Failure is unavoidable. The news media depend on this for their content, and we all know too well what our personal failings are. Most of us also don't enjoy the feeling of failure. Yet given its prevalence, and our continued survival as a species, failure seems essential for us as well. Why is that?
The juxtaposition of last week's parsha, Noah, and this week's Torah reading, Lekh Lekha, provide us a special vantage point to witness God's development as an educator. That divine unfolding provides us with a model that we can also use, whether we work as teachers, managers or want to improve our home life.
Whether or not we modern Jews live halakhic lives--lives that are organized around Jewish law--there is tremendous value and guidance in our legal tradition. Let's turn our attention to two such legal concepts and see if they can shine a little light on our how we go about our days.
At the end of our fall holiday cycle and so many intense days of inwardness, prayer and community, it's not unusual to hear people say something along the lines of "I'm so glad that life is back to normal, now I can get back on track." This raises a couple of wonderful questions. What is the point of the Jewish holidays? What should we take with us as we head into "hol"--into mundane time?
Once again, we are shocked and saddened as a nation. Once again, our halls of education, meant to be a sanctuary from the worst of the world, are bloodied. Once again, we hear expressions of outrage and calls for new legislation aimed at preventing or reducing the periodic and murderous violence that erupts in our schools and colleges.
What a pleasure it was to celebrate my first high holidays with this striving community. I want to take a moment to thank the vast number of individuals who worked diligently behind the scenes to ensure that things flowed smoothly during our Days of Awe.
During Tashlikh, we symbolically transfer on to bread crumbs those actions and failings that no longer serve us, just as our ancestors transferred their sins on to the "scape goat" of antiquity. Over the last twenty years or so, this minor custom has seen a major revival in many communities.