Tuesday, August 19, 2014

See Here How Everything Lead Up To This Day (Robert Hunter & Jerry Garcia - "Black Peter")

          Our family received some sad news this week. My 98 year old grandfather, suffering from severe dementia over the last several years of his life, passed away peacefully and quietly today.  For these past few years, when I have visited him, I tried to see past this shell of a man and instead focus upon the spirit, the essence of this man that was not only my grandfather but “father once –removed”.  Among the powerful memories I have of my grandfather occurred on a golf course. My father, my grandfather and I went out on a Sunday afternoon in August. After a particularly crummy tee shot, I muttered something about my swing, about my shot lying in the rough and that I was playing as badly as my then 85 year old grandfather.  Of course if I was 85 I would be happy with the result, however at 36, I had hoped to have been somewhat more competent. In any case, when I finished muttering and getting into the cart next to my grandfather, he looked at me and said “You know, you do have a choice. You can stay upset about your crummy tee shot,  which means that you will miss out this gorgeous day and the blessing you are experiencing by playing a round of golf with your dad and your grandfather, or you can let go of the crummy golf shot and appreciate the blessing you are experiencing by playing a round of golf with your father and grandfather.~ I asked him which would he do. Without hesitating he said he has put many crummy golf shots out of his mind and celebrated the moment he was blessed to experience.  He added that he never had regret about any decision he made since he always was able to see the blessing. Finally he added that he is so blessed that he could die tomorrow at peace with no regrets. Well, it is thirteen years later, my grandfather died at peace, peace with himself, his choices, and the life he led. As a result he was always able to appreciate life's blessings.

          This week’s Parsha is Re'eh. In the first few Parshiot of Sefer Devarim, Moshe offered B'nai Yisroel a history lesson. In Parsha Re'eh, Moshe Rabeinu shifts his focus away from the history lesson and concentrates on reminding this generation of their sacred task upon entry into the land. This sacred task is highlighted by observing Hashem’s Mitzvot. These Mitzvot are wide ranging: including dietary restrictions, offerings, Pilgrimage Festivals, False prophet, leading people astray and away from Mitzvot, how to deal with a city or a community that fails to observe these Mitzvot, as well as the sanctity of Eretz Canaan. Moshe also reminds them that following Mitzvot will result in blessings and close proximity to God. Failure to observe the Mitzvot will result in a curse and a growing distance from God .

          The genius of Moshe Rabeinu was the way he presented the plea to observe Mitzvot. He presented his case in the form of a choice. Re’eh, See Anochi Notein Lifneichem HaYom Bracha U’Klala – I present before you today a blessing and a curse. Implied in this statement is that Moshe is giving the people a choice. The only command is to Look, to see what choices exist and to be thoughtful, responsible and wise enough to make a choice. Clearly one choice will carry a vast amount of regret and one choice will carry a sense of accomplishment and a purposeful life. Also, Moshe seems to be demonstrating that the Mitzvot, contains, within in it, a degree of empirical data. Malbim,19th century Russian Rabbi who served as chief Rabbi in Bucharest, explains that the blessing are there for all to see because those who observe have a spiritual fulfillment and meaning within their lives.  From Moshe’s perspective, this choice is not really a choice because a rational person would want a life that had meaning and purpose. 

          My grandfather was not a particularly observant man. However he understood  that if life was purposeful, if life was meaningful, then that life is indeed blessed. For my grandfather,  choosing a life without meaning and without purpose  is not logical and it certainly would not create an environment that allows for the next generation to succeed.  Rather, the more meaning one could find within life, meant the more blessing one would find as well. Needless to say not only did my grandfather have a meaningful and purposeful life with no regrets, he intuitively understood that he would be able to find and appreciate the numerous blessing of life. VaYitzror Bitzror HaChayim et Nishmato, May his soul be bound up in the bond of life.

Rav Yitz

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