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July 15, 1988 - Image 35

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-07-15

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

TORAH PORTION 1

Ruth Schwartz, ASID, NHFL

RUTH KOVAN gratefully thanks the
many relatives and dear friends who
have so generously sent her cards,
tributes and gifts during her illness.
Ruth regrets she cannot answer each
of you personally.
THANK YOU!

Interior Designer
MAtiriNA,

Advancing The Words
And Insights Of Torah

RABBI IRWIN GRONER

W

hat may we expect
out of life? Can we
ever hope to achieve
all our heart's desires? And if
we don't, are we defeated?
What are the reasonable ex-
pectations for satisfaction in
human existence?
Our appetites are insatiable
and our wants are boundless
while the resources to satisfy
those desires are limited. But
many of us are not satisfied
with less than perfection.
Much distress is caused by
not knowing when or how to
compromise with the compell-
ing nature of our wants. If we
cannot reach the top, the
fruits of other achievements
seem barren. We sometimes
forget that life, like politics, is
the art of the possible.

Matot Masee:
Numbers
30:20-36:13,
Jeremiah 2:4-28;
3:4; 4:1-2

We set up high and
unreasonable standards for
ourselves and for others to
folow, and then the inevitable,
unpleasant consequences en-
sue. Consider the parents who
relentlessly, mercilessly drive
their child to succeed beyond
his capacity; or a spouse who
is rigid and demanding and
cannot accommodate the
shortcomings of his partner;
or the business executive who
must rule in a dictatorial
manner and leaves no room
for human error.
All these people (and more)
cannot eat the "half-a-loaf ' of
happiness. They tolerate no
deviation from the highest
demands of excellence. It's all
or nothing, rule or ruin. We
and everyone else must be
perfect, or the things we do
and those whith whom we're
involved lose their value. Who
can calculate the misery of
broken friendships, ruined
marriages and family discord
engendered by the compul-
sion to set expectations
beyond the capacity to attain
them.
The Jewish tradition con-
firms this in a rabbinic com-
mentary on the selection from
the prophet Jeremiah of this
Sabbath: "Shimu d'var Ha-
Shem" — "Hear ye the word
of the Lord, 0 House of

Irwin Groner is rabbi at
Congregation Shaarey Zedek.

Jacob." The rabbis were
struck by the emphasis on the
word "shimu," (hear), with
which the prophet begins his
charge to the people.
The Midrash sets forth
these words from the
Almighty: "When you, the
Hebrew People, stood at Mt.
Sinai, you promised: `Na'ase
V'nishmah — All that the
Lord has said, we shall do and
we shall hearken!' You have
failed in the first 'we shall do,
because you made a golden
calf, you worshipped other
idols, and you followed the
ways of the heathen nations.
But at the very least, you
should observe the second
commitment, 'we shall
hearken.' If you will listen, I
will regard you as having
fulfilled your promise. Fur-
thermore, even if you didn't
listen to the words of the
Torah, at least listen to the
words of the prophet."
God Himself would settle
for less than perfection from
His people. The children of
Israel were sent into exile not
because they didn't fulfill the
great, lofty and noble ideals of
the Torah, but because they
had become so unrighteous,
morally callous and depraved
that they couldn't even lisen.
If they would have listened, _
they would not have been
punished.
Examples of this theme are
many, but I focus on the con-
dition of Jewish existence to-
day. All denominations in
Jewish life are undergoing
transformation, endeavoring
to respond to the cir-
cumstances of our time. All
are engaged in some form of
accommodation and response
to preserve and renew that
which is dearly cherished.
Yet, we criticize and scold
each other for trying to work
out meaningful patterns for
ourselves. Some say, "either
observe everything, or
nothing has been achieved?
A family recently met with
me. The boy attends religious
school and his parents want
him to continue. He challeng-
ed them, declaring, "You don't
observe Shabbat as it is
taught in the synagogue, and
you don't observe other
religious laws. Therefore, you
should not expect me to con-
tinue my Jewish education."
While I do not dismiss the
boy's criticism, his argument
rests on a fallacy.
Life doesn't generally per-
mit us the choice of all or-
nothing. This either/or at-
titude doesn't function in the
arena of business, professions,

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THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

35

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