Thursday, June 23, 2011

What Do I Really Want?

Have you ever found yourself humming a song and you don't know why? Maybe its a popular tune from long ago or some jingle from a television commercial you thought you hardly noticed. You wonder, why is this melody playing for me today? Why does this song I have not thought of in many a year come up in my head right now?
There is a folk wisdom that says that what you find yourself humming spontaneously will reveal what matters to you now in this moment of your life. Through the song's title, its lyrics, its message, your unconscious is revealing the current drama of your life and what you really want.

That folk wisdom,while intriguing, has been debunked by many and found to be untrue.
But the question it prompts remains. How do we know what we really want? How do we know our heart? There was an article this week in the Maariv about a young chatan, groom, from a charaidi background, who left his kallah, bride right after the chuppah and all the wedding guests. He fled and was not found for a month. A 'get' quickly followed. But what prompted the chatan to marry and then so quickly opt out? Did he not know his own heart?

And while the above example may be extreme how many of us have felt ambivalent about what we want in terms of career, family, level of Observance, community. Who has not felt certain of what they want only to feel very much unsure shortly after? We make choices and then choose again. Some of us remain so paralyzed by our ambivalence that we don't choose at all. How indeed do we know what is our true desire? Would that we could so easily look at the song of the day and find a solution.

From this week's parsha of Korach perhaps we can get some insight. You recall Korach, a man of stature, from the same tribe as Moshe, the tribe of Levi, stirred up a mutiny against Moshe. He questioned whether Moshe and Aharon had not taken too much of the responsibility for communal leadership unto themselves. His motivation was jealousy and self-agrandizement. He couched his challenge as a call to equality.
He said "For the whole nation, all of it is holy.And why have you raised yourselves above the congregation of Hashem".

The results of the mutiny of Korach are legendary. After a test by means of the firepans of incense in which only the firepan of Aharon was chosen, the earth opened up and swallowed Korach and all his mutineers died with him.

What is interesting to note is that Moshe called for the test of the true by means of the firepans of incense not on the day of the mutiny but rather the next morning.
Moshe said "Tomorrow morning G-d will reveal who is truly his and who is holy that He wants him near, and who He has chosen to be near to Him."

The commentaries wonder why the delay? Why does Moshe wait a day to bring the mutiny to closure? Why did he not immediately call for the test and validation of his leadership?

The answers are many, including several in the Medrash. In keeping with the concept of the blog, that is, understanding the Torah through the window of our self, I think Moshe was telling Korach and his followers something profound. Moshe was telling them, "Look I know you think you are motivated by holy desires and that you believe you are really only interested in the welfare of the People. Wait then. Wait til the morning, til the next day, after the heat of the moment of challenge has past. Tell me then, when you are calm and serene and all the passion has cooled, in the morning when you wake, do you still want this revolt? Are you still committed to it? Is it your ego compelling you in which case you will find less enthusiasm for your agenda come next day, or is it really a matter of conscience that you cannot desist from, something you truly feel called to, no matter the consequences."

Many years ago I had a teacher who was taken by my ability to get very excited about a particular issue, express strong feelings, only later to quickly forget about it and move on to something else. He said to me, "Israel, you are a mile wide and an inch deep." Indeed not all passion reflects depth. We can feel something very strongly and with emotion and yet it will not leave a trace a few minutes later.
To feel deeply, for something to really matter to us and at the core of our being, it needs to leave a residue. It needs to effect us in some significant way and for more than the passing moment.

If I want to know what really matters to me, what I really want, the lesson Moshe is teaching me is that I need to wait. If what I want continues to hold importance in the light of the new day, when I am calm and serene, then I know what I want is core to my real self. If the passion and yearning passes, now matter how strong it seemed in the individual moment, it is driven by forces external and maybe even impure. No matter how many times the passion may return, if it does not hold force in the 'morning' of my life when all is calm and quiet, it does not warrant a place of importance and in many cases it should command no place at all.

So many questions lie before us. So many decisions. What do we do about our marriage or our work? In what do we invest our self? Where do we put our energies? To answer those questions and so many more, we need to know what we really want, what matters to us. And to know that we will have to get past the emotional moments, the moments of passion and look towards the morning, the moments of serenity, when our heart speaks to us and we have the capacity to listen.

Then, in the morning, we will know our truth. Then, in the calm,when the passions have quieted, we will know what we need do.

Shabbat Shalom

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