Joe’s dream job was finally within reach. The interview was about to start but he was still searching frantically for a parking space. Desperately, he called out: “G‑d, help me find a place to park my car.” Suddenly, a van pulled out in front of him. Elated, Joe declared with gusto: “Never mind, G‑d, I found a space on my own.”

It’s a well-known joke. But just like Joe, many of us only call upon G‑d when it suits our needs.

Joe attributed his found parking space to happenstance, rather than to G‑d’s providence. Why didn’t he connect the dots? Joe’s spiritual navigation system was switched off—or perhaps never turned on to begin with.

We tend to take for granted things that appear to be ordinary occurrences. Waking up, going through the day, driving here and there, and returning home, all seem uneventful. But they’re not. Every nuanced detail, from the start of each day until its end, is not haphazard. Our life experiences are not random but significant—too important to be regulated by mere chance.

In Parshat Bechukotai we are introduced to the Hebrew word keri. G‑d warns the Jewish people that, “If you … behave towards me with keri, I will behave towards you with a fury of keri.1 In the entire Torah, the word appears only seven times—all seven are in this specific section. We’re being given a crucial message, not to act with keri. What is keri?

An Indifferent and Haphazard Relationship

Rashi interprets the word keri as “happenstance” or “coincidence.”2 Rather than acknowledging G‑d’s providence in our lives, keri expresses viewing all occurrences as merely random. A keri relationship with G‑d is superficial and erratic. It lacks commitment, as illustrated by Joe’s reaction, “Never-mind, G‑d, I found a parking space on my own.”

We mistakenly assume that our achievements are the sole result of our own efforts. This flawed mindset is acting with keri—indifference to G‑d’s involvement and presence in our lives. It’s like being in a one-sided relationship. You are rarely thought of, except when a favor is needed and, even then, there isn’t a hint of appreciation. This is the human experience that resembles having a keri relationship with G‑d.

Maimonides similarly explains keri as viewing G‑d’s intervention merely as chance.3 If Israel behaves to G‑d with keri, the welfare of the Jewish people will be advanced only “by chance.”

Divine protection is removed, allowing the natural course of world history to determine our fate. If we refuse to see a Divinely ordained pattern in world events, G‑d, in turn, will relate to us in a seemingly haphazard and unpredictable way. Failure to recognize His immanence will become a self-fulfilling prophecy, for G‑d will respond to us with distance.

An Example of a Keri Relationship

We can understand the idea of keri through a simple human experience. Suppose someone bought you a bouquet of flowers. In one scenario, the giver just puts the flowers on your kitchen table and walks away. In a different scenario, the giver enthusiastically presents the flowers to you, personally, accompanied by a heartfelt note of sincere gratitude. Which scenario would you prefer? Which is more indicative of a close relationship?

Keri is expressed through coldness. Such a mechanical approach to Torah observance expresses irrelevance—lacking a real connection to G‑d. Simply doing what’s required, without thought or feeling, doesn’t strengthen the relationship.

It Starts With Each of Us

Although the Torah clearly explains that keri refers to the Jewish nation as a whole, we must be mindful of the effect our individual actions have.

To avoid keri, we shouldn’t take the details of our lives for granted. Just like Joe, we can find ourselves in a void, unaware of what’s occurring around us. Integrated, mindful Torah study and mitzvah observance deepen our awareness of G‑d’s providence. We can choose to develop our inner resources and to be more sensitized to G‑d’s presence in our daily lives.

We’ll discover numerous situations in which G‑d’s intervention is unmistakable. Whether it was losing a job only to find a better one, or being in the right place at the right time, we’ll come to recognize that the twists and turns of life are anything but random. By failing to recognize or by ignoring the messages G‑d sends us, a person can’t absorb the intended lessons.

Chassidic thought teaches us that G‑d communicates with us through our daily interactions and desires that we not miss or overlook the message. As man acts, G‑d reacts. Think of these teaching moments as personalized spiritual text messages. Just as one’s phone must be turned on to receive a text, one’s soul must be activated to perceive G‑d’s messages.

We can, and should, become more than the average Joe.

Making It Relevant

  1. Share your faith and love for G‑d with others. Strive to show gratitude and feeling in your observance.
  2. Take time at the end of each day to review the day’s occurrences and interactions. Mindfully contemplate the messages that G‑d has sent to you.
  3. When aware of misfortune (or even good fortune), how can you best respond to G‑d’s presence? Make concerted efforts to heighten your awareness that every achievement is a partnership between you and G‑d, and every setback is really a setup for positive growth.
  4. Make daily efforts to deepen your ongoing relationship with the Creator. Show gratitude proactively, not just reactively.