During the extraordinary amount of time we spend in Shul these Holy days; Who are we really talking to? Why so many, many words and what do they accomplish? Where are we suppose to Return to really? What is the major goal? How do we approach the Genesis, our Genesis?
You Talkin To Me!?
The following is a Midrash based on a true story about a young man who had a strange happening occur to him on Jones Beach, as if written by him, Lillo Brancato….. There I am, my boys standing in front of me and I give it all I got…’Hey, you talkin to me? Are you talkin to ME!? You talkin to me.You must be talkin to me, ain’t no one else here. You must be talkin to me.” Then someone taps me on the shoulder interrupting my show and I’m ready to knock the guy out, I turn around “hey what’s da matter wit….'”I died, couldn’t believe there was, no kiddin Robert De Niro, my idle with another guy (a producer) right in front of me. They said “We’ve been looking for you, we found you.'”That talk I gave, created a new life for myself, Unfortunately, years later, I didn’t reach the big time fame I thought I would have got, things kinda fell apart, It was a great ride though.
Lillo Brancato went on to star in the movie The Bronx Tale as Robert De Niro’s son. He was then featured in a number of other films and TV shows, making a name for himself. Years later he ended up in jail.
Within the essence of that Midrash is just about everything I want to touch on in this two part essay.
Who Are We Really Talking To?
Who are we really talking to all this time seemingly without an answer. If you saw the movie Taxi Driver you know that line really initiated Robert De Niro’s fame. He was looking at the mirror during that famous scene… “You Talkin to Me….”
“These Days are dedicated to establishing G-d as King within us, the Holy King that issues the decrees.” Abraham Joshua Heschel.
We find in Vetachanan the words….“Cleave Unto G-d…….. Take Heed to yourself” relevant to Heschel’s phrase “We live in the glory of his Attachment” to sum up the notion that truly, G-d is within and in each of us. A view shared by many Holy voices. So, it is not a stretch to say that indeed we are talking to ourselves all these words during our prayers. It is most advantageous to especially internalize that possibility or reality, during our journey this time of year. Frankly, when the sages constructed these powerful sometimes audacious statements we utter; such as our asking G-d to remember his promise to Abraham or our suggesting that HE be concerned with opinions of other nations or taking it further, our confessing our sincerity in our knowing we did wrong when often we know we will repeat some wrong doing…. Are we to think G-d doesn’t remember, G-d is worried about what others think of HIM or he doesn’t really know what we will ultimately do?– NO! I am looking in the mirror, davening and saying “You (Me) are talking to me!”
If you truly imagine while praying that you are talking all these words to yourself there are dramatic possibilities.
Why So Many Words, What Can They Accomplish?
The Sfas Emes communicates an idea that when asking to Inscribe us in a favorable way, that we are to Inscribe the words onto our hearts like the words on the Engraved Tablets. And during Neila (the final prayers at the end of Yom Kippur) to seal them there.
Consider what we say, how much we say during the rigors of Elul through Yom Kippur. Are we listening to all that?
“Prayer Reveals itself to those who want to fulfill it. It eludes those who only want to know it” “In truthfulness, Repentance offers repair, remorse for the past while taking Responsibility for the future.”… Heschel…. Can you think about that for a moment, please?
In Vayelech, all the people are called to hear the words of the Torah every 7 years even ALL the children. Rabbi Soloveitchik points out the question, why the little children, what can they possibly understand? Citing sages, he suggests that by hearing the words of Torah from early on, they seep in and the children later on become comfortable and familiar with and influenced by Torah in their lives. The words have absolute power, if we are honest and brave enough to allow ourselves to actively listen to them as we look in the mirror.
“Words turn into a song….Marvelous and beautiful is life, more marvelous is life in a word. Words are greater than the World!. By the word of G-d All was CREATED.” ….Heschel. We will read in Hazinu, where the words of Moshe turned into that Song and the efficacy of the Words was communicated literally….. “Listen Oh Heavens I shall speak, Let Earth Hear the WORDS of my Mouth.” AND! Next to the last paragraph in the Parasha we hear the phrase “all the words” 4 times! The words have power.
Where are all these words turning us to? They are turning us to, their purpose are to turn us to the prescriptions of Teshuva– Repentance- Return.
“The most unnoticed Miracle of today is the Miracle of Repentance….Return.” Heschel
Where are we suppose to Return to Really?
Once on a Shabbaton a Chassidishe Rabbi told me… “ Understand, there is no such thing as a coincidence…”
Three extraordinary relevant occurrences happened to me last year at this time of year .On Erev Succot when I davened from the Ahmid– led the service- in our Shul in honor of my Mother’s Yartzheit O’H’, I noticed after Davening, there was a boy behind me, no older than 9 or 10 saying Kaddish. When you see that, your heart tears. He was with someone at his side, probably his Uncle who after wards apparently took him HOME.
On a Shabbat, I turned around in Shul and saw a friend holding his father closely while his dad said Kaddish…..My friend’s brother had just passed– his brother’s family came HOME on the eve following Yom Kippur and found his brother in the kitchen, on the floor.
The Shabbat prior, Shabbat SHUVA– the Shabbat of Return, I was in Shul early reading some Heschel to get me ready prior to services. With my head buried in the book and I get a tap on my shoulder… I look up and it is someone that I know because of my daughter in law Janine, he was at our first son’s wedding. He’s is from East Brunswick…..I was shaken. I looked up, “I am so sorry, what a tragedy” ….referring to his close friends, people that were at my son’s wedding just a few months ago, who while RETURNING HOME the previous Shabbat afternoon following services, were killed on the sidewalk by an out of control car. In a disturbed, saddened voice, He said to me, “what can you say when something like that happens?” I told him I heard my Rabbi Steinhardt once say, saying nothing, no words sometimes is the proper response. I did say however, “you will not believe this”, I showed him the page I was on in that book, the beginning of an essay entitled…. “Death As A Homecoming.” Part 2 in next installment.