Saturday, February 18, 2006

Boil, don't simmer

VaYishma Yisro. 1) Chazal and the meforshei chumash debate what drew Yisro to klal Yisrael, but whatever the answer, it is clear from the text that just having a son-in-law who was Moshe Rabeinu was not sufficient impetus. We sometimes mistakingly think that gadol X's son or relative must be a tzadik and gaon just by virtue of being raised as a karov to an adam gadol, yet we see from Yisro that such is not the case. 2) A second point in that regard is that Chazal seem to be searching for a trigger that drove Yisro's behavior. It is not enough to say that he came to a general gradual awareness and then decided to come to klal Yisrael - there had to have been a makkeh b'patish that drove the nail home. Many people who are "traditional" will kind of hover around attending shule once in awhile, learning a bit, for some it is being a little bit shomeir shabbos and/or kashrus, etc. It's like having a pot on the stove that just sits and simmers - the makeh b'patish is missing. Eliyahu by the episode of Har HaKarmel challenges the Ba'al worshipers and demands of Bnei Yisrael, "Ad masai atem poshchim al shnei ha'sifim - im la'ba'al lechu acharav, im l'Hashem lechu acharav" - How long are you going to straddle the fence? If you want to worship Ba'al, follow him, if you want to worship Hashem, then follow him! Sometimes it takes an event or challenege to motivate a person to make a choice: stop the simmer - either shut the flame, or get things boiling. Someone in shule once remarked how wonderful the US kehillah was (they had spent time in Israel) because in the same shule you can have people with "black hats", knit kippot, etc., and everyone just gets along. I disagreed with him. The reason they get along (this may be generalizing too much, but for this particular shule it was very true) is because everyone has a pareve attitude - if I hold X and you hold Y, so what, lets not get so worked up about it otherwise we both might miss the cholent. There is no milchamta shel Torah! That is not to say we should not love each and every Jew; what it means is that we should love each other despite our differences, not because we ignore differences and are not really committed to anything. We should have a passion for our committement to yahadus - a boiling fervor, not a slow simmer!

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