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Rabbi's Corner

Cleanup Hitter

Dear Friends,


It seems that the globe has been spinning quicker lately. This week, there was an avalanche of local and international news. Locally, the shuttering of Manhattan’s longest standing Judaica store was big news for me; nationally, all the Memorial weekend goings-on; internationally, Israel will be holding a do-over election-- and even extra-terrestrially:  an unprecedented report appeared in Monday’s Times that the US Army has de-stigmatized pilots reporting on apparent UFO activity.

With all that going on, I would like to draw your attention to a story deep in the sports section: the passing of Major League Baseball player Bill Buckner, who succumbed to Lewy body dementia at the age of 69. Buckner played 22 seasons with distinction, but his name, unfortunately,  became synonymous with just one play: an error.

It’s the 10th inning in Game Six of the 1986 World Series. A lazy ground ball hit by NY Mets Mookie Wilson should’ve ended the game, and secured Boston’s first world series win in sixty seven years. Instead, what happened at that point (replayed in slow motion too many times to count) is that the ball bounced in an awkward position and went past Buckner's glove. Ray Knight scores, the Mets win, and the rest is history.

In due time and after much scorn, Bill moved off the grid to Idaho where he lived in a self-imposed exile; his name inextricably associated for all time with that ill-fated play.

In the laws of Teshuvah, (commonly translated as repentance but more accurately, "return"), the strongest message is the uniquely Jewish idea that we have within us the ability to transcend our errors- of both commission and omission- and that any setback need only be temporary.

Maimonides (See link, Chapter 6 Law 4) teaches that at any point in our lives we have the power to perform a total pivot and dissociate our core self  from an unfortunate action, thought or word. Yom Kippur serves as a cosmic etch-a-sketch-like redo, with the power to literally erase the mistakes of the past ( interpersonal wrong-doings are not undone until all parties are satisfied).

This message of Teshuvah empowers us as we navigate the Sefira days of self- reflection and self-perfection between Passover and Shavuot, compelling us to let bygones be bygones and look one way only: forward, as we prepare to receive the Torah anew.

We will celebrate this enduring message at the Annual Shavuot Ice Cream party (promotion attached in this email) Raizy and I look forward to greeting you.

With best wishes,

Rabbi Shmuly Metzger

PS We are holding services this Shabbat and every Shabbat (schedule attached), great service, amazing kiddush with thought compelling discussion and lots of good cheer.

PPS On April 8, 2008, Buckner threw out the first pitch to former teammate Dwight Evans at the Red Sox home opener as they unfurled their 2007 World Series championship banner. He received a two-minute standing ovation from the sell-out crowd. After the game, when asked if he had any second thoughts about appearing at the game, he said, "I really had to forgive, not the fans of Boston, per se, but I would have to say in my heart I had to forgive the media for what they put me and my family through. So, you know, I've done that and I'm over that."

 

Opening Our Eyes

 

Dear Friend,


Judaism is unique in the way it synthesizes two ideas that appear paradoxical. Truth and peace, for example, may seem at odds with one another, our faith shows us how to synthesize the two. An additional example would be the relevance of timeliness and the transcendence of timelessness.

I was reminded of this just this week as I passed through Rockefeller Center and encountered the Jaune Plensa sculpture, Behind The Walls 2019, (a project of the Frieze New York art initiative.)

This wondrous piece of art made me stop and reflect. I wondered if 'Behind the Walls' suggests that one whose eyes are tightly shut is on the inside or the outside of that wall. And if art is subjective, a sort of Rorschach test as to one's deepest perspective, I saw (rather predictably for a Rabbi, I guess) the core of Judaism itself.

I'll preface that by sharing a tale told my in favorite publications as a kid, a children's periodical, edited by the Rebbe, called 'Talks and Tales'. This particular story, which takes place in a shtetl of yesteryear, presents us with a blind musician who plays at weddings and Bar Mitzvahs. Accompanying him was a kind soul who would lead him to and from the local venue. I can't recall many of the details but the kicker, which has always stayed with me, was that this musician in fact had 20/20 vision, and just couldn't stand to see what he perceived as the immorality and injustice surrounding him.

Was he right? It's complicated. The Torah expects us to navigate this life with 'eyes wide open'. With that said, every once in a while, a 'factory reset' of how we view ourselves and the world is in order. This is what I saw in "Behind the Walls".

When one recites the central prayer of our faith, the Shema, it is customary to cover ones eyes and meditate briefly. In those few moments the physical universe ceases to exist; the only reality is a higher one: "Hashem Echad, G-d is One."

When a woman (or girl) lights the Shabbat flames, she covers her eyes as well, and in those precious moments of personal prayer, there is no one and nothing just G-d and herself.

As the world spins, some aspects evolve and some stay the same, architecture, style- even our biochemistry- is all subject to change. And with all the change, we can get caught up in that motion. Alas, there are things that don't change. Morality and a Higher Power are fixed in time, and in that brief moment when we reset ourselves, we transcend the world and all its movement, and open our eyes again, recharged to view a world of possibility, built on an enduring foundation of Hashem Echad, the One and oneness of G-d.

At Chabad-Sutton we gather every Shabbat morning. I encourage you to join us as we close and reopen our eyes in prayer and reconnect with the timeless foundation of our faith.

Raizy and I look forward to greeting you.

With warm wishes,

Rabbi Shmuel Metzger
 
 

 

 


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