Two Chinese geologists traveled to the remote mountainous regions where the source of the Yangtze River is located. They followed the winding and increasingly narrow stream to a point where it was no more than a trickle of water. One put his foot down on the trickle and said, "Now I am stopping the mighty Yangtze in its tracks."
There are times I wish for a remote to reverse, forward, and pause the world as easily as that scientist "stopped" the Yangtze. There are powerful people in Yemen, Syria, and Bahrain who wish it was that easy to stop a mighty force. The teenager carried along by anger and resentment, destroying relationships and opportunities, can't reach the pause button. A couple moved along year after year by the force of old arguments and resentments may wish to stop the river of emotions at the source, but cannot. The religious person propelled by habit searches for but cannot find the right button to press to pause and reflect on why he prays.
The Force of History. The unstoppable force of religion and tradition. Forces far mightier than the Yangtze. Forces that refuse to pause. The mighty flow of love of a parent for a child should never pause. The force of tens of thousands of people gathering to demand freedom does not want to pause for fear that it will imply hesitation. Forces that empower us to confidently look ahead into the future despite all the tremors of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism in the world. We live with a powerful force that reminds us we need not cower in fear; a force that has not paused once in its history.
This week we will read Parshat HaChodesh, in which God offers His first commandment to Israel as a nation: The Mitzvah of the Sanctification of the New Moon. They were paused between slavery and freedom and the Mitzvah reminded them that there is another button: Refresh. The key word in the text is "Chadash," New, as if to say, "Find a way to make it fresh." The Mitzvah is not addressing a person carried along by negative forces, but a burgeoning nation, bursting with potential, excited for the future. It is often the person who is happy and excited who forgets to click on Refresh. We naturally know that a child stuck in a destructive pattern needs to press pause. Do we remember that a child for whom all seems to be going well must click on Refresh? A couple caught up in negative patterns will, hopefully, reach for the pause button. How often does the thriving marriage look for the Refresh?
It takes more courage to click on Refresh than it does to press pause: Am I willing to refresh when things seem to be going so well? I remember my father zt'l challenging me during my most productive year in Yeshiva: How can you make it even better?" I was frightened to think of changing anything while everything seemed to be clicking, but I listened, discussed with him what my goals would be if I was just beginning the semester, and clicked Refresh. The benefit was exponential.
My prayers this morning were flowing, exciting, energizing; I wanted to hold onto the experience, but I also wanted more, so I clicked on Refresh. I appreciated the risk of pausing in middle of such a powerful prayer to ask for even more, but it was the willingness to risk what I had to gain more that empowered my Refresh button. The result was fabulous.
Here we are beginning to prepare our homes for Pesach. The change of dishes, cooking utensils, cutlery and cabinets is a powerful pause; one that allows us to click on Refresh and ask for more meaning, more passion, more growth, more, more, more. I hope we have the courage.
Rabbi Simcha L. Weinberg
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