With apologies to Teapacks 😉
I put my laundry in the machine the other day here in the apartment we’re staying in Jerusalem. Every time I went to get the laundry out, when I thought it should be finished, the light was still on and I absolutely could not figure out how to get it out. And every time I pushed another button (the instructions being in Italian), it put it through another wash cycle. I feel so guilty for wasting so much water, but ever more so, I feel dumb. Talk about old dogs and steep learning curves!
That night, I pushed more buttons; it went through more cycles. I finally gave up because I couldn’t see in the dark. In the morning, I looked again. There are a series of buttons and dials. I had pushed everything. I thought. Now I saw one of the buttons had a little pictogram of well, what could it be?
Oh duh. The button to push it open!
And voila, or however you say that in Italian, it opened and I rescued my by now very very clean laundry.
Okay, very nice. But after going to a class earlier this week and happening upon a gravesite today, I think this is an extremely important point that deserves more reflection.
Why do we Jews love words? Why do we look to prayer and not to action?
The class that I went to stressed how we are rewarded for preparing for mitzvot/commandments, as if we have actually done them. So if we are unable to fulfill the commandment, but have real strong commitment to trying, this is clearly a signal that we are not at fault if we do not have the power to complete the task.
Ruth Wisse wrote a book called Jews and Power back in 2007 how we Jews got caught in our powerlessness being in the Diaspora, learning to focus on a certain skillset that allowed us to get out of difficult situations as best as possible, but now that we have the State of Israel, we are still not using the power that we have as effectively as possible. It’s a short read–you should definitely read it, if you have not already.
Actually, it’s possible that that isn’t what she said, since I’ve read it so long ago now.
The other thing that happened that day was this visit to the Zhviller Rebbe’s resting place. You can read about the mythology here. I know, some of you are thinking either that all of this is mythology and/or I’m being very sacrilegious. And perhaps you are all right. All I know is that I was very disheartened by this visit. So why was I there? I had gone with a friend to go the Jerusalem Bird Observatory, which we did in about 10 minutes (the birds weren’t there in the middle of the day) and since we had time left on our parking meter, we walked over to the grave which is right next to the birds.
First of all, once again, the gravesite is not really accessible. It’s split off men/women. Then just like at Kever Rachel, there are (surprisingly) large numbers of women involved in intense prayer, with a handy laminated printout of what to say in order to achieve this intervention with the rebbe (see above post), which also includes placing a stone on the grave and then lighting a candle (!), followed by giving charity there.
I was too cold to stay under the canopy there extending the grave area; I preferred to stay in the wonderful winter sun. I read the psalms listed; I skipped the rest. I reminded my friend who felt very connected to the place and the activity that there were only 4 minutes left on the meter and we left, giving some charity to some women sitting at the entrance.
I do get the irony of what I’m saying; I’m writing with words, but criticizing people who use words and only words to try to create change. It has to be connected to action. So it is valuable to say that you need to create a positive mindset to enable action, but not to limit yourself to living in the mind. Here in Scientific American is an excellent article about getting yourself to the next level in mindset, or higher level cognitive control.
On the other hand, I do get the reality of prayer when you acknowledge your limitations of power and of action, such as with health. We today thankfully have access to amazing new treatments, but there is a wall we reach. That wall might be able to be breached with prayer.
Okay, maybe that is our power. For sometimes, perhaps, our buttons need to be pushed to get us to move.