Getting It Just Right

Jan 27th, 2011 by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week

Me, yesterday.

I don’t drive much anymore for a number of reasons. Unfortunately, I had to drive yesterday and discovered another reason not to drive: windshield wipers.

It was snowing lightly when I began my drive and all I had to do was turn on my wipers so I could see. Well, it was obvious that they had to be on high speed to clean the windshield, but they quickly cleared the accumulation and the rubber began to squeak, so I switched to a lower speed. The lower speed seemed to smear the spray from passing cars so I switched back to a higher speed when I sprayed the windows. I was grateful for the wonders of modernity when I had a perfectly clear windshield, that is, for about ten-seconds. I knew I had at least a three-hour drive ahead of me and wanted to preserve the wiper-fluid, so I decided to try the intermittent switch, hoping that would keep things clear enough to see out the window. After an hour of playing with the intermittent speed and spraying every few minutes, I reached 87N and the road was much clearer and I breathed a sigh of relief. Just then, a truck sped past, spraying my window with filthy snow. The wipers just added to the mess. I was out of fluid. I couldn’t get things just right. Another reason to not drive, at least during a snow storm.

I returned home fifteen hours later in a second storm, much worse than the morning storm. The drive home was a nightmare. The wipers didn’t matter because it was impossible to see anything other than the lights of the truck ahead of me; the only vehicle moving on the highway. I had to stay close behind the truck to see its lights, which meant that my window was covered with its spray. No wiper speed or windshield fluid made a difference. The usual three-hour drive took more than five.

Why, you ask, would anyone drive in such weather? Good question. I had to go somewhere for one of my children. Why, you may ask, did you have children? Another good question. I wanted to have someone to shovel the sidewalk, steps and driveway. Unfortunately, I didn’t plan well. At first, they were too young to shovel. When they were teenagers, they were either in school or too busy with homework to shovel. Just when they were sufficiently strong and reliable to shovel the snow, and just when they became interesting enough to have real conversations, they left for college. Once again, I couldn’t get it just right!

So, you ask, if you can’t get it just right; why did you have children? Because children are never about getting it just right. (Grandchildren, however, are always perfect, and the best reason to have kids!) There are few things, if any, we can get just right, and yet, many keep on trying. I can understand why the Torah, when describing Revelation at Sinai, a story about a nation, adds a single moment about a few people who ruined the “Just Right” feeling: “Moses, Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel ascended. They saw the Lord of Israel, and under His feet was the likeness of sapphire brickwork, and it was like the essence of the heaven in purity. Against the great men of the Children of Israel, He did not stretch out His hand – they gazed at the Lord, yet they ate and drank.” (Exodus 24:10-11) These ‘great men’ wanted more. It was the only way they could understand the experience “Just Right,” and by so doing, they ruined the “Just Right” moment for all of Israel. Even the scene we would most expect to be “Just Right,” Revelation, was imperfect.

God was not asking Israel to get things “Just Right.” He does not expect us to live “Just Right,” but to consistently struggle to get things better. The men who ‘gazed at the Lord,” were trying to get things better. But ‘Better’ is never “Just Right,” whether at Sinai or driving during a snow storm.

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