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They have mouths, but cannot speak; they have eyes, but cannot see; they have ears, but cannot hear; nor is there breath in their mouths. (Psalm 135: 16 -17)
As one who is a movie-a-holic (a lover of films) I tend to quote lines from films but far less than I quote the Bible I assure you! One of my favorites is White Men Can’t Jump, both a positive study in racial cultural dispositions and more importantly an exploration of gender differences. Those differences are summed up in the line, “Just listen to the woman!” Focus less on the male question, “So, what do you want me to do?” In another exploration of racial cultural differences came this quote about Jimi Hendrix, “You listen to Jimi, but you don’t hear Jimi!” This was one character’s inability to really get what his music is all about. As I write this message, I am reviewing one of the most consequential passages in the Torah. It is one of which we will repeat in the Yom Kippur morning service.
“You can therefore see that I am placing before you both a blessing and a curse. The blessing will come if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God which I am prescribing youtoday.” (Deuteronomy 11:26-27)
It occurs to me that everyone has a case of myopia, a narrow vision of what is the correct view on this or that matter. We speak more and listen less because we see less and view more. In these challenging times, the tribal inability to at least understand other points of view is contagious. That is our nation’s political reality. On a personal level, the High Holy days are an invitation to open our eyes and see the world in a different and new way!
I have a wonderful book on my shelf called “A Whack on the Side of the Head!” One of its charming stories is about the Manhattan project physicist Richard Feynman. Finding himself in a rut at Cornell he was having lunch in the cafeteria. He noticed students were tossing and spinning plates in the air. He mused: “What would be the physics of a plates’s wobble?” After figuring out the mathematics, he brought it to the attention of a fellow academic who said, “Interesting, but what good is it to know
that?” Feynman took his question to heart and then applied the mathematics to the motions of electrons, for which he ultimately earned a Nobel peace prize.
How often we all wobble through life, gyrate back and forth, failing to reconsider our view of the world. The High Holidays are an invitation to do something new, see and hear something new. On my desk is a gift someone gave me long ago. I look at it from time to time. It reads, “God is not finished with me yet!”
May all of you have a wonderful Rosh Hashanah and a New Year of discovery!
Rabbi Yossi J. Liebowitz D.D.