems as if we are preconditioned to create firm boundaries from which there might be little or no divergence. It is easier, what we might call the "done and dusted" approach, to say, "I don't light Shabbat candles. I don't read Hebrew. I don't study Torah. I'm not interested in Israel. I don't do prayer. I don't think about God." Admittedly, even typing these statements leaves me with a negative tingling in my fingertips. It seems like such a "closed" approach, not only to Judaism, but also to life itself.
This week's reading from the Torah, Parashat Mishpatim, offers us another perspective, one that we might call "Green Eggs and Ham Judaism." Assembled at the foot of Mount Sinai, having heard the revelation of God's commandments, the Israelites take a faithful leap into an unknown future. According to our text, "When Moses went and told the people all the Lord's words and laws, they responded with one voice, 'Everything the Lord has said we will do'" (Exodus 24:3). Here, the Torah uses the Hebrew word na'aseh, meaning, "we will do." A few verses later, Moses reads the book of the Covenant to the people and they respond saying, "We will do everything the Lord has said; we will obey," in Hebrew, na'aseh v'nishma (Exodus 24:7). Na'aseh can be translated as "we will do." V'nishma is a bit trickier to translate in this context, perhaps meaning, "we will listen," or "we will fully understand." How interesting is it that our Torah treats doing, trying, and experimenting with new things as the first step, and teaches us that "full understanding" (v'nishma) comes later.
It often seems much more comfortable to gather the facts, to do our research, to make a critical assessment (there are plenty of iPhone and Android apps with critical reviews to help us in making our decisions) first, but in Green Eggs and Ham, Sam-I-Am merely asks us "to give it a shot." Sam-I-Am wants that we would care enough simply to try, to take that first step, to dip our toe into what we think might be an icy pool of water, only to discover that it is quite comfortable and we can dive right in.
In our Jewish lives, each of us is the unnamed character in Green Eggs and Ham repeatedly approached by Sam-I-Am. What will happen when we try something new? Will we want to travel that path again? If we live like our ancestors, and are willing to say na'aseh v'nishma, we might find that Jewish life, a life of practice (not perfection), a life of trying and trying again, of visiting and revisiting anew, is worthwhile and rewarding. Instead of saying we do not like green eggs and ham (Judaism), we might have a change of heart and say, "I like them. They are so good, so good you see."