A short film based on a famous poem…
A short film based on a famous poem…
Every month seems to bring with it a new and even more outrageous scandal. The saga of Anthony Wiener is already old news but it is now finally coming to a close as he announced his intention this week to resign from congress. At times I felt like the amount of publicity given to this incident was as pathetic as the incident itself but nevertheless I am still left bewildered with it all – what was Anthony Wiener thinking? Of course he has admitted that he has issues and is now working to resolve those problems, but surely he is not stupid? How can someone who had worked himself into a respectable and successful position be willing to risk his career, reputation, life and marriage all for some obscure cheap thrill? Recent history has proven that this is in fact quite common but we dare not let that stop us from asking the question. It is hard to say that these highly successful people are quite simply stupid as would seem to be the case in their willingness to risk everything for a moment of instant gratification?
The story of the spies in this week’s parsha bears no resemblance whatsoever to the incident in question. However I do feel drawn to question the actions of the spies in a similar vain. The Jewish People were poised to enter Israel, the holiest of Lands. Over the previous two years they had experienced the intensity of miracles which had released them from the grips of Egypt, as well as the exhilaration of being personally handed the book of the new world order by the Creator Himself. And if the show-stopping miracles and revelation were not enough, they were sustained daily by miraculous supplies of food and water. The spies set out to scout their new land only to return with a damaging report. The land is no good, the people are giants, it’s not for us and we should all turn back! Once again we have to ask – what were they thinking? Were they honestly planning to return to a destroyed Egypt? Could they honestly ignore all the miracles that they had just witnessed and all the promises made by The Infinite Creator Himself? I find it hard to believe that this generation who merited receiving the Torah were of lowly intellect or bad judgment. However, that begs the question as to how they could risk throwing everything away and do something so outright stupid?
I believe that the very end of our parsha answers this question. In a verse well known to us from the last paragraph of the Shema the Torah uses an interesting expression. The Torah commands us not to “spy” (lo sasuru) after our hearts and our eyes. It doesn’t require considerable insight to note the strange use of the language “spy” in this context as well as the fact that it was the beginning of this parsha which described the incident of the spies using that very same language. Taken at its most simple level, this commandment not to follow our hearts and our eyes is instructing us not to be driven or controlled by our emotion and our desires. What is the Torah emphasizing in connecting this specific Mitzvah to the incident of the spies?
Our commentaries teach that the Torah is alluding to the source of the downfall of the spies. Indeed, they had experienced incredible miracles and revelation. Undoubtedly, they were of superior intellect and understanding. Their mistake however was that they succumbed to their emotion. For reasons beyond the scope of this discussion they were afraid to enter the land and despite any logical alternative they pushed all reason aside and reported their spying experience through the lens of their emotion.
There is much more to be said with regards to the above explanation, but there is a powerful point which we must highlight. We are so confident about our strength of choice in decisions and our power of reasoning. We are so certain that when faced with challenges we will always make the appropriate and intelligent choice. Yet we see the Torah commanding us to be on full alert against a powerful spy within us. Even the level of clarity held by that generation in the desert was betrayed by their hearts and their eyes, their emotions and desires. This too is quite obviously what was going on with the soon to be ex-Congressman Wiener. He might be very intelligent, thought-out and reasonable and yet he allowed himself to be driven by desire and all logic was thrown out the window. He was betrayed, by himself, into thinking that a few thrilling tweets and text messages were worth risking his entire life for.
While our emotion, desires and passion are the fuel which drives us, it is our intellect which must be in the driving seat. The Torah is giving us a powerful and practical warning not to be naïve about the power of emotions and the extent they can control us. The energy of emotion is essential in allowing us to do anything in life, but the implications of letting that energy run wild are far more illogical and far more devastating than we could ever imagine.
May we all learn from this powerful message in the Torah and internalize these ideas as we witness the destructive mistakes of others.
Despite the threat of rain the event was a great success!! See pictures here.
Next Summer in the Woods Event – July 13, 2011. SAVE THE DATE!
Bring your family, friends and neighbours to our monthly outdoor event.
For June, Mad Science, will be entertaining the kids with their explosive show “Spin, Pop, Boom”. Details below.
A very big thank you to the Rouhi family for sponsoring this event!
Looking forward to seeing you there!
Reading the JWRP blog over the past week brought back so mgany fond memories of Israel and specifically Jerusalem. This also happened to be a very special week in Israel as we celebrated Yom Yerushalayim – the wonderful day commemorating the reunification of Jerusalem and the establishment of Israeli control over the Old City. “Jerusalem Day” celebrations are intensely joyous and the reunification is commemorated quite aptly as Jews of every kind unite throughout the city and especially at the Western Wall to express their gratitude through song, dance and prayer. I miss Jerusalem!
