So, I was chopping up some veggies for a salad l'kavod Shabbat, while my eyes were dialated (gotta love check ups at the eye doctor.) Still had 3850238230482030202 things do before Shabbat. I had just cleaned the table and kitchen countertop, and everything was sparkly clean. Mission accomplished.
On my way to clean my room, I noticed two special friends chilling on the living room table. Pomegrantes!!!
I got so happy. I mean, come on, when do you get to see pomegrantes other than Rosh Hashana time???
Why not open one up l'kavod Shabbat? Nutty person that I am, that's precisely what I did; I opened one up...forgetting how messy pomegrantes can be.
Now, anybody who has the fun task of opening up pomegrantes for Rosh Hashana knows that:
1) the fruit's juice can get messy and leak all over the place, regardless of how careful you are
2) it can leave a temporary or permanent stain on anything and everything; your clothing, your hands, the table, etc, and for the most part, if it stains your clothes -- the stain lasts forever and ever...and ever.
3) A pomegrante contains many red pieces/seeds of fruits, and also white pieces/skin that often get mixed up with the seeds, and if you eat the red part of the fruit along with the white skin thingy, there's an extremely bitter taste -- unless you remove the white particles before consuming any.
So, I was humming the tune to one of my favorite songs while opening the pomegrante, thinking about how the pomegrante symbolizes the 613 mitzvot.
Now, there's something to learn from everything in this world. Every person, every creature, every object, etc. Some thoughts came to mind. Not sure if these ideas are chiddushim or if these are concepts that many have thought of before.
1) If a pomegrante stains your shirt, the stain basically lasts forever. Since a pomegrante symbolizes mitzvot, a mitzvah -- too -- is eternal. Even if somebody isn't the most observant or holiest person around, (s)he should never think "oh, what good will 1 mitzvah do if I negelect the other 612?" Because each mitzvah can make a long lasting impression!
I heard the following incredible thought from a project inspire Rabbi: if thousands of diamonds fell to the ground in your neighborhood, and everybody rushed to collect them, would you refrain from attempting to collect any just because you can't obtain them all? Absolutely not! Even 1 would make a difference. It's the same with mitzvot. Each mitzvah, no matter how "small" or "big", is counted and precious.
2) Now, in certain cases, the pomegrante juice appears to leave a stain -- but the stain is removable. For example, if the pomegrante juice leaks onto your kitchen countertop. If you merely wipe it off with a napkin, it doesn't fully disappear and deceitfully makes you think that it's permanent. That's it! Your countertop is RUINED. Your mom or wife or room-mate is going to kiiiiiilllll you. But, if one would just apply more effort -- such as scrubbing the stain with a towel and hot water, or perhaps some bleach/detergent/ammonia cleaning device, then the stain can completely vanish!
This is a metaphor for an avera (sin). If someone commits a sin, "small" or "big", the stain seems like it can last forever. That's it. I'm doomed. I'll be punished forever. But that's not the case --- that's ONLY the case if the sin is left in the past, or even if it is continuously committed. If one does teshuva, which initially just requires effort, it can all be erased. As if there was never any stain!
3) When one opens the pomegrante, and the pieces are placed into the bowl, the white, bitter pieces also get mixed in and must be taken out (unless one enjoys eating bitter foods.) As sweet as the red fruit particles of the pomegrante are, if they are eaten along with the white particles, the sweet taste is maxed out, and the main taste is the bitterness. The person who is opening the fruit makes sure to pick out the white pieces before eating the fruit.
When we fulfill mitzvot, at times, there's a tendecy to do so without kavana or even with the wrong kavanot. These are methods of the yetzer hara -- he knows he can't completely cause a dedicated Torah-true Jew to STOP doing mitzvot, so he makes us stumble on the "little" things. For example, a Jew who makes it to minyan on time and has his siddur ready and everything...but then he mumbles and slurs the words of the Shemoneh Esreh, thus making his Shemoneh Esreh barely, if at all, valid. Another example is tzniut for women -- the yetzer hara knows he can't convince most Torah-true bnot Melech to wear pants, but he tries to convince us to be more lax in our observance by making tight and shorter skirts look more appealing than longer ones.
We must learn to throw away the bitter white parts (the yetzer hara; laziness, laxness, impatience, lack of concentration, etc.)that often get involved if fulfilling a mitzvah -- so that we can focus on the sweet red part (fulfilling the mitzvah, doing G-d's will, loving and fearing HaShem, being happy, receiving olam haba, etc.)
David Hamelech explains that we need to
"סוּר מֵרָע, וַעֲשֵׂה-טוֹב; בַּקֵּשׁ שָׁלוֹם וְרָדְפֵהוּ" (Tehillim 34:15), meaning "avoid/remove/turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.)
One of HaShem's Names is "Shalom" -- which also means "peace". We need to seek "peace" (HaShem) and "pursue [Him]" (pray and put those prayers into action!)
Even if we pinpoint who or what the yetzer hara is and how he manifests himself into certain parts our lives, we must know that we can't fight him alone -- we need HaShem's help. We need to pray to Him that we can fight off all of the distractions in our lives, overcome the difficulties, purely serve Him to the best of our abilities and potential, and continue to have emunah in HaShem and know that He has the power to do anything! If He brought us to it, He can bring us through it.
Stay tuned for next week's "thoughts on watermelons"...
(just kidding. I miss those guys, though! Why aren't they in season??)
Shavua tov :)