Wednesday, March 20, 2013

I Can Do Anything Better Than You

At a Shabbos afternoon shiur, I was ready to strangle the speaker.

"It's so pathetic," she sneered. "Hashem does all those nissim, and they are serving avoda zara. C'mon!" 

Oh, I get it. If you were there, you would have done better. 

The rebuttal was done already.
Rav Ashi reached the [story of the] three [wicked] kings [Yerovam, Achav and Menashe, of whom the mishna says they have no place in the World to Come]. He said, tomorrow we will begin with our colleagues. Menashe came and appeared to him in a dream. He said, you [dare to] call us your and your father's colleagues? Say where you need to begin [eating from] ha-motzi! He replied, I don't know. He [Menashe] said, you haven't even learned where to take the motzi from, and you call us your colleagues? He replied, teach me, and I will repeat it in your name in the yeshiva. He said, from the place where the cooking creates a crust. He said, since you were so wise, why did you worship avoda zara? He said, if you had been there you would have lifted up your hem and run after me.(Sanhedrin 102b)
This educated woman, giving a shiur, never heard this one? Or she just considers our dinky generation to be superior than Rav Ashi, never mind Menashe HaMelech?

One of the downsides of poring over our texts in minute detail is that we assume that the characters of each tale were privy to the same hindsight that we have, a concept I heard from Rabbi David Fohrman. He exhorts his audience to visualize being in middle of the story, not knowing the ending. Aaaaaah, now it all makes sense. 

So many ask

"How could he have—?" 

"How could she have—?" 

"Obviously, if I had been there, I would have—" 

Please stop. 

We can barely comprehend animal sacrifice in our own religion, never mind idolatry. The world used to be programmed much differently. Use your imagination.

There was once a time when the obvious display of faith was to present to Hashem (or to one's deity of choice) the most select of the livestock available. That was how one showed their devotion. Prayer? What does prayer give to the Almighty? Slaughtering my prettiest goat, the pearl of my herd, now that makes sense!  
One thing is for sure: Being snugly comfortable in the supermarket age sucks the discipline right out of a person. To insist that one would have been superior to the temptations of a distant era when we can't go ten minutes without air conditioning is kinda lame. What happened during Sandy? Never mind the weeks without power; our will broke after a day! (At least, mine did. But I tried to stay strong on the outside.)

Learning from history means that we are all too capable of making the same mistakes, not that we are inviolate. It repeats itself too often that it is obvious we have still not learned the messages well enough. 


FrumGeek said...

That is messed up! You also have to realize where and how they we're raised! That is just awful! How can they let such a person speak?!

Anonymous said...

She also sounds super preachy, which is something I don't have patience for anymore. I used to be more tolerant!

Princess Lea said...

FG: I couldn't believe it while I was hearing it. I don't know what her background was, but I expected better from a middle-aged lady.

Anon: My tolerance has certainly sky-dived in recent years, now that I have the option of avoiding annoying people rather than being stuck in a classroom of them. I concur.

Lost and Found said...

This story is very strange. Not questioning the truth of it, but I mean, "C'mon!" There are half a dozen times in the Torah alone that there are such occurrences and she still hasn't caught on? Is she actually educated?

Did she answer the "C'mon" in her Dvar Torah or was it a side point to the speech?

Regardless, there must be a sense of humility and restraint when talking about anything in the Torah, and from the sound of it, this woman didn't have it. How unfortunate.

Princess Lea said...

Nope, her "C'mon" remained a scornful admonition. I was so furious I was squirming in my chair until she shut up, which took a long time.

Lost and Found said...

Unless I've heard a speaker before and know I like them, I try and sit somewhere closer to a door so I can leave if I'm being put to sleep or, as in your case, get upset at what's being said. I learned to do this after having a "discussion" with a speaker in middle of his speech because what he was saying was so... wrong and nonsensical. I couldn't leave the room because I was sitting directly in front of him and I couldn't help myself from saying something. It wasn't pretty.