The Serpent’s Tooth

Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.

-Neil Postman

How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child.

-William Shakespeare
King Lear Act 1, scene 4

People react to different situations differently, based on their diverse personalities and experiences.

The obligation to love other people and do acts of kindness requires that we look at the specific individual we are dealing with. Try to understand what exactly will give this person pleasure. Be aware of his personality traits, in order to know what his needs are. Decide in which areas and to what degree to honor this specific person.

To do this properly requires much thought.

-Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
“Please According to the Pleasure”
Daily Lift #553

Much of the time, it is impossible for us to know the outcome of an event as we commit it. The future remains shrouded in mystery until it becomes the present. At that point, it’s far too late to do anything to change what has happened. It’s like eating a cookie. Before you taste it, the cookie may look pleasing and delicious, but you can never really know until you eat it. Will it be sweet and satisfying or bitter, leaving you empty and ill? You can only find out by putting the cookie in your mouth, but once you do, it is too late.

Who we are, everything we do, the relationships we have with family and friends; they are all like that. You meet a girl, fall in love, get married, have children, time passes and what you imagined the “cookie” would taste like when you first looked at it, ultimately has no resemblance to your experience once you’ve bitten into it and swallowed.

Is life sweet for you? Is it bitter for someone else? Does it really matter and more importantly, is there anything you can do about it?

I don’t know. It’s one thing if the bitterness is just you. Then you are totally responsible for any outcome and totally in control of what happens. But we don’t live in isolation. We live in a world of people, their shifting moods, their hungers, their desires, their pain and poignancy.

As I’ve mentioned in a number of my blogs recently, the month of Elul on the Jewish religious calendar, is “a time of repentance in preparation for the High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.” According to Judaism 101:

Tradition teaches that the month of Elul is a particularly propitious time for repentance. This mood of repentance builds through the month of Elul to the period of Selichot, to Rosh Hashanah, and finally to Yom Kippur.

With an awareness of willful sin and the need to repent and make amends comes deep feelings of regret and remorse. A rebuke from any source, but particularly from one you are close to, can be especially painful. And yet the world, and particularly the world of religious people, is full of rebukes, judgments, and harsh words. Why wait for a judgment from God when human beings are more than willing to dole out their opinions on what makes them superior and what makes you a fool?

God. In the middle of a hostile humanity, strangers, friends, loved ones, it’s easy to almost forget God. I can’t forget God. And if we can set aside a month of preparing to encounter our Creator in the most imposing, awesome, and terrifying manner, how does God prepare for us?

People imagine that since G‑d is not physical, therefore He must be in heaven. But the heavens—and all things spiritual—are just as much creations as the earth. Less dissonant, more harmonious, more lucid—but finite realms nonetheless.

G‑d is not found in a place because it is big enough to contain Him or so magnificent that He belongs there. G‑d is found in whatever place He desires. And where does He desire most to be found? In the work of our hands, repairing His world.

The heavens are filled with spiritual light. In the work of our hands dwells G‑d Himself, the Source of All Light.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Is G-d in Heaven?”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson

What if god was one of us…

Lyrics by Eric Bazilian

God may not be one of us, but according to Rabbi Freeman, He can be found among us, even in the work of the hands of His saints. When we pray, we may not have to pray in the “direction” of Heaven. God could be standing at our very shoulder as we talk to Him, revealing our inner core, breaking down in shame or sorrow or anger or fear. What have I done? Could I have reacted any differently? Is there hope that we can be closer again? Is there hope at all? Where is God?

I have to force myself to remember that judgment is also an opportunity to dance with God on Yom Kippur. It never feels that way as I turn inward and stare into Nietzsche’s abyss. But what choice do I have?

“Women, slaves and children are obligated in prayer” – They are obligated in prayer because prayer is a request for Divine compassion, and everyone requires that. I may have thought that since it is written as regards prayer ‘evening and morning and afternoon’, possibly prayer has the status of a Mitzvah that is bound by time and thus they would be exempt. Therefore, the Mishnah comes to inform me that women are obligated.

-Berachos 20b

I’m not sure if the traditional Jewish sages would agree that a Gentile also is obligated to pray to God, but as a Christian, I understand that it is unavoidable. God is merciful and slow to anger, but that doesn’t mean He’s not a righteous Judge, too. According to Paul, no one is righteous (Romans 3:10) and the sooner we all get off our high horses and face that fact, the better off we’ll probably be. But it’s an ugly thing to face; all your mistakes, the horror of the people you’ve hurt, the willful sins and the pure ignorance of life that have resulted in the mess you and I find ourselves in as we delve into our personalities and personal experiences.

Will God forgive?

As a Christian, I must believe that through Jesus Christ, my sins are forgiven. With sincere confession and repentance before the King of Kings and the man of many sufferings, my burdens are lightened and my soul is free to soar the Heavens.

Oh really?

Would that it were so easy to shed the chains that I wrap around my spirit and to disregard the wound inflicted upon me by myself and everyone who says they are being “honest” with me for my own good.

The wounds are deep and the pool of blood is gathering at my feet. How sharper than a serpent’s tooth.

Some wounds may never heal and even if they do, the painful scars will always be there.

Or am I being the thankless child?

The road

The road is long and often, we travel in the dark.

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