Fake News – Pinchas 5777
Fake News or just a different perspective
Whilst at a Rabbi’s conference this week in Bosworth, Warwickshire (yes, we do get to all the most exotic places) I was reconnected with an old Chassidic story. A Chossid from Kharkov, Ukraine was visiting Rabbi Shalom DovBer in Lubavitch, White Russia. The Rebbe asked him how things are in Kharkov. The Chossid answered that everything was good, people were friendly to each other, the learning was stimulating, the Davenning was inspirational and the Brotherhood of Chassidim was just as it should be. The Rebbe gave him a gold rouble and thanked him for his good news.
Later that day, another Chossid from Kharkov visited the Rebbe and was asked the same question. He however answered exactly the opposite and told the Rebbe how in truth everybody was fighting with each other, the learning was non-existent and the Davenning was flat and perfunctory; in short, the Brotherhood was at an all-time low. The Rebbe thanked him and sent him on his way, albeit without a gold rouble.
As luck would have it, that Shabbat the second Chossid became aware of what had transpired when his friend had gone to the Rebbe and given him his report. He was upset and complained to the Rebbe; why was I penalised for telling the truth? The other Chossid just told you a bubba meiseh and he got a gold rouble for it, surely I who told the truth should be likewise compensated.
The Rebbe replied and said “do you really think that I don’t know what is happening in Kharkov? I just wanted to know in which Kharkov you were living!”
What a powerful statement indeed. Kharkov is Kharkov, it’s down to us to decide which Kharkov we choose to live in.
In this week’s Sedra we are once again told about all of the Chagim, about Rosh Chodesh and the Appointed times. The one thing in common with all of these festivals, different to Shabbat, is that they occur due to our actions. We as a community, under the direction of the Sanhedrin, would declare the day Rosh Chodesh and thus the subsequent Chagim would fall on their appointed times. Shabbat happens automatically, but Rosh Chodesh and the Chagim need our involvement. At times we might even miss seeing the new moon, Rosh Chodesh could be delayed because of the cloud or for any other reason and with that Yom Kippur would be celebrated a day late; we would in fact be eating on the day which officially would be Yom Kippur and fasting on what is officially a regular week day!
The Almighty created this paradox, whereby we can celebrate a festival on its wrong date, precisely because of the sentiments expressed in the story above. He knows the truth about Kharkov, about our world, He just wants to know which Kharkov are we living in. Can we see this world and elevate it? Can we look at our surroundings, be they our personal lives, our Shuls, our friends or our business, can we look at them and declare them good or do we complain?
This isn’t about burying our heads in the sand. It is about having the right positive attitude, for with that a normal day of the week can be transformed into an Appointed Time of the Almighty. That is our Power. That is His gift to us. Now what are we going to do with it?
Wishing you all a Shabbat Shalom,