Thursday, August 17, 2006

Parshas Re’eh 5766

Rabino Label Lam

The Blessed Present

See I place before you today blessing and curse... (Devarim 11:26)
All the days of the impoverished (of the mind) are bad while the one witha good heart- (mind) is always drinking. (Mishle’ 15:15)
Why is it often so hard to see the blessing? Why do we tend to obsesswith - “what’s wrong with this picture?”One of the three reasons offered by the Chovos HaLevavos- Duties of theHeart is that HASHEM is so consistently good that by the time we are oldenough to intelligently appreciate what is happening we are alreadyaccustomed to it. However magnificent it may be most goes unnoticed.
He gives an example of a child left on a door step. A couple had mercy andraised this child from infancy to adulthood having cared for him byexecuting countless acts of goodness. Now that child is a married adultwith a job, a house, and family of his own. The couple also took pity onan adult prisoner. They negotiated his release. They rehabbed him andeventually found him a job, a house, and wife. Who will quicker to expressgratitude? For whom was more actually done? For the prisoner dramaticchange was experienced when his adult eyes and ears were plugged in. Mentend to quietly believe that socks are born in the sock drawer. You putthem down the chute and they magically reappear clean and coupled, and sotoo that orb of light will appear in the east and dance overhead daily andsweet orange globes of will predictably dangle from the ends of woodybranches.
We find ourselves in the as if in the following surreal scene. At exactly9:00 AM a knock comes to your door. There stands a man who hands you anenvelope. Inside you find $100. Wow! The next day, there you are sippingyour coffee and there’s that knock and the stranger with $100 in theenvelope. Each time now you chase him down the driveway with calls ofthanks.
This continues every day. After 12 months it is perceived as aproblem. “Can’t he come a little earlier on Tuesdays? Why not just leaveit in the mail slot? The envelopes are piling up like fall leaves and I’mconcerned rain forests are being depleted. Can’t he give smaller bills!? Ican’t get coffee or pay my cleaning lady with $100 bills!” One day heknocks on the door and leaves an empty envelope. He gets a shoutout, “Thief!”
The numerical value of the word HaTevah – Nature is the same as Elochim -G-d! Therefore our definition of “nature” is repeating miracles. Whensomething happens once we call it miraculous. If the sea splits once wesing, if we were there and if not there’s room for major skepticism. Ifthe sea splits daily, and twice on Saturday for a matinee, many of uswould postpone seeing it until retirement and/or rely on some NationalGeographic special to tickle our fancy. If a baby would grow on the edgeof a tree the world would be crazy to follow the growth and development ofthe “tree baby”. If they start sprouting on trees across the Americas andEurope and Asia we would begin emergency measures to prune and curb thegrowing nuisance.
Most of the 100 blessing we recite daily are expressed in the presenttense. “You HASHEM are the source of blessing ...Who creates the fruit ofthe tree!” We are less interested in the historicity of this fruit as weare in recognizing often and profoundly that what looks like still life isbeing willed into being fresh and anew each moment, as we say twicedaily, “Who renews each day constantly the action of creation!”
We are like the proverbial birthday boy at his party tearing open boxesand shaking checks out of envelopes with appetite until a wise parentreminds him to open the note that comes with each gift. Then, when readaloud, there is that tender moment when the soul of the event is revealedand we realize that the gift was only a pretense, an elegant excuse tounify the giver and the receiver in the blessed present.