“Belief in God is a coping tool to get through life … just as water is a coping tool to get through thirst.”
Is it coincidence that a week after the Israeli Government banned all of the thousands of traditional bonfires, lit yearly countrywide to celebrate the mystical, ecstatic holiday of Lag b’Omer, that this same government had to send firefighters to extinguish the thousands of fires that had erupted spontaneously throughout the country during an unheard-of heat wave?
Is it coincidence that the main goal of the climate change activists, to radically cut carbon emissions especially from air traffic and automobiles was realized beyond their wildest dreams via Covid 19?
Is it coincidence that the leftist Israeli Supreme Court allowed Netanyahu’s ‘patchwork’ government to form after Netanyahu, a right-winger, abandoning his own party and long-time allies, committed to appoint a left-winger as Justice Minister, in charge of approving and arranging future Supreme Court Justice picks?
Traditional Jewish sources use an interesting term to describe the relationship between husband and wife: ‘Ishto k’Gufo’ – ‘a man’s wife is like himself’.
In essence, this refers to the closeness of the marriage bond and its ramifications in Jewish practice and law. However, the literal translation of the term ‘k’Gufo’: ‘like his body’, can also allegorically provide insights into the nature of the relationship and how to succeed within it.
Torah and Kabbala characterize the body and the soul as two opposites, each with its own values and viewpoints. Because of this, there’s a constant tension or ‘tug of war’ between them—and thus within us.
The path of spiritual perfection largely consists of embracing this struggle, with the goal of making peace between one’s body and soul. This consists of a ‘win-win’ arrangement of providing the body with its legitimate needs, while at the same time coopting its energies toward the soul’s higher, eternal aspirations.
One who has struggled with, and ultimately brought harmony between body and soul can be considered a spiritual warrior.
But that is only phase one.
A man and woman, husband and wife, are also in a sense ‘two opposites’. Besides the obvious physical, and documented neurological differences, men and women also differ spiritually.
Women think, feel and react in ways that often differ from men. In that respect, one’s wife is indeed ‘like his body’, mirroring the dynamic of the native tension between them, the inevitable struggle, and the goal of ‘win-win’ of peace, love and harmony.
In one’s relationship with his body, if he treats it well, both physically and spiritually, diligently providing for its needs within Torah-permitted parameters, it will ‘return the favor’ granting him vigor and health and aiding him in his spiritual pursuits. If he mistreats his body, either though overindulgence or neglect, it will ‘rebel’ against him, causing suffering.
Likewise, the Torah describes a man’s wife as his ‘Ezer K’negdo’ – a ‘confronting supporter’ if you will. Our Sages teach that when a man is spiritually meritorious (which to a large extent consists of treating his wife with caring and respect), his wife be supportive of him, and when he’s not, she will be confrontational.
Thus, marriage is, in essence, an opportunity to ascend the ladder of spiritual growth. Not only has one harmonized the dichotomy within his own being, but has reached the higher level of harmonizing the dichotomy between himself and his life companion.
This too, is a springboard to the ultimate achievement of universal human harmony, brought about when we all realize we are one greater ‘body’, and treat each other as such.
THE 12 STEPS OF CA (CARONAVIRUS-PANIC) ANONYMOUS
1) I AM POWERLESS OVER THE CORONAVIRUS – MY LIFE (AND THE WORLD) FEELS UNMANAGEABLE.
2) ONLY A POWER GREATER THAN MYSELF (OR ANY HUMAN BEING) CAN RESTORE THE INSANITY OF TODAY’S WORLD, AND MY LIFE, TO SANITY.
3) I’VE DECIDED TO PUT MY LIFE AND FATE INTO THE HANDS OF THAT ULTIMATE HIGHER POWER.
4) MADE A LIST OF THE TRAITS, ATTITUDES AND BEHAVIORS WITHIN ME THAT BLOCK ME OFF FROM CONNECTING TO THAT POWER.
5) ADMITTED TO MYSELF, TO THAT POWER AND (PREFERABLY TO ANOTHER HUMAN BEINGS) WHAT THOSE BLOCKAGES WITHIN ME ARE.
6) AM READY TO HAVE THE HIGHER POWER REMOVE THOSE BLOCKAGES.
7) HUMBLY ASKED THE HIGHER POWER TO DO SO.
