Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: We Are Descendents of the Avos, So We Get to Talk Directly With the Creator of the Universe

Here are two very bad ideas:
  1. If you are working in the mail room of a large, multinational corporation and you need a pad of paper and pencil, just march up to the CEOs office, tell his secretary that you have an appointment, walk in to his office, ask him to wait just a moment while you check your email and Facebook, then say hastily and with obvious impatience, "Wow.  You run this operation that you single-handedly created and architected really, really well.  I really need a pencil and pad of paper and you are ultimately in charge of all office supplies.  Thank you very much for always being there for all of us."  Back out while checking your email again.
  2. If you are ever, rachmana latzlan, standing in front of a judge for sentencing after having been convicted of several heinous crimes, just say, "Judge Bob, you are good friends with both my dad and grandfather, who have always been law-abiding citizens and helped you out in your re-election campaigns several times.  So what do you say we just forget my crimes as a favor to your old buddies?  wink/wink, nudge/nudge..."
As obviously bad as those ideas look, we seem to do just that three times a day when we stand in front of the Creator and ask for all our petty needs and desires, all the while knowing we don't deserve any of it.  Best of all, we start by referring to the amazing relationships that our illustrious ancestors built by dedicating their lives to nothing but the sanctification and glorification of HaShem's name.  We would be embarrassed and mortified if asked how our achievements or even efforts compare to them, yet we boldly charge in and announce we are their descendants.  What are we thinking?!?

Better question: what should we be thinking; what did Chazal have in mind for us to be thinking while uttering those words?

First -- a small segue to the science of genetics (it pains me, as a physicist, to admit that a discipline so closely aligned with biology could be called science, but it is what it is).  When I was taking biology (yikes... over 40 years ago...) it was well known that traits acquired during one's lifetime are not passed on to the children.  The German biologist August Weismann actually chopped off rats' tails for five generations and never found their offspring to be tailless.  (Why didn't he just use the evidence provided by hundreds of generations of Jews being circumcised as evidence?  Um... ).  However, recent (late last century) experiments have shown that life experiences can affect the way existing genes work (epigenetics) and those epigenetic changes can, in fact, be passed on to the offspring.

Now back to Chazal, who have always known that life experience can and do affect people in ways that can be transmitted to their offspring.  S'farim speak of the extreme experience of Noach and his family in the ark, for example, as having changed humanity forever after so that HaShem could promise, "Never again."  Our avos, also, were each tested to bring out their deepest abilities and change them and their offspring forever.  Avraham brought chesed into the world as an expression of divinity -- Elokei Avraham.  Yitzchak brought selfless courage and dedication to divine justice, even when that would cost him his life -- Elokei Yitzchak.  Yaakov blended both of those extremes to a life of life that glorified HaShem in everyday living -- Elokei Yaakov.

We are not mail room clerks asking for office supplies from the CEO.  We are the genetic descendants of Avraham Avinu, Yitchak Avinu, and Yaakov Avinu who carry with us the potential to express divinity in each of our actions.  We ask for wisdom, help with repentance, forgiveness, health, wealth, a country of our own and so forth for only one reason: to express those traits passed to us from our illustrious ancestors  and thereby bring yet another dimension of Kiddush HaShem into the world.

That ever so important first bracha of shmone esrei sets the stage for all that follows; we are here, in the presence of the King of the universe and Author of reality to ask for the tools and assistance we need to do what we were born to do -- live a life that bespeaks divinity in each and every breath.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Battling the Evil Inclination on all Fronts

Yom Kippur.  When I was growing up, there were three annual events that marked the Jewish calendar: eating matzos on Passover, lighting candles on Chanuka, and  fasting on Yom Kippur.  Major news organizations around the world report on the "surreal" and "eerie" quiet of the streets in even the most secular neighborhoods of Israel.  Yom Kippur.

As you know, I am observant of Jewish law.  Some have even called me "ultra orthodox" (not in a kind way).  Given that, I have a question.  How likely do you think that I would be tempted to eat on Yom Kippur, that most holy day of the year?  Let's make the scale zero to ten, where zero is "as likely as driving through McDonald's on Shabbos and ordering a Big Mac with extra cheese." and ten is "as likely as breathing regularly".  Take your time.  If you answered "zero"; thank you, but -- sadly and penitently -- no.  The answer is more like nine; I'd like to say lower, but i…

Thought for the Day: Using a Mitzvah Object for Non-Mitzvah Purposes

As I am -- Baruch HaShem -- getting older, I am more cognizant of the fact that I'd like to stay as healthy as possible right up the moment I leave this world.  Stuff hurting is not the problem (I am told there is an old Russian saying that once you are 40, if you wake up and nothing hurts -- you're dead), stuff not working, however, is a problem.  To that end, for several years now I commute to work by bicycle (weather permitting, 30 minutes on an elliptical machine when weather does not permit).  I recently took up some upper body weight training.  Not because I want to be governor of California, just simply to slow down loss of bone mass and extend my body's healthy span.  Simple hishtadlus.  I have an 18 month old grandson who is just the right weight for arm curls (yes... I am that weak), so I do about 10 reps when I greet him at night.  He laughs, I get my exercise; all good.  (Main problem is explaining to the older ones why zeidy can't give them the same "…

Thought for the Day: Coming Into This World for Torah, Avodah, and Acts of Loving Kindness

This TftD is so self-serving that I should be embarrassed.  But I am not... talking about grandchildren is always off budget.  I have, bli ayin hara, a beautiful new grandson; born at 6:11 PM CDT last Friday night.  The secular (aka -- by me, anyway -- slave) date is October 20, 2017 CE.  The Hebrew (aka Real) date is certainly Rosh Chodesh חשון/Cheshvan and certainly in the year 5778 since Creation.  The date, you ask... good question!

Sundown on Friday night was 6:01 PM CDT, which means he was born either at the end of the last day of תשרי or the beginning of the first day of Cheshvan; a period know as בין השמשות/twilight.  What's the big deal, you ask... I am so glad you asked.  We all deal quite handily with בין השמשות every week and every holiday; we're just stringent.  We start Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov before בין השמשות; that is, before sundown.  Likewise, we end Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov after בין השמשות; some 42, 50, 60, or 72 minutes after sundo…