Friday, May 25, 2012

Shavuot

During the days of early spring we were awakened at sunrise by a knocking on our window. It was a bird that was banging his beak on the glass. At first I thought it must be because there were some bugs on the windowsill. I investigated to see if I could remove this food. I discovered no such enticement. Then I learned that he was fighting with the bird he saw in the window. That other bird was in fact his reflection in our newly cleaned windows.

I shouted, “Stupid bird! You are fighting with yourself. You gain nothing in these efforts. You impress no one by your incessant pecking.” The bird failed to heed my advice. I began to regret cleaning the windows.

The holiday of Shavuot celebrates the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. It begins on Saturday evening. The Torah is likened to a mirror. In it we can perceive a vision of our better selves. The Torah is not a reflection of what we are but instead an intimation of what we can become.

Too often we look in mirrors and see only our imperfections. How much time is spent tending to our appearances? We scan Facebook for new pictures of our tagged selves. “Wow, I look great in that picture. Damn, I am so bald.” We look again and again in the mirror, at this angle and that, to glean our most flattering pose. We fight with our reflections.

The bird finally stopped its pecking when I placed a piece of white paper on the outside of the window. It was not a particularly attractive option. The paper appeared to diminish our home’s sheen. Nonetheless it proved effective. I reasoned, aesthetics are secondary to sleep.

There is a tradition that the white spaces of the Torah are even more important than the black, calligraphed letters. Why? It is there that we discover our truer selves. It is there that we write our destiny. We are guided by the beautiful letters. But we find ourselves in between the writing. We discover our path in the white spaces.

Now the bird does what birds are intended to do. He flies.

The choice is ours. Do we look at ourselves in the mirror and see only our imperfections. Or do we see what we can become? Do we imagine that we too can fly? And then see a vision of our truer selves.

This we discover every time we peer into the unfurled Torah. And it is that reflection we should always hold before our eyes.

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