What confusing times we live in!
The elections are over, but are they really?
There is a vaccine for Corvid 19. Is it really what we were hoping for?
There are countless conspiracy theories floating around. It would be easy to dismiss them, but over the years I have discovered that sometimes the most outrageous conspiracy theories turned out to be true. Of course I have also discovered that the majority of them don’t turn out to be true. Where do you turn to when you are looking for truth?
When my boys were still teenagers one of Israel’s repetitive wars was going on. Word got out that Rav Shach zatzal had made a major address about responding to the situation. When I went down to the mailbox to pick up the paper (we had a subscription that I had bought for my first husband thinking he would enjoy it. He didn’t nor did the kids. I was the only one who read my “present”). Of course, since they were teenagers, one of them grabbed it out of my hands immediately. After a moment he threw it on the table and said. “He didn’t say anything”. I looked at the front page, and saw that there were 6 columns worth of “nothing”. I asked him what he meant to say. He said, “Oh you know. Daven. Learn. Show greater respect and generate unity to your fellow Jew”. To him this felt like nothing. He would have much preferred something novel and (even better) dramatic. Maybe a call to have every single person in the country to go to the Kotel at dawn, or maybe a demand that everyone adopt a foster child or at least that all of the yeshivos close for a day of focused prayer in one of the holy places in the north (preferably not too far form a nature reserve).
It doesn’t go that way.
Truth is the whole picture. We humans are far too limited to see the truth as it really is. Our lives are too short, our intellects too limited and our emotions too strong to avoid subjectivity.
Truth is far bigger than factuality. If someone were to ask you “Who was Hitler” and you answer “a vegetarian”, your answer would be accurate, but far from true. The only possible address for truth is truth that is from a source that is higher than you are (much as in the physical world, what you see form the top of the mountain is far more reflective of genuine reality that what you see from your window) From the mountain top you can see an entire panorama. From your window, if you are not careful (and if the pane isn’t clean) all you see is yourself and your immediate surroundings. When Hashem gave us the Torah, He gave us truth.
There’s a problem.
You can only hear the truth if you don’t block it out. You can block it out by physical passion or by ego, or by unwillingness to change. The illusion is that living a life of falsehood is sweeter. In the short term this is often accurate, but accurate and true aren’t the same things.
The only one of the patriarchs who is mentioned in Birkat HaMzaon (the prayer after eating bread), is Yaakov. We refer to Hashem as “Our holy One, the Holy One of Yaakov”. The reason that he is mentioned and not Avraham or Yitzchak is that he took their teachings even further than they did. He used their legacy to climb the mountain, and to see the world form its top. Avrhaham introduced the world of his time to belief in one G-d, and realized that we are in His image, and we can develop ability to bond with Him by mirroring Him. He is the host of the world? Be hospitable. He is compassionate; plead the case for others the way that Avraham bargained for Sdom. Avraham was the pillar of chessed, Yitzchak built on what Avraham had started. He saw that there are many obstacles that are in the way –and he combined dealing with them with living he kind of life Abraham had lived. Besides the awesome and inspiring moments that you are familiar with (for instance, the akeida) he brought the ideal of living for Hashem into every aspect of his life. His “pillar” is the pillar of devotion to Hashem. Devotion demands strength, He left us our collective ability to make awesomely painful and difficult choices to stay Jewish. Yaakov saw the “whole picture”-Avraham’s love of Hashem, and Yitzchak’s strength and devotion. He became a man of truth. This means seeing the whole picture. The whole picture always includes Hashem in it, since He is every blood cell and every galaxy at the same time. Yaakov’s name is mentioned in Birkat HaMazon because he could see Hashem even in the bread he was eating.
Eisov was his twin
Equally as gifted, brought up by the same parents. His every choice ended up false for one reason. He couldn’t ever take himself out of the picture. His cheessed is based on the personal satisfaction and external recognition that it often brings. His courage was unfocussed. I grew up on the Three Muscateers and the Knights of the Round Table. They were portrayed as being courageous, but the loyalty was never to Hashem, who for them was at most a vague presence somewhere Out There.
I don’t know who will resolve the confusion concerning the American election. I don’t know what will end the Corona Pandemic. What I do know is that tshuvah and tefillah and tzedakah are the visible sources of change that you can see when you are on top of the mountain.