Man most often views life through the eyes of habit. As the Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard writes, "Boredom is the root of all evil." Most of our transgressions stem not from an overt desire to stumble, but rather from an internal lack of appreciation for a particular action.
Man most often views life through the eyes of habit. As the Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard writes, "Boredom is the root of all evil." Most of our transgressions stem not from an overt desire to stumble, but rather from an internal lack of appreciation for a particular action. Rabbi Chaim Shmulewitz describes this spiritual monotony as "tardemat hahergel". This inability within man to shift his perspective can have tragic consequences, as is evident in the midrash in this week's Torah portion.
The Talmud in the tractate of Sotah describes the story of Jacob's burial in detail: Upon arriving at the Cave of Machpelah, Esau accosted Jacob's children and claimed the right to the grave. A debate ensued and the brothers sent Naphtali, who was known for his speed, to run to Egypt for the appropriate documents. Amidst the raucous, Dan's deaf son Chushim exclaimed, "We are going to wait until Naphtali returns while my grandfather is lying in a state of disgrace!" Immediately, Chushim took a sword and killed Esau. Rabbi Shmulewitz wonders why the other descendants of Jacob, his own sons, weren't as troubled by the events as was Chushim. Rabbi Shmulewitz explains that the sons of Jacob were so mesmerized by the verbal debate with Esau that they ignored the disgrace of Jacob's unburied body in the interim. The sons of Jacob were plagued with the spiritual boredom, "tardemat hahergel," which desensitized them to the most urgent issue at hand -- their father's burial. Only Chushim, whose inability to hear prevented him from participating in the debate, achieved a clarity of mind and a fresh perspective which fueled his response.
The ability to shift our perspective cures much of our spiritual malaise. The yoke of mitzvot can be viewed either as a burden, a bag of stones to be lugged through life, or perhaps as a bag of diamonds, which when carried to its destination brings much reward. Zig Ziglar, a well-known motivationalist, comments that an alarm clock is, in essence, an opportunity clock alerting us to the many potentially constructive hours of the day. Likewise, praying to Hashem is not a daily chore, but a chance to communicate with the Divine.
In the Torah portion of Nitzavim, the Torah writes that repentance is not far away, but is within each person's grasp. The Hebrew word for repentance is teshuva. The root of that word is "shuv" -- to turn. For most of us, the crucial element in repenting is shifting our perspective.
A Chassidic rabbi once asked his students to tell him the difference between East and West, in essence, the difference between right and wrong. The rabbi answered by facing his body to the East and then turning 180 degrees to the West, enforcing the point that one must shift directions, essentially turning onto the right path. "Bring us back to you Hashem, and we shall return, renew our days as of old" (Lamentations 5:21).
Benyamin Cohen, a native Atlantan, is currently a sophomore at Yeshiva University in New York.
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