Thursday, June 13, 2013


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Chukas
6 Tammuz 5773/June 15, 2013
Pirkei Avos – perek 5

They say the truth will set you free, but more often than not, the truth will confuse you and distort your perception of reality. In fact, very often ‘the truth’ is not the truth at all.
Listening to the ‘news’ can be a very frustrating experience. News stations seek shock-value in the stories they follow. Stories that not too long ago would be taboo are today reported openly on the radio. A wise parent exercises caution when listening to the radio with children in the car.
But beyond that, even if (!) the news relates a story factually, they do not always portray reality. One bad apple does not invalidate the whole basket. Yet isolated stories or events are used to classify entire groups of people, while other facts are blatantly ignored. Too much exposure to the news will convince anyone that there is no semblance of goodness left in the world - Conservatives are evil, Israel is a pariah apartheid state, and the ultra-orthodox (whatever that means) are insular kooks and cheats.
The first Rashi in the Torah states that the purpose of Chumash Bereishis is to demonstrate that the world belongs to G-d and that He has the right to decide who should inhabit all lands. Therefore, our right to the Promised Land is Divinely Ordained.
Many of the commentators note that the Torah is not interested in teaching the world that the Land belongs to us. [The Arabs dob’t really care what it says in Chumash Bereishis.] Rather, the Torah wants to remind us that it is our land! We too are influenced by the propaganda campaign of the media and their messages invariably seep into our consciousness and we begin to buy in to their lies. We ourselves can begin to grow dubious of our own legitimacy.
Psychologists warn about the danger of overexposure to media, especially following a tragedy. The graphic images repeatedly displayed can cultivate a traumatic effect. But in truth it’s not just frightening images, but many of the point of views espoused are equally damaging.
Recently I was driving down a road which had a sign which has a great message for life in general: “Limited Sight Distance”. It was cautioning drivers that their visibility will be restricted because of twisting road and hills ahead. I would have to say that often the truth can only be discovered when one closes his eyes and ears to everything around him.
The evil prophet Bila’am was blind in one eye, and it was through that blind eye that he was able to envision prophecy and see truth. His ‘working’ eye was so polluted with immorality and corruptness that he could not see prophecy through it.
If reality is based on perception, who wants his/her reality to be based on the perception of a bunch of biased and corrupt political pundits?
This was best summed up by a friend who quipped that he looks at the news to be informed, but after doing so he invariably ends up feeling deformed!
Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,
    R’ Dani and Chani Staum
720 Union Road • New Hempstead, NY 10977 • (845) 362-2425