Two Rules

26 Nisan 5776

As we leave Egypt and head through the wilderness towards Mt. Sinai and "revelation" (aspects of our next holiday -- Shavuot), I was struck by this story and teaching.

Here's the story: 

"At the wedding of the son of Reb Avaham Yaakov of Sadigora to the daughter of Reb Zvi HaKohen of Rimanov, the groom's grandfather, Reb Yisrael of Ruzhin, stood up and said to the father of the bride: 'Let me share with you the yichus of our family. My great-grandfather was Reb Dov Ber; my grandfather was his son, Reb Avraham, who was called the Angel; my great-uncles was Reb Nachum of Chernobyl, and my uncle was his son, Reb Mordechai of Chernobyl. So, my dear friend, please share with us your lineage.'

"'My parents died when I was ten years of age,' Reb Zvi said softly. 'I did not know them well enough to tell you anything about them other than that they were righteous and good-hearted people. After their deaths, a relative apprenticed me to a tailor, for whom I worked for five years. It was during that time that I learned two rules by which I have governed my life: Do not spoil anything new, and fix anything old.'

"With that, the groom's grandfather leaped to his feet, shouting joyously: 'This is a marriage of two great lineages. These children are doubly blessed!'"

What is the secret that the groom's grandfather understood to be revealed through these two rules?

Rabbi Rami explains how we might understand these principles in our lives:

"Do not spoil anything new. Many of us spoil the new simply by insisting that it conform to the old. The past is a shield against the future. Life lived in such a manner is imitative. There is no creativity, only conformity. The new is not allowed to be new and must masquerade as the old.

"Fix anything old. The old needs fixing when it no longer functions in the way it was intended. This principle is especially important in the world of conventional religion. It is the nature of religious to fixate on form and forget the principle the form originally embodied. The result is a hollow imitation of deeds without the ethics and joy the deeds once cultivated. How do we fix this? Not by abandoning the deeds but by returning to the principle behind them and reinventing the deed to better embody the idea. Where are you spoiling the new by insisting that it conform to the old? Where are you conforming to the old simply because it is old, and no longer living the principle behind the deed?" (Hasidic Tales, translated and annotated by Rabbi Rami Shapiro. Skylight Paths Publishing, 2004. Pgs. 154-155).

As we move farther away from Egypt, and from the slavery that Pharoah imposed on us, we will soon enter the new month of Iyyar (which will start Sunday night). With approaching new moon we have the opportunity to take some time to reflect on the break in habits that Passover might have provided:

What of our old patterns need fixing? What relationships (to Judaism, the earth, the Divine, ourselves, loved ones) need attending to? What new opportunities are we facing at this moment, and how do we be sure to not "spoil" them by treating them like something we already know and have experienced? 

May this reflection help us in our journey of stepping into our potential. Amen.