Let me preface this by saying that this post is all thanks to my brilliant friend Howard Witkin and his ongoing Pirkei Avos class. His guidance, leadership and teachings have inspired me, kept me focused and on track, and have opened up my eyes, my heart and my soul to Judaism. Thank you!10… As much as we hear that 9 is the magic number… in Judaism, 10 is pretty powerful.
“With ten utterances the world was created. And what does this teach, for surely it could have been created with one utterance? But this was so in order to punish the wicked who destroy the world that was created with ten utterances, And to give a good reward to the righteous who maintain the world that was created with ten utterances.”
“[There were] ten generations from Adam to Noah, in order to make known what long-suffering is His; for all those generations kept on provoking Him, until He brought upon them the waters of the flood. [There were] ten generations from Noah to Abraham, in order to make known what long-suffering is His; for all those generations kept on provoking Him, until Abraham, came and received the reward of all of them.”
There were the ten trials of Abraham.
“Ten miracles were wrought for our ancestors in Egypt, and ten at the sea. Ten plagues did the Holy one, blessed be He, bring upon the Egyptians in Egypt and ten at the sea. [With] ten trials did our ancestors try God, blessed be He, as it is said, “and they have tried Me these ten times and they have not listened to my voice” (Numbers 14:22).
Ten wonders were wrought for our ancestors in the Temple. Ten things were created on the eve of the Sabbath at twilight.
But beyond these lessons and this insight found in Pirkei Avos, Chapter 5, Howard asked us all to ponder, “How do we save the world?” Both Noah and Abraham saved the world, but in the most polar opposite of ways. And guess what, the world sure needs saving right now. The world seems out of control, topsy turvy, spinning out of control. Good news is overshadowed by bad, and it’s hard to always see the light.
Now, we would also say that Hashem runs the world, and therefore all that is happening is under control. But man has free will, and luminaries and giants like Noah and Abraham each made choices, choices that were vastly different but saved humanity.Noah built an Ark, knowing that the people could not be saved, except for his immediate family and all the species of animals. The world was that bad, that evil, that dire, and it order for humanity to be saved and continue, the world needed to be, essentially, destroyed.Abraham built a Tent. He invited people in, where he served them and fed them and created a community… and he shared the lessons of Hashem with them. He brought monotheism and Judaism to the world with hospitality and humility.
There are days I want to move into a cave, away from humanity and people and the news… away from the horrors of COVID-19 and the very real evils I see in so many… too many… There are days I want to build an ark and move my friends and loved ones onto it… and let Hashem create a great flood… and start again.
And there are days when I want to travel the world with a tent, inviting strangers in and trying to find community and common ground, and share a love for Hashem… teach and share Judaism. The tent sure seems more optimistic, more “inviting.” And though a tent has no walls per se, there are still many days where I feel like I am beating my head against a wall.
I sure hope there is not another flood coming, but there are days when I am utterly shocked by the ignorance and the dangerous behavior of others. I know I am not in control and I put my faith in Hashem. I do. But I am still being pushed and pulled between the ark and the tent, because I truly want to help save the world. And I know G-d created me… all of us… to be a partner in that. So how do we save the world? I think we need to make our tent even bigger… and bring more people in… but maybe have some boats or an ark on standby. What about you, what do you think?