No laughing matter by Rabbi Y R Rubin

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No laughing matter

By Harav Y. R. Rubin

Ex-President Bush is walking through JFK airport in New York City. He sees a tall man dressed in white robes with a flowing white beard. He looks closer and feels he has seen this figure before. He walks up to the man and asks, “Excuse me sir, are you Moses the Jewish leader?” The man turns aside from President Bush and quickly walks away. The President follows him, calling out, “Sir, do you know who I am, I am President Bush, leader of the United States, and I have asked you a simple question, are you Moses?” The fellow looks at the leader of the free world with eyes ablaze, “Yes, I am Moses, and the last time I spoke to a Bush I ended up walking in the desert for forty years.”

This story will probably bring a smile to your lips, and you may even giggle. That’s because its absurd image is something we are aware of and its punch line strikes home with a humorous vision. Laughter is often the result of being able to see in the mind’s eye a picture that is uniquely silly.

“We are all enslaved to our personal desires. We have bits and pieces that are not as they should be, and we truly should root them out.”

There is another sort of laughter that comes from a physical attack. Many are ticklish and if touched in a vulnerable place, will fall about in uncontrollable laughter. Little babies are often the most vulnerable. This is fascinating, and there are some that are so ticklish that they can be “tickled pink”, literally turning pink from the laughter. The greatest mystery of all is that you can’t tickle yourself. Really, think about it. You may be sensitive beyond all description, but you can never tickle yourself. Studies have shown that there is a reason for this. Being ticklish comes from a part of the brain that uses this as a response to attack. When tickled the body reacts against this outside assault with the giggles. Now you may think, this doesn’t sound like much of a danger signal, laughing can’t be thought of as much of an alarm. Perhaps, but remember that term, tickled pink, getting so caught up in uncontrollable chuckling that you lose your breath and turn a different color. This is why you can’t tickle yourself, because the brain knows you’re not a danger to it, and so your body isn’t sensitive to your own touch.

Now you may well be asking why I have chosen to take up so much time on this interesting yet not very earth- shattering bit of science.

Well, it’s about that bush that Moshe Rabbenu saw, and the signals that come our way as we walk through our own pathway of life. The Chumash tells us, “An angel of Hashem appeared to him in a blaze of fire from amidst the bush. Moshe saw the event and behold, the bush was burning in fire and yet the bush was not consumed. Moshe said, ‘I will turn from my course and see the marvelous sight, why does the bush not burn?’ Hashem saw that Moshe turned from his path to see the sight and He called out to him from amidst the bush and said, “Moshe, Moshe……..”

So began what was ultimately our exodus from slavery.

We are all enslaved to our personal desires. We have bits and pieces that are not as they should be, and we truly should root them out. There are those ticklish subjects that we don’t want to talk about, because they can cause us to giggle in nervous anxiety. Rather we hide them away, and pretend they aren’t there. Yet there are moments when the burning bush of awareness burns bright. The question then is, do we turn aside to examine these signs or just slog along on our old worn and weary path?

One can easily choose not to “turn from my course and see the marvelous sight.” After all, who will know? We all go to the same shul, daven the same nusach, nothing need be seen as out of place. Yet, inside we are often uneasy, and that is because we don’t want to accept the existence of a fire that unlike that of the bush, burns and can very well consume our very souls.

Each one of us should think about our inner spiritual state, especially at this time of the year. The beginning of the readings of Shemos are understood to be auspicious times for spiritual growth. The ethos which Mitzrayim represents, that which held the Jews enclosed, still exists inside many of us. We are enclosed within the borders of our self-delusion and if we are ever to be free we must take steps to do so on our own. Moshe was chosen as our leader when Hashem saw that he could turn aside from what seemed the norm and was ready to experience new spiritual insights.

Much is said today about those youngsters who seem to slip through the net of our community. Perhaps we should begin to speak about adults who live in a condition of constant sleep as well… They walk through life without the fire and this creates a cold environment for all those around them. They may seem to giggle and smile, but is it a laugh of true Simcha, or perhaps just a nervous reaction that doesn’t touch the inner self? Shemos tells of a nation that was enslaved and how it was turned into one that saw huge miracles. Till this day we live as recipients of such miracles; we need but turn aside and look.


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