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Nourishing a Nation

Wednesday, 31 July, 2019 - 11:22 pm

A dill pickle is good.
Pistachio ice cream is good.
Together, they are not good.
Good cooking means combining food properly.
Egg and onion is good -- two foods that complement each other.
Ginger and dates – aha! now that’s food.
Combining flavors that are not just different but are opposites, has each flavor play on the other, tantalizing each other's strengths and subtleties until a new and dynamic flavor burst forth.

When the Rebbe had a heart attack – it was Simchas Torah, the happiest night of the year with vigorous, near-riotous dancing until late at night – and the heart attack was sudden and severe – the Chassidim in his shul danced. And cried. Danced and cried.
 
Mourning means feeling loss. And it is a mitzvah to mourn the lost Bet Hamikdash. It is a mitzvah to mourn the loss of the just – this Shabbat is the Yahrtzeit of Aaron, Moses’s brother and this Shabbos begins the yearly nine-day mourning for the Bet Hamikdash, Jerusalem’s building where heaven met earth. 
 
The mitzvah of mourning largely translates into refraining, from weddings, haircuts, swimming, new clothes. It means feeling loss – not so much doing something as much as not doing anything.
 
There is also the mitzvah of continuance. Learning the life and thoughts of Aaron and making them your own. Iterating that his life was one of spirit and that if we continue his spirit than he lives now as much as he did in his lifetime. Studying the layout and function of the Bet Hamikdash, that were it to be rebuilt tomorrow, we could become its tour guides. Both are active defiance of the physical loss, the opposite of mourning.
 
And both are the enigma of Jewish response. Remembering and ignoring. Remembering the loss to such degree that we never accept it. Ignoring the loss like it never happened because that is the only way to ensure that we survive and that the loss does not endure.
 
It is a poignant paradox. Counterintuitively, they play on each other.  In yeder Yiddishe simcha is faran a trer, in every Yiddish joy is a tear. Not letting go. Not getting lost in memory. It pulls and pushes yins and yangs. And with it, a nation is nourished.
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