Thursday, January 23, 2014

Being There

In the 1979 film, "Being There," Peter Sellers plays Chance the gardener, a simple, uneducated man who, through a series of misunderstandings, is transformed into Chauncey Gardener, who is invited into the inner circle of politicians and captains of industry.  Through it all, Chance continues to protest that all he wants to do is be left alone to enjoy television; his persistent protestation is "I like to watch."

In real life, though, sitting back and watching is not sufficient.  It is our imperative as moral creatures to get involved, to embrace and uplift the others in our community.

This week's Torah portion Parashat Mishpatim, drives home that expectation.  In the midst of the revelation of the Torah, God instructs Moses to "come up to the mountain v'heyeh sham- and be there."  This seems unusual; isn't Moses already on the mountain?  Isn't he already "there"?

Most commentators on this passage argue that the instruction isn't about physical presence, it's about intentionality.  We must be willing to put aside other distractions and really be in the moment.

A few friends of mine recently posted this article from Real Simple magazine.  For those who don't want to take the time to click over, I'll summarize: the author's son wanted a "complicated" breakfast (one that would take 4 steps and about 15 minutes to prepare); she wanted to make him something simpler (instant oatmeal, 2 steps).  When she took a step back, however, she recognized that there was an opportunity for doing more than merely making breakfast.  She decided to make the more complicated meal, and in so doing had a moment of pure focus on doing something for the delight and benefit of her son.

What will it be for us?  What will wake us up and inspire us to cast aside the outside worries and make an effort, like Moses, just to "be there."

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