The Anonymous “They say”ers of Life

18 Jan

In life, we find ourselves surrounded with opinions and suggestions.  Not just those shared with us by family and friends, but also those we hear on the news and read in the papers.  Often, it is the pessimistic voices that rise above the optimists.  There are many reasons that might be suggested for why this is – but that’s not my point.

The thing that bothers me is not the fact that “they say” this or “they say” that – what annoys me is that we are prone to listen to what they say.

The anonymous “they say”ers rule the way we think, the way we choose, the way we act.

An example: last we a friend of ours who lives in the United States was telling us that her daughter had been planning on making aliyah; however, she wants to be a nurse and “they say” that nursing is not a respected profession here in Israel.  My wife, a successful and respected nurse herself, suggested that you just can’t listen to everything “they say.”

Another example: There is a phenomena that has developed in certain circles of our society, where parents have decided that giving their children vaccinations is an unnecessary – they believe in a more holistic approach.  “They say” that is a risk, and better to refrain.  As a result,m there is now a serious measles epidemic circulating in the the ultra-orthodox world here in Israel.  this has been going on for months, and it just keeps reoccurring – measles!

Anyway, it seems to me that until now, I have been reading the Torah with “They say ” glasses, and if I allow myself to remove them, I can find a very different understanding lying beneath the surface.

Let me explain.

As the Bnei Yisrael are standing at the edge of the waters of the Reed Sea, with the Egyptians fast approaching, the Torah tells us that they became frightened and “they”cried out to God.  (Exodus 14:10).  It then says that “they” said to Moshe: “Weren’t there enough graves in Egypt?  Why did you have to bring us out here to die in the desert?  How could you do such a thing to us, bringing s out of Egypt?  Didn’t we tell you in Egypt to leave us alone and let s work for the Egyptians? It would have been better to be slaves in Egypt that to die here in the desert!”

When we read these words and words and compliants like these, attributed to the unspecified they – the bnei Yisrael – we are normally persuaded to beleive that it is as if all of them, in unison, said these words.  Similarly, when we read the az yashivr the song at the sea i nthis week’s parasha, we seem to picture everyone participating – however, does it seem reasonable that 2,000,000 men, women and children complained or sang in unison here?

I suggest that the Torah presents the story to us in the way we are used to understanding life. I can imagine that actually, there were many Israelites at the sea who had faith in Moshe and in God.  They were the stood silently, waitng for the miracle, while Moshe contended with the loud mouths who spoke out –

Of course, that is what a leader is forced to do – to deal with the lud mouths, the complainers – the “nay-sayers.”

With this perspective, I have come to listen  to the voices of the faithful – I know they are there – they are all around us, they fill our lives, they are a part of our journey – it’s just that sinc they don’t speak up, we forget they are there.

Have a very positive, songful Shabbat Shira – gotta go.


One Response to “The Anonymous “They say”ers of Life”

  1. Barry Friday, January 18, 2008 at 8:58 pm #

    Thanks Rabbi Schwartz – that was a great tie-in between the parsha and the all too common way in which we allow ourselves to be misled by pessimists and complainers. Another example in the Torah that supports your point occurs in Bamidbar:

    “The people were looking to complain, and it was evil in the ears of the Lord. The Lord heard and His anger flared, and a fire from the Lord burned among them, consuming the outermost edges of the camp.” (11:1)

    Why the “outermost edges” of the camp? Perhaps because that’s where the loudest naysayers can be found – on the fringes of society.

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