Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Slice of Redemption ---------------------------------------------

I consider myself fortunate and blessed to be alive; this is an on-going blessing from G-d. However, every once in a while I catch a glimpse of something truly amazing, genuinely G-dly, (as if being alive isn’t), something that sets things into perspective.

We all know that the Torah is full of laws and commandments, telling us how to live and so forth. We sometimes want to be free from those laws, but occasionally something happens when we see their usefulness. Let us take simple traffic lights for example, which basically provide drivers and pedestrians with safe passage through otherwise dangerous intersections. It is a simple red light, an arbitrary law, that when observed creates a stronger force than can a tangible wall. The proof is that most people would feel horribly ashamed if they ran a red light; they would feel bad for endangering themselves and others, and further, they would receive the ostracizement of the driving community, a powerful force unto itself. This enough is to make the majority of people willfully stop driving when approaching a red light. It’s a law that we want to keep, it’s a line that we don’t want to cross over, and when we overshoot it we usually find ourselves backing up.

But this isn’t a story about shame, it’s a story about redemption.

One hot day I was driving home from a class at the University when I noticed that none the traffic lights of the entire intersection ahead of me were functioning. I inched my way up to the white lines and when I was a few cars back, I realized that there were no police officers there to regulate the flow of the traffic. It was as if neither the traffic lights nor the guidance-police existed, and we were left alone to get through the random forces on our own. The drivers had taken it into their own hands to get through the intersection, and I realized just how insanely dangerous this was; my turn was coming up and I became attentive.

However, as I approached the white line an amazing spectacle unfolded before my eyes; the drivers were getting through the intersection in peace and safety. For some odd reason, without the regulation of any police, the drivers had resorted to alternating between east-west and north-south traffic. About twenty or so cars heading north and south would drive through, and a few moments later the flow of traffic slowed to a halt and then the east-west flow would pick up, live for a few moments, then stop, and then alternate again. The catalyst in the process was usually one or two sole drivers whom would stop at the intersection’s line rather than drive through it. This would cause a chain reaction leading drivers on either side to stop, which would then lead drivers coming the opposite direction to stop, and open up the opportunity for the perpendicular flow of traffic. This was all carried out in a rather intuitive manner.

That day I caught a short and intense glimpse of the best in human behavior; I saw the G-dly side of humanity triumph over the hurriedness and ego that accompanies a large section of the human being; the Image of G-d shone through. The streets are usually breeding grounds for some of the worst in human behavior; greed, impatience, and ignorance of the rules. But this was almost surreal; human beings were functioning in harmony with each other as they needed without the aid of any regulative system – they had understood the rules and taken to applying them on their own, and succeeding – a wonderful display of the internalization of the rules. The most amazing thing about it was that I was not reading about or imagining it; it was happening in real time in the most mundane of settings; an intersection. This marvel led directly to harmony, to peace; the Shechina, G-d’s Presence, rested there potently, if only for a few slow moments. Occasionally a car would careen through the intersection, the one person that tried to make it, but most cars had already begun stopping by then, creating a few second lapse from the time that the next stream began and allowing him/her safe passage. This is precisely why both lights remain red simultaneously for a few moments, in case a rebel careens through the intersection. Somehow “we” had achieved this on our own.

I had felt, for a moment, that this was a tear in the normal “space-time continuum” of galut, exile, and that the time of the Meshiach would surely be like this, except always. For those that who don’t believe that the time of the Meshiach can happen or find the redemptive promises in the Torah hard to fathom and imagine, you are not alone, I too find myself trying to find new and creative ways to grasp it. However, that day, for a few extended moments, I and everybody who passed through that intersection, some hundreds of cars or more, all simultaneously experienced the same thing, something that I can only explain as a slice of ge’ulah, Redemption. It was nothing short of a pure miracle, and it happened in front of everybody’s eyes. Considering the drawn out nature of the occurrence, I am quite sure that there is nobody who drove through that intersection in those moments without being shocked into a state of curiosity.

When my turn came to go through the intersection, I didn’t want to; I wanted to stay back and to experience the wonder of that spectacle for a while longer, this “natural” phenomenon, but I could not fathom putting a break into the flow of events that was occurring. Once through, I considered turning around and going back, like a gleeful child to a water slide, but time constraints pushed me onward to my destination. When the time of the Meshiach comes, and may Hashem will it to be soon, I won’t have to make a U-turn to experience those few moments again; they won’t end.

2 comments:

anonym00kie said...

great post .. sounds familiar ;) but beautifully expressed!

jjew said...

It's happened to you too? Haha, Yaniv...