Esor Ben-Sorek

The Binding Problem

Today I begin article # 571, a completion of nine volumes of 1,182 pages. With this, begins volume ten. And at the same time it begins my problem.

Taking a suitcase full of the printed pages to the local bindery, the supervisor looked at me and said,

“adoni, ata tzarich lichtov pachot maamarim”… Sir, you have to write fewer articles. They won’t fit into binders”.

I asked, excluding writing less pages, what do I need to do to bind the current nine volumes? He suggested that I separate the larger volumes into Book 1 and Book 2 with no more than 70 pages in each.

So together we began the process of separation and now, instead of nine volumes of my printed articles there are thirteen bound volumes sitting on a glass-topped table in my salon. Too much weight, I think.

But I think the binder’s suggestion was reasonable… write less, fewer pages and easier binding.

What more can be written about the Israel-Palestinian problems? What more about Gazan protests? What more about Iranian threats to destroy Tel-Aviv and Haifa? This is the same news I watch on Arutz 2.   Unhappy news. Frustrating news. Frightening news. But regrettably, not what Donald Trump would deign to call “fake news”. The news is all too real.

With the recent flash floods and the tragic deaths of ten young hikers, our bad news turns into worse news. How the heart aches for this loss of life !  How all Israel joins with the mourning families in their grief !

My grandson, a Chabad baal teshuva, suggests that I look to God for comfort and I reply that it was God who caused the flood, just as he did in the days of Noah. Only this time, the ten who drowned had no ark to shelter them from the storm and to save their young lives.

He walks to the bookshelves, heavily laden with some 4000 books reaching from floor to ceiling. I ask him what he is looking for and he replies “a book about kavanah”. Such a book is not on my shelves. There are several references to kavanah in other volumes but no one book is dedicated to it.

Basically it refers to concentration during prayers. We are told not just to read the words with our lips but to absorb them with our minds. The “shockeling” (swaying) of the Hassidim and ultra-Orthodox is said to keep them awake while they concentrate (kavanah) on the holy words they are reading.

I frequently get “sea-sick” watching the swaying  of the Jews, back and forth, back and forth, sometimes rising on their tiptoes and bowing.

But I personally do believe in kavanah from an academic point of view. When I recite my daily prayers I know that I am speaking to God. To emphasize the importance of our “conversation”, instead of saying “Baruch ata”…  I say “Baruch ATA”, because I am addressing the Holy One, Blessed be He.

I watch with pride as my grandson davens (prays). Though I am not very happy with extremism, it is certainly much better than drugs. Drugs may lead to an early death. Prayers lead to eternal life.

So I promised the binder that I would write less in order that he could bind more.

L’kol echad yesh baayot. Everyone has problems.

The binding should be the least of mine.

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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