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a treadmill or a stair master?

08/13/2020 05:33:58 PM

Aug13

Rabbi Jeffrey Myers

Do you feel like you have been on a treadmill since the middle of March, adding up the miles but seemingly not getting anywhere? Do you feel like George Jetson, whom at the end of the introduction to the show is literally sucked under the apparatus by his dog Astro, doomed to continually revolve around it?

Truth be told, prior to the outbreak of the pandemic, my experiences post-October 27 led me to feel as though I was either in some Kafka-esque novel, or, Rod Serling would suddenly walk out of my closet to inform me that I had been living in The Twilight Zone. The preponderance of Zoom, where the host can control what you see and hear on your screen makes me wonder if I’m really living in The Outer Limits. If you do not know whom the author Franz Kafka was, now is the perfect time to acquire a book of his short stories. If you are not a Baby Boomer, you may not recognize my television references to The Jetsons, The Twilight Zone, or The Outer Limits. My generation is the television generation, having grown up with a limited number of stations (it was 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, and 41 in Central NJ), first only in black and white, and you had to get up out of your seat, turn the channel by hand and fiddle with the antenna, aka rabbit ears, to get the best possible reception. Today’s generation is one of live-streaming, where you purchase the type of content you are looking for from a specific provider of that content, and you have the luxury of viewing that content on-demand and on any device that you wish.

I have frequently mulled over in my mind the makings of a science fiction short story, where you get to choose the path your life takes through some sort of on-demand system. Each step along the way leaves you with at least two choices, and by clicking on a hand-held device, your construct your daily reality. Of course there would need to be a protagonist and an antagonist, as Martin Scorsese insists. Perhaps one of them might lead a rebellion to try to eliminate this perceived control over our lives. But is it really control, and, more importantly, is this truly science fiction?

We are taught in Pirkei Avot that all is predetermined, yet we have freedom of choice. God knows what the choices are that we are going to make, yet does not share that with us nor encourages us towards a particular choice. We choose our path, and we do that every single day of our lives. As one of the main characters states in the film “The Adjustment Bureau”, we have freedom to select the soda we wish to drink. Is there truly freedom of choice? Is there some sort of internal gyroscope present that engages at each choice?

Yes, there is. It is the totality of Jewish existence, based upon the teachings of the Torah. When we meet or hear of someone in need, the Torah compels us to help. We are commanded thirty-six times not to forget the stranger, for we were strangers in the land of Egypt. We are enjoined to remember the orphan and the widow. We are commanded to pursue justice.

Some might suggest that our freedom of choice is lessened by their perceived restrictions in the Torah. I submit to you that the Torah offers us the path to a life well-lived, respected by others, and full of meaning. The teachings of the Torah gently prod us to make the best possible choices each time, as we view each and every choice through the lens of Judaism.

It's not a treadmill. Rather, it is a proverbial stairway to heaven, to get closer to the beauty of God through the performance of mitzvot. We will most likely never reach the top stair, but, we must try. Unplug your treadmill. Become all that you can become. Become a stair master.

 

Tue, September 29 2020 11 Tishrei 5781