Some Things Are Just Beyond Our Understanding by Eve Levy (Intro by Lori)
Dear JWRP Chevra:
It was an incredible week in Israel. While 400 people, including JWRP board members, supporters and team professionals, danced at the wedding of our son Moshe and Nili Couzens’s daughter Esti, 200 JWRP women were dancing at Decks!
And, if that weren't enough, 200 more women were in the air heading to Israel!
I was deeply struck and inspired that our project has truly turned into a movement. Our expanded team is so strong and committed that, even with key team members at a wedding, the trips happen with barely a hitch.
Additional thanks to our tour operator, GoInspire, whose staff on the ground always goes above and beyond to make it all happen.
Thank you to all who came to the wedding and to those who sent mazal tov greetings to the Palatnik and Couzens families. Our simcha is your simcha, and all of your love and support made it exponentially greater.
Good Shabbos, Shabbat Shalom.
I’ve found myself avoiding the news lately. It’s not that I don’t care about what’s going on in the world. It’s just that I cannot take so much bad news. My heart breaks day in and day out. People suffering loss and pain in Israel, in the United States, and in just about every corner of the world. And, little me, I just don’t get it. Why so much hatred? Things seem to be spiraling out of control. I feel so helpless!
During my first pregnancy, I was shopping in the Geula neighbourhood of Jerusalem, and I felt the urge to buy the materials to create a tapestry. I don’t know what came over me at that moment. I was only 21 years old. The only person I had ever seen working on a tapestry was my grandmother. I guess I was overcome at that moment with that nesting urge pregnant women tend to get, or maybe it was a spell of homesickness.
Anyway, I bought the tapestry kit and, from time to time, I would take it out and go into "Bubby mode," sitting on the couch sipping tea and completing a few lines of stitches. Then I would put it aside and forget about it for months. Fourteen years later and the project still remains incomplete, something my husband still teases me about. I am adamant I will complete it one day … when I find the time.
The picture on the tapestry is the traditional image of Kever Rochel (the tomb of the matriarch Rachel), and it’s a nice picture, with a little domed building, a tree leaning over it, blue skies, and green grass. Holy. Peaceful. Perfect.
But, one the underside of the picture is a mess! It’s all full of jumbled knots and threads, colors, and snags. You cannot make out the picture at all from the underside of the tapistry. It seems complete disorganized.
This tapestry has become much more to me than a piece of mere fabric and yarn. It is a parable for how I view life. We don’t understand why things seem to be happening around us. We look at the world and see confusion, mess and dysfunction.
But, G-d from above sees the complete picture. He sees the beginning and the end. He knows why things are happening and only He sees the outcome. He sees beauty. It all makes sense to G-d.
Open up this week’s Torah portion, Parshat Chukas, and you will be astonished. In a nutshell, G-d speaks to Moses and Aaron, commanding them to take a para adumma (a red cow), without a blemish, that has never had a yoke on it, bring it to the Kohein (priest), who takes it out of the camp to have it slaughtered in his presence. The Kohein then takes some of the cow's blood with his forefinger and sprinkles it in a certain direction seven times, then the entire cow is burned, together with some highly uncommon household items items: cedar wood, hyssop and crimson thread. The ashes from this burining are kept in a safe place for the purification of the Jewish people.
Our Sages describe the laws of the red cow as the quintessential mitzvot that are referred to as chukim (laws of the Torah that are beyond human understanding). All 613 mitzvot are divided into two categories: chukim and mishpatim, those beyond our comprehension, at least for the time being, and those we can understand. (A third category, eidut, testimony, includes things like hearing the shofar on Rosh Hashanah; these mitzvot can also be divided in the chukim and mishpatim.)
It may feel frustrating to not be able to understand everything we are commanded to do. Along the way G-d has given us some bits of understanding, some glimpses into His deeper meanings, called ta’amei hamitzvot (tastes of sweetness for doing G-d’s mitzvot). But the underlying message is that G-d is the Infinite and Supreme Intelligence, and He has bestowed many spiritual and intellectual gifts to mankind, but still we are limited in our understanding. The Midrash writes that just because we do not understand G-d’s ways, does not mean we have the right to question them. Rabbi Elie Munk writes (in "The Call of the Torah"), "In other words, an essential component of wisdom is the knowledge that man’s failure to understand truth does not make it untrue."
Some things are just beyond our comprehension. I hold onto a beautiful passage written in the Shir Hama’alot written by King David (Psalms), and I repeat this saying to myself like a mantra: "Oz yimolay s’chok pinu ulshonaynu rinoh (One day, our mouths will be filled with laughter and our tongue will be be full of praise).” One day, we will understand things. One day, it will all make sense to us. Pieces will come together like a puzzle. Everything will be clear – the good and the bad – and we will be filled with such clarity, joy and understanding. One day… .
One day, I will complete my tapestry of Kever Rochel and I will frame it and proudly hang it in my home. It will be beautiful and complete for all to see. No one will ever see the mess on the back of it. All we will see is the beauty of the completed labor of love.
Eve Levy is a JWRP City Leader from Portland, Oregon.