Torah Blog


A blog of Torah thoughts, poems and other random odds 'n' sods. For tag cloud click here.
(Sorry, the comments moderation for this blog is very clunky - if you want to ask me a question, better to use the contact form)



Of Goats and God

A friend who is a goatherd told me that goats are not like sheep. They are aware there is a shepherd but they do not relate. Only goats that have been brought up around humans have a relationship with them.
The נמשל is interesting. Many people out there believe in a Shepherd but don't relate. Especially if they were not brought up with a living breathing relationship with the Divine. But it's never too late to pray: "Reveal Yourself to me so I may know You in my every breath. I do not want to be a goat."
As it says:

שתצילינו היום ובכל יום מעזי פנים ומעזות פנים
Preserve me every day from those with goat's faces and from a goaty face

(a little Purim humour!)


When our face falls

I've spent quite a bit of time with the story of Cain (I won't call it "Cain and Abel" here, because the brothers undergo different challenges - the challenge of failure is not the same as the challenge of success), and I think it's amazing. This is the first time in the Torah that we get to see a human whirling giddily in the eye of a storm of emotions: Anger, jealousy, frustration and more.

Bereshit 4:6 sets out two of these emotions plainly:

"And the Lord said to Cain: Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen?

Why is God asking these questions, when the answer is obvious? Clearly God wants to draw Cain's attention to two emotions inside him - two different emotions, each of which has its own pulse and requires its own processing mechanism.

Leaving aside "Why are you angry?" let's think about "Why has your face fallen?" This sounds a lot like sadness, even depression. When we are depressed our mouths turn downwards, our eyes look down, our very being seems to drag into the ground as if we have arrived on a planet when gravity is ten times our own.

And what happens when we look down? What might we miss? When people speak to us, we will not look them in the eye. We will miss the -face-to-face, soul-to-soul encounter possible every time we converse openly and directly with another. God says, "Cain, look up, talk to me. Let's communicate, don't build walls. Raise your face to me." Just as in the priestly blessing, we are blessed "May the Lord lift His countenance to you and grant you peace," perhaps God too wants our countenances lifted to Him/Her, with openness and welcome.

And what else happens while we look down? Absolutely everything! But we don't see any of it. Amazing opportunities whizz right by our ears and we don't even notice. Life is full of doors opening and abundance coming our way; every moment brings its riches. But we are so busy looking down, nose to the grindstone, that we don't even notice.
Look up, dear human! And grab it while its hot!

Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting--
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

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