Albert Einstein observed: “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” We should be grateful for the luxury of being bored. We should seek opportunities to have “nothing to do.” We should find the time to un-plug from our machines and our phones and…just be.
Angel for Shabbat
As we celebrate the Shavuoth festival commemorating the Revelation at Mount Sinai, it would be appropriate for us to recall the symbolic virtues of Mount Sinai—humility, awareness of limitations, openness to new and unique revelation.Although Shavuoth will be different this year due to the covid 19 pandemic, we pray that the festival will imbue us with hope for the future, with blessings of good health and happiness.
Can one person really make a difference? The surprising anwer is: Yes. If that person understands his/her mission and has the courage to strive to achieve it, the answer is: Yes. If that person recognizes that spiritual greatness can be achieved through idealism, kindness, compassion and service to others, the answer is: Yes. If that person seeks righteousness and walks humbly with God, the answer is: Yes.
In 1730, Congregation Shearith Israel of New York City dedicated its first synagogue building—the first synagogue building erected in North America—on the seventh day of Passover. This event would have attracted little notice from the great Jewish communities of Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. Yet, Shearith Israel laid the foundation for the great American Jewish community.
This coming Shabbat is known as Shabbat haGadol—the great Shabbat recalling the Israelites’ preparation for their redemption from Egypt. Just as the ancient Israelites were redeemed from their cruel oppressors, so we pray that today’s Israelites will be redeemed from their oppressors. We pray that all humans will strive honestly and sincerely to remove the “strange gods” of hatred, hypocrisy and malice from within themselves.
Let us call to mind the image of Elijah the prophet and his ongoing significance to us. Elijah reminds us how vital it is for religion to stay in touch with reality; for parents to stay in touch with their children; for children to turn their hearts back to the traditions of the older generations.
Mark Zuckerberg, head of Facebook, once said: “I will only hire someone to work directly for me if I would work for that person.” I assume he was referring to top echelon employees who would have major executive responsibilities. If these people shared his values and work ethic, then he would be ready to work for them. If they lacked those qualities, he would not hire them.
“A constant fire shall be kept burning on the altar; it shall not go out” (Vayikra 6:6). This week, our family is observing the anniversary of the passing of my father-in-law, Rabbi Paul E. Schuchalter, of blessed memory. He had served for many years as rabbi of Congregation Sons of Israel in Suffern, New York. He also served as Jewish Chaplain of the Good Samaritan Hospital. Upon his retirement, he remained active in his rabbinic work, teaching and counseling.
Real religious teachers not only teach us the dos and don’ts of Judaism; they teach us how to approach our holy texts and observances with a sense of awe. “Muzak” types of religious teachers give the external impression of teaching religion but they lack content and authenticity.They do not convey a grand religious vision but are satisfied to present anecdotes and platitudes that don’t inspire and don’t allow us to grow or to think for ourselves.
During this covid 19 crisis, we see the whole and the broken tablets of humanity. Both are part of the human reality. But the Torah reminds us to think ahead, to look to better times. It calls on us to pick up the broken pieces and regain our sense of balance and commitment to the future.