Friday, December 9, 2011

Have you smashed your TV yet?

We come across a fascinating story in this week’s Torah portion. Jacob and his family are heading back to Israel from the house of Lavan. His brother, Esau, who tried to kill him here some years earlier was on his way to ‘greet’ them. Jacob did all sorts of things in preparation for this fearful confrontation: he prayed, sent gifts and armed. The night before the encounter he crossed the Yabok river with his family and belongings. The Torah accounts: And Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until the break of dawn. Why was he alone? Where was he? The Talmud answers: It was for the sake of some small jars he had left behind. The Talmud continues, from here it is learned that to the righteous their money is dearer than their body.
Why would the righteous place such premium on… money? And why would Jacob risk his life to return for nothing more than the value of some "small jars"? The saintly Baal Shem Tov answers: The righteous know that their material possessions contain "sparks of holiness" which are redeemed and elevated when the object or resource they inhabit is utilized to fulfil the Divine will. The righteous person sees these sparks of Divine potential as virtual extensions of his own soul, since he understands that the very fact that Divine Providence has caused them to come into his possession indicates that their redemption is integral to his mission in life. So these small jars had much more value, and could not be wasted. Everything has value, nothing can be wasted. In our home we never had a TV. My parents would tell us: “There are inappropriate things on some channels; it is best not to have a TV in the home." The only live TV we got to watch (aside from my grandfather making us sit and watch county cricket) was Chanukah Live, an amazing program of simultaneous public menorah lightings from around the world, London to Melbourne, the Kremlin to the Western Wall. It was a highlight of our childhood. You see, like many things, the Lubavitcher Rebbe taught that one must use modern technology for the positive message of sharing light and spreading warmth. Contrast all that with a report this week about a group of demonstrators that gathered outside the Jerusalem offices of the national broadcaster, Israel Broadcasting Association, smashing hundreds of televisions in protest at what some in the ultra-religious community says are the 'immoral' programmes being shown in the country. Is this a waste? Can TV have positive use as well? Jacob wouldn’t leave even small jugs behind. Shabbat Shalom

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