C’mon, You Ain’t So Bad – Vayera a Heschellian Approach

C’mon You Ain’t So Bad
Did you ever think, I wish I knew then what I know now and truly appreciate that inexplicable, harsh time I had? When G-d puts you through that test, perhaps he is creating a scenario to better appreciate life and understand him because maybe it is a two way street. As Famous Wally Amos (the cookie guy) says, “when you go through those rough moments, take pictures!”
To get to my point please allow for 3 quick scenarios.
I will never forget, when I was about 11 years old in Talmud Torah, our class was in usual mode, misbehaving, not listening, throwing things at each other when the Rabbi stood up in front of all and said “Klein, I’m telling your father!” “Rabbi, why me, everyone is out of control?” “Klein, it’s because I know your father will do something about it!”  Why me, why couldn’t I just be out of order like the rest without what seemed to be an unworthy, unfortunate response and reaction I was going to get.  That’s not fair for me…but now looking back, those strong responses I believe shaped me in strong ways that I am most comfortable with, although at the time, I certainly didn’t see the value.
In 2008 I almost had the opportunity to work directly with Randy Pausch, the Carnegie Mellon Professor who delivered the famous “The Last Lecture- Achieving Your Childhood Dreams”. A truly life changing speech that has enjoyed over 15 Million hits on youtube. Here it is, you will thank me if you haven’t seen it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ji5_MqicxSo   Randy gave that speech after he found out he was diagnosed with terminal cancer with only months to live. One of the comments he shares is about his coach, how hard and rough he was on him. He couldn’t understand it, he questioned it. Only later he realized that the moment his coach would stop pushing him, testing him, putting him through those rigorous moments, stopped the harsh criticism, was the moment that coach would stop caring and that would be a bad moment. So, Randy came to appreciate, respect and trust that coach.
The reason I said “almost had the opportunity” is, one of our clients had help pay for Randy’s alternative treatments and wanted to capture some extra thoughts with him on video. There was a private plane waiting for us, just prior to leaving we got word his condition had worsened and he passed shortly after. Do watch the video and have your family and friends watch it.
In research conducted for the Restaurant industry, it was found that if a patron had a majority of positive experiences and just one bad one in a restaurant, the majority of that patron’s reaction, his/her word of mouth resulted in complaining about the negative experience. I guess that is common human behavior.
Let’s briefly explore the Giant of Avraham and how so unlike us, he was and is one to emulate and appreciate as our Patriarch.
In his extensive writing on the Pathos of G-d, Heschel relays (among so much more) relevant points to what I am attempting to communicate here. Here are a few shortened verses from AJH.
The idea of pathos is as central as the idea of man being an image of G-d……..Man is not only a image, but a perpetual concern of G-d….Whatever man does affects not only his own life, the also  the life of G-d insofar as it is directed to man”…..Now getting to the main points….. “What Abraham and the prophets encountered was not a numen*, but the fullness of G-d’s care. The moral law may be obscured, but never suspended. The very act of addressing Abraham was experienced as care. It was because of the experience of God’s responding to him in his pleas for Sodom that Abraham did not question the command to sacrifice his only son, and it was the certainty of G-d’s love and mercy that enabled the prophets to accept his anger.”
Avraham knew of the ills of Sodom, but he was a man as Heschel would say had a “passion for compassion”. Imagine his pain when he learned of G-d’s intention to destroy an entire city. But working the scenario, exploring possibilities…praying…  “ what if there were 50, 40, 20…righteous….” as hard as this was for Avraham to accept, the destruction to come, homes & people annihilated, he came to see the positive in it. He knew that the overwhelming majority of G-d’s actions and communications to man was steeped in compassion. That G-d is that father that is so strong to enable our development and understanding. G-d is that Coach, that while he is dishing it out we don’t value nor appreciate it at the time. Avraham is that rare patron that when things don’t go his way, he sees the big picture, rather than staying on or complaining about the negative, he sees G-d’s ultimate care and concern, his pathos. It emboldens him, it secures him.That is the Giant of Avraham. Think about Sherri Mandel’s Book, The Blessing From a Broken Heart— Her young child was stoned to death by Palestinian terrorists and  from that horrific tragedy, she found the strength, reasoning to do good for so many…The overwhelming good G-d has given us and what does He really ask of us?….not to sacrifice our sons, but to see his Good, his care and merely to reciprocate in the ways we truly can.
A year ago, we in our community experienced the rage of Sandy. I remember hearing on the radio, a woman interviewed and the reporter with obvious emotion saying, “I am so sorry, you lost your home…you can replace that, but you told me about  all those pictures you lost, those memories,  how could you replace those, they are irreplaceable?” Her answer knocked me out…she said… “We’ll take new pictures!” Remember in Rocky 1, when he asked Apollo to keep hitting/punishing him…Rocky started getting new found strength….he said “C’mon, you ain’t so bad.” Actually, HE is so Good, we need to know that, we need to seek that Good, recognize it, draw strength from it, do Good from it and get our cameras ready.
Shabbat Shalom
Zvi Hersh Ben Naftali
*Numen= 1.spirit inhabiting place: a god or spirit believed to inhabit a place or living object such as a tree
2. guiding force: a guiding force or influence
[ Early 17th century. < Latin, “nod, command, divine power”
About the Author
Co-founded with Nan Klein in 1976 one of the country's first video companies. We produce programming for the top organizations in the world. We live a fully Shomer Shabbat life in Woodmere, NY.
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