Tag Archives: Shakespeare

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.

Difficult Ascent

AscentAs impossible as it sounds, as absurd as it may seem: The mandate of darkness is to become light; the mandate of a busy, messy world is to find oneness. We have proof: for the greater the darkness becomes, the greater the confusion of life, the deeper our souls reach inward to discover their own light.

How could it be that darkness leads us to find a deeper light? That confusion leads us to find a deeper truth?

Only because the very act of existence is set to know its own author. That is the cosmic drama, its theme and its plot: That otherness should come to know oneness.

And we are the players in that drama.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe, Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
“The Mandate of Darkness”

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.

-William Shakespeare
“As You Like It”
Act 2, scene 7

I’m still trying to drag my thoughts and feelings out of Tisha b’Av and the time of mourning. I don’t know why I can’t shake this off. After all, life moves on. Tisha b’Av comes every year and it goes every year. Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is going to arrive in less than two months and there will be ample opportunity to fast, pray, reflect on my short comings, make amends to those I have hurt, and attempt to pull myself up out of the mud and up to the heavens.

What am I waiting for?

Why do things sometimes seem like this?

If a man fathers a hundred children and lives many years, however many they be, but his soul is not satisfied with good things and he does not even have a proper burial, then I say, “Better the miscarriage than he, for it comes in futility and goes into obscurity; and its name is covered in obscurity. It never sees the sun and it never knows anything; it is better off than he. Even if the other man lives a thousand years twice and does not enjoy good things – do not all go to one place?” –Ecclesiastes 6:3-6 (NASB)

Rabbi Freeman says that the purpose of living in a deep darkness is to find a deeper light and the verses from Ecclesiastes say that a soul should be satisfied with the good things. If not, life itself is futile. Yet I continue to feel somewhat like this fellow:

How long, O LORD?
Will You hide Yourself forever?
Will Your wrath burn like fire?
Remember what my span of life is;
For what vanity You have created all the sons of men!
What man can live and not see death?
Can he deliver his soul from the power of Sheol? –Psalm 89:46-48 (NASB)

Christians cry out to Jesus to return and Jews bare their souls in anguish to God and ask how long until the Moshiach comes? As people of faith, we know that life is not lived in vain, but how long until the King reigns in full, O’ God, how long? How many people have been born, lived, and died waiting for you?

I quoted the following parable about two weeks ago in another of my blog posts:

A father answers the questions of his child and they are happy together, in joyful dialogue.

Then the child asks a question, and the father must think deeply—not just for the answer, but to reach to the essence of this answer so he may bring it to the world of his child. For a long while, the father is quiet.

And so, the child becomes anxious and begins to cry. “Father, where are you? Why do you no longer talk to me? Why have you deserted me for your own thoughts?”

And then the father begins to speak, but this time it is the deepest core of his mind that flows into the mind and heart of the child. Such a flow that with this the child, too, may become a father.

The child is us. The time of silence is now.

When the spirit of Man is dark, when the flow gates of Above seem all but sealed, prepare for liberation.

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
From the wisdom of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, of righteous memory
“A Time of Silence”

As difficult as it can be sometimes, a good portion of the nature of faith is to wait. I believe that while we are waiting, we aren’t supposed to be passive and inactive. We still have a life. The very first prayer an observant Jew says upon awakening is:

“I gratefully thank You, living and existing King
for restoring my soul to me with compassion.
Abundant is your faithfulness.”
Modeh Ani

Even if life doesn’t make any sense, and even if life seems cruel, unjust, and merciless, we are here by the will of God. If we believe He guides our steps, then even our existence isn’t a random event. Our purpose then, is not to surrender to futility, but to discover the reason we were created and then to live that reason out every day that we draw breath.

However, some days are better than others. We ask for mercy, God, when we seem only shallow characters reciting our lines in a badly written play. We know our lives must mean more than that. Struggling to ascend from the dark abyss, when will we find the deeper light?

The road

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