middot order daily living sequence and order

sequence and order

Written by  rabbi benjamin ehrenfeld

art-butterflyeffectAs a child I was diagnosed with Nonverbal Learning Disorder (NVLD). One of the clearest indicators of this learning difference was my early inability to process information out of sequence. If my mother told me to put on my shoes and socks I would stare at her blankly; I needed to be told to put on my socks and shoes.

As I got older I became increasingly more able to adapt by taking it upon myself to put things into sequence when necessary, but some difficulties still remain. In fact, to this day it will take me three times as long to figure out where I need to go using a map than if I just have step-by-step directions.

Not surprisingly, most of my life I have thought of order being found in logical sequence: “If it’s not in sequence then it’s not in order.” Recently I have begun to challenge my reliance on sequence to dictate order. In fact, I have discovered that many of my difficulties in balancing the middah of order have a direct relationship with my sense of losing order when I cannot find an appropriate sequence. Life has rarely proven itself to be sequential, regardless of my best efforts. Amusingly enough, Chaos Theory relies on the belief the seemingly insignificant events can set off a chain reaction causing unpredictable and infinite possibilities of events (i.e. the butterfly effect). In other words, slavish reliance on sequence can produce a somewhat disorderly environment because, if the sequence is altered, so would any expected outcome be subordinated to constantly changing events

I do not want to throw out the baby with the bath water…sequence can be very useful in maintaining order. However, it can also be inhibiting. The key for me has been in trusting that God, the great Order of the universe who transcends linear time (sequence), has designed a world of complexity and order. Maps and puzzles are orderly, but not sequential; life is more like a puzzle and Torah more like a map. So rather than get stuck spinning my wheels when the sequence I had hoped for falls apart I can now acknowledge empty spaces that need to be filled at a different time than I had expected: I learn to embrace order that lies beyond my finite experience to touch the Infinite. While all of this may be a little “meta” I think my experience can have meaning for others like me struggling to find order when the safety of controlled experience is removed, and what is left is the divine order. I pray we can all get a little closer to the balance between creating order and accepting the order beyond our control.

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