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WHO WAS THE FIRST FACEBOOK USER?

Friday, 13 June, 2014 - 9:54 am

This email is dedicated to our daughter Tzivi on her marriage this past week to her soul mate Shneior Zalman Baumgerten. Join us as we celebrate their sheva brachot this first Shabbat as a couple.

Mr. Jones bought a new fridge for his house.

To get rid of his old fridge, he put it in his front garden and hung a sign on it saying: ‘Free to use; in good condition. You want it, you take it.’

For three days the fridge sat there without even one person looking twice at it.

He eventually decided that people were too un-trusting of this deal. It looked too good to be true, so he changed the sign to read: ‘Fridge for sale $400.’

The next day someone stole it.

It is, by all means, a fascinating story—told in this week’s Haftarah, in the book of Joshua. Joshua sends two spies to reconnoiter the land, and particularly the city of Jericho. The spies arrive in Jericho and go to the home of “Rachav,” who according to the Talmud for forty years served as an immoral, promiscuous individual. At the age of fifty, Rachav converted to Judaism! And she now used these three items—the flax, the window and the rope—to help the spies escape from her dwelling and from being caught by the Canaanites, saving their lives. She asked that she be forgiven for her inappropriate use of these devices by virtue of the fact that she now used them for a laudatory reason.

What was her secret? Why did she transform her life after 40 years of immoral and promiscuous behavior? What is unique about the flax, window and rope that they play such a central role in her repentance and transformation? Why should these 3 items forgive her for forty years of immoral behavior?

The great thinker and Kabbalist, the Maharal of Prague, in his commentary, presents these three items—the flax plant, the window and the rope—represent three aspects of our life that can lead us to inappropriate behavior. But the very three same dynamics can and ought to be transformed into a positive and noble force, leading us to great spiritual and moral heights.

What is unique about the flax plant? In the Torah, garments of linen and each of the seed capsules of the flax plant emerge and grow individually. The flax is a lonely plant.

A window is what allows us to peer out of our own home and search outside.

A rope is what allows us to link two separate entities.

Why, asks the Maharal, would a human being engage in immoral behavior?

The answer is: Flax. We are lonely creatures. We crave love, connectedness. A voice deep inside of us yearns for a relationship.

So what’s the next step? We open the “window” of our heart, to peek out and search for something out there we can connect with.

And then comes stage three: We throw out a rope to actually connect with the other person; to link our life with another life. The rope represents the actions we take to reach out and connect with another human being.

But what type of connection do you pursue to fill the loneliness?

Rachav was no ordinary woman, she was a big soul, a big heart. The bigger you are, the bigger your sense of loneliness. The deeper you are—the deeper the void. And hence—sometimes the most sensitive people become the worst addicts, because they feel the void of their loneliness more keenly than other people. That was Rachav.

And she could not be satiated with one person. In a shallow, non genuine relationship, you always need more and more because you feel that you never really have anything. The connections she cultivated—were good for one night. The next night, she needed a new rope, linking her to a new person. Every day she was connected to someone, but every day she knew that she was really connected to no one. Rachav was the first Facebook user. She had 7,000 friends, but not one real partner in life. She had many connections, but little bonding. She had a grand social network, but she was lonely at her core.

And at the age of 50 she met two Jewish spiritual giants—Tradition tells us that the two spies were Kaleb and Pinchas, men of genuine self sacrifice and commitment—who allowed her to look into the mirror and discover what she really needed: A real, genuine relationship.

One she understood the true reason for her void, her transformation became one of “Rachav,” of expansiveness and broadness. The very void that fueled her limitless gluttony now fueled her immense sense of integrity.

We need to understand that the flax, the window and the rope are essential to each of our lives. What choices do you make in your life when you stand at the threshold? This is the question we all must reflect on: Do you have a real, honest and enduring relationship with your spouse? With your children? Friends? Do you have a genuine relationship with your parents, siblings, and with your Father in Heaven? Are your “ropes” sturdy, solid, secure, firm, and enduring?

How we allow these scenes to play out determines whether we live lives of truth and dignity, or lives of falsehood and emptiness. The ball—or the rope—is in our court.

Shabbat Shalom, 

Rabbi Yoseph Geisinsky

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