("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.)
The tell the story of a little boy, who used to arrive to school 2 hours late on a daily basis. Nothing seemed to help them with his tardiness. His teacher tried everything – warnings, prizes, punishments, yelling even screaming – to no avail. Finally the teacher realized that he had to have a private meeting with the student. It was during that meeting that the teacher discovered the student’s problem. The little boy was going to bed way too late. He would fall into bed half asleep and remove his clothes haphazardly. His shirt would wind up in one place, his pants in another, socks spread about – without any awareness. Each morning, he would have to hunt – literally – to find his clothes in order to be dressed on time and still make it to school before the punishment.
His teacher listened sympathetically and then offered advice: “Get yourself a pen and a piece of paper. Every night, right down where everything is left so that when you wake up in the morning, all you need to do is look at the paper and you’ll know where everything is.” The little boy promised to follow his teacher’s advice.
The next day his teacher came to class expecting to see a change. But alas, the boy was again not in his seat. One hour passed and then a second – and still no little boy. In fact, the whole day passed and the little boy did not make it to school.
Somewhat concerned, his teacher made his way to the little boy’s home to check in on him and make sure he was not ill. Entering the little boy’s bedroom in his home, the shocked teacher saw the little boy seated in a chair, all dressed, holding the note he had written himself and crying bitterly.
“What happened?” asked the teacher.
The little boy explained that he had followed his teacher’s advice to a “t”. He noted where he had placed everything.—Shirt? Back of chair. Pants on the seat. One sock under the bed, a second one right near it. And sure enough, in the morning he was all dressed and had completed the list totally, earlier than ever before – except for one last item. The last line in his note read “And I’m in bed – good night!”
The little boy told his teacher tearfully, that he looked and looked through the sheets, pillowcases and blankets and has not found himself as yet? “Rebbe” he asked, “How could I go to school? What should I DO?”
Hillel used to declare at the Simchas Beis HaShoeiva celebration that if Ani Kaan then HaKol Kaan (If I am here then everything <everyone?> is here. The declaration seems to be a bit self-serving and haughty for a person the Talmud describes as a “humble man we should emulate.” What could he have meant?
Rav Yaakov Galinsky once noted that in life, we are often at many life events but we cannot truly say we were “present.” We attend many functions, perform many Jewish ceremonies and Mitzvos, attend many services and go to many shiurim but we are often not PRESENT at them. Our clothes may be there, our physical bodies may be there but we are in a different world. Hillel’s directive was clear – if Ani Kaan (if I am totally present especially in a religious context), then HaKol Kaan – then you are getting my total, undivided commitment to presence – both physically and in spirit as well.
The Sukkah which really is the shelter created with human creativity, represents the full presence of the person in the shadow of Hashem. Without man’s creativity a flimsy roof and shaky walls could not make a Sukkah into a dwelling. However, man’s presence in front of Hashem makes up for all of the temporary instability of the Sukkah experience which will hopefully drive him forward into the rest of the year.
What can YOU do to improve your AWARENESS of self and mission and PRESENCE in Hashem’s world?
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.