8) MADE A LIST OF ALL THE PEOPLE I HAVE HARMED (WHICH IS A MAJOR SOURCE OF BLOCKAGE) AND BECAME WILLING TO MAKE AMENDS TO THEM ALL.
9) MADE AMENDS TO THESE PEOPLE (EXCEPT WHERE IT WOULD HARM THEM OR OTHERS).
10) REVIEW DAILY WHERE THE NEGATIVE TRAITS, ATTITUDES AND BEHAVIORS (SEE STEP 4) CROP UP, AND PROMPTLY CORRECT THEM.
11) SOUGHT THROUGH PRAYER AND MEDITATION CONSCIOUS CONTACT WITH THE ULTIMATE HIGHER POWER, ASKING TO UNDERSTAND MY TRUE DESTINY AND FOR THE POWER TO LIVE IT.
12) HAVING HAD A SPIRITUAL AWAKENING AS A RESULT OF ALL OF THE ABOVE, I SEEK TO CARRY THIS MESSAGE TO OTHERS AND LIVE THESE PRINCIPLES EVERY DAY.
I recently exchanged emails with a friend in America. After they’d described some of the life disruptions they’d undergone due to the coronavirus eruption, I’d commented how intense it sounded to me. Their brief rejoinder was “Not as intense as in Israel”.
It took me a moment to get what they meant, then I realized (at least at that point) the government-ordered closings, restrictions, etc., were indeed far wider and deeper here in Israel than in the US. Yet, despite that, the relatively tamer news of the American upheaval struck me much more deeply.
Then I figured out why.
A line I often use to describe my life here, and life here in general, is that the way things go here, is either ‘l’maaleh min ha-teva’ (above nature, i.e. supernaturally fortuitous) or ‘l’matah min ha-teva’ (below nature – unnaturally ill-fated), but rarely in between. Rarely do things work out strictly according to ‘teva’ (nature), in a straightforward, expected, cause and effect manner.
The proverbial Oleh’s (new immigrant’s) tale of entering a government office armed with every possible piece of paper needed to get something done (you even called them to confirm it—twice) only to be told after an hour’s wait that the one and only clerk that can help you has one day off a month…today, is all too resonant with experience.
But so too is the subsequent scene of the same sullen supplicant trying to find his or her way out of the building, asking a nondescript janitorial looking man where’s the exit, only to have him (who you later discover is the department head’s uncle…or the department head himself!) whisk you through the Red Sea of red tape so fast that your mission is complete before you realize it’s begun.
Two things you learn here very quickly are that nothing’s impossible and nothing is a sure thing. Eventually, you get used to it and stop expecting things to go ‘as planned’.
That’s why I don’t get so bent out of shape to discover the government office I need to go to is suddenly closed due to the coronavirus. It could have just as easily been closed due to one of the ubiquitous ‘general strikes’, or due to the unfathomable system of staggered daily hours, or due to, as they say, ‘kacha’…nothing at all.
You want to tell me that because of the virus, the supplies at stores are erratic, they’ve run out of certain basic items?!
What else is new?
Anyone following the news here will remember that recently, for months, there was virtually no butter to be found in any supermarket or grocery here. Butter. Why? I still haven’t figured that out. Nor have I tried.
Nor do I even bat an eyelash anymore when I go into a store and am told that the featured item in their weekly sale flyer never arrived, or if I’m greeted by a locked door and a sign that says that, just for today, the hours have changed.
They closed the schools because of the virus? Kids are unexpectedly home?
Well, maybe if I were enough of a math genius to have figured out the arcane interposition of the Gregorian and Hebrew calendars that sets the schedule of school vacations here, I might get flustered by the current unexpected one.
It became a running joke years ago between me and my daughters when they would not-infrequently come bombing into the house, hours before they were due home from school, chirping the news: “Mishachreru mukdam!” (we were released early today!)
“Why?” I’d ask.
[I think this also might be part of the reason that almost no one here (outside of the professional political class and its pundits) seems to be really fazed by the fact that there hasn’t been an official government here since three elections ago…Was there ever one in the first place?]
But in America!
The land where all sale items are in stock and available – and if not, you’re offered twice as good a deal?
The place where things go as planned; where if they shoot a rocket toward the moon, on the moon it lands?
