Welcome to the third book!
The parsha this week, Vayikra, speaks about the different karbonos, sacrificial offerings that are brought up, and it mentions a 'bird'.
Midrash Tanchuma explains that the various offerings are brought only from oxen, goats, sheep and birds, but NOT from fish. Why don´t fish qualify? What does the Torah have against my beloved sushi?
Animals and fowl have a similarity to human beings; they are made of flesh and blood, and are born from the womb. Fish have scales and spawn eggs.
Yes, fowl lay eggs too, but they care for them until they hatch, and then the mother will remain with her young, feeding and nurturing them til they are capable of fending for themselves. Hence the mitzvah of Shiluach Hakan.
Fish, though, have absolutely no relationship with their young.
One of the problems I have with the movie 'Finding Nemo' is its inaccuracy. Nemo's father couldn't possibly have had such strong feelings for his baby that he would swim for days on end looking for him. It makes no sense according the nature of fish. But hey, it brought in billions of dollars...so who cares, right?
I´ve gained insight from this Midrash. In order to be used as an offering to serve as an atonement for a human being, it is necessary to use a living thing which is similar to humans. Because as humans, we´re naturally drawn to things or people that speak to us, and we connect to whom or what we relate to.
Modern psychology teaches us to love ourselves, causing many embarrassing moments of mirror soliloquy. It has recently been replaced with many embarrassing moments of mirror photography.
While disagreeing with the method, I fully agree with the concept.
We must be attracted to ourselves.
In order to succeed in life, and to fulfill our individual mission and purpose, we have to learn not only how to relate to ourselves, but how to bring out the best in who we are.
There are opposing opinions on the proper way of working bein adam l'atzmo, between man and himself.
If I want to improve a middah, how shall I decide which? Is it better to choose one that´s naturally difficult and a struggle for me, or should I begin with one that I´ll have an easier time with?
A widely accepted approach would be to choose the hard one. The philosophy behind this is that a greater challenge creates greater effort which lends to a greater result.
So, I understand the benefits of hard work, but apparently I´m more human than others, and if I spend my life focused on my weaknesses and struggling to perfect them, I will also end up spending my life renewing my meds.
Since my sanity is something I hold dear, I figure there must be other methods in which I don´t have to lose it.
There are two types of work which we have to accomplish in our lifetime.
Tikun atzmi and tikun olami; repairing myself and repairing the world.
Upon entering this world, we were handed a package containing everything we need for our journey through this world.
Just like Dora the Explorer.
Except, we don´t have anyone helping us climb by yelling ¨Help Dora climb...can you say subida¨?
We got our map, our fuel, and personalized accessories. We were given individualized strengths and weaknesses, qualities and talents, physical appearances, health, family, friends, emotional makeup, personalities, IQ levels, and a whole lot more, to take us through life.
Sometimes I wish someone would give Dora a GPS and spare us the agony of her journey. But obviously the whole point of her trip is to use the articles in her bag to help her find her own way. Getting lost is part of the challenge, and asking for help is part of the process.
In order to perfect the world, I need to dig into my bag and pull out my strengths. I need to use my talents and abilities to make a positive difference. But in order to perfect myself, I need to find and improve my weaknesses.
The only way I can successfully repair my flaws is by simultaneously utilizing my virtues.
Rav Volbe writes that when one begins to work on a personal flaw, he should pick one that's easy; common. Not only that, and here's another connection to Nemo, but in order to atone for any character flaw that we'll find in ourselves, we must look for its similar counterpart as a prerequisite to the avoda.
Any bad middah that I have is not one dimensional. It's also a good middah.
The word middah means both characteristic, and to measure. To constantly measure our spiritual stature and development.
The characteristic as a whole sits on a measuring stick with the negative to the left and positive to the right.
If I'm indecisive, never able to make up my mind, don´t have many opinions, it can get frustrating for everyone involved. But what's on the positive end of it? Easygoing, flexible, accepting...pleasurable for everyone involved.
Take someone who has a low level of patience. They´re easy to anger, you´re afraid to approach them, too demanding... But what can be on the positive end of it? This person doesn't stand for nonsense and accomplishes a lot. They know how to get things done quickly and properly.
So the way to work on a bad middah, is to focus on the corresponding good middah, because you can only improve if you're moving forward, not just restraining yourself.
Chazal tell us, sur mai-rah v'asai tov.
Leave the bad, but the only way to successfully do that is v'asai tov by doing good.
Your biggest weakness is also your strength.
Btw, another reason I don´t like Finding Nemo is because of the philosophy that ´fish are friends, not food´.
Excuse me? Ever go out to dinner with a fish?
Oh, yea. On my plate.
Have a beautiful shabbos.