Monday, September 23, 2019

All the Rosh Hashanah Simanim That's Fit to Print

I made a thing. Please laminate, disseminate, and celebrate. Shana Tovah everybody!:

Monday, September 09, 2019

Dvar Torah on Occasion of Benjy Israel's Marriage to the Lovely Laura, with permission from Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II

(ad libs in parentheses)

We’ve all heard the expression, “A mentsch tracht in Gut lacht.”

This is more familiarly known as?

[crowd says, "Man plans, and God laughs."]

(Yes, but also:) “Man proposes and God disposes.”

Also known as “Man schmoozes, but God chooses.”

Or: “Man wheels, but God deals.”

And it is famously known in Latin as, "Homo proponit, sed Deus disponit." They rhymed it too.

Most famously, this was interpreted by the gadol hador, John Lennon (of course), as “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.”

This all comes from Tehillim 19: “rabbois machshavois b’lev ish v’atzas hashem he sakum.” Or: "Many are the plans in a person's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails."

So, some time ago, there Benjy was, and there, presumably, Laura was (timeout! I finally got the full exact story yesterday from the couple, but it's too late to change what I've written here, so what I'm about to say is “based on true events”), swiping left while both were vacationing in Tel Aviv, but something told them to swipe RIGHT, and they met RIGHT around the corner, and everything was so RIGHT, that they met RIGHT away, and then when they returned to the UK, and suddenly we’re all here today. Isn't that RIGHT?

(See Naava, it wasn't so punny after all!)

So let's back up a bit: many months later, my wife and I were finalizing our summer vacation plans with the kids, an RV trip - I believe Brits call them motorhomes or mobile homes or caravans - to Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana, because I’m collecting all 50 states, and I like to bring my family along with me.

Suddenly we got the news that Benjy got engaged, and the kids made us completely change our plans: we’re going to the UK. Well, we were just here in the winter, so we decided to go to the Holy Land this time and come through London on the way back.

So there we were on the way to the airport for our flight to Israel, chatting about the adventures we’ll have, while the Uber driver kept falling asleep (no, seriously), when the call comes in asking for me to speak today. Well, I left the rest of the chatting to my family, while I daydreamed, for a long while, about what I would say.

While on our trip, we learned at the Ayalon Institute, about pre-medina kibbutzniks, with ambitions to build a neighborhood in the future state of Israel, when the Haganah pulled aside 40 teenagers, and told them no, you’re making bullets (under threat of discovery, under pain of death).

What on earth does all of this (pichifkes) have in common?

Plenty! Allow me to explain:

This week’s parsha is Parshas Re'eh. It is about making the right decisions, but it’s not just about that, it’s also about seizing opportunity when it’s presented to you.

It starts, right at the beginning of the parsha (which you've now heard at least 7 times this Shabbos, and now it's my turn), with God presenting a choice:
רְאֵ֗ה אָנֹכִ֛י נֹתֵ֥ן לִפְנֵיכֶ֖ם הַיֹּ֑ום בְּרָכָ֖ה וּקְלָלָֽה׃ see I have set before you today a blessing and a curse. Twice afterwards in the parsha, God shows the Jewish people how to choose the right path. Finally, to wrap things up a few parshios later, in Netzavim, G-d advises which one to choose. Choose life. וּבָֽחַרְתָּ בַּֽחַיִּים.

So God presents a choice, tells you how to choose, and then is extremely specific, just in case you're having trouble putting it all together.

And then the current parsha ends with an invitation to come to Eretz Yisroel three times a year for the shalosh regalim.
So it seems that if you start right, you end right, if you choose blessing, because you've been invited to do so, you end up being blessed.

We see that choosing right, and choosing correctly, when a choice is given to you, leads you down good paths.

When you recognize that the etzba elokim has swiped right, and you end up following the derech elokim - the path of God - yourself in response, wonderful things happen.

Benjy and Laura swiped right - and here we are all together, blessed with the promise of a bayis ne’eman, and us blessing them that they should indeed build one.

The Bodeks swiped right, from the UK to Israel, and Oy did we have a blessed and enriched time, which may not have happened if the couple hadn’t swiped right.

Auntie Hazel asked me to swipe right, and I certainly did. I carved time out from our busy schedule and perpetual exhaustion because it’s the ultimate compliment to ask me to speak, with my Brooklyn brogue, amongst speakers so refined and esteemed.

And the bullet-making heroes are just one of the many stories that we learned among our trips to places like Chevron, Elazar, Ir David, and more. Israel is a collection of people heeding the call, understanding they’ve been given a mission, following that right-swiping etzbah elokim and wound up with blessing upon blessing.

We should all be blessed with the message of this week’s parsha: choose life, choose right, swipe right, choose life (I don't know why I wrote that twice - perhaps to emphasize the point). May this continue, and may we continue to cross ponds to share in each other’s simchas. A few years ago, we were in Israel for Jordy’s bar mitzvah. This year we made it here for Benjy’s wedding. l’shana haba b’Passaic for Freddy’s bar mitzvah, b'Eretz Yisroel for Dovi's Bar Mitzvah, b'New Rochelle for Ayden's bat mitzvah, and b’New York for Doron and Michelle’s wedding.

Mazel tov chosson and kallah, chassanim and kallos, the House of Israel, the House of Storfer, the House of Lassman, the House of Busse - did I get everyone? The House of Gryffindor? - have a wonderful Shabbos, and may the etzbah elokim swipe right for all of us in matters of health, faith, parnassah, nachas, and family connections.

Thank you very much.