13 Sivan 5779 / Sunday, June 16, 2019 | Torah Reading: Shelach Lecho
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The Cane and the Flute    

The Cane and the Flute

Now that the smoke has cleared after Mr. Trump's historical and unprecedented come-from-behind victory, it's time to ponder about the message that Hashem is communicating to us...


Now that the smoke has cleared after President-elect Donald Trump's historical and unprecedented come-from-behind victory, it's time to ponder about the message that Hashem is communicating to us by way of occurrence, which few people foresaw.


Many have written how Mr. Trump's victory shows the power of the people in overcoming a seemingly unsurmountable establishment with its coalition of money and media. Many have written how Mr. Trump's victory shows how one man's conviction of never giving up despite the steamroller of odds and forces against him shows the greatness of the human spirit. Many have said that Mr. Trump's victory is the manifestation of what King Solomon said that the Almighty comes to the aid of the hounded[1]. These points notwithstanding, there's a much deeper message being conveyed to us, which we must pay attention to right now.


Rebbe Nachman teaches that Hashem speaks to us by of our environment – every creation and every occurrence conveys a message from above. Furthermore, we learn in Perek Shira – The Song of Creation – that every creation, whether mineral, plant or animal, has its own unique praise of Hashem.


The Land of Israel river reed, or river cane, grows along the banks of rivers. It absorbs water during the rainy season, dries out during the dry season and comes back to life when the rains fall again. If you harvest the cane at its opportune degree of dryness, it becomes the raw material for an enchanting flute that sounds like no other. In fact, the Yerushalmi Talmud tells us that the flutes of Moses's Tabernacle were made out of river reeds. Yet, once they cracked, they weren't worth repairing because they never played again in their original beauty[2].


The river reed has an advantage and a disadvantage: its advantage is that one can create an exquisite-sounding flute from it. Its disadvantage is that once it's cracked, it's worthless. Rashi goes a step further and says that it's worse than worthless – it's damaging.


What does Rashi mean?


Rashi says that if a person tries to make a walking cane out of a river reed, it won't stand up to the pressure of someone leaning on it. Even worse, it cracks and it splinters, and the cane's splinters will cut and wound the hand that leans on it[3].


Rashi's cane is an obvious allegory for anything a person leans on other than Hashem. Anything that a person depends on other than Hashem ultimately cracks just like a wobbly reed. And, the very source of a person's trust other than Hashem turns around to haunt him and wound him.


I was happy that Mr. Trump was elected but I was unhappy about all the premature celebrations, especially here in Israel, as if Moshiach has arrived. With all due credit to Mr. Trump, may Hashem guide him on the upright path, he is not yet Moshiach. Many before him have made campaign promises that they'll move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and that they are Israel's best friend. As far as the embassy goes, time will tell. As far as Israel's best friend, that title goes exclusively to our beloved Father and King, Hashem, may His Holy Name be glorified forever.


If the Jewish People strengthen themselves in emuna and in trust of Hashem, Mr. Trump will undoubtedly be a flute in Hashem's hands that plays delightful music for us. But if anyone thinks that they can depend of Mr. Trump exclusively, without casting their prayers and hopes to Hashem only, then he - like others before him - will crack and splinter, wounding us in the worst way.


The success or failure of Mr. Trump depends on us and on our relationship with Hashem. Achashverosh did a complete turnaround from Israel's worst enemy and ally of Haman to become Israel's best friend and ally of Mordechai and Esther. The Megilla tells us explicitly that the about face was by virtue of Israel's teshuva and renewal of their covenant with Hashem[4]. With that in mind, we certainly pray for Mr. Trump's success.



* * *

We invite you to visit Rabbi Lazer Brody’s award-winning daily web journal Lazer Beams.


[1] Ecclesiastes 3:15

[2] Yerushalmi, Succa 25a

[3] See Rashi's elaboration of Kings II, 18:21

[4] See Esther 9:27 and related commentaries


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