Speeding Up Into Traffic!?!?

I was driving with a friend on the highway, this was back in my Hawaii days, when the brake lights of the car up ahead went on and started to slow down.

My friend who was driving responds by speeding up!

What are you doing? I ask.

Watch.

He speeds up and then merges into the fast lane.

He continued, sometimes when there is traffic up ahead, the correct response is not to slow down but to speed up, so that you can better merge into another lane. (Providing of course that the other lane is still going at a good speed, which he was keeping track of anyway, he was a very good driver.)

How counter intuitive.

When receiving the same peace of data, sometimes the appropriate response is one way and sometimes it’s the complete opposite.

How to know?

In the question lies half the answer. It’s about knowing. Emotions and feelings are usually one sided. Someone hurts you, you attack him back. If you’re the forgiving type, you’ll forgive. But when coming from the heart, typically it’s a one sided and predictable response. Most people repeat the same pattern of behavior over and over again. (But each person has a unique set of emotions that they fall back on, their comfort zone).

If you are looking for nuance, the heart is not the right place to look. The mind is the place for nuance and deliberation. The calculation of the appropriate response is the domain of the mind.

The truth is there is very little in this world that is actually bad or evil or an absolute blessing or absolute curse. It’s just about the time and place. Is water good or bad? If you are drinking it, it’s good. But if someone is drowning in it, it’s bad.

Is fire a blessing or a curse? It depends if the fire is IN your fireplace or OUTSIDE your fireplace J. Is hacking good or bad? If you use it to hack into the bad guys computers and discover their next plot, it’s good. If you hack into an innocent person’s computer and steal their Credit card info it’s bad.

So is there really good and bad in this world? Not really. There is only the timing and setting. And that makes all the difference! But how to know when to do what?

The solution is the study of Torah. Torah study has a twofold benefit. One, we learn about how to behave and know the difference between right and wrong. The Torah guides us with direction on how to lead and live our lives in a moral and upstanding way.

Second, when we study Torah in general and Talmud in particular and challenge our mind, we sharpen it and develop our analytical skills. That way when we approach an issue, whether in our own personal life or a big social issue, we will be better prepared to think about the issue from all sides. The devil is in the details.

The third acronym for Elul is E nah L eyado V esamti L och and is metaphorically referring to the study of Torah (In the Torah, it is discussing the laws of the city of refuge, which allegorically refers to the study of Torah, to be elaborated on another time).

In this month leading up to Rosh Hashanah and the new year we should add in our Torah study, and commit to studying an extra dose of Torah on a regular basis in the coming year. (I know a nice Rabbi in town who gives great Torah classes regularly, you should contact himJ)

In the merit of our extra Torah study, may Hashem also look into the Torah and see that it is written there to bless his people with all the blessing. May we be inscribed in the book of life for a happy and sweet new year.

Shabbat shalom

Rabbi Levi
PS you may have noticed that the above perspective sheds light on the theme of this week’s Torah portion of Ki Tavo which mainly discusses the blessings and the curses of thetochecho. I’ll leave it up to you to learn the lesson.