“Would you be able to…”
The host of a meal that I attended during Rosh HaShanah this year added his own twist to the standard introduction rounds. “Go around the table and I want everyone to say your name, where you’re from, and whether or not you would have been able to sacrifice your only son on G-d’s altar.”
I’ve gotten used to being asked tough questions at a Shabbos or Yom Tov table, and sometimes even being forced into an impromptu shpiel on this weeks Torah portion (i.e. “D’var Torah”), but even looking back this question still catches me off-guard. What’s the “right answer” here?
Yes? — How could you be so heartless?!
No? — What, you don’t believe that everything Hashem does is for the best?!
I don’t know? — You’re learning Torah full-time, how could you not know the answer to a simple yes or no question?!
As the question worked it’s way around the table, I entered a mild state of panic. I was being coerced into exposing my very principles in front of a room full of 65 other people (it was a huge house), and I had no idea what answer would fly out of my open mouth when it was my turn. When the spotlight was finally shining on me and I was blinded like a deer in headlights, I heard someone that sounded a lot like me answer, “Hi, my name is Rucheli, I’m from Florida, and I hope that I would have the strength to do whatever Hashem asks of me in my life.” I breathed a sigh of relief. It was a dry, safe answer… Well done, subconsciousness, well done. Another moral disaster was averted and the rest of the High Holidays carried on without incident.
Setting the Stage
Both fortunately and unfortunately, when you are spending time in an institute of higher Torah learning (yeshiva or seminary, etc), the things that bother you are never allowed to fall to the wayside and be buried by the passing sands of time. And while I can’t speak for other places, the teachers here at Mayanot are incredibly adept at digging out the skeletons of our spiritual closets and making us examine every aspect of our lives from the viewpoint of Torah and Mitzvot.
Clearly, my attempt at forgetting my Rosh HaShanah dilemma was a hopelessly futile one. (more…)