("Let's table the discussion" is a new Adath Israel Shul initiative where a story or thought is presented in order to stimulate exciting and constructive discussion arund our Shabbos table or among friends and children.)
Once upon a time, in the little village of Chelm, the people decided that they needed a new cemetery. The population of the city had expanded, people had begun to build larger homes, and the need to find a new location for the townspeople’s eternal resting place. They looked, and looked, and could not find a suitable location. They called a meeting of the wise people of the town and for seven days, debated the issue.
At the end of the seven days, the people reached a conclusion: they would move them out and that was on the southern side of the city and utilize the space created by moving the mountain as the new cemetery.
This of course, raised a new question for the people: how does one move a mountain? They debated the issue for another seven days. Finally, the wise man of Chelm came up with an idea. “we will all rise, all men of the town as one – united in spirit and body – and together we will move the mountain.” The townspeople quickly accepted this “wise” advice. Quickly, all able bodied men – young and old, rushed to the mountain on the southern side of the city.
A crowd quickly gathered and surrounded the mountain. The men pushed and shoved and leaned and tried as hard as they could, but they could not move the mountain.
10 minutes went by, allowing the participants to catch their breath before they strenuously tried again. Again, they pushed and strained and shoved but could not move the mountain. At this point, the menfolk of Chelm were drenched in sweat and beginning to get uncomfortable. The men removed their shirts, depositing them on the side, in preparation for their next try.
As all the men struggled, a group of petty thieves watched the men in earnest. They quickly came with small carts and as the men of Chelm strained to move the mountain, the thieves stole all the shirts and quickly disappeared from the town.
After an hour of straining, one of the wise men discovered that his shirt was missing. Soon, all the men discovered that their shirts were missing. They began to wonder what was going on. The wise man of Chelm surmised the answer. “We must have been successful” he told them. “We must have moved the mountain so far that we cannot even see the place where we left our shirts.” Upon hearing the explanation, the people began to applaud, cheer and even break out into dance over their success.
Rav Shabsi HaKohein Yudelovitch used this story to highlight the lesson of the dangers of modernity. Many argue that to be modern is to turn a new page, and lose the lessons of the past. Specifically, he noted that although today’s society can even move mountains – it is the lessons of the mountains – literally Maamad Har Sinai (the revelation on Sinai) that must remain immutable. What do you think about the message? Is there spiritual danger in modernity? Should we stay away from modern life? How do orthodox Jews like us – who have a foot in the modern world – negotiate the forward-moving nature of technology and modernity while at the same time remaining anchored in the richness of a Torah life? What type of suggestions can we use for our children and ourselves?
Let’s “table” the discussion – by discussing it with our children, spouses, families and guests and open an exciting discussion into our homes and communities.