Monday, September 19, 2011

My First Flash Mob

I attended my very first flash mob on yesterday. If you don't know what a flash mob is, let me explain.  Disparate people are invited to meet to meet at a selected designation to do something in unison.  Perhaps you've seen the cell phone commercial when a man arriving at the flash mob point and begin dancing only to learn that his telephone carrier is slow in delivering a text message indicating that the flash mob has been rescheduled.

I attended the world's first shofar flash mob yesterday, but almost didn't make it.  Congregants showed me articles about the impending shofar flash mob at Lincoln Center and Shira Dicker sent me a facebook invitation.  Shofar blowers were converging in cities all around the world to blow shofar together.  I thought that would be a neat experience so I decided to participate in the world's first shofar flash mob.  My son needed the car; consequently, I decided that I would walk to the LIRR train station nearest my house.  I misjudged the time it would take me to get there so I was still walking down the hill in sight of the train station when my train pulled up and then left before I had time to even reach the platform.  The next train was in an hour.  I hoped the flash mob will start on Jewish time and me being a bit late wouldn't matter.  Sadly, I was 10 minutes late and the flash mob had already dispersed.

I saw a father with his young daughter.  He was holding a real shofar and she had one of those plastic ones.  They too had missed the Lincoln Center opportunity.  He told me that there is a second chance at the Manhattan JCC. 45 minutes later.  Happily, I could walk there in time and blow my shofar with that flash mob.

My whole adventure reminded me of a Hasidic story.  A rebbe once taught that everything can impart an important life lesson.  A hasid asked his master what does a train teach us?  The rebbe answered that every second counts for if you miss the train even by a few minutes you have missed your opportunity.

I wonder how many of us are missing the train preparing for the High Holidays so that we attain our spiritual goals of living a meaningful life of integrity for the coming year.  Unless we do the soul accounting now, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur will fly by in a twinkling of an eye and we shall be the same people we’ve always been.  Every second counts!

I remain hopeful though.  I missed my train on Sunday, but I did catch the next one and attended an alternate shofar flash mob. The lesson I took away from my near miss is: Judaism believes in second chances.  No matter what you have done up to now, today is a new opportunity, a second chance, to transform your life and become the person you truly want to be. 

Dr. Louis Newman concludes his book Repentance: The Meaning & Practice of Teshuva on this hopeful note:

The only question left unanswered is the question that can only be answered in the depths of each person’s heart: how shall I finally find the will to undertake the arduous work of teshuvah and then, because I will inevitably fail, to begin it yet again?  The path of repentance will be, by turns, difficult and easy, straightforward and circuitous.  But, like all spiritual paths, the most difficult part may be the decision to embark upon the journey in the first place.  There is much holding us back – fear, to be sure, but also shame, pride, and hopelessness.  In this respect, we may take some comfort from one final text.  It is the biblical text that is read in synagogues each year on the Shabbat before Rosh Hashanah.  In one of Moses’s final address to the Israelites, he admonishes them one last time that God will bless them if they observe the law and curse them if they depart from it.  He reminds them of the great gift of the Promised Land that they are about to enter and possess.  He encourages them to love God and to “return to the Lord your God with all your heart and soul” (Deuteronomy 30:10), a phrase that echoes the theme of the year.

And then, anticipating the reticence of the Israelites to believe that all this is possible and to commit themselves to living by the terms of the covenant, Moses says:

Surely this Instruction which I enjoin upon you this day is not too baffling for you, nor is it beyond reach.  It is not in the heavens, that you should say, “Who among us can go up to the heavens and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?”  Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who among us can cross to the other side of the sea and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?”  No, the thing is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to observe it.

All aboard!

Friday, September 2, 2011

One article two spiritual lessons

This article about Steve Jobs has also taught me another spiritual lesson today.  “Don’t jump to conclusions or in Hebrew
,ufz ;fc ostv ,t is. Bono, the lead singer of the rock band U2 and the co-founder of the advocacy group One and Product Red.  He wrote a letter to the editor responding to the same article.

“As a founder of Product Red, I’d like to point out that Apple’s contribution to our fight against AIDS in Africa has been invaluable.  Through the sale of Red products, Apple has been Red’s largest contributor to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria-giving tens of millions of dollars that have transformed the lives of more than 2 million Africans through H.I.V. testing, treatment, and counseling.  This is serious and significant.  And Apple’s involvement has encouraged other companies to step up.

“Steve Jobs said when we first approached him about RED, ‘There is nothing better than the chance to save lives.’”

One article two important spiritual lessons as we prepare for the New Year.  Make Tzedakah the cornerstone of your life and give your fellow human beings the benefit of the doubt this coming year 5772.  If we do so, we'll become the type of person we truly desire to be.