© 2020 Drew T. Noll

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Joy of Life and the Challenge of Living

Well… My boys are the inspiration for this blog. We all know that Zach has been working very hard before the army, working out like a maniac, and he just made it over the first large hurdle. He had to do a very physical and mental test and, suffice it to say, I am very proud of him. What is interesting though, is that he tells me there was a moment, right at the beginning of this day long test, when he was about to give up. They were giving the boys grueling exercises to do and many of them were dropping like flies. Zach had a moment of, “I can’t do this anymore; what am I doing here” (like all of us have said once or twice in our lives), and then he made a deal with himself to just finish the day. As soon as he shook his own hand on it, the exercise was basically over. He passed his own test and that, my friends, is what this week’s parsha is all about!

The part that I am referring to goes like this:

G-D appeared to Abram and said to him, "I am Almighty G-D. Walk before Me and be perfect" (Genesis 17:1).

So what is the connection? I will get to that in a moment. First I want to tell you about a recent event involving my other son, Josh. About the time that Zach was arriving home from his grueling, yet amazingly centering experience, Josh was crossing the street near my house and got plowed down by a car… The car was driven by an old olive picker that was scrounging the neighborhood for ripe olives to harvest. There are olive trees all over Israel, in the community and private spaces alike, and the olives are picked and pickled by all sorts of industrious Arabs and Jews living in Ha Aretz (The Land). Don’t worry; Josh is OK. He received some scrapes and bruises, but otherwise is just a little wiser than he was before. He explained it like this:

“I wasn’t looking and he wasn’t looking, so we hit each other…”

I think that about sums it up, don’t you? Actually, it is a bit of an understatement… look what happened to the car! Josh, it seems, also had a centering experience, accept this experience blind-sided him. He made a conscious decision, after the fact, to see the inherent reality of his challenging situation, while Zach decided beforehand to see the inherent reality that he could rely on himself. In both cases, my boys learned something invaluable about themselves and what they are made of (Seemingly iron or even steel!).

This is what G-D is telling Abram when He says, “Walk before Me and be perfect.” It is another way of saying, “Strive to be like Me by knowing and trusting yourself.” No human can be truly perfect; however, if we aspire to be perfect like G-D is, we ‘will’ achieve a degree of perfection. G-D did not say “Be perfect,” He said, “Walk before Me and, thereby, you will be perfect.” Just by trying to live by a higher standard, having faith in our abilities, and living according to Hashem’s divine teachings, we can elevate our understandings of ourselves in the universe and enjoy life in its purest possible form. We become enlightened, in the true sense of the word.

A quote of a quote from Rabbi Twerski explains it just a little better than I can:

‘Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch notes that the Hebrew word for 'walk' in the above verse is not 'telech' but 'heshalech,' which implies, "Go your way in spite of opposition, not making your progress dependent on external circumstances, but being led from within yourself: Let your movement proceed from your own free-willed decisions."’

In that moment, when we ‘know’ ourselves, it is like being born over again. We have a new lease on life and can really breath it all in. Zach wants to start calling Josh ‘Iron Man’ from what he did to the poor olive picker’s car. I can hear the sounds of clanking metal, “Bong, Clank, Dong…” as he rebounded off the car's fender and windshield. What Zach didn’t say, but I know he knows it about himself, is that he has also become an Iron Man. In my humble opinion, he has just graduated from caterpillar to butterfly. Now he just needs to learn how to fly, iron wings and all…

Shabbat Shalom!