("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 around our Shabbos table or among friends and children.)
Once upon a time, a man was working on his roof. In a freak accident, he fell off the roof breaking all of his bones. The screams of pain were so intense that people were able to hear it for blocks around. However, after a couple of moments of screaming, there was silence. Not a sound emanated from his lips.
To the person listening to the screams from blocks away, the silence was welcomed with joy for it represented a miracle. After all, just moments before, the man was screaming far and wide and now there are no shouts. Clearly, the man must have experienced a miracle and his bones miraculously healed themselves. Amazing!
However, to the person closer to the scene of the accident, the silence suggested a danger that even the most intense screams couldn’t represent. For at the scene, the victim had lapsed into a coma wherein he was no longer feeling the pain – but was now fighting for his life.
Rav Shalom Schwadron pointed out that there is great irony in the story of the slavery in Mitzrayim and its aftermath. On the one hand, the slavery is described in horrific terms – with physical and emotional torture inflicted on the Jewish people by its evil captors. In fact, the midrash notes that the Egyptian slavery was so bad, it is seen by Hashem like all the other captivities combined.
But at the same time, as soon as the Jewish nation found any problem in the desert, they were ready to lament leaving the confines of Egypt and at times, even planned on going back there. How was it possible?
Rav Shalom explains that the slavery was so intense in Mitzrayim that the experience numbed the Jewish ability to feel. This was Pharaoh’s evil genius – had he enslaved them to physical labor, they might have rebelled. By torturing them psychologically as well, he lowered them into the belief system that they had nothing to look forward to – and therefore no reason to challenge or seek freedom. In essence, he took away the reason to hope – and believe.
Holocaust philosopher/psychologist Victor Frankl notes that the people who were most able t survive tortures of the Nazis were the ones who were able to see beyond the daily grind of the camps and to believe – and live.
A famous poet also decried the practice of losing one’s self identity in the troubles that society tries to heap on us noting – “I decided long ago never to walk in anyone’s shadow. If I fail, if I succeed at least I’ll live as I believe.”
We often deal with many challenges in daily living that make it difficult to “go on.” At times, we seem to feel that different responsibilities might even not seem to be “worth it” at a particular moment. How can we inspire ourselves and others with the “will to believe?” How can we implant a higher purpose of living in our kids as well?
Let’s “table” the discussion – by discussing it with our children, spouses, families and guests and open an exciting discussion into our homes and community.