By Rabbi Label Lam
Fnd Hashem said to Moshe and Aharon in the land of Egypt saying: "This month
is for you the head of months, the first of the months of the year it will
be for you." (Shemos 12:1-2)
It’s a peculiar phenomenon, the incredible fascination that we all have with
news. Why it's almost an obsession. It's hard to live from minute to minute,
certainly day to day without knowing “What's happening?”, “What's new?” Did
not King Solomon tell us In Koheles," There is nothing new under the sun!"?!
Does that not mean that ultimately there is no news?! Everything is a
recycling of the old news! No matter what the headline of day, it’s likely
more of the same “jealousy, appetite, and glory seeking that escorts man out
of the world” (Avos). So what's the big attraction, almost addiction we have
with news? Is it merely a mass insanity to be surrendered to or severed from?
The Sefas Emes points out brilliantly that although there is nothing new
under the sun, the source of our passionate yearning for news is really
rooted in a soulful longing for the source of news which is beyond the sun.
We repeat twice daily in our morning prayers," He renews with His kindliness
constantly the act of creation!" As the Zohar says," He looks into the Torah
and creates the world!" The world is in the process continually being
constituted and affirmed by the Almighty's loving gaze. Although the
screensaver on your computer looks static and frozen, it is always being
energized and made to conform to the program that constantly commands the
creation of that still-life picture. So it is with the whole world believe
it or not!
Again the Sefas Emes informs us of the fact that the exile began in Egypt
with the establishment of the new King. That was the beginning of our
capitulation to the control of surrounding political and social forces. It
wasn't long until our lives were not our own and our time was under the
dominion of Pharaoh. Therefore it is no mistake that the first giant step
forward out of Egypt starts by reclaiming the clock, the calendar, by taking
back time to be our own. This is the beginning of Torah according to Rashi,
because the Torah is not so much interested in history or cosmology or the
age of the universe but rather what do we optimally do moment by moment
It was during the first Gulf War that a close friend and I shared an
observation that changed our lives. We noticed how totally engulfed everyone
was in what was happening, blow-by-blow in the unfolding drama of war. We
figured that if so many are so thirsty for news, for something new that
there must be a great opportunity of equal proportion flowing into the world
from the spiritual realm.
My friend, a successful businessman, and I dreamt of a modest proposal, a
simple business plan that was met universally with rejection. The idea was,
“What if we were to buy up yesterday's newspapers and sell them today or
next week at a cheaper price!? Could that not be a profitable enterprise?”
The critics barked back that the day after the news of the newspaper is old
it is only good for wrapping fish, cushioning Pesach dishes, or jumpstarting
a barbecue. You have to hire someone to haul it away the next day. Our
response to this test question was, "If it isn't worth anything the day
after, then of what real value in terms of time, money, and attention is it
I am not a cartoonist but I conjured up mentally a picture. Keeping in mind
that “life is a self-portrait” and I devoted a good part of my misspent
youth as a baseball pitcher, I imagined Yankee Stadium filled to the brim
with 65,000 anxious fans. The pitcher is poised staring in towards the
catcher for a signal indicating what his next delivery will be.
However instead of studying that sign his eyes are slightly vaulted to where
a giant screen sits above and behind the catcher and there is a live feed, a
real time video screen showing the pitcher watching 65,000 people, watching
the pitcher watching 65,000 people, watching him ad infinitum, like tilted
mirrors in the bathroom that allow you to see the back of your head forever.
And the caption reads, "Spectator Sport!"
The whole world is watching us, watch the whole world, watching us, watch
the whole world, and they grow impatient. With this first mitzvah, this
slight wink of the moon, we are invited-mandated- even compelled to play a
central role on the grandest of stages and not to be mere observers in a
DvarTorah, Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Label Lam and Torah.org.