COME TO THE EDGE by Christopher Logue
Come to the edge. Come to the edge!
We might fall. And they came,
Come to the edge. And we pushed,
It's too high! And they flew.
My wife and I were privileged this week to participate in a Se'udat Hoda'ah, a Thanksgiving Feast, offered by a family that had been pushed to the edge and experienced a great miracle. Their extended families and incredible friends held onto them for dear life, and saved them from stepping over the precipice into hopelessness. Debbie and I were convinced that God was observing the gathering, deriving great Nachas, pleasure in the mutual love and support, faith and determination, of His children. On our way home, inspired by the event, I realized that the great miracle was not that the family was saved from falling over the edge, but that they stepped over the edge, and rather than fall, they grew wings, and soared to unbelievable heights. I'm convinced that their miracle was God's response to their new wings.
My close friend who, battling his second bout with cancer was, with his family, pushed over the edge, but he did not fall; he flew. He didn't just survive; he grew wings. He is stronger, more attuned to life, perhaps even funnier than before.
Torah, as life, speaks differently to people who know how to fly: "Moses began explaining the Torah (Deuteronomy 1:5)," five weeks before he died. The verse doesn't say that he continued his explanations of the past forty years, but that he began the explanation only now in his Final Lecture!
Moses could not have begun his explanation any earlier because the people had yet to grow their wings. As long as they had the greatest prophet in history, they could always turn to God for answers. They had the love of Aaron and the vision of Miriam. They were secure. Step by step they were pushed to the edge. Miriam died. Aaron was gone. The generation that experienced Sinai was gone. The final push over the edge was the realization that Moses would die, and they would have to go on without him. The people were sad, but confident. They were frightened, but ready to move on. They grew wings, and now Moses could begin explaining the Torah as it is; not as an instruction book for dealing with straightforward situations, but as a manual for people who want to grow wings and fly with independence. This moment was the real beginning of Torah.
The first Tisha B'Av was when the spies returned from Israel with a frightening report, and the people cried, convinced that they were being pushed over the edge. They didn't have the courage to fly. The generation of the wingless died out, and the new generation, ready to fly, received Moses' new explanation of Torah. Only people who know how to fly can build the Land of Israel.
Each Tisha B'Av in history was followed by a new explanation of Torah: The exile to Babylon, produced an Esther and eventually, the Talmud. The destruction of the Second Temple led to the establishment of Yavneh as a center of learning. The destruction of European Jewry was followed by a generation of fliers who rebuilt Israel, struggling to incorporate all we have learned living on the edge during the Diaspora and the values that have kept us alive through the ages.
Yes, we've been pushed over the edge, time after time, but we always learned to fly. God says to Israel in the opening moments of Sinai, "That I have borne you on the wings of eagles (Exodus 19:4)," meaning, I trained you to fly; it is only when you grow your own wings that you will fully appreciate My gift of Torah.
We sit on the ground on Tisha B'Av, just as mourners sit close to the earth from which they feel they have been pushed, but at midday, we rise with new wings, symbolized by the wings of the Tallit we wear only now in the afternoon, as if to say, "We've been pushed over the edge, but we're ready to fly into the future." That, for me, is the most powerful and important moment of Tisha B'Av.
With prayers that we will be blessed with the courage to soar on new wings, I wish you,
Rabbi Simcha L. Weinberg
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