There is an African proverb that says:
"If you refuse to be made straight when you are green, you will not be made straight when you are dry."
As we are advancing in our lives to the time that is our dryness, we must strive to remain green. That is, we must remain open to change, be flexible, and be ready to respond to that still, small voice.
As we become comfortable with our lives' routines, we begin to tune out the voices of change calling out to us. Our routines become distractions that shield us from other forces in our lives, even Gd. We must find times in our lives when we remove those distractions, and open ourselves up to hear what is out there that may be calling to us. Shabbat affords us just such an opportunity and I urge us all to take advantage of it.
Change continued to come to Yaakov throughout his life. The epiphanal moment we read about in Vayetze was only a beginning. Yaakov's eyes were opened. I am sure that many of us have come to the same realization at some time in our lives as did Jacob on that day:
Acheyn yeish Ad-nai bamakom hazeh v'anochi lo yadati.
Surely G-d was in this place, and I, I did not know it.
I still remember the powerful impression those words made on me the first time I read them. They are no less so each time I read them or hear them, or even think them. They are a constant reminder to try and tune out the background noise of life and truly listen. But I am also reminded that after this "awesome" experience, Yaakov makes only a minimal of fuss, and then moves on to continue his journey. As it was for Yaakov, our realization that Gd is in a place where we are also is only one step down the road of our lives.
Gd is found in many places and many situations. Yaakov was fleeing from his brother after being coerced by his mother to steal the birthright and trick his aging, blinding Father, Yitzchak. Was he motivated by guilt or fear? Who knows. He had barely set out on his journey when Gd stepped in to reassure him that it was through him that the lineage of Gd's chosen was to be continued and made numerous as the dust.
Yet, after recognizing the awesome miracle that Gd had been in that place and with him, he proceeds to have the audacity to tell Gd "OK-if you do what you say you're going to do, then you will be my Gd." This is a hero, a great figure of Judaism, one of avoteinu?
Was Yaakov indeed the better brother? And was Esau all bad? After all, Esau tended to his Father lovingly, whilst Yaakov simply took advantage of his Father's old age. Sure, Yaakov had not only his Father's blessing, but Gd's blessing and promise. Yet that still wasn't enough for him. He wanted proof from Gd in order to allow Gd to be his Gd. His Father's word was not enough, nor his Mother's! (Of course who knew what kind of father Yitchak was to Yaakov after the trauma of his own childhood, and the fact that Yaakov was hardly the he-man of his two sons.) Makes you wonder if, when he went along with his Mother's plan to steal the birthright, he really believed he was destined to rule over Esau, or if was just taking advantage of what he saw as his Mother's foolish belief.
So there you have some examples of "change, in perspective" and a "change in perspective." See the difference one little comma makes? Now tell me that it's insignificant that the Hebrew text says v'anochi lo yadati" with the superfluous "anochi." Superfluous, my foot.
I wish you and yours a pleasant Shabbat, and a safe journey down your road of life. Enjoy a "change in perspective" and have a look at "change, in perspective."
© 2000 by Adrian A. Durlester
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