Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Value Of "Words And Things"

In our previous article dealing with the simple son, we noted a connection between the אישׁ תּם, and the words of the simple son, מה זאת, and Isaac's description of Jacob, הקל קול יעקב. The link connecting these together is the number 453. Because most Haggadahs translate the Tam as "simple," he is portrayed as slow and naive. A better translation would be "innocent, honest, complete, perfect, whole, pure, and upright." But these descriptive terms unfortunately are not emphasized today. The values of honesty, purity, and the ability to be silent when silence is called for, are not goals our children are taught to strive for today. Neither is the importance of a good name. Our society rewards aggression, boasting, assertiveness, and just plain "Jewish schtick," and looks down upon a quiet, calm, and good natured person. A matchmaker today looks at the level of "learning" that a young man has as the key criteria in determining if he is a suitable, appropriate match, while his middos and values, his ability to control his anger, and his humbleness are all pushed to the bottom of the list.
The Baal Shem Tov taught that every person is allowed a given number of words during his lifetime. When he has used up his quota, he dies. Today we act like we are receiving compensation for every word we speak, every message we text, every E-mail we send, and every blog we comment on. Words spoken or written, can be like arrows piercing someone's heart, or can be soothing, peaceful and healing instead. Rabbis, parents and friends can "make or break" a child with just a few words. We forget that we are all on the "same team" and become very judgmental of each other. At this time in Jewish history, as we approach the final darkness before the new light, we should use our words to encourage, support, teach and compliment each other. Does it cost a doctor anything to tell his patient, "Don't worry, you will be fine." Does it cost a husband anything by telling his wife that she looks lovely? Does it cost a parent anything to tell their children how proud they are of them? And does it cost fellow Jews anything at all if they greet each other with a genuine "Good Shabbos" without being envious of each other?
We saw how the number 453 is connected to speech, but there is even a further connection. For this number is also the atbash of דברים. Although דברים means "words," in Deuteronomy 30 (1-2) it's translated as "things." The entire verses read, "It will be that when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse, that I have presented before you, then you will take it to your heart among all the nations where Hashem, your G-d, has dispersed you, and you will return unto Hashem, your G-d, and listen to His voice, according to everything that I command you today, you and your children, with all your heart and all your soul." The Torah in Chapter 28 previously warned the Jewish People of the dire consequences of sin as well as the blessings they would receive for fulfilling G-d's words. Thus the words of Hashem became "things." That is they were transformed into the actual actions of "blessings or punishments." The verse right before Deuteronomy 30 (1), in Deuteronomy 29 (28), states that "The hidden sins are for Hashem, our G-d, but the revealed sins are for us and for our children forever, to carry out all the words of this Torah." Rashi states that this verse alludes to the fate of Jews who had been so assimilated among other peoples that their Jewish origins had become forgotten. Sadly today there are many examples, where a Jewish woman pretends that she isn't Jewish, intermarries, wears a cross, goes to church, has children, and sends them to non-Jewish schools. How is her children to know that he or she is Jewish and is responsible for the performance of mitzvohs? When the final redemption comes, these "hidden" ones, known only to Hashem, will be reunited with the rest of the Jewish nation.
Hashem is a patient Father waiting for His children to run into His outstreached arms and ask for forgiveness. He waits and wonders how much pain and how many more tears must fall before His children seek Him. If only they knew what would befall them at the end of days. If only they knew the clue that Hashem placed when He put 11 dots above the letters, לנו ולבנינו ע in Deuteronomy 29 (28).

UPCOMING NEXT- 11 Dots Versus 13 Attributes Of Mercy

1 comment:

  1. I appreciate your description of the Ish Taam. You have highlighted what is missing from the experience of yiddishkeit nowadays. That was always what pulled at me, the sincerity, and earnestness, honesty, and unaffected way of the frumma yid. It seems that the "goldene medina" experience has left a deep mark on our People. It reminds me of ... the disintegration into the 'borscht-belt' of the early 20th C. and 'kosher style' living we have today. I don't think we can go 'back', but we can 'start over', if you know what i mean.

    There are 'plain' spiritual/religious people among the Yemenites and Pashtuns, in consonance with their surroundings. The Pashtuns number in the millions, and I wonder if they could be the tribe that comes from out of the past to rescue the Israelis in a time of war?