Sunday, October 23, 2011
We live in a world that demands immediate gratification. In a super-speedy world somehow even our microwave ovens seem to be not fast enough anymore. We are used to giving voice commands and pressing buttons and getting what we want in quick time. People are sleeping together by the third date; Amazon orders are at your front door the next morning; basically the Internet can bring you anything you desire in a moment’s time. We have only to look at the young people occupying Wall Street who have just gotten out of university and are already incensed that they aren’t the CEO of a company. The spoiled brat mantra that seems to echo in all areas of our life is: “I want it, and I want it now.”
So I must admit in times like these where the bridge between a desire and its satisfaction is ever shortening, that it becomes ever harder to have patience with God. How many prayers I have made that remain unanswered. Do we have to invent an iPrayer app to get God to get busy doing His job, namely serving me and my every wish and desire? And that is really the crux of today’s problems both spiritually and in the chaotic self-centered world we live in: We have forgotten who is here to serve whom. And that forgetfulness has been coated with impudence and impatience. We act like we are entitled to everything and tend to be appreciative of so little.
I heard a great line a few months back that questioned: “What if you woke up tomorrow with only the things you thanked God for yesterday?” Personally, I would have awoken this morning with a great parking space. So often I hear from people that they don’t understand why God is being so hard on them or why they just can’t seem to get what they ordered from that big eBay in the sky. And I answer them the same way I answer myself: We are not here to give orders to God but rather to serve His purpose in all that we do--and that is to better ourselves and the world we live in. The point is not to be nice and content when you get what you want, the point is to elevate each terrain you walk upon until you reach your destination. In a sense I agree with Herman Cain who said that if you are not rich it is your OWN fault. No, sometimes God doesn’t bless our best efforts and not all of us can be financially rich regardless how hard we try, but the person we are inside and the world we engage along our journey can be enriched if we strive with dignity, kindness, mercy, compassion and generosity.
But we are so busy serving and overstuffing ourselves with our immediate wants and desires that we don’t realize that from a spiritual standpoint we look like blubbery busting corpulent Romans suckling on grapes of wrath. But the word of God, our spiritual trainer, is here to refine us and shape us into fit, beautiful appreciative souls. It’s in serving God in all our doings--in how we say “hello” to strangers; in how we talk to people who bug us; in how we treat those who need us, in how we plow through life with our strivings--that we become mensches and really fulfill the reason we were put on this earth.
So, as a journalist, when I attend events with very affluent people who are so used to getting what they want that they tend to be mean, rude and condescending to waiters and hired help, I cannot but think: No sir, you did not make it, you LOST it.
In the Torah there is a strict prohibition against cutting down fruit trees. Doing so can bring terrible luck, perhaps death. Even if a person has a valuable property and wants to erect a house in place of the fruit trees, NO CAN DO. It should make us realize that if we have to go to such lengths to build our lives around the living fruit tree, then how more do we have to guard the dignity of people while we strive forward in life? A take away lesson for me is clear: As we strive to make our way and stake our territory in personal relationships, in work and in our community, we cannot fell life to pave our way. People’s lives, feelings, time, money etc., cannot be collateral damage to fulfill our needs.
So to make full circle here, I’d say the biggest gift a human being can have in life is the ability to appreciate. When you have that gift, even if you have a little in life, it is as if you have a big treasure. On the other hand, though our spoiled generation may have every gimmick and gadget in the world, it is as if they have nothing at all because they don’t appreciate what is in their hands. And though our fast paced world and technology have the ability to take that gift of appreciation away from us, God in His great wisdom does everything in the right time. Yes Domino’s Pizza may get to your house quicker than God at times, but let’s never forget as we grumble and groan that we are here to serve Him and maybe he is waiting for us to deliver.
Sunday, October 2, 2011
I spent the Jewish holidays with friends who are big into brain teasing gadgets of the Rubik's Cube kind. There is always a trick to these toys which is counter intuitive to logic, such as getting a ball out of a hole which is smaller than its circumference or a getting loop over a bar that is double its size. And though I was dead set on entering the New Year by leaving old problems behind, the masochist in me picked up these puzzling and mind boggling new ones that kept me enraptured for hours. What made matters even more frustrating was that others in the household were able to catch onto the trick and unlock these craftily engineered mysteries with ease and facility while I was nearing hysteria saying, “How the heck do you do this?; it’s impossible.” I think I even saw the family dog put his paws over his eyes because she couldn’t take watching me do the same motions over and over again and meet the same unsuccessful end. Finally, I did something I have never really done my whole life. No, I didn’t cheat and bust the games open with a hammer (though it did cross my mind). I just stopped trying to do it on my own and asked my gracious hostess, “How do you do it? What’s the trick?”
I believe that there are no coincidences in life. This episode was a symbolic lesson to me that perhaps what I needed to learn this New Year more than anything else was that the solution to untangling old problems once and for all may be to ASK! It happens so often in life that we have an issue we can’t resolve on our own but we keep pulling at it with both hands and instead of unraveling it, we keep tightening the knot. The sweat gathers on our brow but we won’t let it show. After all, we know it all, right? We are smarter than everyone we know, right? No one would understand my problem, right? It has to be my way, right? WRONG! Sometimes we just have to ask and we also have to listen. What point is there to reinvent the wheel when we can benefit from someone else’s wisdom and roll with it?
There was no greater imparter of wisdom to the world than Moses. He was privy to the mysteries of the universe, saw God face to face, and was shown the entire panorama of history from the beginning to the coming of the Messiah. And Moses bequeathed to mankind the key to this “gadget” we call life, and that key is the Torah. The question is: Do we want to listen once and for all or keep doing it our way?
Our world is growing ever darker and complex. We seem to be caught in an intractable mystery, a haunting labyrinth in which any hopeful pathway is blocked by a dooming encroaching wall upon which we knock our stubborn heads. How we are going to get out of the mess we're in is a brainteaser of the highest order. Did logic get us into it? Will logic get us out?
Perhaps the “key” to today’s mysteries is “to listen.” Our blessings and curses are just a breath apart when Moses speaks: “If you do not hearken to the voice of God…all these curses will come upon you and overtake you.” But if we do listen, “God will open for you His storehouse of goodness.” Just as those brain teasing toys come with instructions that facilely extricate an otherwise Gordian knot, so too our lives come with instructions and directions: the Bible.
Perhaps it’s time for all of us to start “listening” while God is still whispering--albeit pretty loudly. How many more frequencies will we tune out before we are awakened by a thunderous clang and God asks, “Can you hear me now?”