Rabbi’s Corner

Holy sparks: You won’t find this on YouTube

Rabbi Yossie Shemtov

On Wednesday, March 30, we went to the 2nd Annual Cindy Wool Memorial Seminar on Humanism in Medicine, held in memory of our dear friend, at the Marriott University Park in Tucson.

The speaker, Rachel Naomi Remen, bestselling author of “Kitchen Table Wisdom,” recalled her grandfather telling her that when the world was created, there was this holy darkness which fell apart into little pieces for us to be able to repair it.

Let me tell you the truth: I was rubbing my eyes to make sure my ears didn’t fool me. I needed to make sure it was not one of my childhood teachers in Brooklyn or Jerusalem at the podium. The voice sure didn’t sound like them, but I clearly remember them teaching this concept.

In yeshiva, they used words like tohu (chaos), shviras hakeilim (the breaking of vessels) and nitzotzot (sparks/shrapnel) to explain to us the chainlike stages whereby the Divine light descends from level to level until ultimately this corporeal world is created, according to Kabbalah.

What we were told by our rabbis was that any given situation or location one finds oneself in is for a specific purpose in Divine Providence. If we end up in Albuquerque or Hong Kong, it means that we have some mission to fill there. There are some broken pieces we can fix with a good deed or thought that will help repair this world — the very concept of tikkun olam.

Yet, what impressed me most about Dr. Remen’s knowledge of this was the fact that her grandfather made it a point to relate this empowering mission to his young granddaughter.

At the Passover Seder we will be reading in the Haggadah a Q&A with “the four sons.” Instead of referring to them by numerical value – the first son, the second son – the Torah reads “One wise, one wicked, one simple and one who does not know how to ask a question.”

When educating our children, each one is unique. They all sit at the Seder or in a classroom, but we remember that each one is a person and a soul of its own, created by G-d, and has a great mission in this world.

Each son asks a question, and the Haggadah answers each one on his own level. We don’t alter the message, G-d forbid. We just explain it to their understanding, like Dr. Remen’s wise grandfather.

One of the main mitzvot of Passover is to tell our children the story of the Exodus from Egypt.

I’m sure the splitting of the Red Sea can be found on Youtube and Wikipedia. But what is your story? How do you define your Judaism, faith and heritage? What story are we going to tell our children and grandchildren on Passover or any other day? And most important, perhaps, what example are our actions telling our children?

Rabbi Yossie Shemtov is the spiritual leader of Congregation Young Israel of Tucson and the executive director of Chabad of Tucson. To get his weekly inspirational email, write to yshemtov@aol.com.