Let's Eat Grandma

Friday, 14 January, 2022 - 11:36 am

Let’s eat Grandma

This statement, minus the comma, can be understood as an expression of horrific cannibalistic intentions. This statement, with a comma after the word “eat,” is a noble expression of inviting Grandma to dinner. A lesson in the value of proper punctuation.

But what about when the placement of proper punctuation is not so perceptible?

In Chassidic thought, the life of a person is presented as a struggle between one’s noble self and one’s egocentric self. This struggle is played out on the battlefield of everyday life. Each side has a support system. The forces of holiness vs. the forces of evil. The King/Commander-in-chief of the good side is Hashem.

When a nation battles in a struggle for its very survival and future, the king is willing to put everything on the line to achieve victory. All the resources of the kingdom, which have been stored and saved for generations, are accessed, and given to the troops for the sake of a triumphant outcome. Nothing is off limits or untouchable in the quest for victory.

For the sake of victory in this struggle for the future of each person, and the entire cosmos, our King, too, opens the storehouses of treasure, the deepest secrets of the Torah, the loftiest souls in the form of our leaders, and the blessings in life that we need, to emerge triumphant in the battle of good and evil.

Three times a year, on the morning before Rosh Hashanah, at the climax of Yom Kippur, and at the moment of intensity on Hoshaanah Rabba, we recite the following passage. (I will translate it literally and without punctuation.) The Gates of Heaven please open and Your storehouse that is good for us please open. As we read the second half of the phrase, it can be punctuated in two ways. The first is “Your storehouse that is good, for us please open.” This implies that the storehouse (of Divine treasures), which is good by some objective metric, is requested to be opened for us. The second way of punctuating is, “Your storehouse that is good for us, please open.” This implies that the treasures must be appreciably good “for us.” A goodness that we can perceive from our subjective vantage point.

When the Rebbe cited this passage while presenting the idea of the King using all resources in the quest for victory, he emphasized the second way. The treasure must be appreciably good by our subjective metric. We ask Hashem to bless us with goodness that we can recognize in an obvious manner. With this infusion of open and revealed Divine blessings, we will have the resources necessary to emerge triumphant for the sake of Hashem.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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