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Story: Parshat Pinchas 7/10/20

07/15/2020 03:17:34 PM

Jul15

Rabbi Charlie

Click HERE for a recording of the sermon as delivered.

In the Torah portion this week, Parshat Pinchas, we read about the aftermath of chaos that gets out of hand, which gives way to the order and structure of a military census and the details of our sacred calendar. It made me think – hmmm… chaos… a desire for structure or normalcy… that sounds pretty familiar. And it reminded me of one of my favorite stories from Jewish folklore that’s humorous – because we need to laugh, and it really speaks to where we’re at in some profound ways.

It starts with Yaakov, a farmer. He has a great little house that he shares with his wife and seven children. He loves them all, but oy, the noise. It’s constant – he just wants some peace and quiet. So what does he do? He goes to the rabbi. The rabbi listens carefully to Yaakov’s complaints and after a few minutes responds, “This is what I want you to do… You have chickens on your farm, yes?”

“I do,” answered Yaakov. “I have six chickens and a rooster.”

The rabbi says, “I want you to bring your chickens and the rooster into your home.”

Yaakov stammers, “Um, rabbi, I really don’t see how that’s going to help, but you are the rabbi…” I knew there was a reason why I like this story – the farmer actually listens to the rabbi… So he goes home and brings the chickens and the rooster into their home.

And now it’s worse – oy! The children and the clucking and the crowing. It was awful! He goes back to the rabbi after a terrible night sleep and tells the rabbi all about it. The rabbi responds, “This is what I want you to do… you have a goat on your farm, yes?”

“I do,” answered Yaakov. “Why?”

The rabbi says, “I want you to bring your goat into your home.”

Yaakov couldn’t believe it. “Um, rabbi, I really don’t see how that’s going to help, but you are the rabbi…” And he goes home and brings the goat into their home.

And now it’s worse – oy! The children and the clucking and the crowing and the bleating and the pecking and eating the tablecloth. It was a nightmare! Yaakov goes back to the rabbi after a terrible night sleep and tells the rabbi all about it. The rabbi responds, “This is what I want you to do… do you have a cow on your farm?”

“No! Rabbi.”

“You don’t have a cow?”

“Well, I do have a cow, but you can’t be serious.”

The rabbi says, “I want you to bring the cow into your home.”

Yaakov almost said something very rude to the rabbi. Instead he said, “Rabbi, I want peace and quiet. How is this going to help?”

The rabbi said with great certainty, “Yaakov, this will help.” So he does it.

And now it’s worse – Oy! The children and the clucking and the crowing and the bleating and the pecking and eating the tablecloth – the mooing and the smell and there wasn’t enough room to move. It was very early in the morning when Yaakov knocked on the rabbi’s door. “Rabbi,” Yaakov proclaimed. “I’ve had enough!”

And the rabbi agreed, “Yes, you have. Now, I’d like you to remove the cow and the goat and the chickens and the rooster from your house.”

And Yaakov did so. And it was quiet and it was spacious and it smelled so much better. Even the normal sounds of his family seemed sweeter. The rabbi was right. All those animals brought peace into their home.

This story, which I love dearly feels far too relevant right now. I feel like we’re in the middle of the story – longing for peace and a sense of normal, but new things keep complicating our situation. It can always get worse, but it’s pretty bad! There’s a lot to mourn right now.

Some in our congregation are mourning the loss of loved ones or jobs or hugs and connection… some are mourning the loss of normal. Yaakov is asking for peace and quiet – we just want ordinary interactions. We don’t want to have to wear masks. We don’t want schools have to ask us if we want our kids to study online or in person. We want to see friends and family without limitations or fear – we want to be able to be together at CBI.

Like any mourning process, there’s going to be anger and denial, bargaining and sadness and acceptance. And it’s messy – it’s not a straight line. And it’s hard – especially because even though we want structure and order and normal, we just don’t know what’s coming next.

So be kind to one another. Try to understand when people aren’t in the same place you are. Know that often emotions are frayed. Keep that in mind on social media and in interactions with friends and family. Right now, we need to laugh when we can, appreciate what we can, and care for each other the best we can. Because we still need to get through this together. Shabbat Shalom!

 

 

Fri, October 30 2020 12 Cheshvan 5781