Message for the Week from Rabbi Stein

Live Right Now

Rabbi Jay M. Stein on Friday, September 14, 2018 at 12:00:00 am

Mishna Avot 4:5 

ISHMAEL SAID: HE WHO LEARNS IN ORDER TO TEACH, THEY AFFORD HIM ADEQUATE MEANS TO LEARN AND TO TEACH; AND HE WHO LEARNS IN ORDER TO PRACTISE, THEY AFFORD HIM ADEQUATE MEANS TO LEARN AND TO TEACH AND TO PRACTISE.  ZADOK SAID: MAKE THEM NOT A CROWN WHEREWITH TO MAGNIFY THYSELF, NOR A SPADE , WHEREWITH TO DIG; EVEN SO WAS HILLEL WONT TO SAY, ‘AND HE WHO MAKES [UNWORTHY] USE OF THE CROWN [OF LEARNING] PASSETH AWAY.’ LO, [HENCE] THOU HAST LEARNT: ANYONE WHO DERIVES WORLDLY BENEFIT FROM THE WORDS OF THE TORAH, REMOVES HIS LIFE FROM THE WORLD.

In leading services on Friday night, my father would lead a great reading entitled “Listen.” This reading was placed just before the Shema and it challenged the congregation to listen and truly hear.  The second stanza offered this insight: “The person who attends a concert with his mind on business, hears- but does not really hear.” This reading was particularly poignant on Friday night as each of us tried to make the transition from the profane lives of our weekday to the holiness of Shabbat. It is in that transitional moment we must make a choice about our thinking. We have made the right moves.  We have placed ourselves in the right place. Now we have to flip the switch.

Our Mishna teaches flipping the switch makes all of the difference. We can go through the motions but without the intention the full potential of the experience cannot be unleashed. The human experience is far greater than the activities in which we engage. The full measure of living comes in emotion that accompanies those events.  It is wonderful to attend a symphony. Just getting out, entering the concert hall, watching the lights dim is exciting but permitting the music to enter the heart can be enlivening. This Mishna invites us to not only participate in our lives but to live them as well.