Keep On Keeping On
What do we truly want of our legacy, our family’s and next generation’s reception of what we were all about? What do we want to keep on keeping on?
This is dedicated to the Holy memory of my Grandfather on the week of his Yartzeit, Zvi Hersh HaKohain..His Righteous physical being I never knew, but his Righteous spirit I sense all the time.
If you have read my past essays, you know I have had the good fortune of interacting with extremely accomplished business people who have created some of the most respectable and enduring organizations in the world. Common & unique characteristics I have found are;these men and women consistently seek knowledge, internally have the instinct of what to do and apply it externally. They are the whole package business wise, combining the passion with the practices to grow great institutions.
Here is one way I came to that conclusion; At an entrepreneurial conference, I tried an experiment. In attendance were well established business owners coming to learn what the giants of industries had to share about building a thriving business. These attendees had experience and knowledge. The test; I went through the crowd asking a question with a follow up- “What is one of your challenges or goals?” Then, “Ok, dig deep, what do you think you need to do to overcome that challenge or achieve that goal? Of course some said “that is why I’m here”, but when I pushed, it was astounding, most had great answers. They knew what to do, they were not living it. They were halfhearted in practicing what needed to be done to nurture an entity that would truly prosper. The inner discipline was not developed to dig deep and act on what they knew inside to truly foster excellence in their business well being. They keep searching for the truth,while it is in them all the time. Year in and Year out found them in the same place.
Many years ago a challenge arose in our journey into observance. We were already Shomer Shabbat but a question came that I had to tangle with. The Giants were in a playoff game on the coming Shabbat.. One of my boys asked if we could leave the TV on. Hmmm, I knew enough to reason technically we could. Inside of me, something else was being said. I asked our family Rav, who with a disturbed face told me according to the letter of the law I could, but it was not in the spirit of the law, nor of Shabbat. Just like the entrepreneurs, I knew inside what was the righteous answer to practice outside. I wrestled with half of my heart. BUT!, we did not watch, the Giants lost and I believe wholeheartedly,our family won. Heschel has communicated on a number of occasions the idea that your conscience speaking to you, may well be G-d speaking to you.
Much of the following is inspired by the magnificent address Rabbi Heschel gave to the Herbert R. Abeles Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds Assembly in the 1960s. He communicated his deep appreciation for the Righteousness they and all Jewish Charities performed for the care of Jews and of all peoples. However, to sum up his message, he posed why not an Anti-defamation league for the inner self of a Jew. Righteousness for our outer wellness and Righteousness for our inner well-being -“Building A Mount Sinai School of Medicine is truly worthwhile, but it was Torah that came from Sinai, Why not a Mount Sinai School of Judaism as well?”
There are volumes of interpretations on“Zedek Zedek, Rightousness, Rightousness (or Justice Justice) you shall pursue.” It appears that most considers this is the direction given to Judges in their pursuit of Justice or the nation’s criteria in the selection of Judges.
May I suggest that Zedek Zedek is directed to us in our actions. Pashot, taking the next line into consideration “ that thou mayest live, and inherit the land which the Lord thy G-d giveth thee.” Setting the stage for a complete and proper set of behaviors for living a Holy existence, in the Holy land.
Why is there such an emphasis, the Halacha to learn every day? Part of the logic must be so that we know what to do and when to do it when an authority is not around. To know what is the proper Halacha in a situation when we encounter it. But there is more than that as pointed out in Ekev, “What does G-d want from you?” As Heschel consistently tells us, there is Halacha and Aggadah, we must let both seep into our decision making process, our actions. In a telling Heschel, he shares “ If the Aggadah of not embarrassing a fellow becomes a Halacha, then Moshiach will come.”
Rabbi Solomon Schechter, another Giant that does not get recognition in our circles, refers to the practice of following Halacha properly as Jewish Science. It all must be followed for the chemical equations to reach a proper outcome. Allow me to inject the notion, what if you had a brilliant Scientist with no passion, no spirit? There would be no breakthroughs, no known discoveries, no benefits to our lives.
There is a Gemara in Sanhedrin, when the group of Sages including Shmuel Hakatan were deciding on what determines a leap year. In the middle of the discussions there is a digression. It comes to tell us, the last of the Prophets were gone. What was left was an Heavenly Echo to guide us.
Nechama Liebowitz shares the point of view of many that when something is repeated, Hashem is making a point. In other instances, he is showing his love, “Avarham, Avraham” Regarding Zedek Zedek, there is a point and love. Take this repetition to inspire us to ask ourselves twice about the action we are about to do and/or to apply, the inner and outer rules discussed earlier. All for our own good and for Hashem’s. To ask ourselves, Zedek, am I true to the Halacha, the letter of the law I learned? To ask ourselves again, Zedek, is this the spirit that is within me, that I know to be true. The Echo is there for all of us, we just have to tune in for the best reception and broadcast it.
A posuk later says “Thou shalt be whole-hearted with the Lord thy G-d”.. In “Duties of the Heart”Bayhya shares that represents “a complete harmony between our inner and outward actions.”
This coming Kabbalt Shabbat when we chant Hitohri, Hitohri, Wake up, Wake Up, know it is speaking to the Zedek, Zedek respectively of our Guf (body) and to our Neshama (soul). It takes both. When we read the Psalm of David, “The Lord is My Light and the Lord is My Salvation” morning and night,as the sages say the dual phrase represents Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, but think about it representing Zedek Zedek as well. We all become more in tune now and certainly on THE very days we think will determine the outcome of the following year in this world, we try to become more Holy. Let Zedek Zedek call to you, it means before and after the Holy Days.
What have we brought to the table of Judgment? How will we set that table after the days of Judgment? I heard a life coach once say, “always ask yourself, are you going to be happy with what you ate after you have eaten it?”
My father told me the Nazis buried My Grandfather alive. Well, he is still alive because they could only bury his Guf not his Neshama. Zedek Zedek was in him and the Zedek in his Jewish soul cries out to me, “Heshela, Heshela, Keep on , Keeping on.” I hear the Echo of your soul Zvi Hersh Hokain. I pray that I am worthy so that in the future my Grandchildren hear mine.
Again a special thanks to Rabbi Siff and Josh Rubin for their encouragement in creating these pieces.