THE PARACHUTE JUMP
One of my students doesnâ€™t like attending class. So the other day, when he attended, I asked him why he bothered. Especially, because for that class, he was the first one there. â€œRabbi, today, I went up to the North of Israel, and I jumped off a plane. I went parachuting, and it was amazing! It cost me 300 dollars. And I was able to see Syria, Lebanon, and Mediterraneanâ€¦!â€ It looked like he showed up to class just to let me know. Part of the enjoyment of the parachute jump is the reaction you see on the people you tell about your experience. I asked him, â€œYou jumped alone? No friends?â€ He said that the other boy from the class did not want to join him. â€œThe other boy said, â€˜If I die, I do not want to die for parachuting. When people ask how I died, I want it to be about something important. I want to have a reason to die. Not just because I jumped off a plane for the thrill or the adrenalin.â€™â€
This was going to be a great class. I asked the boy, who was sitting in front of me, thrilled, and alone, â€œWhat is the fun in the adrenalin? Why do people enjoy ALMOST dying, dancing between life and death?Â Â Why are people amused by thriller-rides in the amusement parks?â€ He said, â€œRabbi, I never thought about it.â€ My Rabbi taught me this one. Many people do not feel alive. They are not living – they are merely existing. By almost dying, they feel alive again. I asked the boy, â€œWhat are you willing to die for? In what way do you want to live on after you are dead?â€ He thought and thought. That lesson was a great lesson. I got the boy to think.
This weekâ€™s Parasha talks about the Mizbeach HaKetoret. The Altar of Incense. Râ€™ Shimshon Pincus explains something that always bothered me, something about which I asked so many people, and no one had the answer. So says the Ramah, in Hilchot Milah: (YD 265; 11)To be Sandak at a Brit Milah, to be the one to hold the baby of the Brit Milah on the lap during the circumcision, is a huge thing, even greater than being the Mohel. A Sandak is like someone who is bringing Ketoret, the sacrifice of incense, and therefore, the custom is not to give two sons of the same father to the same man to be Sandak; rather a different Sandak for each boy. The Sandak is like the one who brings Ketoret, and just as they would not let the same Kohen bring Ketoret more than once in his life, being that Ketoret makes one rich, so too, being Sandak makes one rich, and therefore we do not give this honor and merit of two sons to the same man.
I pondered the following question for a very long time. What is the connection between being Sandak and bringing Ketoret?
R’ Pincus answers with a parable. A billionaire brings his wife a piece of gold jewelry. She is not impressed, because there are no diamonds in it. But, when he brings her a beautiful bouquet of flowers, she gets all emotional and very touched. Why? Why does the 250 dollar bouquet touch her heart, but the 500 dollar piece of gold jewelry not mean much?
This is because of the structure of the world, according to Judaism. The world has in it only four categories- ×“×•×ž× ×¦×•×ž×— ×—×™ ×ž×“×‘×¨ , Inanimate objects, like rocks and metals. Growing objects, like flowers and fruit. Living objects, like animals and birds. And, the top of the hierarchy, those capable of communicating: people. When you give your wife an inanimate object, like something made of metal or stone, there is only a certain level of emotion that you can touch. When you give her flowers, when you go up a level in the hierarchy of the world’s structure, you touch a different level of her emotions. If you give your wife from the lower level, if you want it to touch her heart, you need to pay a lot more than if you would just buy her flowers.
The third level of a present is a living object, a Korban. When someone brings a Korban, he is expressing love, demonstrating that he is willing to give up his life, his flesh and blood, to G-d. Today, we do not have a way to express this love, for we do not have a Holy Temple in Jerusalem. The forth level is the level of ×ž×“×‘×¨, the communicator. Nobody, ever, brought a Korban of this caliber up to G-d. Except for one man, Avraham. He brought his son Yitzhak, as an Olah sacrifice, up onto the Altar. G-d was so â€œtouchedâ€ by this, ×›×‘×™×›×•×œ, that He never forgets it. Until today, every Rosh Hashana, every Yom Kippur, each morning, we â€œremindâ€ Him again and again about this, and He never gets bored hearing it.
This is expressed in the Ketoret. The Ketoret is different from the Korban, because the Korban was a blood offering, a meat offering, something materialistic, representing the flesh and blood of the person. But the Ketoret corresponds to the Neshama of the person. Smell is the most spiritual of the senses; it is something you can perceive, but cannot touch. The Neshama, also, is something you canâ€™t see. You know it is there, only because there is breathing, through the nose. ×•×™×¤×— ×‘××¤×™×• × ×©×ž×ª ×—×™×™×. G-d breathed into the nose of Adam a living Neshama. The Ketoret corresponds to sacrificing your Neshama to G-d. Your identity, your emotions, the greatest moments of life, your life story, dedicating it all for your Creator. The Brit Milah is not a Korban of flesh and blood, like what is done on an animal. It is a Korban of the Neshama. The Sandak is bringing, on his lap, a sacrifice at the level and category of a Medaber – a human being, with his soul – to G-d.
The question that is the ultimate question in your life is often the hardest one to answer: What has G-d put you on this earth for? What legacy do you want to leave behind? What are you willing to die for? These are the most powerful questions, because these questions define your identity. They define your Neshama. And once you know, you will be internally motivated to achieve your lifeâ€™s mission. Nothing will or can stop you.
Average men learn how to live. Great men learn how to die. All of life is a parachute jump. Make sure to get it right the first time.