The Three Weeks
Learning to Love What Is!
By Rabbi Label Lam
Moshiach is born on Tisha B’Av (Talmud)
Any generation in which the Temple was not built in (with) its days is
considered as if it was destroyed in (with) its days. (Talmud)
There is no light like the light that emanates from darkness. (Zohar)
The 9th of Av is one of those days in which we allow ourselves to wallow
in the misery of a brutal history and indulge in thoughts of the extended
exile and our many sufferings. Admittedly, it seems ultra heavy and it is
an ominous reality to meet face to face. What benefit do we have from this
exercise? Why follow the black and hurtful lines of history when there are
so many brighter and rosier points to visit?
I hope the situation never comes your way. It happened to me once and
although I was woefully unprepared things happily turned out alright. What
do you say to someone who is seriously contemplating ending it all?
Here’s a scenario I heard about from a very clever individual: Imagine
that you are sitting in a reception area in a fancy office on the 77th
floor of the Empire State Building. Suddenly the elevator opens and a
gentleman with a disheveled appearance walks over to the window which he
throws wide open. He backs up like he’s readying himself to take a running
leap and before he does so you are able to halt him temporarily.
You ask him, “Why are you about to do such a crazy and foolish thing?” He
shows you a piece of paper with a list of 49 items that he begins to
recite aloud; 1) Lost my job 2) Wife left me 3) Broke 4) Hungry 5) Dog
died 6) Chronic incurable diseases 7) Homeless etc. That’s just the
beginning of the list and any single item would be enough to drive the
average man over the top. He’s got the worst situation you ever heard of
or imagined. You’re ready to agree with his morbid conclusion. What can
you say to him?
Of course, you acknowledge his pain but you might challenge him with the
following question: What if on top of all the 49 things there was also a
50th and that is that you were also completely blind? Today you tapped
your way over, pressed the 77th floor button, before tapping your way to
the window and as you are about to leap, lo and behold the lights go on
and you are granted vision. You can see! Would you choose to jump at that
moment? For sure the fellow will say, “NO!” “Why not?”, you would have to
challenge him. He would probably answer, “I’d go around and check it all
out!” So then you tell him, “You aren’t blind! You can see! Use those
eyes to find goodness!”
The ravages of long exile tend to rob us of our sense of purpose and
direction. We become easily distracted by the small and silly. Eventually
we are living so small, we are at constant risk of losing our very
identities. We don’t see. The suicide is not dramatic but incremental and
accumulative, as moment after moment is deadened, by the activity of
killing of time. How true what Warren Buffet had said, “Habits are too
light to be felt until they are too heavy to break.”
Being in exile is like living at the airport. I was once stuck at JFK for
24 hours due to a snow storm. There was seemingly no way out.
Every “courtesy desk” employee was as frustrated, lost and discourteous as
we were. One disoriented oriental gent on his cell phone was heard
venting, “I don’t know where I am! I don’t know who I am! I don’t know why
I am!” I realized I should just make good use of the many Holy Books in
my bag. The Chofetz Chaim teaches that we are currently rebuilding the
Temple if not “in our days” but at least “with our days.” By indulging our
imaginations for one day in things oy vay we can build it all back by
learning to love what is!
Text Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Label Lam and Torah.org.