Walking with G’d


In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve eat from the tree of knowledge. They become aware of their own vulnerabilities, their nakedness, and see to cover it up. When G’d calls them forward, they are afraid, and hide, instead of walking with Him.

I had a chance to share this story with some Aikido students of mine, where I explained that the great tragedy here is not that they ate from the tree of knowledge (face it, they didn’t know any better), but that they hid instead of owning up to it, and were afraid to walk with G’d when he called. I ended saying “Do not hide. Bravery is when you realize you are weak, but still say what needs to be said, or do what needs to be done, and in so doing, walk with G’d.”

I see the students weekly, and through the medium of Aikido teach trust and respect. One of the teachers has taken an interest, and helps in class.

This teacher recounted what happened last Sunday. Sunday is their off-day. No classes, and teachers will take them out of the orphanage to eat a boxed lunch and to see a museum or have fun outside. It was proposed that they go to a certain museum. One of the students, C.C.., said he did not want to go, and would not say why.

“Then offer up an alternative.” said the teacher. C.C. offered no alternative. “Then if you don’t say why you don’t want to go, the other students will go, and I can take you back to the school [the orphanage] to do homework.” Yet this still did not satisfy him, and his gloomy silence persisted over lunch, which C.C. refused to eat.

Finally, the teacher said. “Have you forgotten what [the Aikido teacher] said? ‘Do not hide.'”

And C.C. said without tears or agitation that the museum was the last place where he had seen his grandmother and his father, and the place where his father had abandoned him.

And the teacher asked “Do you think, being brave enough to say this, that you are also brave enough to go to the museum?” And C.C. said “I think it is worth a try.”

But it came to be that the time had passed where they could go to the museum that day, so the teacher said “It’s already afternoon, so we’ll play some badminton instead of going to the museum today, but next time, you can tell us you want to go, we will all go together.”

[… and so doing walk with G’d.]

My student is growing up 🙂 Also, what a great teacher she was, to have persisted in asking for the answer.

Psalm 19:8-10

The Torah of the LORD is perfect, refreshing the soul.
The decrees of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.
The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart.
The mitzvoth of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.
The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever.
The decrees of the LORD are firm, and all of them righteous.

Because I have shared the mitzvah of studying the Torah, I have participated in this story.

Every mitzvah counts.

Why did I start reading the Torah? Because I missed Chabad Japan (www.chabadjapan.org Donate!). After many years of living away from Japan and not studying the Torah with Chabad Japan, I tried to find some people to study with, but was dissatisfied with their interpretations, but what could I do but study by myself? This led to finding commentaries online, to studying with my family, and to sharing the story of Genesis 3 with the children of the orphanage.

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe, once said that every setback is a chance to grow by spurring us to draw on untapped resources. So it was that my disappointment led to me to finding ways to study by myself. So it was that C.C. is learning to surpass his abandonment by not hiding from it.

If I have done nothing else in Taiwan, I have at least played a part in this story. Yet after hearing this story, I begin to see possibilities, and that there is so much more to do.

We are living in the time of the redemption, where there are many tools by which we can amplify good. Every mitzvah counts. May we through our actions shine the light of lovingkindness out into the world. May we thus make the world more joyous and habitable. May we not fear that our shortcomings will prevent us from doing so. May we direct our attention and energies outwards as G’d bade Adam and Eve. May we make straight the road for the Messiah. And may He come quickly in our time.

Jeremiah 10:24

“O LORD, correct me, but with judgment; not in thine anger, lest thou bring me to nothing.”

We often say “don’t be judgemental,” as if judgment were a bad thing, yet Jeremiah begs for judgement, and not anger. Judgement here is guidance from someone we trust – someone who knows our strengths and faults, loves us, and can elevate us when they judge we have fallen short of what we should be aiming at.





Socrate’s Apology

Socrates’ Apology is an account of Socrates’ legal defense of himself against charges that he was corrupting the youth of Athens (for unspecified reasons) and for not believing in the gods.

How precisely he corrupted the youth of Athens is not clear, as there is no statement given by his accusers. We can, however, infer that he offended a great many people. He would go to politicians, poets, and artisans, saying he was looking for wisdom, then ask them a bunch of questions to prove that they didn’t have any wisdom, yet neither did he have the answer to any of the questions that he posed. For example, to a citizen he asked if he had found a good teacher for his children. “who is he?” asked Socrates. “and of what country? And what does he charge?” “Evenus the Parian,” the man replied. “and his charge is five minae.” To which Socrates replied, “happy is Evenus, if he really has the wisdom, and teaches at such a moderate charge.”

In my notes here I have written “Socrates is an asshole.” He makes people feel stupid, yet he offers nothing helpful. Socrates charged no tuition, but one can imagine that the youth of Athens had a great time learning rhetorical techniques and making their authority figures run in rhetorical circles.

So, he must have conducted himself in such a way to make many powerful enemies. Yet, the Apology seems unjust – it is not wholly clear how his accusers have been materially hurt by him, nor even exactly what he is being accused of. At one point, Socrates refers to a satirization of him by Aristophanes that it is not true. Are the accusations being leveled at him so nebulous as to require him to defend himself against a satire?

Never mind what he did – the accusation that he didn’t believe in their gods is an accusation of “thought crime,” which doesn’t seem just.

Many features of what we now consider due process in the American court system are missing – the right to confront and cross-examine one’s accusers, the requirement that one bringing a civil lawsuit demonstrate that he has suffered harm, the right to freedom of speech. Yes, Socrates was an asshole, but one hopes that simply having made powerful enemies does not warrant imprisonment or death (though that sort of thing certainly happens), as seems to be happening in the case of Russia’s Alexander Shestun.

He made people feel stupid, while not offering any answers himself, but we remember Socrates as a martyr for freedom of speech and thought, sentenced to death without due process by insulted cronies.

The relevance to modern life? Legally, A society that preserves free speech should have more protections for the accused than did the Athens of Socrates, and in the United States, indeed there are. Personally? It’s not good to go around pedantically making people feel stupid.