The day always reminds me of one of the famous stories that took place back in June 1967 as it dawned on the young paratroopers battling in the Old City that the preciously holy site was back in their hands. As soldiers ran to the Western Wall, one of the non- religious soldiers who ran to the Wall saw the religious soldiers crying. He too began to cry. The religious soldier looked at him surprised and asked: “I know why I am crying, but why are you crying?” The nonreligious soldier answered back: “I am crying because I don’t know what I am supposed to be crying about.”
This coming week we celebrate Shavuot, the Festival of the Receiving of the Torah. Understandably, the most significant day in human history and arguably the most important festival in the Jewish year, and yet our attitude towards it remains more pareve than the rich cheesecake we will eat. We somehow lack awareness of the power of this day and what we are capable of achieving with it!
Our commentaries teach that every year on Shavuot we determine and define the extent of Torah that we will receive throughout the year. Translated into our terms, that means to what extent we will be able to have a real connection to spirituality and wisdom. Will we be able to have a year of deep meaning and enlightenment or will we struggle to keep our heads from becoming lost in the mundane? Will we feel holy, inspired and powerful or will we feel like robots carrying out our pre-programmed routines? Will our minds be alive and alert or will we feel dull and numb?
What then do we do on Shavuot, a festival with no specific mitzvot to perform, to create this potential? As Rabbi Sher taught us last week, our mission is to simply want it. We have to desire a life of meaning, purpose and depth and do our best to express that desire. Many stay up and learn all night of Shavuot not because the learning is a special mitzvah on the night but because what better way is there to express our desire to learn and grow than by giving up our sleep and comfort for it!
What might be even more relevant to us is asking ourselves do we really even desire that kind of life in the first place? Do we even feel the loss of not having a connection to something deeper? If not, then at the very least our work is to be like that soldier in our story. The soldier didn’t feel the connection but he cried over the fact that he didn’t feel it. He witnessed the authentic tears of his fellow soldiers as they expressed their connection to an eternal legacy and he felt the pain of his numbness. If we don’t desire more life out of life then at least let us desire to desire it!
Shavuot is power! Harness that power simply by desiring to have a life that has so much more real living. Express that desire by pushing yourself to learn and understand a little more. And celebrate that desire by enjoying delicious meat, wine and cheesecake (not in the same meal) with family and friends! If we do it right, that desire will be translated into a real and attainable potential which, with a bit of work, will bring for us a beautiful and meaningful year ahead!
Wishing everyone a wonderful Shabbat and inspiring Shavuot
“Establish peace, goodness, blessing, graciousness, kindness and compassion upon us and upon all Your people Israel.” - Ohel Sarah Women’s Siddur (with my name embossed on it) Pg. 635
Daily steps; 2,721 Final total; 74,642
If you plant a seed in the earth you expect it to grow. But even with the most hopeful expectations, you still encourage its growth. First, you till the soil to prepare it. Then you plant the seed deep into the ground. You cover that seed with nutrient rich soil. You nourish it with water and let it bask in the sunlight. And then you pray that it grows.
We are that seed.
We are the Jewish women that came to the land of Israel with a seed in our souls.
Here we were nourished.
Here we were cultivated.
Here we basked in the sunlight.
Here we blossomed.
Lori gave a lecture today about Bringing it All Home, because we have been living an alternate reality for the past nine days. Real life is around the corner. We need to integrate some of our new realizations, epiphanies and views into day to day life. It can be a challenge to put this trip into the context of home. Lori gave us the tools to do just that.
After visiting Rachel’s Tomb, we continued to our final banuqet at Gavna. With the beautiful Judean Hills in the background, we celebrated our last night together.
We said goobye to our new friends.
We didn’t expect to be so moved.
We could never have realized how much we would grow to care about each other.
We couldn’t have known how much we could learn about ourselves.
Thank you to Lori for making this possible.
Thank you to Orit Sitzer for being such a supportive and warm heart. You were Mother to us all.
Thank you to Aliza Cohen for breaking the mould of what we expected the “Rebbetzin” to be. Your humility and humanity was an inspiration to us all.
Thank you Dini Gottlieb for all the work you did behind the scenes. We missed you.
Thank you to all the women who participated.
We are sisters.
We are family.
We are on a path.
And the journey continues…