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No Middle Ground

Friday, 12 December, 2014 - 6:00 am

I’ll admit it. I don’t have a green thumb.

I look with pride at my small garden patch, knowing it pales in comparison to others. No matter. It is 100% bigger than what we had before. And it’s the product of our hard labor.

As I toil in G-d’s earth, I have learned many lessons. Chief amongst them: If you have empty space, you will have weeds.  I’ve got two choices: plant something else, which will prevent the growth of weeds, or resign myself to constantly pull out the weeds.

What’s amazing is that there is no middle ground. It’s either a beautiful flower – or weeds. Why can’t I just have my bare earth without weeds popping up by the dozen?

***

When Yosef (Joseph) was sold into slavery by his brothers, he was first placed in a pit.  This week’s parsha Vayeshev declares that, “The pit was empty, there was no water in it.”

The Talmud is bothered by the words, “there was no water in it.” If the Torah already stated that it was empty, it was obviously devoid of everything, including water! What is the meaning of these extra words? The Talmud responds that the verse is suggesting that it was only empty of water, but there were snakes and scorpions in it.

Yet, the question remains. If the Torah wanted to tell us that the pit had snakes and scorpions in it, why not just say so explicitly?

Torah is compared to water (see Talmud Taanit and Tanya Chapter 4).  In utilizing the superfluous phrase, “there was no water in it,” the Torah is emphasizing that, in a spiritual sense, the appearance of ‘snakes and scorpions’ in one's life is an inescapable consequence of an emptiness of Torah (denoted by the metaphor of water).

The vacuum that is created when one's schedule is deficient in Torah study does not remain neutral. When "there is no water in it," the void automatically fills with ‘snakes and scorpions,’ ideas that are incompatible with a holy lifestyle and hostile to it.

***

On Chanukah we light up the night with the Chanukah candles. We don’t suffice with the fact that we enjoy light during the day.  If we don’t add light to the night, the vacuum of darkness will consume us. Our job is to keep filling up our lives with light.  If we do that, there simply won’t be any space for darkness.

As any gardener – or soccer player – will tell you.  If you aren’t playing offense you’ll be forced to play defense.  There is no middle ground.

Let’s keep the flame alive, and let’s keep the mind full of Torah.                                                                                                                                             

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