Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Optimists Emerge Victorious

(Devar torah for my son's berit milah, 6/19/2009)

One of the beautiful things about fatherhood is the opportunity to consider what goes on in a baby’s head. What could s/he possibly be thinking? All the more so, what is going through the baby’s head right before birth, and right after?

In this week’s Torah reading, Parashat Shelah Lekha, we read about the twelve scouts that are sent by Moses to scope out the situation in the land of Israel. The Israelites are wandering in the Sinai desert, preparing to enter the land, but they need to know what their chances are of conquering the Canaanite peoples that reside there. Ten of the scouts come back with a pessimistic report, but two of them, Caleb and Joshua, are optimistic. The pessimists outweigh the optimists 5-to-1, despite the fact that God has already more or less predicted the outcome.

So it might be easy, looking at today’s world, to be pessimistic (and I’m not going into why right now; I’ll leave that for you to discuss at breakfast). But little Zev Isaac could have popped his head out, looked around, decided that it’s just not worth it, and turned right back around to return to the womb, much to the consternation of the assembled medical personnel, not to mention my wife.

But of course, he did not do so. He joined the rest of us out here to become a willing participant in our berit, our covenant with God. This serves as a reminder to me that it is only we adults who understand suffering and disappointment; that life includes a healthy dose of misery along with joy.

But for a baby, there is only the good. There is only the full glass of optimism. There is only the simple wonder of going from darkness to light. There is only the beginning of Creation, when God says, “Let there be light.”

I suppose that it is this simplicity that causes us to continue bringing children into this very complicated world. The child’s optimism trumps the adult’s pessimism.

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