What More Do You Need

Eikev is this week’s Torah portion; the word has too many meanings for me to really understand or expound on. Suffice it to say that it can mean “heed”, “hear”, “follow” and “heel”, among other things. The portion is always named for the first word so Eikev it is.

Moses, who will never enter the promised land with his people, reminds them of the covenant, the b’rit, that G-d made with them. But he also reminds them that they must be observant and follow the “rules” faithfully for G-d to maintain that covenant. He proceeds to remind them of their bad behavior, of their “trespasses against G-d”. He reminds them that although they will inherit the promised land from the idolatrous, they are far from virtuous.

This portion tells us that the promised land, Israel, will be a “land of milk and honey” if and only if the people obey the commandments and teach them to their children. What a metaphor for our time. If we were to obey the commandments, those basic social rules, we would be in a world at peace.

You have heard the idea that everything you need to know you learned in kindergarten. You didn’t learn the basics to build a rocket, or a building, splice a gene or write computer code. You did, however, learn the basic rules of how to live in the world, how to treat other people, how to share and how to care. You learned to be nice, to be polite, to stand up for those less fortunate, to tell the truth, not to take or destroy other people’s things, not to cheat, to respect differences and to respect proper authority. As an aside you also learn to “tell on” improper authority figures. All of these values, if we were to actually translate them to adult behavior would make the world a much better place.

We do teach these values to our children, or at least many of us at home, and many of our schools and houses of worship do. But somewhere along the line we seem to forget these values and instead of what we learned as children persisting, we start learning from others, adults, who have also forgotten those values. We have stopped thinking for ourselves. We have stopped standing up for the less fortunate. We have forgotten how to look past our differences. We accept cheating. We have forgotten how to share.

So you may not have learned all you need to know in kindergarten, you definitely learned what you need to know about human interaction. But you have forgotten it. According to the Torah, G-d gave Moses the basics and instructed us to… Click To Tweet

So you may not have learned all you need to know in kindergarten, but you definitely learned what you need to know about human interaction. I think in the main we have forgotten it. According to the Torah, G-d gave Moses the basics and instructed us to follow them faithfully. And the promise is that if we ever manage to do that we might globally take a turn for the better.

Shabbat Shalom

Learning ~ It’s Never Too Late

First, social media. Yes, like every baby boomer I have learned the basics of Facebook. And I do mean basics. The “gif” thing still escapes me but I don’t really care.  I spent a weekend recently setting up an “author” page, which you are probably on, and getting schooled on Twitter.  I now understand why everyone is looking down all the time, your twitter has to be maintained, stay fresh.

So ok, I have acknowledged that I am an author and my mentor and guru decided I could be trusted not to muck up my WordPress site and gave me “tools”.  Trust, how wonderful.  Joy, now I had to learn to use them.

After three tries and several repetitions, and a couple of requests for refresher texts, I managed to make a “tweet box”. I felt deeply accomplished.  I find that no matter how many times you tell me how to do something I cannot master it until I do it myself, hands on, several times.

And so it is with much in life. I have not been an adventurer since I was quite young.  In my late teens and twenties I was fearless, some of the reasons for which are for another time.  I was unafraid to go anywhere, do most anything.  I find now that I am willing and desirous of finding that courage again. With the “wisdom of age” however came fear and as a result, reluctance.

So how do you learn courage?  The same way you learn to tweet, by practicing, by doing, by going beyond the borders of what you already know. You learn to be alone by practicing being alone, by doing things you like to do even as they feel awkward.  Tweeting regularly is more work than I would have thought, but then again, so is courage.

Here I go again my friends.

Things I Want My Son To Know #19 ~ Love Books

Learn to love reading. There is a world of knowledge and imagination out there. You are absorbed in the virtual and technological worlds. But you are missing the life of imagination you had as a child.

In every area of our lives technology has stripped us of imagination. There are fantasy worlds and fantasy games and fantasy movies; but those fantasies are spelled out for us. In those fantasies the people all look like movie stars or the anime creations of someone else’s imaginations.

On the internet you can look up anything you want to know about, you can find information but you can’t necessarily confirm its accuracy, currency or relevance. Anyone can publish on the internet, make themselves an expert and how would you know if they really are. You can track down credentials but do they publish a bibliography?

You cannot learn anything without reading, whether on line or off. In every area of your life there will always be things to learn. You can learn much by experience, but experts in everything put down in words what they have mastered about the thing you are learning about and how you can do the same. The experience of others is only transmitted by words, generally written (like this blog!). In order to excel at anything, you have to learn about it.

People always ask if I have seen movies made from books. I always want to read the book first and I am almost always disappointed by the movie. When I read fiction (which is not for everyone I realize), I am able to populate the world of the book with my own vision of the scenery, my own imagination creates how the people look; the author creates how they act. And so the book is the stage setting for my own fantasy, not that of anyone else.

Don’t lose the life of the imagination; read and create your own worlds. Don’t neglect the life of learning; the experiences of generations, experts and whole cultures documented for you. Books may be becoming obsolete but you should hold on to them as long as you can. And don’t believe everything you read.

Things I Want My Son To Know #14 ~ Learn From Your Mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes. You are a bit of a perfectionist; from the time you were very little you never wanted to do anything until or unless you could do it very well (dare I say perfectly). But everyone makes mistakes. I read an interesting article that talked about how we use mistakes ~ if we tell our children “oh never mind its ok” they won’t learn anything, if we chastise or humiliate our children, they won’t learn anything. The idea is that you should learn from a mistake.

So when you make a mistake, the response should be yes that was a mistake. An appropriate action might be an apology, if you hurt someone. Or you might correct a result, if you are at work. But first, take responsibility for your mistakes. They are yours and you are human, everybody makes mistakes.

Most important, learn from your mistakes. Just like reviewing the wrong answers on an exam in order to learn why they were wrong, the point is to do it right the next time around. Simply put, if you do what you’ve always done, you will get the result you’ve always gotten. The good news is a mistake will point your feet back to the path, or onto a new one, if you have the humility to recognize the mistake, acknowledge the mistake and find a way to do things differently.

So, this goes along with taking a little risk in life. If its okay to make mistakes, then it is okay to try new things. You won’t do them perfectly because, as you know, everything takes practice and committment. You may not even do them well at first, but that’s okay too. You weren’t born knowing how to read and walk, you had learn and you certainly weren’t good at them at first; but you really wanted to do them so you worked at it pretty hard. As we get older, our pride prevents us from trying for fear of the mistake. But just as Native American artisans weave an error into their work so as not to offend God with perfection; we know we are human by our mistakes.