Holidays, Technologies & the ‘Reel’ World
(Insights from this week’s Portion: Pinchas)
GPS: GLOBAL POSITIONING SYSTEMS
Is it fair that my Wife has a GPS in her car and I don’t, when she has the
street savvy of a bloodhound and I have the navigational know-how of Mr.
GPS TAKE I: Notwithstanding the seeming injustice of it all, when
I’m in my Wife’s car and happen to find myself in a deeper mood, my
glances at the GPS conjure up the following saying from our Sages:
“Consider three things and you will not come into the grip of
transgression: know what is above you – a watchful Eye, an attentive Ear,
and all your deeds are recorded in a Book”. ** “A watchful eye”
from “above”: is there anything better to bring this concept home for us
than the GPS? Think about it: in order for a GPS to get us where we’re
going, Earth orbit satellites are used to pinpoint our current
whereabouts, tracking our every move from “Outer Space”. Talk about a
watchful Eye from the Heavens! While other forms of technology provide us
with insights into the “attentive Ear” and “recorded deeds”, the GPS lends
us a tangible analogy for the “watchful Eye”, vividly illustrating the
fact that our every step can be observed from “above”.
GPS TAKE II: A Rabbi that my Wife and I know first encountered a
GPS from a passenger seat and curiously made the following request of the
driver: “Do me a favor: don’t listen to it!” “What?” “If it tells you to
go one way, go the other way”. And so the driver did! Our Rabbi fixed
his eyes on the GPS, eagerly awaiting the reaction of this authoritative
apparatus: “Recalculating” was its humble response. “What a tremendous
lesson!” he mused. “When we went the wrong way, it didn’t yell and scream
and call us morons. It simply adapted to a new approach and incorporated
our misstep into a new means of reaching our destination. We human beings
also play the roles of Global Positioners, entrusted to navigate our
children, students, and employees through their individual paths in life.
We should learn from the GPS to respond with equanimity when they make
wrong turns – to go with the flow and readjust our originally recommended
routes, calmly continuing to assist them in reaching their destinations.”
JEWISH HOLIDAYS: THEY TRIED TO KILL US, WE WON, LET’S EAT!?
Jewish wisdom informs us that the GPS perspectives above may very well be
more than just interesting interpretations; that part of technology’s very
purpose is to provide us with tangible analogies that will help us relate
to spiritual realities. In other words, technology – along with seasons,
animals, places, art, relationships, and everything else in the
physical/emotional universe – exists in part to mirror a higher reality
and transmit a deeper message that might otherwise be beyond our grasp.
Nowhere does this concept seem to hold truer than with Jewish Holidays,
which we get an overview of in this week’s Torah Portion.
Now, there are a few primary perspectives that people seem to possess in
viewing the Jewish Holidays: 1) an opportunity to sample seasonal
delicacies; 2) a chance to commemorate and proudly celebrate important
events in our history; 3) a time to reconnect with the agricultural cycle
on which our ancestors were dependent; 4) an opportunity to capture and
harness the unique energy of each respective holiday that emanates anew
every year, offering us a heightened potential for awareness and growth.
While #’s 1-3 may possess varying degrees of validity, #4 seems to provide
the vantage point that most resonates with essential Jewish thought.
JEWISH HOLIDAYS: SEASONS OF THE SOUL
The Season in which a Jewish Holiday falls (particularly in Israel) is
hardly haphazard or incidental. PASSOVER corresponds with the spring
because “the coming of spring is an indication that God smiles at man
and offers him an opportunity to free himself from the shackles of his
wintry discontent. It is time for man to aspire to freedom and a new
beginning – just as Israel did centuries ago when it burst free from the
physical and spiritual bondage of Egypt.” *** SHAVUOT corresponds
with the early harvest because while “springtime works wonders on the
fields… it would all be a waste unless the crops are harvested. The crop
of human freedom is more precious than any found on field or tree, but it
too will do no good unless it is harvested. On Shavuot, God informed His
foundling nation Israel of the PURPOSE of its freedom – to make itself
a "kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Exodus 19:6). By accepting the
Torah, Israel gave meaning to its existence. Otherwise, the crop of
freedom would have become the rot of license and self-indulgence that has
corrupted and destroyed so many civilizations. ***
So too, all of the Jewish Holidays seasonally correspond with the Divine
messages they are meant to communicate. “In the Torah's
perspective, the "real" world is the spiritual one; the physical world is
the way in which God translates His will into messages that human beings
can understand…. Like an ELECTRONIC PRINTER translating impulses into a
picture of a far-off event, ‘nature’ translates God's gift of spiritual
rejuvenation into the physical manifestations of springtime”. *** Or
similarly, we might say that “nature” serves as God’s global film
projector, translating the spiritual emanations from the “Reel” World onto
the screen of human endeavor. Regardless of which analogies speak to
us most meaningfully, may we all fine-tune our abilities to access the
true messages available in technology, the physical world, the changing
seasons, and our precious Holiday opportunities!
Have a Wonderful Shabbos! Love, Jon & The Chevra
* Mr. Magoo is a loveable yet ineptly near-sighted cartoon character
** Avos (Ethics of the Fathers), 2:1
***Excerpted from the "ArtScroll Sukkot Machzor" – published by
ArtScroll/Mesorah Publications Ltd., Brooklyn, NY.
Text Copyright © 2008 by Jon Erlbaum and
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