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In Melbourne Shabbat begins Fri 25 Jan 2019 08:20 PM and ends Sat 26 Jan 2019 09:20 PM
ט"ז שבט ה' אלפים תשע"א
Parshat Yitro Dvar Torah
by Rabbi Elisha Greenbaum, Moorabbin Hebrew Congregation
People are attracted to inanities and are too ready to ignore the real quality experiences of life. The pages of history are full of examples of artists and composers with genuine talent who were disregarded during their lifetimes, while fame and plaudits were reserved for those with lesser ability, but greater capacity for self promotion.
It’s a natural human impulse; we are attracted to the loud and the showy while we underestimate the value of quiet determination and hard work. Everyone loves a fireworks display. We idolise the razzamatazz of Hollywood, while scholars and scientists are relegated to the back row. Some people spend a lifetime anonymously benefiting humanity while others win their fame and fortune from 10 seconds on youtube.
But in a world full of disposables, how can one tell the difference between a product for the ages and a short-term snap, crackle and pop? No one deliberately sets out to buy a lemon; we just get sucked in by the packaging, and neglect to check under the bonnet. I met a teenager last week who’d spent 91 days of ‘playing time’ on the one computer game over the course of his VCE year and he was still yet to be convinced that his classmates who had spent the year studying were any better off for their efforts. He’ll find out, of course, but how can we help people avoid making mistakes in the first place.
The trick is to research your options before putting down your money and, even then, to invest with the long term in mind. Before you buy the latest electronic gadget, read what the experts have to say and ask yourself if you’ll still be using the product a year from the date of purchase. Before you go gaga over a movie or rock star consider the chances that people in twenty years from now will even recognise the name of your current crush. Never commit to an ideology without asking hard questions of its adherents, about the aims of the movement and the methods they employ to achieve those goals.
Over and above all, get expert advice. Find out what the smart money is doing. Get yourself a mentor and be guided to your goals. Never lose your cool. Never follow the mob. When everyone else is rushing forward blindly or retreating in panic, that’s the time for you to resist, reflect, restock, and restore your fortunes.
At the time when G-d gave us the Torah there was an unparalleled opportunity for all the Jews there to invest themselves in this new way of life and acquire a gilt-edged investment of spirituality and success for the ages. For the first and only time in history, Hashem was descending to this world in all His glory, to share His message with mankind. And all the people saw the thundering and the lightning; the peal of the shofar and the mountain smoking. And when the people saw it they trembled and stood far off (Yisro 20:15).
It doesn’t make sense! Why now, of all times, were they satisfied to stand watching from a distance? Hashem is giving His Torah to whoever steps forward to take it, why would they back off?
Perhaps they were too easily satisfied by the sound and light show and forgot that these were merely manifestations of G-d’s glory and not the real deal. When you’re watching a show you want to maintain sufficient distance to appreciate the full effects and that’s why they hung back. They were too busy watching the greatest fireworks display in history to remember that there was a better deal available for those who stepped forward.
And Moshe alone drew near to the thick darkness where G-d was. And Hashem spoke to Moshe... (Yisro 20: 19). Moshe was too smart to be distracted by inconsequentialities in his search for truth. Moshe realised that the smoke and lightning was just temporary, while the Torah will be forever. Moshe was a man who invested for the ages. He counted his chickens while they hatched and realised his reward in the pages of history.
Our challenge is to live like Moshe. To refuse to be distracted by the tinsel of temporary fame and stop wasting our money on gadgets that do nothing more than line the bottom drawer of the cupboards of our youth. Hashem is true and Torah is genuine. Life is short and real investment opportunities are few and far between. There is never a better time to invest in His way. All we have to do to guarantee success, is to do the right research, attach ourselves to the correct mentor, put in the required effort and then watch the returns roll in.