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Cut and Paste Gone Awry

Friday, 3 January, 2014 - 12:34 pm

Computers have given us many ways to make our lives more efficient. One of the simplest ways is the cut and paste shortcut features on our keyboards. We can easily select a whole bunch of text from one place and place it elsewhere to be reused without much effort. (Of course it has wreaked havoc in the world of plagiarism.)

Jews, however, have employed the “cut and paste” shortcut long before the advent of a keyboard. We have been cutting passages from the Torah and pasting them into life for as long as we can remember. The danger with “cut and paste,” is when words get left out of the cut and are therefore missing from the paste. I would like to share three examples where the “cut and paste” ended up leaving off the most important part of the passage on the cutting floor.

The first is from the story of the Exodus. We all know that Moses came to Pharaoh and said… “Shalach et ami - Let My people go.”  As a matter of fact that became the rallying cry of the protests against the USSR in the 1970s and 1980s. They left one key word out of the paste. G-d actually instructs Moses to go to Pharaoh and tell him “Shalach et ami v’ya’avduni - Let My people go, so that they will serve Me.” Just one word, but a cardinal omission that changes the entire nature of the cry. Freedom for a Jew is about serving Hashem. The Soviets didn’t mind Jews as much as they hated Judaism. By lopping off that one word, we potentially cheated hundreds of thousands of Jews out of the greatest benefit that their freedom could have given them – the drive to worship Hashem.

The second example comes from the slogan adopted by the early pioneers who advocated agricultural settlement of the land of Israel as a way of escaping the pogroms in Russia in the 1880s. They termed themselves BILU, formed of an acronym of the passage from Isaiah, “Beit Yaakov l’chu v’nelcha – House of Jacob let us walk.” The 4th Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Shmuel Schneerson, indicated that he may have considered joining them but for the fact that the “cut and paste” left the primary message out of the passage. Isaiah’s prophecy contains two additional words, “Beit Yaakov l’chu v’nelcha b’or Hashem - House of Jacob let us walk, by the light of Hashem.” Leaving those words out was a game changer for him. This indicated that Hashem and His Torah were not to be a part of this group’s push toward settling the land of Israel.

Finally, the cause known as Tikkun Olam. The basis for this term is the liturgical passage Aleinu which contains the phrase, “L’taken olam – to perfect the world.” Once again the key part of the phrase is omitted in the “cut and paste” exercise leaving us with a ubiquitous Tikkun Olam concept that may include any conceivable cause whether or not it is congruous with the Torah. The complete phrase is, “L’taken olam b’malchut Sha-ddai – To perfect the world under the sovereignty of the Al-mighty.” Just a few words, but they make a world of difference (no pun intended).

Mazal Tov to Ms. Jane Tavlin on the birth of her granddaughter, Elisheva Anne. Mazal Tov to the parents, Lior and Batya Yaish!

We look forward to seeing you at the Building Naming Celebration this Tuesday night, honoring Isaac & Bety Btesh.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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