Thought Of The Week
Wisdom and Destruction
I am sure our hearts are one in our prayers for the safety of Israeli soldiers in their mission to silence Hamas rocket attacks on Israeli civilians. I know you are saddened, as am I, by the suffering of Palestinian civilians, who have been dragged into this conflict by a terror network that ably builds tunnels for assaults on Israeli civilians, but does not care to build bomb shelters for its civilians when that network starts a war. The Israeli civilian public lives in danger and anxiety every day asking whether the next rocket will strike them or theirs if they don't make it to shelter on time, or whether Hamas will succeed in infiltrating into Israel and commit a massacre.
As you think and read about this conflict, remember one thing: that every Hamas missile is meant to kill civilians. Israeli missiles are meant for combatants who hide among civilians.
If there is any need to discuss the situation in Israel during morning or Torah study, I will devote time to that discussion.
During the past several weeks, I have devoted our morning study to the idea of wisdom, especially as expressed in biblical wisdom literature. We are faced every day with questions concerning family, work, community, and as citizens: what shall I do? What is the right thing to do? Those of us on a deeper search also ask: Who am I? What shall I become? What should the focus of my thoughts and feelings be? All of those questions, from what to do, what is right, what to be, and to what to become, require wisdom.
The book of Proverbs is the main text of biblical wisdom literature. After having gone through some very beautiful verses in the past few weeks that describe wisdom, last week I went into the depths of some verses regarding particular aspects of wisdom. I focused last week, for example, on Proverbs 11:12: "He who shows scorn (in Hebrew, "bahz") to his fellow lacks a heart; a person of discernment will be silent." This accords well with the "four c's" that I often teach: no criticism, no complaining, no condemning (including showing scorn), reduce conflict. There is so much that other people in our lives do that annoy us (just as we annoy them). The discerning one is silent about those annoyances, and if it is worth bringing up, one will bring it up later in a wise way. And perhaps what annoys you is your problem, and being silent will make you face your inner rupture, instead of focusing on that of others. In this one little line from Proverbs, there is much wisdom to be gleaned. This Shabbat, I would like to take a few more verses from Proverbs and plumb them for their depths.
For Torah study, instead of speaking about the parsha, Matot, I want to review the period of the "three weeks" into which we are entering. The three weeks connect two solemn fast days, that of the 17th of Tammuz and the 9th of Av. Historically, we commemorate the destruction of the Temple. Mythically, we study two great biblical stories, the Molten Calf and the Spies. From a spiritual/psychological perspective, we study patterns within us that drive us to address life's challenges from a reactive instead of a wise place.
I look forward to your joining the study with us!
Rabbi Mordecai Finley