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A Little Meditation for the 4th of July

07/02/2019 01:52:06 PM


Rabbi Scott Hausman-Weiss

The story goes that on one particularly fateful day, the elders were simply fed up by the ways in which their people disregarded their teachings, disavowed their presumed allegiance and were inert to their teachings for how one should live one’s life. And so the elders prayed. They prayed harder and stronger and louder and more fervently than ever before in their lives. And because all of them prayed together with such intensity and energy, with such purpose and persistence, they achieved a rare audience with The King. Not “the king,” but the King, the King of Kings, Melech m’lachim, the big One upstairs, the Big Cheese, the Big Kahuna, you get it…. And to God, they requested that God finally remove the yetzer hara (the inclination towards evil) from the world. Like a game show host, God encouraged them to consider choosing what they might get, if instead they chose what was behind door #2 or 3, but to no avail. The elders stood their ground, even as one or two of them began to show a bit of weakness thinking that if it was a lazy boy with cup holders and massage, maybe…but no, as a group, they held their ground. Nothing less than God removing the yetzer hara, the inclination towards evil, would suffice this time. 

God, with great regret, granted them their fervent prayer. They all returned to their homes and went to bed. But in the morning, as the sun rose, there wasn’t a rooster to be heard, nor the echo of wooden wheels along cobblestone streets, nor the screeching of running children to pierce one’s ears…there wasn’t even a single egg laid. 

The Talmud shares this tale with us as a reminder that we exist, but for a careful balance between the Yetzer hatov (inclination towards good) and the Yetzer hara (inclination towards evil) for while we might imagine that ridding the world of any inclination towards the bad would be a good thing, the rabbis understood these inclinations quite uniquely. You see for them, for us, the Yetzer hatov is better understood as the inclination towards status quo, keeping things relatively the same. For, let’s be honest, while we may look at the world and our lives and sense all sorts of things we want to change, when we say “goodbye and see you later” to our loved ones, in the morning, when we leave for the day, or for a vacation, we want the status quo to remain – that indeed we will be able to keep this promise. That Yetzer hatov is our protector and saving grace, so to speak. However, there are things about our lives and the world that indeed do need changing, and this is where the Yetzer hara, the inclination towards change, kicks in. Why, on the day God granted the evisceration of the yetzer hara, was there no movement, no awakening, no urgency for the day, not even an egg? Because all creativity, all outside the box thinking, the willingness to challenge pre-conceived notions, a consciousness for choosing and acting differently in the face of static circumstances, is drawn from the Yetzer hara, that “bad-girl” or “bad-boy” attribute innate in all of us. 

The framers of the Constitution were inspired and driven by their Yetzer hara. The US and the concept of liberal democracy is a thumb in the eyes of emperors, dictators, tyrants and kings whose longevity relies, ironically, upon the Yetzer haTov, their inclination, their need, their driving desire to keep hold of power by maintaining its artifice, and keeping things the same. Yet, the creativity of the human spirit can only be held down for so long – and arise the Abolitionists, the Labor Organizers, the Suffragettes, the Civil Rights Leaders, the Anti-War Protesters, the Environmental Defenders, who for generation upon generation upset the status quo. 

On this fourth of July, let us celebrate them – for without them, we Jews, we Americans, we free people would still be suffering the throes of tantrum-throwing hooligans, who somehow scrape their way into power when we have grown too tired to keep watch.

Events for the Week of 7/1/2019

  • Friday Evening Shabbat & Oneg - Friday, June 28 - More Info
  • CSK Women's Brunch - Sunday, July 13 - More Info
  • Kosher Pretzel Yoga - Saturday July 27 - More Info
  • 2nd Annual Astros Jewish Community Day - Sunday, August 25 - More Info + Get Tickets
Fri, February 28 2020 3 Adar 5780