Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Purim / Parshas Tzav 5782



Erev Shabbos Kodesh parshas Tzav

15 Adar II 5782/March 18, 2022

Shushan Purim


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לזכר נשמת חו"מ נטע יצחק בן אלכסנדר


            At first, I couldn’t understand what my student was talking about. Why would he ask me if I think there are more doors or wheels in the world? Of what importance is the answer and how can anyone correctly assess it?

            Then a fellow student explained that the question came from social media. A few days ago, someone in New Zealand posed the aforementioned question on his Twitter page. Within a short time, he received well over 200,000 responses to his poll. 46% claimed there are more doors, while 53% claimed there are more wheels.

            This is not the first time meaningless debates have erupted on social media. In 2015 thousands passionately debated whether a certain dress was blue and black or white and gold. In 2018 there was another major debate about whether a voice on an audio clip said Yanay or Laurel.

            These trivial disagreements have become an essential component of social media culture. The fact that there can never be a definitive answer to the questions doesn’t seem to make any difference to the debaters.

            I leave it to others to postulate why these types of imponderables garner such excitement. But it got me thinking about the importance and value of wheels and doors.

            In order to travel we need wheels. The faster wheels spin the quicker we move. But in order to spin, something needs to fuel the wheels.

            We are currently undergoing a crisis which has resulted in a substantial rise in gas prices. If we want to continue ‘spinning our wheels’ as much as we have been used to, we must be willing to pay the increased prices or find alternative means to fuel our wheels.

            When a person undergoes any challenge or crises, it becomes that much harder for him to maintain his daily routines. His internal fuel is more quickly depleted and becomes “more expensive”. Another r option is for him to find external fuel - such as the support of friends and family to keep him going. But without any fuel, the wheels of his growth and production will be very limited.

            The wheels of life are also used as a metaphor to convey the idea that the world is always moving ahead. During the covid lockdown, while we were stuck at home, the world continued its natural processes. The seasons changed, birds chirped, and animals ran in the wild.

            Part of the cruelty of life is that even when we go through periods of challenge and tragedy, the world apathetically continues to function as it always has. We may feel like our world is coming apart, but the wheels of life continue to spin unabatedly.

            Doors have a very different symbolism. At times we long for privacy behind closed doors, where we can have rare moments of reflection. Because the wheels of life never stop spinning, it becomes that much more important to be able to close our doors on the outside world to focus inwards.

            At times, we also seek new doors and new vistas to broaden our horizons and explore beyond what we have done and where we have been until then.

            Alexander Graham Bell famously noted that whenever one door closes, another door opens. While that may be true, the hallways in between the closed and not-yet-opened doors can be very daunting. Although there will indeed be new doors, we have to be ready for them to appear not where and when we expected them. They may lead to different corridors than we expected.

            I have no idea if there are more wheels or doors in the world, and, truthfully, it’s irrelevant. In fact, by the time you read this, it’s likely that the whole debate will have already become passé, and social media will move on to other novel nonsenses.

            What is undoubtedly true however, is that we need both wheels and doors, literally and metaphorically. We need to be able to navigate our rapidly moving world and to balance the need to close doors, and sometimes find new ones.

            Every new period of life, warrants closing doors on the past and fueling our wheels to move ahead.

            The night before our ancestors left the Egyptian exile, they smeared the blood of the Korbon Pesach on the doorways of their homes. Perhaps part of the symbolism was that by placing the symbolic slaughtering of the Egyptian god, upon their doors, they were demonstrating that they were leaving that world behind. When they passed through those doorways the following day on their march towards freedom they left behind the lifestyle of Egypt as they revved their wheels while forging ahead into the wilderness with faith.

            I conclude by saying that perhaps, at times, we should consider that while the wheels of social media move, we can close our doors to it to use our time more wisely. Just saying.


            Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

            R’ Dani and Chani Staum