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God-Colored Glasses: Thanksgiving and Shabbat Message by Rabbi Dan Levin

Rabbi Dan Levin, Temple Beth El of Boca Raton

My recent visit to the eye doctor reminded me that I’m getting a little older.  The doctor recommended I get progressive eyeglasses – lenses that combine correction for my terrible nearsightedness and help in reading. Progressive lenses are a remarkable invention, and take some time to get used to.  But after a few days, I’m grateful that I can see clearly when I look up, and even more clearly when I look down.

Rabbi Sholom Noach Berezovsky, who led the Slonim Hasidim from 1981 until his death in 2000, looks at a part of this week’s portion through mystical lenses.

After serving his Uncle Laban for 20 years, helping to grow his flocks and his wealth, Jacob is ready to take his family and return to his homeland.  Jacob and his uncle agree that among the goats, those that are “streaked, spotted, and mottled,” will belong to Jacob, and his uncle will retain the rest.

In his book Netivot Shalom, Rabbi Berezovsky explains that those three categories – “streaked, spotted, and mottled” – represent three levels of faith.  The Hebrew word for “streaked” is “עֲקֻדִּ֥ים – Akudim” which can also mean “bound.”  So the first level is how we choose to exercise our faith, to “bind” ourselves to the holy principles and teachings we learn in our relationship with God.

The Hebrew word for “spotted” is “נְקֻדִּ֖ים – Nekudim” which can also refer to the deep part of the heart, the Nikud, where our spirit is implanted within us.

And the Hebrew word for “mottled” is “בְרֻדִּ֑ים – Berudim” which refers also to our spinal column.

Thus, what happens when we engage our capacity for faith, when we deliberately focus our minds on what we truly believe, then we bind ourselves to our core ideals – life and love, wisdom and understanding, compassion and justice, freedom and peace.  If we concentrate on fully embracing these ideas with our mind, they eventually get rooted in our Nikud – our heart.  And then if we truly hold these ideals in the core of our being, they spread through our entire bodies, as the spinal column unites our whole being, so that our principles and values are realized in all we do and how we live.

But for so many, especially in the last few weeks, it’s possible for us to get discouraged and demoralized.  We see a rise in terrible antisemitic acts and wonder how our world could so quickly revert to hatreds that should have been buried in the dustbin of history.  We see friends and family contort themselves into ethical pretzels, blinded by misinformation and dissonance.  We watch with horror as humanity’s soul is corrupted and corroded with hate.

When everyone starts marching in the wrong direction, we begin to doubt and question.  And yet, it is precisely then that we need what Rabbi Miriam Margles calls Emunah P’shutah – a simple and pure faith.

By starting with Emunah-P’shutah,… our thinking becomes more open, available, and is wearing ‘God-colored glasses.’ We have a conscious choice to make, a choice rooted in faith, about the qualities and content of the thoughts in which we immerse our minds.”

This week of Thanksgiving teaches us the need to replace our lenses, not with progressive lenses, but with “God-colored glasses.”

“God-colored glasses” can help us to see what so often eludes our gaze – that miracles surround us in every moment of every day.  We need to see beauty in the midst of the ugliness, light in the midst of the darkness.

Yes the world around us seems filled with hate – but so many have responded with love and care.  Israeli communities like our sister congregation Kehilat YOZMA in Modi’in have adopted devastated communities like Kibbutz Nir Oz; helping 139 families of survivors stay together as a community.

Yes the world seems dark, but just last week nearly 290,000 people gathered on the mall of our nation’s capital, professing not simply their support for the State of Israel, but for the values of freedom, compassion, justice, and life.

If we can learn to put those lenses on every day, then our eyes will be open to wonder and awe and gratitude for all the gifts that bless us every single moment.

And from that place of gratitude we will rediscover our Emunah P’shutah, and renew our faith and belief in the values and principles we have so carefully passed down through the ages and that form the foundation for our lives, for the Jewish State, and for the world it is our responsibility to build.

Happy Thanksgiving and Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Dan Levin
Temple Beth El of Boca Raton

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem…”

 

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