Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: Suffering/Discipline/Rebuke -- Limited Scope By Design

I have perfect joke to make the point I would like to address, but I am not sure it will be received well.  Feel free to ask me in person.  In the meantime, now put yourself in the frame of mind that you have heard a good joke (I know it good, because my Dad, a"h -- who was known for his excellent sense of humor -- told it to me) and are now excited to see how this connects to a lesson in ישעיהו/Isaiah.

ישעיהו tells the nation (28:23-29): Does the farmer plow and plant, but never reap?  Does he process wheat, barley, and cumin the same way?  Even cumin and black cumin are treated differently... This also comes from the LORD of hosts: Wonderful is His counsel, and great His wisdom.  (My free to the point of only barely recognizably related to the original translation.)

Um.... what?

ישעיהו expends much effort on rebuke.  Now he is explaining: Do you think this is for nothing?  That you hear the rebuke, that you accept suffering, that you even discipline yourselves... and then continue your lives like nothing happened?  Just at plowing and sowing are only a means to an end, so to is suffering and discipline.  You must use those means to effect positive change in your life!

Still... where is the "This also comes from the LORD of hosts: Wonderful is His counsel, and great His wisdom"?  Surely the message is true, but it doesn't seem to be so wondrous and deeply wise.  In the tech world we call this a PICNIC error: Problem In Chair, Not In Computer.  It is, of course, I who is not so wondrous nor deeply wise.  Baruch HaShem, I have been listening to excellent shiurim by Rabbi Aaron Chaim Lapidoth on ישעיהו.  He covers a chapter or less per shiur; slow enough to get some depth, fast enough to keep the historical context and follow the development.

R' Lapidoth notes that the farmer has no interest in "punishing" the land by plowing it, nor the grain by threshing and winnowing it.  If the land is not plowed, the seed can't grow.  If the chaff is not broken away from the grain, it can't be used for food.  If the seeds are not carefully separated by winnowing, then they will not achieve their full potential.  Each step is performed with expertise and wisdom; even the timing is important.  Threshing first and plowing later won't do the job.

But there is more.  The entire field is plowed; some lessons and trials apply to the nation as a whole.  Yet the process to thresh the wheat would pulverise the cumin.  The winnowing of the cumin would leave the barley unimproved.  The Navi is explaining that there are national events that shape the nation.  But there are also extremely personal events that shape each individual.

And the overall message?  All of this -- all suffering; all trials and tribulations -- have a limit.  They are for a purpose, and once that purpose has been achieved, they are gone.  As we read on public fast days; just as the rain does not return to heaven before it has brought out the grain, so to the Word of HaShem does not return until it has brought us to our perfection.  All tailored to each and every individual Jew.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

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: Thanking HaShem Each and Every Day for Solid Land Near Water

Each and every morning, a Jew is supposed to view himself as a new/renewed creation, ready for a new day of building his eternal self through Torah and mitzvos.  We begin the day with 16 brachos to praise/thank/acknowledge HaShem for giving us all the tools we need to succeed.  We have a body, soul, and intellect.  We have vision, mobility, and protection from the elements.  Among those brachos, we have one that perhaps seems a bit out of place: רוקע הארץ על המים/Who spreads out the land on/over the water.  After all, it's nice to have a dry place to walk, but does that compare to the gratitude I have for a working body and vision?  As it turns out, I should; as explained by the R' Rajchenbach, rosh kollel of Kollel Zichron Eliyahu (aka, Peterson Park Kollel).  Your best bet is to listen to the shiur; very distant second is to continue, which I hope will whet your appetite for the real thing.

First... since we have dry land, I don't have to slog to work through even a foot…

Thought for the Day: Hydroponically Grown Humans... I Feel Sick

I am quite openly not at all objective about abortion in particular and the treatment of human embryos and fetuses in general.  I am, after all, the survivor of a failed abortion attempt.  Not "thought about it, but couldn't go through with it"; not "made appointment, but then chickened out at the lost moment"; but, "tried a procedure, but was unsuccessful in attempt to abort".  Nonetheless, I try very hard to listen to the liberal arguments (which I also used to chant as part of the general liberal catechism), and am genuinely empathetic to the plight of women who find themselves in that difficult position.

What I heard on NPR this morning, however, has left me feeling physically ill.  You can read about it, if you like, but here's the bottom line:  Scientists in Cambridge have achieved a new record, they fertilized a human ova and then kept it alive in vitro (that is, in a test tube/petri dish in a laboratory) for 14 days.  The scientist involve…