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Sunday, 21 February 2016

After a while, you get used to it

Daf Yomi Gittin 56

Lot was Avraham and Sarah’s nephew.  Having spent years in their home and on the road with them, he had become a paragon of ethics, morals and spiritual living.  But one day a conflict between his shepherds and Avraham’s caused them to part ways.   Lot headed south to Sodom, a land where his sheep would have abundant land to pasture.

When he first arrived, he was shocked.  The people of Sodom were wicked. They weren’t welcoming to strangers.  They weren’t charitable.  They didn’t share property.  He couldn’t imagine he would ever be able to last in such an awful place.  But his wife liked it and so they decided to give it a try.

The first couple of months were very uncomfortable.  Instead of the wonderful ‘Good morning’ greetings he was used to hearing, all he would get as he walked down the street were mean stares.   Instead of the guests he was used to receiving in Avraham and Sarah’s tent, everyone in Sodom kept to themselves.

But after a while, he got used to it.  It wasn’t so crazy anymore.  Who has time for guests when you’re so busy with your own life?  Greeting is only for people who have nothing more important to do than engage in small-talk.   What was originally strange behaviour for Lot and his family had now become everyday activity.  And in no time at all, Lot had learned to thrive in Sodom, so much so that they appointed him mayor of the city! 

Rabbi Tzadok observed fasts for forty years in order that Jerusalem might not be destroyed.  He became so thin that when he ate anything the food could be seen as it passed through his throat. When he wanted to restore himself, they used to bring him a fig, and he would suck the juice and throw the rest away.  How did the physicians heal Rabbi Tzadok? The first day they let him drink water in which bran had been soaked; on the next day water in which there had been coarse meal; on the next day water in which there had been flour, so that his stomach expanded little by little.
After Titus destroyed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, he took the curtain and shaped it like a basket and brought all the vessels of the Sanctuary and put them in it, and then put them on board ship to go and triumph with them in his city.  A gale sprang up at sea which threatened to wreck him. He said: Apparently the power of the God of these people is only over water. When Pharaoh came He drowned him in water, when Sisera came He drowned him in water. He is also trying to drown me in water. If he is really mighty, let him come up on the dry land and fight with me. A voice went forth from Heaven saying; Sinner, son of sinner, descendant of Esau the sinner, I have a tiny creature in my world called a gnat. Go up on the dry land and make war with it. When he landed the gnat came and entered his nose, and it knocked against his brain for seven years. One day as he was passing a blacksmith's it heard the noise of the hammer and stopped. He said; I see there is a remedy. So every day they brought a blacksmith who hammered before him. This went on for thirty days, but then the creature got used to it.

Often in life, when we are first introduced to an inappropriate situation, we find ourselves uncomfortable.  The little voice inside tells us that the new environment or set of behaviours is unbecoming.  But unfortunately, with time, we allow ourselves to get used to the circumstances.

Lot could never have pictured himself living among the wicked.  And yet, before long he was their leader!  Rabbi Tzadok spent forty years singlehandedly spiritually resisting the Roman invasion.  And yet, once it became an inevitability, they managed to slowly but surely wean him off his conviction – a morsel of food at a time.  The gnat inside Titus’s head was initially silenced by the noise of the blacksmith’s hammer.  But with time, he got used to it.

Maybe you moved to a new community and found a synagogue that’s not quite as traditional as what you came from.  Remember how strange it felt in the beginning?  But with time, it began to grow on you.  It’s time to wake up from your inertia and restore your soul to its source!

Maybe over time your friends started acting in ways you weren’t comfortable with.  Perhaps it was the places they began to frequent.  Maybe it was the food they started eating.  In the beginning, the little voice inside nagged and nudged, telling you that it wasn’t right.  But after a while, you learned to ignore the ‘little voice of prophecy.’  It’s time to reawaken and heed your voice of conscience and reason!  It’s time to transport your soul back to its true spiritual place that it yearns to be!

Often the litmus test of right and wrong is simply asking yourself how you would have felt ten years ago about your current behaviour.  May you never allow your body to become comfortable doing things that your soul is uncomfortable with!  

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