Two-Line Torah: Re’eh 5777–Creating space for wisdom



August 2, 2017

A man went to the Zen master to learn from him. The master agreed to teach him, and invited him to enjoy a cup of tea, which the visitor accepted heartily. The master poured his cup to the top, and then kept pouring. As the water overflowed, the prospective student said, “Enough! You are spilling the tea all over. Can’t you see the cup is full?” The master stopped pouring and smiled at his guest. “You are like this tea cup, so full that nothing can be added. Come back to me when the cup is empty.”

We live at a precarious time when people are deeply convinced of their own opinions, as supported by the interwebs, youtube, and, if needed, Wikipedia. So who needs educators?

If any transmission of ancient wisdom is going to happen, we are going to have to work to create the space. We are not Zen Masters, but we are proud bearers of top-notch material, which we know can be transformative if it gets the chance. So we should tune into the key question: “Is there space for this knowledge/wisdom/guidance to take root?”

This is what Parshat Re’eh is getting at: Before this:

As for the place that God chooses to dwell – there bring all the
offerings that I command you to bring – your elevation offerings, your sacrifices, your
tithes, and the gifts of your hands, all your choicest vows that you vow to God

We get this:

You shall surely vanquish all the places where the nations you willdisplace have worshiped their gods, on high mountains and hills, and under every plush tree. You shall destroy their altars, break their prayer-pillars burn their idola-trees, break up their statues, and vanquish their names from that place.

Before real connection, removing obstacles.

Rabbi Gavriel Goldfeder is the senior Jewish educator at MIT Hillel. He’s written some books, too. Here’s one.