Thursday, August 6, 2009

Give Us a King

And Samuel cried when the people asked for a king. Samuel understood a deep truth and the knowledge saddened him. The people wanted a man who would be perfect to rule them because they feared their own imperfections. And Samuel was sad because he understood that all people are people and that a king is no more perfect than a shepard.

The last few evenings I have been rereading the book of Genesis. And when I read some of the commentary on Genesis by Rashi I remebered what many of my Rabbis taught about Rashi when I was a kid. They said things like "what he wrote was divinely inspired," and "just like the bible, Rashi used not one more nor one less word the was required, what he wrote was perfectly complete," and other similar refrains regarding the man's holiness and perfectness.

Then I thought of Rabbis and leaders through the ages: From Moses to King David to R'Akiva to the Chofetz Chaim and to the Lubavitcher Rebbe for examples.

And I found myself wondering why we need to turn these very human beings into idols. Why were they turned into angels of almost perfection? Why do we reject their humanity and foibles and mistakes? Their humaness does not detract from their brilliance and leadership and luck and charisma.

The blog posted an article regarding American youths studying in Israel after high school and I will quote a passage here,

"Rabbi David Sapirman, a mechanech in Toronto with forty years experience, writes in a Torah U'mesorah publication, "Why and How to Teach Emunah," of many top notch yeshiva products who "when it comes to emunah . . . neither believe nor disbelieve. He is simply moving along the conveyor belt, which takes him from cradle to kollel. He goes through the motions, and may even be very happy doing so. But his lack of conviction permeates all that he does. These youngsters are as much at risk as the disenchanted, although they may not be aware of it yet. . . . Woe to him, if ever faced with a serious nisayon, like the temptation for something immoral or dishonest. Only real conviction can enable one to withstand temptation, not a robotic life style."

And it occurs to me that the author touches on a presciant point. However, the author limits his point to the teenage and young adult community, that they have no deep connection and conviction to what they live. But perhaps the points are connected. Perhaps people need to have great and perfect leaders because they have no conviction and connection to their lifestyle.

Imagine this: A person goes to temple and prays. And as we know from published scientific studies, prayer is akin to meditation in the creation of delta waves in the brain. So this person, while he prays and shortly afterwards, feels all warm and fuzzy and deeply connected to a spirit outside of themself. But then the feeling goes away. They go to work or home. Maybe they do something rotton or unhealthy. Or maybe they just go about their day. Either way, as the song says, "the feelings gone and I just can't get it back." So the person feels bad. The person feels like a failure that they live this lifestyle and it hasn't delivered them from pain and suffering. Nor are they rewarded for living the lifestyle. Sure there are times, when a person prays or studies, but most of the time there is no payoff, or not enough of a payoff and they feel like they are less, they feel like they just are not good enough, righteous enough, holy enough.

And if they aren't holy enough that is their failure so long as there is a perfect man they can point to and say, "but its worth it because look at him, that man is holy, that man is perfect, everything that man says comes from god and is true."

But those people are not perfect, at least not in the way a funadmentalist believes. These people all had their humanity firmly intact. Whenever someone talks about a holy man it always helps me to remind myself that that person was once a teenager furiously masterbating in secret. That always puts life back into perspective.

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