web analytics
April 19, 2014 / 19 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Spa 1.2 Combining Modern Living in Traditional Jerusalem

A unique and prestigious residential project in now being built in Mekor Haim Street in Jerusalem.



Fractured Man, Whole Man

Front-Page-091313

Share Button

A fisherman living near the banks of a river was making his way home one evening, exhausted from his long labors. As he trudged along the path, he dreamed of what his life might be like if he were suddenly rich. Just then, his foot brushed against a leather pouch. He picked it up only to discover it filled with small stones. Falling back into his reverie, he absent-mindedly began throwing the pebbles into the water.

“When I am rich,” he told himself, “I will live in a large house. I will have one servant to serve me food and another to serve me wine…”

He dreamed of a carriage lined with gold. Of fine clothes. Of herds of goats and sheep. On and on, a glorious image per stone until there was only a single stone remaining.

As the fisherman held the final stone in his hand, the last of the sun’s rays caught it and burst into a brilliant rainbow. His eyes widened as he realized that he held in his hand a valuable gem – and that he had been tossing away real wealth while dreaming of illusory riches that would never be his.

He fell to his knees in astonishment and despair.

A philosopher observing the fisherman would have recognized in his behavior and subsequent agony nothing more than an example of the human condition.

Each of us is made up of the real and the illusory, of the obtainable and the fanciful. More fundamentally, at our core there exists duality. Perhaps even contradiction. Whether we are at war with ourselves or maintain an uneasy compromise, our essential duality is a constant source of anxiety and disease in our lives.

How can it be otherwise? The duality is woven into the very nature of our being. We are corporal, like every other creature that walks the face of the earth, and spiritual, uniquely imbued with the dignity and divinity of our Creator. At each step of our lives we teeter and totter, seeking balance between these dual, often competing, facets of our nature.

At our best, we seek to imbue the natural with the spiritual, lending grace to the most basic of tasks, and to lend humanity to the divine, bringing holiness to our everyday lives. At our worst, we give in wholly to our most base instincts, seemingly powerless to find any balance with our better natures.

* * * * *

No moment in our lives is more rife with the tension of our duality than our confession on Yom Kippur. The process of repentance and its accompanying recitation of the confession – Vidui – shines a bright light on this essential contradiction of our nature.

On the one hand, Vidui is a singular manifestation of courage, creativity and spiritual and psychological strength. On the other, it is a powerful statement of self-defeat, a clear-eyed recognition of the pathetic nature of human frailty, inferiority and unworthiness.

The ability to repent, then, is not only at the core of our nature, it is the singular endeavor by which we can yoke the two aspects of our nature in an enduring balance.

Sincere and authentic repentance cannot exist but for the strength, ability and insight to accuse oneself not only of doing wrong but of possessing a nature that makes such failure inevitable. Vidui is an acknowledgement that our intentions and deeds are unworthy and tarnished, a shameful cry to Heaven that “I have sinned.”

Repentance is a merciless and boundless expression of self-accusation. However, the irony – and beauty – of this admission of necessary failure is wholly dependent on man’s unique spiritual capacity.

Without our inherent holiness, self-accusation would not only be impossible, it would be a futile and frustrating expression. It is only when we are cognizant of freedom that we can recognize guilt, fragility and temptation and then – only then – contemplate genuine repentance.

Even if it were possible, the Vidui experience would be meaningless without both aspects of our duality. Praise and shame in equal parts. Regret and recognition. All useless. All futile. Unless – unless we simultaneously have faith in our sacredness, in our creativity and goodness – the aspects of our being that allow us to repent, to be renewed and reinvigorated.

Share Button

About the Author: Rabbi Dr. Eliyahu Safran is an educator, author and lecturer. He can be reached at e1948s@aol.com.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

No Responses to “Fractured Man, Whole Man”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
FBI Wanted poster for Osama bin Laden
Pakistan Library Renamed to Honor bin Laden
Latest Indepth Stories
matza

If itis a mitzva to eat matza all Pesach, then why is there no berakha attached to it?

Masked Palestinian Authority Arabs hurl blocks at Israel Police during and after "worship" at Temple Mount mosque. (archive photo)

When we are united with unconditional love, no stone will be raised against us by our enemies.

Haredim riot after draft-dodger is arrested.

The reporter simply reports the news, but it is greater to be inspired to better the situation.

Bitton-041814

The Big Bang theory marked the scientific community’s first sense of the universe having a beginning.

Freeing convicted murderers returns the status of Jewish existence to something less than sanctified.

“The bigger they are the harder they fall” describes what God had in mind for Olmert.

We, soldiers of the IDF, who stand guard over the people and the land, fulfill the hopes of the millions of Jewish people across the generations who sought freedom.

How much is the human mind able to grasp of the Divine?

Jews have brought the baggage of the galut (exile) mentality to the modern state of Israel.

The Haggadah is an instruction manual on how to survive as strangers in strange lands.

It’s finally happened. New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan reported on her blog that “many readers…wrote to object to an [April 2] article…on the breakdown in peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians,” claiming “[they] found the headline misleading and the article itself lacking in context.” Ms. Sullivan provided one such letter, quoted the […]

Nor did it seem relevant that according to widely circulated media reports, Rev. Sharpton was caught on an FBI surveillance video discussing possible drug sales with an FBI agent.

Jewish soldiers in the Polish forces often encountered anti-Semitic prejudice.

When the state was established, gedolim went to Ben-Gurion and asked him not to draft women and, later, yeshiva bachrim.

More Articles from Rabbi Eliyahu Safran
Front-Page-041114

Too often, as parents and teachers, we think it means talking at our children, delivering to them good and worthy content that they should simply hear and assimilate into their minds and hearts.

Rabbi Safran (center) with his Yerushalmi hat, circa 1982.

I was singing, dancing, jumping and, sweating. Just joy and happiness. One child on my shoulders after another. What happiness! And then, the little boy on my shoulders – he could not have been older than six – began to cry.

The only way for children to find a way back to the path is through parental love and understanding.

Nothing defines a community so much as its recognition of common leadership and willingness to respect its authority.

The road back is paved with love, understanding, hugs, and honest communication.

An educator must not be satisfied until that soul he refuses to handle, love, nourish and develop is registered in another school, one more caring and embracing.

No matter where we look, our lives are touched by miracles.

If a teacher thinks his task is merely “to teach” – that it is no great thing to teach, that “anybody can do that” — he must immediately be set straight.

    Latest Poll

    Now that Kerry's "Peace Talks" are apparently over, are you...?







    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/front-page/fractured-man-whole-man/2013/09/11/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: