It’s time to rise and shine

Lines form in front of two businesses these days in my neighborhood. They’re hard to miss. Both feature folks in their twenties. One forms at a local GameStop, indicating some new release that consumers are anxious to acquire. Around the corner, another line builds outside the Urgent Care medical facility.

One can’t help but consider how much of our attention is collecting around these two settings: one functions like pastime quicksand, the other treats us when we’re unwell.

Yet human beings are meant to rise above their biology, to say no in the name of a higher Yes. We’re meant to resist conformity. Human hearts are meant to defy predictability, to surprise – each other and ourselves – for the better.

A subtle hint of saying no in the name of that higher Yes is found in this week’s portion of Torah. It’s in a passage that addresses a contagious form of spiritual infection (tumah). Temporary removal from the camp is required. A verse stands alone in the Torah for its repetition, “So did the children of Israel, sending them out of the camp as God commanded Moses, the children of Israel did so” (Num. 5:4). The Hebrew repetitive phrase, ken asu, literally means, they acted upon saying Yes.

Times of moral infection call for actions, for doing deeds. Panic over the prospect of everything coming to an end won’t get us far in practice. What will? Small gestures. Simple acts.

It’s impossible to feel alone when you’re doing a good deed. Not only because of others whom you are helping, but also because the spirit within you finds itself in accord with the divine spirit that lies beyond you. That agreement makes for quiet companionship, a restful fellowship that helps you hold still.

Years ago I heard a moving story about little Sammy, who sat frightfully-low at his First Grade desk. He had just wet his pants. His accident would soon be discovered and he’d be utterly humiliated. Just then, a girl who was walking past his desk with a pitcher of water, tripped and spilled the contents into his lap. In an instant, Sammy was saved. Everybody laughed at Meredith. She shrugged her shoulders, shook it off, and went back to watering the plants.

Later that day at dismissal, Meredith took a seat on the bus behind Sammy. He turned around and whispered to her, “I’ve been thinking about what happened earlier. Did you throw that water into my lap on purpose?” Little Meredith leaned forward, looked around to make sure nobody was listening. Then knowingly whispered, “I once had an accident too.”

This is a soul stirring moment. It pours sunny energy inside you. It circulates, rotating your heart, making it smile.

All of today’s posting and posturing points us to the right or the left. But it’s really about going up or down. It’s worth recalling that we tend to fall on the leaning side.

The lines at GameStop and Urgent Care won’t be dwindling anytime soon. It’s ok. We all stumble. And little Meredith reminds us how we can stumble for good. Try it. Act in the name of a higher Yes. Surprise yourself and another for the better. It’s time to rise and shine.

About the Author
Rabbi William Hamilton has served as rabbi (mara d'atra) of Kehillath Israel in Brookline, MA since 1995.
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