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Nikolas Cruz and My Grandmother

Friday, 23 February, 2018 - 2:52 pm

How do you respond to pain and suffering?

Nicholas Cruz had a troubled and challenging childhood.

So did my grandmother.

She had a terrible childhood, she’s a holocaust survivor.

Some people respond to pain by becoming cold hearted and cynical, while others become more sensitized to the pain of others.

Some try to lessen their pain by inflicting it upon another, while others do so by lessening it for another.

Some victims try to regain a sense of control and power by controlling and abusing others, while others do so by taking control of their own lives.

When wronged by “society”, some attempt to harm society in revenge, while others try to fix and improve society.

Cruz responded to his pain by killing 17 young and innocent souls. My grandmother responded to her pain by bringing 10 beautiful souls into this world and showering them with love.  

Rather than dedicating their lives to revenge and hate, holocaust survivors built homes and families and raised up the next generation to be strong, proud citizens of their country. They built the nation of Israel, and they built communities in America.

This week’s Torah begins with the words: “Command the Israelites to bring you clear olive oil, crushed for the light, so that the lamp may always burn” The sages drew a comparison between the olive and the Jewish people. “Rabbi Joshua ben Levi asked, why is Israel compared to an olive? Just as the olive only yields its oil by being crushed so Israel fulfills [its full potential] only when it is pressed by suffering.”

There’s a great parable that has been circulating for a while:

Once upon a time a daughter complained to her father that her life was miserable and that she didn't know how she was going to make it. She was tired of fighting and struggling all the time. It seemed just as one problem was solved, another one soon followed.

Her father, a chef, took her to the kitchen. He filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Once the three pots began to boil, he placed potatoes in one pot, eggs in the second pot, and ground coffee beans in the third pot.

After twenty minutes he took the potatoes out of the pot and placed them in a bowl. He pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl.

He then ladled the coffee out and placed it in a cup. Turning to her he asked. "Daughter, what do you see?"

"Potatoes, eggs, and coffee," she hastily replied.

"Look closer," he said, "and touch the potatoes." She did and noted that they were soft. He then asked her to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally, he asked her to sip the coffee. Its rich aroma brought a smile to her face.

"Father, what does this mean?" she asked.

He then explained that the potatoes, the eggs and coffee beans had each faced the same adversity– the boiling water.

However, each one reacted differently.

The potato went in strong, hard, and unrelenting, but in boiling water, it became soft and weak.

The egg was fragile, with the thin outer shell protecting its liquid interior until it was put in the boiling water. Then the inside of the egg became hard.

However, the ground coffee beans were unique. After they were exposed to the boiling water, they released their fragrance and flavor and changed the water.

"Which are you," he asked his daughter. "When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a potato, an egg, or a coffee bean? "

We do our best to avoid adversity and suffering, but when it happens we must rise to occasion and become better people as a result.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Benjy Silverman 

 

 

 

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