The 15th of Av arrived this week. It is considered “the day of love” on the Jewish calendar as it comes at the height of the wedding season. Here are two thoughts – one from an Israeli rabbi and the other from a French writer – appropriate for this day:
Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe once received a letter from a worried young mother and wife, who laid out her troubles before him. In one word, his prescription for her distress could be summed up as follows: humor. She should be blessed with a humorous perspective. We tend to lose our cool, he explained, to start fights, to magnify small things with our spouse and family, and often not relate to them in an appropriate way. A smile, a good word, looking at what happens at home in an amused way – this is the best medicine, instead of overreacting and taking every little thing seriously. It is precisely those who see the big picture and enjoy an eternal perspective, he claimed, who are best equipped to utilize humor.
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is the author of “The Little Prince,” among other works. When he was once asked to define love, he answered: “Love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.” That is, love is not only about meeting our romantic needs, but also about having a vision and a purpose, a direction and a path that we walk along together.”
May we all find success in living with more humor and in walking together toward a common destination.
Step Back And Take A Breath
Several days ago, a famous person passed away. Within half an hour, someone expressed to me on Instagram that it was a shame I had not yet written something about him.
We are accustomed to hearing about unfolding events as soon as they occur and to reacting to them immediately. Commentary is expected to come instantaneously so it seems that whoever is quickest to respond has the greatest understanding of what just happened. If you didn’t tweet your two cents right away, you missed the boat.
My brother-in-law Yisrael Meir opened my eyes to a different perspective, as articulated in the book of Devarim that we are now reading in the Torah. There we are instructed how to properly assess reality. Only after forty years of leadership does Moshe Rabbeinu offer his commentary on the events that occurred during the people’s desert journey. What once was a frightening challenge now seems to be of marginal significance, while what appeared to be of little importance now looms large with eternal meaning. With the passage of time, we better understand our past mistakes and successes. The events themselves may even appear differently – viewed as ephemeral details of a lasting story.
So take a breath, whether it comes to cabin fever with spouse and children during our long summer vacation or to challenges of our daily routine. So just take a breath. Even if we can’t think forty years ahead, how about four months? The book of Deuteronomy is telling us to step back and try to see how each event in our own lives will be written about in days to come.
A Timely Reminder
The Israel Antiquities Authority has published this picture of a rare coin that was recently discovered in Ein Gedi. The half-shekel coin is made of silver and is nearly 2,000 years old, dating to the rebellion against Rome in 66-70 AD. On one side the words “Holy Jerusalem” are inscribed in ancient Hebrew letters together with three pomegranates. On the other side of the coin, there is a goblet with the letter “Aleph,” signifying the first year of the rebellion, together with the “Half-Shekel” inscription. An aspect of the rebellion of the Jews was expressed in such coins, autonomously minted, since the Hebrew letters that appear were used at the time of the First Temple period several hundred years earlier, unlike the Greek letters that were in use during the Second Temple era.
A coin of this kind was typically brought to the Holy Temple, so what was it doing in Ein Gedi? Researchers surmise that it fell from the pocket of one of the rebels who was escaping to Ein Gedi from Jerusalem. Only now has that coin – a legacy of our progenitors in the Land of Israel – been picked up.
The significance of this find is not only archaeological. It is a precious greeting to all of us from the past, a reminder of Jerusalem as it once was, the Holy Temple, ancient Hebrew, rebellion and independence, the destruction of 2,000 years ago and the rebuilding of Jerusalem in our own time.
Translation by Yehoshua Siskin.