Abe’ll Fix It (Chayei Sarah)
Human beings can achieve great things but we also have the capacity to over-complicate things. Hillel managed a memorable soundbite when he summed it all up whilst standing on one foot. Is this a metaphor for human potential? If it’s possible to say more with less and do more with less, then why do we spend so much wasted time, stress and effort in the pursuit of happiness?
Try standing on one foot. You’ll already know Hillel’s mantra. “Do not do unto others that which is hateful to you”. The rest is commentary. Sometimes we get lost in the commentaries although one of the most important footnotes here is ‘don’t push someone else over while they are standing on one foot summing up all of reality’.
Vrkshasana is Sanskrit for ‘Tree Pose’. It is performed by balancing on your leg, placing the other foot on your standing calf or thigh. New yoga students often try to complicate the posture, looking at what other people are doing, wobbling out of it. But it still ‘works’ even if you go slowly and just do what you can. The Yoga Sutras explained that the ‘yoga’ - which can be understood as inner unity and internal balance - is achieved when ‘we calm down our mind’s fluctuations’ (1:12).
A favourite mantra that is sometimes taught in management courses is ‘Keep it simple, stupid’ (sometimes shortened to K.I.S.S.). The trouble is, how can we keep it simple when we are multi-tasking, rapidly emailing, texting, skypeing, calling and more? By breathing…and keeping it simple.
Simplicity stands the test of time. Abraham dies. Except he doesn’t just die. He dies ‘at a good age, an old man and content’ (Gen 25:8). A few weeks ago England lost a national treasure who was an elderly gentleman. I live in Los Angeles and tried to explain the significance of the loss of Sir Jimmy Saville, but it was difficult. ‘He was a white-haired cigar-smoking former DJ who we all wrote letters to and he offered to make our dreams come true on his television programme called Jim’ll Fix It, and I once wrote to ask if I could sing live with Barry Manilow and breakdance on primetime TV’…it’s already complicated. How about; he was someone whose life was centered around giving and he was loved for it.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to reach the end of our lives feeling happy and content? Or how about feeling that right now?
One of Abraham’s final tasks is to secure the future of his family and that involves finding a wife for his son Isaac. He didn’t rely on dating manuals, compatibility charts, astrological signs, even though according to Kabbalistic sources he was a talented astrologer. He didn’t ask ‘why is my son still single, what’s wrong with him, what did we do wrong, does he need therapy, perhaps we were too easy on him, maybe he’s traumatised from when I nearly killed him on the mountaintop?’. None of that. He wants a daughter-in-law who offers to feed the camels. She enjoyed giving and caring. That’s it. Abraham saw her ‘standing on one foot’ and doing good, and that was enough for him.
We should all be blessed to do the same for one another, to see the good in one another’s daily activities, and to always help re-center one another to the one foot that brings out the best in us all.
Have an inspired weekend and a wonderful Shabbat. Keep it Simple.
The opening and closing of BBC1’s “Jim’ll Fix It”, a British national treasure…