Thursday, March 20, 2008

Unclean mouth (literally) Edition

Sometimes I wake up and think, "my, it'll be good to brush my teeth, eh?" Yes, I really think like that. Of course, today is one of those days, when teeth cleaning is prohibited by the law, and I'm truly suffering. Since I am having irreparable damage done to me at this time, I think it would be only proper to get all snarky on everyone.
For example: There's a new "Purim Video" that's been put out by Michoel Pruzansky, which features one of the slimiest and snaggiest performances that I have ever had the pleasure of seeing. I'm not going to harp on this aspect of the video, because even I must admit that it was well done. No, my real problem is the words, "Im Ani Oseh Mitzva Ani Koneh Olam Habah", "If I do a Mitzva then I acquire the world to come."
One caveat before I savage this-Some genius will probably email me its source in the holy scriptures, or its liturgical roots. So, I'm sorry. This reminds me of when Avraham Fried's CD Chazak came out, and a friend of mine told me that his Rosh Yeshiva (yup, you guessed it, a snag [Skokie, to be precise]) had said that it was ridiculous, as the title song's words, which I won't be writing out thank you very much, were calls to idolatry. How could a Jew make a song like that? The obvious answer was that Duh! it's in Tanach! How could G-d write those words? Besides, it's a nice song.
Oh, right, back to Michoel's music. How terribly snaggy is this attitude that one does Mitzvos in order to gain paradise or something? Such a Christian or Muslim concept. Heck, Pirkei Avos says, "Don't be like a servant who serves his master for reward." Obviously reward and punishment are very important things. Extremely important things. But...In the house that I'm currently calling my abode there is a small child undergoing potty training. Every time she does it right, or maybe it's one a day, or whatever, she gets a lollipop. This works. But if you go to a ten year old and tell them, "Oh, I am so proud of you! You got it all on the toilet!" They would look at you as if you had gone mad. Reward has its place, but to base one's entire performance of G-d's commandments on it?
Why, in general, does G-d want us to keep his Mitzvos? The very simple reason is that... he wants it! Simple, no? We don't know why G-d wants us to keep Kosher, not wear wool and linen together, or even get stoned on Purim; but that's the point. He wants it. And when G-d wants something, you do it, not because of the harp he'll give you when you get to heaven.
Why should you listen to G-d? Because he created you. How do I know he created you? Rabbi Manis Friedman, who recently became the founder of the Yeshiva, came and gave a pep talk to us a couple days ago. After I asked him about Judaism's concept of "original sin" he began to discuss why we were right and the big bang never happened. Oh, and the "original sin" thing? It seems that we're born with the capacity to do evil. That's all. Anyway, what's the problem with the big bang? The problem is first of all not, "Oh, the world is so perfect. Only divine intelligence could make blood, or eyes, or fishies, or whatever." That is a moronic statement, and any scientist who tries to prove G-d's existence by it only proves his own idiocy. Invoking G-d just because you can't fathom something only proves that you can't fathom something; it does not prove the existence of G-d. In twenty years, they'll figure out how these things developed, and then you'll look really stupid.
No, the real proof that there is a G-d comes from the fact that the big bang requires two things to interact. What came before those two things. One thing. Or nothing. Same problem. One thing or nothing don't interact. They don't change. They don't create big bangs. The real question is not how the universe was created, but rather why the universe was created. There must be a desire on the part of one thing, or nothing, to change. Call that desire what you want-I'll call it G-d.
There's a story in one of the holy texts where a Rabbi paints a beautiful picture and then tells the non-believer that a pot of ink fell over and made this wonderful illustration. "Obviously that's not possible!" proclaims the non-believer, and then realizes that the world is a greater canvas than any picture. This story has been misinterpreted, because theoretically, after a certain amount of ink spills, you will get a beautiful picture. The point of the story is that someone has to want to spill that ink.
So once we know that G-d created the world, we ask why. That's the true science, to figure out why this world was created. And the answer? To make a dwelling place for him down here. And how is this accomplished? How do we do what G-d wants? Through our Torah and Mitzvos.
Happy fasting.


Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Real S.
I note that fasting has an interesting effect on you (or is it the not teeth brushing?). Regardless this was a very uplifting philosophical piece (not that your other pieces are not filled with insights) but in this you successfully ask and maybe answer the ultimate question. (I say maybe because, as limited beings, we are incapable of understanding the "why" of things. Each of us must choose the beginning point that works for them and proceed from there. As one's belief and knowledge is strengthened so one pushes back the beginning of one's knowledge. Very few of us ordinary mortals get close to even asking, with some meaning and understanding, the ultimate why.) I'd like to hear Rabbi Friedman on this topic. Sincerely yours, L d T.