Monday, April 03, 2006

The Shrug and the Silence

Recently I read an article discussing the origin and usage of the phrase "It is what it is." A fascinating piece on modern vernacular, it really stuck with me. And whenever anyone uttered those words (or their close relatives, she is what she is, I am what I am, what will be will be) near me, I perked up and took notice. I noticed the strange and often sad acceptance of those words. "It is what it is" is usually sighed in a shrugging, I-guess-there's-nothing-we-can-do-about-it-so-we'll-live-with-it kind of way.

This kind of attitude is superficially admirable -a "good" attitude, accepting what cannot be changed, not pursuing futile endeavors of improvement. But as a Jew, we should never be shruggingly accepting. We really should be in a constant state of hishtadlus-growth, effort, change. Nothing is futile. The scenario itself may not alter or disappear with a few prakim of tehillim or with a prayer, but we will. So it is never what it is. It could be so much more.

In next week's parsha, Aharon hears from Moshe that his sons were killed by the strange fire they brought in the mishkan. What was his response? Silence. Not shrugging meek, resignation, but rather silence, stillness, understanding and intelligent acceptance. (Very often silence would be the most intelligent response to any scenario.)

So do not just accept the ups and downs in your life. Take them, use them, try to change them, grow from them. Apathy is one of the worst emotions -worse than hatred, anger, sadness, frustration...Apathy and despair are two halves of the same coin. So learn from this week's parsha, tzav, and maintain the aish tamid in your heart. Keep the fire burning, keep on trying, keep on working to make a difference. One tiny spark can start a conflagration.

"It is what it is." Or is it?


Josh said...

Welcome back - We missed you.

It is a shame that more people aren't willing to look at life as an opportunity for growth. You are absolutely correct, in my mind, in identifying this Jewish value. It's ironic, because most people would equate the Jewish value with the "It is what it is" attitude, since throughout history we've shown a passive perseverance towards adversity, and pushed forward nontheless. But the truth is, we've accepted these material adversities because we knew they were only obstacles on our quest for spiritual growth, which we pursued even as we were chased.

Keep up the great thoughts!

Okee said...

Thanks Josh -you raise some really interesting points.'s true that there is a need to diffrentiate between acceptance of physical and spiritual realities -but even as Jews accepted their lot, along with that passivity they have always been aware of Hashem's infallible rule over nature and reality. As Reb Aryeh Levine zt"l always said - The yeshuah can come in the blink of an eye!

May this Pesach herald our own, global, yeshuah.

Pragmatician said...

nice lesson learned from the Parshah.
I completely agree that despair is never an answer.
Many things don't work out liekw e planned, but we just hve to make new plans then.

Semgirl said...

I would say that just accepting sthing, borders on Kfira..Every experience we have is an opportunity to grow spiritually.

Okee said...

Prag and Sem- you're both so right.
It's so funny, cause really it depends on how you look at it -some would say accept what comes, it's Hahem's plan, some would say react to what comes, grow from it, etc. But the two should be and often are one and the same.

Recently I received some not such good news (which I will elaborate upon in a future post) and I wasn't too upset because it is "Hashem's will". But at the same time I accept what is not to be, I am embracing what is, what choices are left for me, what paths I can now embark upon. Life is meant to be lived, right?