Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Gathering Crumbs

A few people, including my mother, sent me a link or reminder yesterday to say Parshas HaMan (the chapter in the Torah about the Jews receiving the manna to eat in the desert), which is considered to be a segulah (charm) for a good livelihood. At first I ignored them, figuring "uch, I'm really not into these segulos, they're stupid", then finally changing my mind when I got one while at work, though admittedly I mostly was looking for a quick break from staring at valuation spreadsheets on Excel. Part of why I changed my mind was a quick note my co-worker attached noting that it was someone a few hundred years ago who said to say the Parsha, and also thinking that my own parents are not into segulos and similar garbage and yet my mother thought to send it to me.

So of course, while I still was not [and am not] into the whole segula part, I tried to determine what exactly this rav found so important that he wanted people to say this parsha. Certainly, wanting people to learn a little more isn't a bad thing; and it is a parsha which I didn't realize how unfamiliar I was with it until I skimmed it while saying it today. I found fascinating on rethinking the story that the manna is called that simply because the Jews basically looked out and thought "Wha...!?" I found intriguing that we are so ingrained to think it tasted whatever people wanted it to when the Torah describes rather clearly how it actually tasted. I found it interesting how the dew would first have to dissipate before they could gather it. I wondered whether the fact that Moshe only tells them it is from Hashem after it already happened once was part of why some went out again on Shabbos itself to see if more had fallen. And I particularly wondered what the overall message the rav may have wanted us to learn from it, and couldn't help but wonder if my good friend G was on the right track below. And perhaps it is about appreciation for that which we have, while acknowledging that ultimately, it all comes from God. And I wondered whether people have misunderstood this message to think that it all comes from God if you simply ask in a certain way, instead of working hard to get it.

Noyam has an excellent rant about it, actually. He also touches on another interesting subject, the segregated charedi bus lines in Israel which are now coming to the Supreme Court there to judge their legality. Personally, I have no problem with people choosing to separate themselves based on sex (I think race or another differentiation would be a problem), so long as nobody is forced or pressured to do so. Eugene Volokh (hat tip: G) has a very solid piece discussing the subject, and it is interesting to read a rather well-written piece by a completely unbiased secular observer. I think one of the strengths of this particular initiative is that it is something that is being brought to a completely irreligious court to be judged - an interesting twist on the kind of situation that this is. I'm also more comfortable with the idea of Egged operating these buses than having similar private bus lines, which one can interpret as sad, if they wish; I worry what kind of lines would be crossed on a completely private line, while - despite the handful of stories - on Egged, people seem to be generally respectful of those who do not know/do not care for the separation, and Egged controls it.

So much more to say on so much, but alas, my bed is calling me. Check out this piece of wisdom Chana found, Are Children the Ultimate Literary Critics? The writer makes some fascinating and thought-provoking points about how we grow up, about how we think about God, about how we think and write and read in general, and so much more. It is short but packed full of incredible content. In it you may understand not only why I enjoy blogging, but perhaps why I also enjoy quoting others so often, or why I particularly enjoy Moshe's series of quotes. There is something to be said for learning from everyone, and quite often, whatever you are about to say, someone else has already said it better. That doesn't mean you shouldn't say it; just that you should recognize what has already been accomplished.

And if you're looking for a perfect example of that, check out both the post by Aidel Maidel entitled "I was supposed to be exceptional" and the comments responding to her. I think both her lament and the responses are feelings we all share from time to time, wondering what might have been and what happened... until we remember what else we have that we otherwise would not.

Life is not meant to be full of regrets. The only purpose in regretting that which we have done is in order to learn from it, to know not to do the same should the situation arise again. Beyond that, regret often simply keeps us caught up in the past, mired in 'what ifs' and similar thoughts. Those rarely have any positive utility. It is far better to focus on what we have learned and gained from the decisions we made that we now regret, so that we can move on and become better people. I have long wondered if that was the true meaning behind that which we're taught about the 'sins' we commit - that if we repent and change our ways, they will be viewed as if we had done the right thing in the first place. While obviously we cannot undo that which has already been done, the understanding we gain and lessons we learn from our mistakes are far greater than that which we learn otherwise, and this is what pshat is in that drasha.

As a friend said, sharing an excellent line from another close friend [loosely], "Life is not about all the times you fell down, but about all the times you got back up again." Just remember to dust off the crumbs after gathering what you need.

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