A Little Better
It's 8:17, just got back from the 7:20 minyan. I met a nice man on the way to shul and again on the way back. He asked me if I'm retired. I told him I'm 50. This goes along with the woman at the movie theater who asked if I wanted the senior ticket, or the guy at the playhouse who asked if (stated that) the friend I was waiting for was an older gentleman. It goes with the several occasions that I've been asked if (told that) a student I was speaking to outside of school was my son. It goes along with many things that I keep tucked into my beard, the white one that makes me look older than I am.
I remember when I couldn't imagine my hair turning grey or white. Just two years ago life felt a little lighter because my hair was a lot darker. Recently this topic came up in a social interaction and I mentioned that I'd thought of dying my hair. She said, "Isn't it not allowed." I told her that I asked a rabbi of mine and got a psak from a major posek. "So why don't you dye it?" The answer I didn't say was, "Because I don't it's awkward to deal with people who ask aloud, or to themselves, "Isn't that assur?"
In July I wrote but didn't post a long piece on this topic - age, hair, hair color, perceptions, physical vs. spiritual, and and and. And I'm going to try to let it go. For now.
In shul an idea re-dawned on me that I have shared here before:
נְקַדֵּשׁ אֶת שִׁמְךָ בָּעוֹלָם, כְּשֵׁם שֶׁמַּקְדִּישִׁים אוֹתוֹ בִּשְׁמֵי
מָרוֹם, כַּכָּתוּב עַל יַד נְבִיאֶךָ: וְקָרָא זֶה אֶל זֶה וְאָמַר
"May we sanctify Your name in the world
just like they sanctify it in the high heavens."
In heaven no-one is sanctifying G-ds name in a phony, for show, kind of way - why would they? In heaven they have a focused, unconfused goal of serving G-d. We pray that our service on earth be done with sincerity and lack of pretension just as the angels do it in heaven.
Balance the balance
The balance of our life's work
Balanced by G-d's hand
This poem relates to the fact that the story of Amalek in this week's parsha (Ki Tieitzei) follows the law requiring honest weights and measures. The idea may be that we become vulnerable to the effects of the Amaleks in our lives and in our selves when we are imbalanced. Balance is key.
As shul ended two men got into chavrusa position (Gemorahs open, each seated facing each other from two sides of a narrow table). In the second before they went into their learning one of them (a 76 year old, give or take a year) asked the other (a twenty or thirty something), "How are you feeling today - a little better?" The younger man replied, "Yes, a little better." And then they started their study session. I was struck by this (I get struck regularly).
The fellow asked who was basically told that by the other fellow that he had to be feeling a little better had little choice but to agree. When we say something like "How are you feeling - a little better? With no pause between the ostensible question and our assumed answer we make it difficult for another person to feel comfortable sharing the truth if it doesn't match our presumption. Many of us don't like to disagree with something someone just told us if it's not an urgent matter. It can be awkward to correct someone, one may come off sounding like a grouch ("actually, you're mistaken, I'm feeling much worse") in the face o someone who on the surface was asking a caring question. If it really is to be a caring question it should be open ended - "How are you feeling?" And there should be eye contact and affect and a pause that follows filled with eagerness to know the answer. That's what I think. I was taken (struck) by how this fellow, who is a prominent social worker and rabbi presented this seemingly innocuous communication to his learning partner.