There? Disruptions? Borders, Broadway—Ballgames!? That’s big news!
People think I’m nuts when I tell them that the best thing about living in Israel is the gashmiut (material life, commerce, etc.). After reading the above description, you might think I’m nuts too.
But I’m not.
Because when things almost always go the way they’re planned, when cause reliably leads to effect, you can start to feel that you’re in control. As long as you’re smart enough to push the right buttons, you’ve got it made.
Then, when a little virus that you can’t even see, dispels that notion—you flip.
But here, where the ‘up’ button often leads down, and the ‘down’ button, up, you soon come to realize that there’s a Higher Power that’s running the show. That, like it or not, you are not the one who makes things happen or not happen.
At first that feeling can be terrifying, unnerving and vexing.
Then it gets to be okay. Resignation.
Then you start to remember that this Higher Power has given you everything that you need every day of your life. Has made trillions of things ‘go right’ in your cells and nerves and organs every one of those days to keep you alive. That things aren’t so chaotic after all.
So, now the issue is coronavirus; then it was Iran, or Iraq, or Y2K (anyone remember that one), or whatever. So, you do what you have to. No social gatherings? No problem. I’m an introvert, anyway – it’s my dream. Wash your hands more frequently? Why not? (an OCD’s dream, perhaps?).
Whatever the new rules are, or will be, it’s still life; the same game it’s always been. No guarantees that it will come out the way I want it, but 100% guarantee that it will come out the way God wants it, which is really what I also want deep down…
Do I always manage to keep this perspective? No, not even close.
But every time I’m reminded by the small stuff that life isn’t in my hands, but in bigger and better hands than mine, I’m one degree calmer when the bigger stuff goes down.
That’s one of the invaluable lessons of life in Israel.
America; welcome to the club.
SEE NESANEL’S FUN AND PRACTICAL COOKING VIDEOS! https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfrCNJG9OCexG5pgCs2kSVQ
I used to trust my body,
It always did as told to do.
Whether fight or flight, I’d be alright,
Whatever might ensue.
Then when I hit forty,
Give or take some years,
Here and there my body,
Refused to shift its gears.
So, instead I started trusting,
In my trusty brain,
My smarts would surely compensate,
for the body’s aches and pains.
That worked well for a while,
Until the fifth decade was met.
Then I’d start to notice,
How easy I’d forget.
How things could disappear,
From before my very eyes.
No, my brain was no longer foolproof,
It would sometimes even lie.
So now I just trust my soul,
Which is really part of You,
That You blew inside of me,
And is the only ‘me’ that’s true.
Sure, I still drive this old-car body,
and this beat-up laptop brain,
But I trust in something higher,
As I let You take the rein.
Rena was an extrovert. Ruvi, an introvert. While they were dating, it workedout well. She was happy to talk and he was happy to listen, and on the rare occasions that she’d run out of steam, he’d jump in with a deep insight that would reassure her that beneath the mum exterior, there was actually someone – someone, very interesting – home.
Shana rishonah was fine, too. Living out of town with little family nearby, their table-for-two Shabbos repartee pretty closely replicated dating dynamic.
Then they started having Shabbos guests.
Their guests were often other young couples orfamilies,generally, based around her friends, (for as youmay know, extroverts tend to make and keep a lot more of those than introverts do).
“You sat there like a stone.” soon became Rena’s default post-game analysis of Ruvi’s hosting performance.
“Some stones are pretty stately,” he’d counter with a grin, as if it would placate her. “Besides,” he’d claim (in the case of an ‘outie’ extroverted guest husband) the guy wouldn’t let me get a word in edgewise.” Or (in the case of another ‘innie’ like himself), “Whenever I tried to start a conversation, all he did was nod, or start mumbling a d’var Torah so dry that my seltzer evaporated.” What he didn’t tell her was thatpart of the reason they were so quiet was that his ear – and the other guy’s, too – were furtively focused on the flowing and fascinating banter at the ladies’ end of the table. (In Ruvi’s circles it wasn’t SC – spiritually correct – to listen in on the veiber redn-women’s talk, and certainly not to join in.)
