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For Your Shabbat Table

When to Walk and When to Talk

“We’re getting divorced. But we’re doing it amicably, with mutual respect.”When ex-spouses (or ex-es) describing their divorce sound like “we’re withdrawing our offer on the house we looked at Thursday”, you can get the idea that they never invested enough to be hurt by the loss. 

But listen again: you’ll hear emptiness in the voice:
Pain in the heart.  
Yes, the stigma is lost. 
Yes, some koffee-klatch and water-cooler conversations
have an “everybody’s-doing–it” attitude. 
No. No one who went through divorce thinks it’s painless.

But if pain-free divorce is a myth (in the shattering),
divorce is a reality, an option more than it ever was.  
To be sure, since this parsha was first delivered,
the option was always there.  
But as my father puts it, so was a tourniquet.  
When the body is facing death you use the tourniquet, otherwise it can do more damage than good.  
(Many first aid courses no longer teach tourniquet application because of its overuse.)  
Complimenting the legalization of the parsha,
was the frustration of the Talmud:
“When husband and wife divorce, the Holy Alter sheds tears”.

Husbands and wives are not the only things getting divorced.
Divorce is not just a legal proceeding; it’s a way of life:
A mindset.
You get in a fight with a friend; send them a letter telling them why you’re not going to have anything to do with them anymore. Your family gives more sting than honey? don’t feel bound or stifled by them.
And divorce, disengagement isn’t always such a bad idea.
But when to walk and when to talk
Is not a question that gets a lot of attention. 
It can’t. It‘s too easy to walk:
Why bother with gut-wrenching screaming matches
When you can just stroll away?
There is no pat answer as to when to hang up the phone or when to give back the ring.
But the tourniquet overuse is worth reflection.
For marriage to work,
divorce cannot be considered a possibility.
Call it the D-word.
The ineffable, unthinkable.
Forget that it exists.
Relationships can’t work
when breaking-up is knocking on the door.
Not with spouses, friends, cousins, brothers, in-laws,
grocers or gardeners.  
(Tip: Treat everyone as your most important client.)
And a fight does not necessarily mean
a break-up is on the way;
It can just as soon (if not just as easily)
be a stepping-stone to a balanced, strong,
fulfilling and happy relationship.
Better an acrimonious relationship
than a non-combative drifting.  
Not always, but when in doubt throw out the tourniquet;
And remember tears are being shed.

Witches, Black Cats, Bulls and Planes

Black cats don’t bother me any more than white or brown ones do. The thirteenth floor is fine as long as the elevator is working. Horoscopes remain unread -regardless of whether we Tauruses need to think bull market or bear.

So I read this parsha’s admonitions with a detachment of sorts: more them-there, than me-now. Thou shalt not go to witches who communicate with the dead through a chicken bone held in their throat. Thou shalt not pass your children through fire. 
Thou shalt not seek diviners who ask sticks if they should take trips. 
Thou shalt not read omens.
Wait, it’s starting to sound vaguely, eerily relevant. I don’t read horoscopes largely because I think they’re bunk; some syndicated whoever swaps Tuesday’s Gemini for Thursday’s Capricorn. But what if I was shown reams of data showing their validity? -- Then I would have to rely on the thou-shalt-nots. Or else be rolling balls down airline aisles.
But after all the (well, seemingly) far-out admonitions that the parsha throws at us, comes a simple tomim tehiye im Hashem elockecha be simple with Hashem your G-d.
What is the common wrong of all these hocus-pocus trips? They are all trying to control the future, read perhaps, but reading with the hope of control. And hocus-pocus are not the only diviners and omen readers.
At the turn of the century, (oops, make that turn of the 1800's to 1900's) progressive Jewish writers and thinkers spoke of the Talmudic tradition being now detached academic study since it is no longer alive. “Our sole purpose,” exclaimed one Yiddish novelist, “is to give Judaism a decent burial.” He wasn’t being a pessimist either; he was being realist, simply reading all the data available. Since modernity there had been a constant draw towards the diminishing role of religion, particularism, ethnicity and every other defining tenant of Yiddishkeit.
These novelists and philosophers were, to put it simply, right. They were dead wrong – in hindsight. Their error was not because their data was faulty, but because data cannot determine the future. 
Tomim tehiye -- you shall be simple, wholesome, assured. You do what you have to; you leave the rest in Whose hands it ultimately is. You have done what Hashem told you to do; you are with Him; He is good; whatever happens is Him; whatever happens is good. In mame loshon:Bashert
Statistics, (was it Disraeli that said?) lie. Perhaps in more avenues that one. Statistics at mid-century spoke about The Disappearing Jew. The Rebbe spoke about tomim tehiye. Not coincidentally, the phrase following tomim tehiye speaks of following Moshe’s successors.
Not that you’re relieved of the decision making, just the nail biting. Nor can you be careless because the future is not in your hands; you may get onto your flight to Chicago and end up in Boston but you are still the one who has to check the departure monitors. But if you checked the monitors, don’t roll balls or whatever down the aisle. Enjoy your flight. To wherever. It’s all bashert. All good. All the time.
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