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04/06/2015 07:16:00 AM


Deuteronomy 7:12 - 11:25
by Rabbi Edward Feinstein

He comes to see the me, because the rabbi is supposed to have answers. Sitting uncomfortably in my office, he describes his problems. He's 38 years old, good looking, well-educated, successful, and desperately lonely. He's been dating for 20 years now ... how many women? ... but he can't find a mate.

So, tell me, what are you looking for in a women?

Someone kind and gentle, intelligent, educated, cultured, witty, fun, a professional, independent, but interested in traditional things, Jewish, haimish, warm, family-oriented ... and thin, tall, attractive, blonde, well-dressed. He continues, but I realize already that I know him. He's my three-year old. The open mouth of the infant: I want, I want, I want. I know what he wants: a Playboy playmate who will adore him and cook like his mother but make no demands on his soul.

He isn't alone. He belongs to a whole culture of childishness.

My kids' favorite video is "Hook", the Peter Pan story, as told by Steven Spielberg. In this version, Peter fell in love with Wendy and left Neverland. The boy who said he wouldn't grow up, has matured to become a driven corporate executive, chained to his cell-phone, without time for his wife, his children, or his humanity. Stripped of all imagination, playfulness and love, he is everything Peter Pan always abhorred about adults.

Suddenly, his children are kidnapped his old nemesis, Captain Hook, and Peter is challenged to one final battle. He returns to Neverland to save his children, but really, to save himself. At first, he is powerless against Hook, until he recovers that part of himself denied these many years: the child within -- his spontaneity, imagination, capacity for enchantment. All taught him by the wise, loving Tinkerbell.

It is a touching, enchanting film. And it is dead wrong.

The problem of our civilization is not that we have lost touch with the child within. Our problem is that too many grown-ups refuse to be adults. Our problem is not that we have lost touch with the sources of enchantment. Our problem is that too many have lost touch with the wisdom of maturity.

Judaism loves children. All of our festivals, Pesach, Sukkot, Simhat Torah, Purim, Hannuka, put children at the center. God wakes up each morning, relates the Talmud, takes one look at the world, and decides to destroy everything until He hears the sounds of children learning, playing, and laughing, and decides to let the world go on one more day. Our tradition loves children, but we revere adulthood. Our tradition adores the spontaneity and imagination of children, but we revere the wisdom of maturity.

This week's Torah reading contains a section recited in the daily Shema, a section that teaches the first lessons of adulthood: "If you will obey the commandments that I enjoin upon you this day, loving the Lord your God and serving Him with all your heart and soul, I will grant the rain for your land in season....Take care not to be lured away to serve other gods and bow down to them. For the Lord's anger will flare up against you, and He will shut up the skies so that there will be no rain and the ground will not yield up its produce, and you will soon perish from the good land that the Lord is giving you."

Adulthood is about making choices. And choices have consequences. We live with the consequences of our choices, because despite my childhood fantasies to the contrary, the universe does not revolve around me. If we choose values that are real, eternal, expressions of the Source of Life, we grow in wisdom and prosper spiritually. We make the world our home. We learn to love and to hold others close. We create life. If we turn away, and choose the Neverland fantasies of the culture around us -- its addiction to entertainment, amusement, distraction -- then we shrivel and starve. Somewhere out there, there's a 38-year old who has just learned this wisdom.

* This document, or any portion thereof, may not be reproduced without the written permission of the author.

Tue, August 11 2020 21 Av 5780