Oasis Songs: Musings from Rav D
Friday, July 19, 2019 / 16 Tamuz 5779
Summary: Rabbi Kosak speaks of desire. How and what he thinks about human desire. And he wants to invite you to something.
Earlier this week, Lisa Richmond and I were doing some synagogue business on the phone when another call came in. I thought I recognized the number, but it turned out to be just another annoying robocall. In a moment of frustration, I texted her, “I know Congress can’t seem to address the big issues of the day. But could they at least give us some protection against these Robocalls?” (By the way, there is pending national legislation on this issue, and boy, let’s hope that passes!)
Lisa quickly quipped back:
“Maybe you should run with that as your main platform?”
“I’ll pass, but thanks for the vote of confidence.”
“Good. It’s challenging enough being a rabbi’s assistant. I’m not ready to tackle the political arena.”
That might have been one of the funnier comments of the week.
But it got me thinking. I have no interest in high office. Never have. But what does it take to imagine yourself worthy of the POTUS title? A one word answer came to me. Desire.
Desire, taken seriously, changes everything. Literally. A serious desire to run for office changes you. The process, the work, the skill set…all of these things begin to develop in response to desire. You come out a different version of yourself.
Maybe that’s abstract. But for those of us who have been married, or have been in any lasting love relationship, the power of desire could not be more clear. How much we change and are changed by those we love!
And so it is with pretty much anything else in life. Desire is the engine of all human accomplishment. Our Sages called this the “yetzer hara”—the evil impulse. It’s a concept that partially overlaps with Freud’s concept of the id—the seat of human aggression, desire and our primitive selves.
Despite calling this drive evil, the Talmudic authors also understood that without its force, no chicken would lay an egg and no one would build a house or have children. The yetzer is essential.
I think it’s what we mean when we say, “you can do anything you set your mind/heart to…
There’s a way that great artists, athletes and musicians understand their greatness long before they have arrived to the top of their fields of endeavor. Their desire paints a picture or an understanding of who they can be, and they take to heart the message. They chase after it, and the chase makes them learn and grow. They become that which they pursue. Beethoven, at the age of 15 already understood that he would be one of the greatest musicians of all time.
With that all behind, I want to extend an invitation to you.
You see, our High Holiday preparations are well underway. In connection, we are revisiting our Shofar Echo minhag (custom) based in part on input from our high holiday survey. People like the custom, and they also want the experience to be as moving as possible.
Hearing both of those pieces of input, Alan Montrose has graciously offered to lead a number of classes on Monday evenings this summer on how to blow the shofar. I believe that any Jew who learns or masters the skill behind a particular mitzvah develops a special bond to those moments in time. For a shofar blower, the High Holidays have a beauty all their own. Practicing the shofar deepens their connection and love for the Yamim Noraim. And that is a pretty amazing reward for a unique mitzvah.
If you’ve ever wanted to learn, or perhaps were a trumpet player once upon a time, please let me know. If there is sufficient interest, we will get those classes scheduled.
Shabbat Table Talk
- How do you handle robocalls?
- This week’s Torah reading is parashat Balak. In it, Bilam the prophet has a talking donkey. What have animals told to you–what have you learned from either a pet or wildlife?
- Which desires in your life have made you who you are?
- Do you have a new desire which is leading you again on the path of change and renewal?
If you’d like to continue this discussion, follow this link to CNS’s Facebook page to share your own perspectives on the topics raised in this week’s Oasis Songs. Comments will be moderated as necessary.