A Fresh Look – at Life
By Rabbi Label Lam
They journeyed from Rephidim and encamped in the Wilderness of Sinai.
journeyed from the Wilderness of Sinai and encamped in Kivros HaTaava.
Why does the Torah bother to tells us, for each of the 42 journeys, where
they traveled from? It’s always the prior destination.
The Talmud (Shabbos 9A) tells us that Rabbah would begin his Torah lessons
with a joke. Part of the reason for this practice was to ready the
students to learn something new. To hear a new idea one must be willing to
shed some old assumptions. A good joke has that quality of being able to
challenge our ordinary perceptions of reality. As we try to make sense out
of life or a given scene, we tend to fill in the details with facts based
upon our prior experiences. Some of that old baggage may actually run
interference with the ability to understand the new. Then we are
surprised. Our conceptual boxes are suddenly burst, our paradigms
shattered, and in need of adjustment. We are now ready to learn.
A farmer came to the big city to be fitted for his first suit so he could
be in fashion- step at a family wedding. He came to a tailor with a fine
reputation who took careful note of the man’s measurements and
specifications before selecting a worthy bolt of cloth. The farmer
returned on the day of the big family event to pick up his new custom made
suit. The tailor confidently handed it him and pointed him to the dressing
The poor farmer was could hardly squeeze his first leg in and then only
with great effort again his second leg. He was ready to shout out with
frustration when he found himself completely distorting his body only to
be able to clasp the suit pants closed. The jacket was equally a disaster.
Hardly able to breath, the farmer shouted gruffly to the tailor, “What did
you do to me? I have nothing to wear to the wedding tonight! You have
ruined me!” Alarmed at first, the tailor took a good look, chuckled, and
replied, “Foolish farmer! Before you try on a new suit you must first
remove your over-alls!”
Someone coming for a first Shabbos, or going to Israel for the very first
time, or encountering a Rebbe has no idea what goodness lies ahead. No
amount of words could prepare that person. Similarly, someone
transitioning from work to home has to make an astronaut-like adjustment
to adapt to an environment with a completely different set of values. He
may the big boss there but it won’t work here. When leaving the parental
home for marriage the Torah admonishes early on, “Therefore a man should
leave his mother and father and cling to his wife…” (Breishis 2:24) He is
not expected to literally abandon his parents but rather to rid him-self
of his selfish and dependant attitude.
The best one might do to adjust to the new is to be ready to shed any old
and inapplicable assumptions of the past. Then, with the old coat of
paint removed, one is more mentally and emotionally available for a new
coat, with a fresh look- at life.
Text Copyright © 2005 by Rabbi Label Lam and Torah.org.