Message for the Week from Rabbi Stein

The Sound of a Driven Leaf

Rabbi Jay M. Stein on Thursday, May 18, 2017 at 12:00:00 am


The sound of a driven leaf will send them to flight. (Leviticus 26:36)

In 1939 Milton Steinberg wrote what was has become a classic of Jewish literature, As a Driven Leaf.  It is a historical fiction about Elisha Ben Abuya.  Elisha was considered a great scholar and head of the Sanhedrin.  As Chaim Potok wrote in his introduction to the book, "the novel was more than a mere story, that is a central drama  - a conflict between religious and pagan ideas, between faith and reason, between postulates of creed and science..." Essentially, it is a novel about how fragile faith is.

In this week's reading the phrase, "a driven leaf" comes to explain how easily we are frightened.  When we feel vulnerable, we latch on to anything that will promise us safety and security.  To which, I can't help but hear the words of FDR when he said, "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself."  President Roosevelt was telling the American people their fear was making things worse.  Instead of fear mongering, he was trying to set the mind of his people at ease. He goes on to say, “nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

We live in dangerous times.  With military attacks threatening, cyber attacks being executed we have reason to fear.  Yet, we have survived in the past.  We will survive again. The solution lies not in giving up hope but in reaffirming it.