02 March 2018

What A Shame!

15 Adar 5778 - Shushan Purim
Erev Shabbat Kodesh
Parashat Ki Tisa

Shame is out of fashion. It is an emotion to be avoided at all costs. The modern world makes it out to be extremely negative, even harmful - not healthy. But, like everything God created, it has its purpose and its place and there are times when it is appropriate.

Despite the joyous outcome of the Purim story, we have to feel a bit shameful in regard to how our ancestors behaved at Achashverosh's banquet. It was a celebration of the (perceived) failure of the prophecy of the return of the Jewish people to Eretz Yisrael. And to top it off, the king wore the clothing of the Cohen Gadol and ate and drank from the keilim used in the service of the Beit Hamikdash. I'm sure he reasoned (erroneously) that since the Jews would not be returning, they would have no further use for them anyway.

Right on the heels of that story, we move into Shabbat - Parashat Ki Tisa which recounts what I consider to be one of the two most shameful events of our history - the incident with the Golden Calf. (The second being the crying and refusal to enter Eretz Yisrael on the first Tisha b'Av.)

We have to hang our heads in shame when we recall our abominable behavior at the moment which should have been the pinnacle of our success in the aftermath of our redemption from Egyptian bondage. And what we put poor Moshe Rabeinu through after all he had sacrificed for the nation!

Unfaithfulness, ingratitude, fearfulness - these are traits to be ashamed of for sure. But, shame is only a negative when it fails to elicit the desired response for which it was created. It is supposed to inspire us to act - to change these negative traits into their positive opposites. If it inspires teshuvah, as it was intended to, then it serves the purpose for which the Creator intended and everyone benefits.

It is entirely appropriate at this moment in time to ask ourselves whether we are still eating from Acheshverosh's table today; are we still dancing around the Golden Calf today?

As we read the parashah, we should allow ourselves to experience the shame of failure to live up to HKB"H's ideal for us and then allow it to infuse us with a new determination to rectify that failure and begin - today - to live up to the ideal.

~ Shabbat Shalom ~