On rare occasions the guest thingwould actually work out for Ruvi. That was when the other husband was what he’d come to call an ‘extra-extrovert’. These were guys who buzzed with so much extroversionthat it was actually contagious. They were oblivious to, or at least unfazed by Ruvi’s austere mien, and would cut right through and verbally tickle him enough times to get him to open up. They also had the gift, rare, Ruvi found, amongst extroverts, to actually pay attention to what the other fellow – even an often slow-tongued introvert, like Ruvi – was saying.
The problem was that after these kind of meals, Ruvi would merrily walk the guests to the door and then turn to see his usually chipper spouse scowling, spacey-eyed, or both.
“I see you had a good time,” she’d snort.
“Well…yeah. He was actually fun to talk to. How ‘bout you?”
“I’m ex-hau-sted,” she’d sigh. I had to work so hard to get even a word out of her. She was all twisted up inside herself like a pretzel.All she did was sit there like…”
“A stone?” he winked.
“I was going to say a ‘lump of clay’; I save themasonrymoniker for you.”
It happened enough times for Ruvi to notice that these extra-extroguys seemed to be inevitably married to hyper introverted women. And in general, the more outgoing the wife was, the more tightlipped the hubby and vice versa.
He took it as just a quirk of fate until one Pesach night years later, when the penny dropped. Or, should we say, the matzah cracked.
Breaking the matzah for the Afikomen, was an art, and for Ruvi, a bit of a stress. You didn’t want it to crack perfectly in half, because then you wouldn’t know which was the bigger half to use as Afikomen. But you also didn’t want it to break so unevenly that, besides looking funny, you wouldn’t have enough left over to make a respectable korech sandwich. The idea was to get the two pieces to be fairly even, albeit one halfjutting in where the other jutted out.
After the Seder as they were clearing the table, Rena asked Ruvi, “At least tonight, why couldn’t you get more involved and talk to the guests?”
“Because you got that piece of the matzah,” he smiled.
“Huh?” Rena wasn’t sure if it was her husband’s four cups of low-alcohol wine talking, or he was he about to unleash one of his offbeat insights.
“You and I, every married couple, are one soul deep down, right?” he said.
She nodded at the concept she vaguely recalled from her kallah classes.
“So, that one soul – think of it like a whole round matzah – is split and sent down into the world, half to you and half to me.”
“But like when you break a matzah in two, one half jags in where the other juts out, so, split-in-half souls are like that too. One half of the couple gets more of some things and the other half gets more of others.So with us, it happened to be that you got the part of the matzah with most of the social skills.”
“Most?” Rena rolled her eyes, but also got the point. “Soyou’re saying that maybe that’s the reason I’m so frugal and careful with our money and you’re so, uh…”
“Not. That’s right! All these things are where one of us got most of the matzah and the other didn’t.”
“But wait a minute. It’s not like we’re that way in everything,” Rena protested. There’s lots of areas where we’re on same page.”
Despite the wine, Ruvi wisely didn’t choose this as an opportune moment to question his wife’s definition of the word ‘lots’, so he just and nodded and said. “Those are the parts of the matzah that got split evenly.” And anyway, he winked, “Don’t worry. You got most of the good parts.”
There may be married couples who jive just perfectly. Same likes, dislikes, taste in music, food, and interior design. They’re eye to eye politically, imagine the same dream vacation, have the same sense of humor and are always in the exact same mood.
(There may also be giant purple puppy dogs prancing on Pluto.)
But manycouples aren’t like that.She’s outgoing, he’s introverted. He’s a spendthrift, she’s a tightwad. He loves the outdoors, she’s allergic the color green. Couples who are so different might come to ask themselves: how did I ever end up with someone so not like me? Ruvi had. So had Rena. Until they discovered the matzah theory of marriage and watched it play out pretty accurately in themselves and in a lot of the couples they knew.True, some couples seem more socially compatible than others; that means their ‘matzahs’ – their souls got a relatively more even split.
But for those couples whose marriage is not like that (and from what I’ve seen, there are very manyout there), there’s no need to fret nor regret. Rather, get to know and revel in your one-of-a-kind Divine Afikomen split. Get to know who got what ‘part of the matzah’. Laugh about it. And most of all…
Learn to compliment your complement.
A TZADIK (saint) is happy when he gives in to others,
A RASHA (sociopath) is happy when others give in to him,
A BEINONI (average guy) is never happy…
He always feels either taken advantage of or selfish.