October 11, 2015

Dvar Torah – Beresheet – Tzvi and Ne’eman’s Bar Mitzvah

Posted in Commentary, Family, Torah tagged , , , , , , , at 11:05 pm by degyes

Ma’aseh Beresheet

בראשית was your Grandfather Yitz’s favorite parsha. He taught that בריאת העולם, the Creation of the World, was the greatest act of Love that God ever performed … and continues to perform. What a wonderful thing that you both got to read Grandpa Yitz’s favorite parsha, and that you did it so beautifully.

We also know that the Creation of the World wasn’t only an act of Love, it was also a tremendous act of Will … of רצון, and that the Creation of Humans, which happened shortly after, was no less an act of Love and Will.

However, as Ne’eman pointed out in his D’var Torah, it didn’t take long before the Humans that God created weren’t exactly acting in sync with God’s Will, as their behavior both inside and outside Gan Eden would demonstrate.

Eating from the עץ הדעת was just the beginning. By the end of the parsha, sadly, Man has become consumed by evil … and God is preparing to destroy the world. And as Tzvi just discussed in his D’var Torah, society had collapsed and the moral structure of the world had fallen apart.

What can we learn from this story? The world’s very first story?

We have to wait a few months … or maybe a few thousand years … or perhaps a few billion years, to transition from בריאת העולם to מתן תורה, when we receive a set of commandments that we can apply toward Guiding Human Life on Earth.

But we’re still left with the question: How do we bring our own Will into alignment with God’s?

We have lots of great teachings — and teachers. Yet we live in a time when it’s not always entirely clear to us what we ought to be doing with ourselves, our time, our attention, and even our thoughts.

When do we go out and seek answers from our Sources? And when do we focus our attention inward and seek answers from within?

When do we look for guidance in the law, and when do we look into our own hearts?

Tzvi and Ne’eman, I think you’re both developing a toolbox to help you wrestle with these questions. I’d even say you’ve both been working on gathering those tools for a while already.

We hear a lot these days about the importance of making good choices. The news is filled every day with stories about people who made poor choices.

Yet how do we know whether the choices we’re making are the right ones?

In trying to answer this question, I wrote down a few ideas that I thought of today to help guide you.

  • Choose good mentors.
  • Choose friends and companions not for their popularity and status, but for their honesty, integrity, and decency; because they can help you become better people.
  • Strive to do what’s right, not necessarily what’s popular.
  • Be kind to Planet Earth … and to its people.
  • Remember that people are never perfect. None of us will ever be. Be patient with people.
  • And then, have patience, and even more patience.
  • Remember that the easy answers are often not the right ones. Take time to really think!
  • Most importantly … Keep adding to this list!

I love you boys. I’m happy for your accomplishments. And I’ll admit … I’m proud of you.

Thank you Ilana for making the impossible a reality.

Thank you Mom for your wisdom and love.

Thank you dear friends for your kind support, and for making our simcha so special.

May we all merit experiencing מעשה בראשית … constant creation and renewal … in every moment of our lives.

Mazal tov!

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July 1, 2013

Our Very Best Selves

Posted in Family tagged , , , at 12:42 am by degyes

Some Thoughts on Mom & Dad’s 50th Anniversary.

One of the Biblical narratives that’s always been most significant for Dad is the Genesis story and its account of the creation of the universe. The Biblical “Big Bang” is an awesomely powerful story. But no sooner is the world created, and we’re treated to a detailed accounting of what really characterizes our day-to-day existence; that is, human relationships in the most complex and intimate sense.

Just a bit further on in Genesis is the story of how a man is expected to leave the home of his parents and “cleave to a wife,” as Adam joined with Eve. Today I would ask that we pause for a moment, and open ourselves just a bit to hearing that voice that speaks to the highest parts within us; that we consider the Biblical metaphor of cleaving, perhaps in an entirely traditional framework, but perhaps in less traditional contexts, or maybe in ways that weren’t imagined at the time it was first said.

The metaphor teaches us about the specialness, the holiness, and the need for coupling. What’s the ‘take home’ message here? That real cleaving means sticking with one another and staying together, truly joining, giving each other the love and support that’s needed to really build a life with one another.

We’re witnesses to this today, as we gather in celebration of Mom and Dad’s wonderful marriage. What are we learning? That success in marriage — in any committed relationship — means growing together despite most often being very different people.

50 Years of Phyllis and Yitz (2)

It’s not only a pleasure for me, but a privilege to be in the presence of so many couples who’ve been together for so long, over the decades, through good times and bad, or should I say, through easier times and less easy times. It gives me a very warm feeling that among those present today are several couples whose weddings I even attended so long ago.

While we’re celebrating one really big anniversary, I think it’s fair to say we’re also celebrating marriage and being a great extended family and circle of friends.

When I told various people that I was traveling to attend my parents’ 50th anniversary celebration, the result was, of course, many warm congratulations, but also some puzzled looks of incredulity. While recognizing what an achievement 50 years of marriage represents, I think people also experience, on some level, a sense that such a celebration so much flies in the face of what’s common in our throw-away culture and modern society of instant gratification, of disposability, of I want it all and I want it now. Some folks just can’t believe it. Well, let’s believe it!

Rabbi Nachman taught that each of us has an indestructible part that nothing can erase or destroy. This is the part of ourselves that we rely upon in moments of distress and despair. We might not always know what to call it, but it’s what gives us a doorway out of our own darkest moments, and enables and inspires us to reach out in support of others.

I think that so much of marriage and coupling is being able to see that special element in one another, as well as in ourselves, and to remember it when it’s seemingly dormant or otherwise not so easily apparent.

Thank you, Mom and Dad. Thank you for sticking together, for loving one another, for loving us all. Thank you for making us a great family. We love you.

June 30th, 2013