- This Dvar Torah was delivered at Shaarei Kodesh on 12/17/11, parashat Vayeshev
Today, we stand here in simcha, happiness, as we welcome two young men into Jewish adulthood for their Bnai Mitzvah. Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, baby namings, brit milah, weddings, and funerals and unveilings all fall under the classification of a life cycle event. I was recently asked, which life cycle events do I as a Rabbi enjoy the most? In my opinion, the best life cycle events are when there are people there to share in the simcha, or to comfort those who need comfort during a loss.
I have done weddings in living rooms, on beautiful beaches, in beautiful catering halls, and in ornate synagogues. But it does not matter where they happen, but it is all about the who. Who is surrounding the baby, the bar/bat mitzvah child, the young or older couple, and, unfortunately, who is surrounding the person whose soul has departed.
Life cycle events, as we call them, are very special, and to me, they are a way of avoiding a pit fall in our society today. We have so many things that we can own, so many more comforts than we have ever had, so much more control over space and time than we have ever had, although that point is debatable, and yet, with all of this, it seems that there are more and more lonely people. One of the pit falls of our world is loneliness. I think that life cycle events are a solution to this problem.
Here is the thing, many of us choose loneliness, but it is loneliness in disguise.
In this week’s parashah, we see the son of Jacob, Joseph, who seems destined to be our next forefather. The parashah opens with the verse
At seventeen years of age, Joseph tended the flocks with his brothers, as a helper to the sons of his father’s wives Bilhah and Zilpah. And Joseph brought bad reports of them to their father.
V’HaBor Rek, Ein Bo Mayim
There are pits in this world that may not be full of death like the pit that Rabbi Spira and his friend jumped over. The pits are filled with something worse than death; they are filled with nothingness, so empty, they do not even have water in them, so empty that they lack all meaning. What we must recognize is that these empty pits, a life of loneliness, is not what God wants from us as Jews. God wants us to do something that seems very hard, to jump over these pits with others, in other words, to let people into our lives and our hearts. Joseph learned this lesson the hard way. It is only when he is in another pit, the jail in Egypt, where he starts listening to others and helping them rather than helping himself. And so all of us must do the same. God told Adam, and through Adam each human being, “It’s not good for humanity to be alone.” God wants us to share our lives with each other; this is the Jewish way. Simchas are only simchas if we share them, the tough times in life are only pits if we fail to jump over them together.
All of us must realize the lesson that Joseph learned, the lesson that Rabbi Israel Spira’s friend learned. We must learn to hold on to each other as jump over the pits in this world.