“Tish Talk” by Rabbi Shalom Rubanowitz
Thoughts from your Rabbi for Your Shabbos Table
With Gal Gadot, our Israeli sister from Rosh Ha-Ayin now practically a household name world-wide, the “Jewishness” of Hollywood is bound to be reinvigorated as a coffee table discussion in various circles in terms of Hollywood’s influence on capturing our hearts and minds. I think our Parasha can indeed give us insight into how a Torah-taught person might be an expert in understanding this area of humanity. As the end of the weekly portion reads, : “You shall not stray (V’lo Taturu) after your heart and after your eyes” Says Rashi (citing the rabbis of the Talmud) : “The heart and the eyes are spies for the body. The eye sees, the heart desires, and the body commits the sin”. In the “screen-led” society of ours this Rashi could never be more potent. So much of what so many of us are directed to in life today all starts out from something we viewed on some kind of “monitored” gadget-what some call the “Hollywood Effect”.
But there is a problem with this Rashi. While Rashi seems to tell us the “order” of our transgressions, where our eyes first lead us to desire what we see, the verse itself has it in reverse order. The Torah first tells us to not tray after our hearts, only afterwards warning us about wayward eyes. Has Rashi strayed from the text he is interpreting?
Here is where a global approach to studying Torah pays off. In discussing the story of the scouts, or “spies” who came back from their mission with the report that conquering the land of Israel would be impossible (despite the many G-dly guarantees), the Talmud (Sotah 34) in its exegesis of the words “and they went and they came” (Numbers, 13:26) informs: “just as the spies came back with bad intentions, so too did they start out their trip with bad intentions”. What could the Talmudic lesson be here? Well, perhaps a fundamental life one: One’s frame of mind entering a situation can be determinative of how one comes out of the situation. The way you think and feel at the start might very well guarantee what kind of end you will experience. In other words-our heart will dictate what it is that we actually see. We will see what we expect to see. The spies had negative ideas in their head from the outset. Of course, this colored their vision-and doomed the “report” from the beginning. Remember the Chasidic story about a man who goes to a new town, and asks the Rabbi “how are the people here?” The Rabbi responds: “what are the people like where you come from?”. Says the newcomer: “They are selfish, greedy, mean people.”. Responds the Rabbi: “You will find the people pretty much the same here.”. The next day someone else approaches the Rabbi with the same question. To the Rabbi’s identical question “Well, how are the people where you come from?” this man replies: “they are wonderfully kind, gracious, beautiful people”. The Rabbi now responds: “you will find our people pretty much the same here”.
Rashi makes a little more sense now, doesn’t he? Yes, we may not be led to the sin until we see how “great” that sin is when we look at the computer, TV, Movie, or telephone screen, but what we are driven to view- as dictated by our hearts, that’s where it all really starts. As the “Boss” said it” “Everybody’s Got a Hungry Heart”. Do your eyes jump to the words “Tish Talk” as your inbox is flooded Friday afternoon, or is your attention first grabbed by the illustrated email hinting at a sin-filled weekend in some hedonistic hideaway? Says Rashi: If you want to know what to “stray “ means (“Taturu” in Hebrew), take a cue from the Mraglim, who, starting out on a bad foot, enjoyed not a true tour of the land, but a “Lo TaTouru”; an experience that ended up negative-for generations.
So my friends, as you enter this Shabbos, take a moment to fill your heart with beauty-and I guarantee that’s what you will end up seeing whatever “tour of life” you join! Shabbat Shalom!