Vayigash I - ACCELERATOR AND BRAKES
IN THESE DAYS of motor travel almost every one knows that it is the motor that provides the vehicle with its driving power. With the help of the accelerator, we regulate the speed of our Buicks, Pontiacs, and Dodges. Our cars are also equipped with brakes which make it possible for us to slow them down or to bring them to a complete halt.
There is no doubt that both the accelerator and the brakes are crucial to the proper handling of a car. When the motor fails, the brakes will not help one to move, and when the brakes do not work, there is danger of a serious accident.
An amusing story is told of a young lady who stopped her car at a busy intersection where there was a three-colored rraffic light--red, amber and green. When the light turned green, she couldn't get her car to move. While she was frantically pulling at every available gadget in an effort to start her Cadillac, the traffic lights had changed from red to amber to green a number of times. Finally a traffic cop came up to her and said with a smile, "What's the matter, Miss? Haven't we got the colors you like?" So you see that it is only when both the motor and the brakes are in good working order that driving is enjoyable and safe.
The same holds true of life. Each of us has been equipped with a heart that serves as the motor of the human organism. It is the dynamo which supplies all the organs with energy to perform the task for which they were created. It is the seat of vitality and vigor. The desire to accomplish great things, the ambition to conquer new worlds, the drive to reach out for new horizons and scale uncharted heights--all have their origin in the heart of man.
The mind, on the other hand, acts as the great economizer and conserver of energy. It cautions us against taking chances and running risks. It keeps saying,'"Why not leave well enough alone! Take it easy and stop chasing after rainbows. Stay where you are and relax." Intellect supports these assertions with powerful logical arguments. It preaches conservation and ease, and acts as a brake on emotions, ambitions and dreams.
Had mankind through the ages only heeded the advice of cold logic, chances are that we would still be in the jungle, wearing rings through our noses and goat-skins on our backs Had Jews followed the promptings only of pure reason there would be no Jewish people and no State of Israel today.
Thank God that the great men of history and the great souls of our people did not leave everything to the dictates of reason. The tremendous strides of progress that were made in the field of science and in the rebuilding of Israel are the direct results of the daring of the human heart.
The same is true with respect to the religious and spiritual life of our people. Whenever we permitted the heart to have dominion, great things were achieved. Synagogues, Talmud Torahs, Yeshivoths and benevolent institutions were built in this land by men and women who had accelerators and driving know-how.
Unfortunately, a number of people are reluctant to use their accelerators these days. The need to merge Talmud Torahs in the city is a symptom of the smugness and fatuous imperturbability of parents. The drop in synagogue membership and lagging attendance of synagogue services throughout the land is another indicator of the emphasis on the use of brakes in our times.
At a meeting of a certain congregation, the President would call upon the Gabbai to give a report. The venerable gentelman would rise and say just two words, mehn davend , We pray." This was repeated for a number of years. One evening before a meeting, the President said to the Gabbai , "Reb Chayim, why do you always make your report so brief? This evening I expect a good attendance. Please make your report a little longer." When the Gabbai was asked for his report that night he rose, cleared his throat and said, "Mehn davend nisht. "
Yes, many have put their brakes on Jewish education, on davening , and on other Jewish activities and observances.
In commenting on the sidrah of this week, our sages inform us that when Joseph parted from his brothers, he admonished them not to overtax their minds with purely legalistic considerations (Rashi Gen. 45:24). Joseph urged that they should not permit themselves to be swayed by arguments of cold logic but to heed also the promptings of the heart.
This advice deserves a favorable application and acceptance. In the coming year let us use our hearts to perform great things for our community and our people.