(Insights from this week’s Portion: Ki Seitzei)
This week’s insights are dedicated to my truly amazing Mom, who in my teenage years sent me the most lovingly clever letter: borrowing song titles and lyrics from the Classic Rock Group known as “The Who”, and seamlessly incorporating them into an absolutely brilliant letter to her Son. I love you, Mamala!
- o “Who Are You – Who, Who, Who, Who?” – The Who, also featured as a theme song for the show “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” (aka “CSI: Las Vegas”)
o “We Won’t Get Fooled Again” – The Who, also featured as a theme song for the show “CSI: Miami“
SERIAL OFFENDER AT LARGE
A critical Crime Scene Investigation case has been reopened. And with the High Holidays approaching, each of us has been assigned to the case. A serial offender is still at large, plotting to suffocate the soul of every human being by burying it alive – deep beneath the muck of self-centered pursuits, instant gratification seeking, and excessive focus on matters that are far less important than we conveniently rationalize them to be.
THE “ENEMY WITHIN”
Fortunately, some of our best “Text Detectives” have already been on the case (not to be confused with “Pet Detectives”, who incidentally might be appropriate for the job as well, since this suspect clearly exhibits animalistic behaviors). These “Text detectives” – i.e. classic Torah Commentators – revealed the identity of this serial offender long ago. He is the very same age-old criminal as our “ENEMY” mentioned in the RRR verse above, whom some commentators expose as hinting to none other than our “EVIL” INCLINATION.
[… A quick public service announcement from our CSI sponsors: the “Evil Inclination” just mentioned in our program refers to the selfish aspect of a human being that is drawn towards extreme physical fixation. Please note that Judaism does NOT, however, advocate for focusing “soul-ly” on the spiritual while neglecting the physical, and by no means does it regard the body as being irredeemably evil. For a bit more on this topic, feel free to stay tuned after the program (i.e. to check out footnote 3 after the article(3)). And now, back to our Crime Scene Investigation…]
It’s important to understand that this “enemy within” is not working alone. In fact, it is only fulfilling its Divinely mandated duty, by challenging us to rise above its yearnings for selfish self-expression. That said, this ruthless adversary takes its job quite seriously – and while it may only be guilty of “attempted soul-slaughter”, the evil inclination consistently succeeds in burying our souls so deeply that we often forget they are there at all (as in CSI’s Season 5 finale, in which the criminal kidnaps Detective Nick Stokes and buries him alive).
In these days of priceless preparation for the High Holidays, it’s time for us to peer beyond the façade. Our souls are crying out from beneath our body-masks to be remembered, to be recognized, to be counted and represented in our everyday actions and decisions. Even though we engage the world primarily through our physical senses – and even though it’s easy to get duped into believing that our lives are not much more than skin deep – we need to shine the interrogation spotlight in our own directions and ask ourselves the all-important question of “Who Are You – Who, Who, Who, Who?” [Theme song from “CSI: Las Vegas”]. Are we primarily bodies or souls? Are we equally both? Is it accurate to say that “I AM a Soul – I HAVE a body”? Regardless of which formulation is most appropriate, we would do well to persistently strive for the lofty goal of “soul control”: to face down the evil inclination and let it know – in no uncertain terms – that “We Won’t Get Fooled Again”! [Theme song from “CSI Miami“; or for our purposes, CSI WhoAmI]
Have a Wonderful Shabbos! Love, Jon & The Chevra
1. “Pet detectives”: a semi-gratuitous yet sufficiently relevant reference to the comedy classic “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective,” starring Jim Carrey
2. Rabbi Shlomo Ephraim Luntschitz (1550-1619), author of the Keli Yakar, is one such commentator
3. Thanks for staying tuned! As introduced above, Judaism does NOT advocate for focusing “soul-ly” on the spiritual while neglecting the physical, and by no means does it regard the body as being irredeemably evil. However, since the soul is often the more likely to get lost and “buried”, a primary mission – especially around this time of year – is to seek out the soul and rescue it.
In general, the body is viewed as being similar to an unbridled, desire-driven horse that is intent on doing exactly what it wants, when it wants. Whether the horse is enjoying its unrestrained, “born to run” freedom or is just in the mood to lazily graze, the last thing it wants is to have anyone cramp its style by reining it in. But the goal of a human being is to establish inner “soul control”: allowing the soul to harness the horse-like body and become its rider, so that both can travel together in pursuit of lofty adventures. When this is accomplished, then the body & soul become full partners in the ultimate cooperative. [Note: I believe I first heard the articulation of this analogy from Rabbi Label Lam.]
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