He not busy being born is busy dying – Bob Dylan
The other day I had coffee with Hal, the father of one of our chavurah members. He had just written his second novel, this one based on his amazing experiences as a Jewish-American soldier fighting the Nazis in World War II. We got together to talk about his book, but Hal wanted to know a little about my religious background, since his son had gotten caught up in our crazy brand of Judaism. I told him my story of encountering Yeshua as the Jewish Messiah, and the differences that encounter had made in my entire life.
I love it that adaptability is included among the middot. If it weren't, we might be tempted to think of mussar as simply a set of rules, and rigid adherence as the way to virtue. We might think of mussar as saying to us, "Just stay within the lines I set and you'll be safe." But, of course, real life provides too many exceptions, dilemmas, and puzzlements to allow for such an approach.
During the first few months, when Barbara and I first began attending Beit HaShofar, I was told by a very smart congregant that mules and donkeys were very intelligent. I poopooed them, emphasizing the intelligence of horses. Well … I was wrong.
Once upon a time, a father and a son went to sell their old horse in the market. While they were on their way to the market, a group of people commented, “We have never seen such idiots in our life. In spite of having a horse, you are walking!” They both thought about it and sat on the horse.
Another group of people came and said, “How cruel you are! You both are sitting on this poor old horse. Have some mercy on it.” They both thought about it, and the son sat on it while the father started walking.
Again, another group came across and said to the son, “What kind of young lad are you? You are enjoying a ride on this horse, while your old father has to walk in this hot weather.” The son started walking and made his father sit on the horse.
Another group came across and said to the father, “What kind of father are you? Your little son is walking and you are enjoying yourself on this horse.” Both father and son became so upset that they carried the horse on their shoulders. Then all the people started laughing at them. Finally, they got rid of that horse by throwing it into a river.
An older man is driving down the freeway and his car phone rings. When he answers, he hears his wife's voice urgently warning him, "Herman, I just heard on the news that there's a car going the wrong way on route 290. Please be careful!" "Tell me about it!" says Herman. "It's not just one car. It's hundreds of them!!!"
The middah of adaptability is fundamental to existence; it is characteristic of God Himself.
For centuries, the Sages puzzled over the question of how anything besides God can exist. Is God not present everywhere in all His power? Where is the “space” for a material creation in such a universe? Also, how can human beings have their own thoughts when God is everywhere and pervasively present even within His mind?
It is rather incredible to think of all the ways in which God “adapts” in order for us to perceive and know him. He provides us with different modes of communication and interaction over time as he watches us change.
"An increase of flexibility in the mind and the heart is a gift that benefits all who come in contact with us." -- Hart Lazer in introduction to Aleph Bet Yoga by Steven A. Rapp
Soon after this R. Eleazar son of R. Simeon entered [the Beit Hamidrash] and expounded thus, "A man should always be gentle as the reed and let him never be unyielding as the cedar. And for this reason the reed merited that of it should be made a pen for the writing of the Law, Phylacteries and Mezzuzot." -- Taanit 20b