Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Deer and the Wolves

by Rabbi Lazer Brody

With the aftermath of elections and the horse-trading of politicians trying to put together a coalition that’s based on self-expediency rather than emuna, everyone seems to be at everyone else’s throats. That’s so unfortunate, for in the face of today’s challenges, we need unity ever so badly.

The Hamilton, Ontario Jewish community wins our showcase award for Jewish unity. This past week, the community sponsored a fantastic fund-raising event for the construction of a new mikva, with all segments of the community taking part – Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform. What a sanctification of Hashem’s name when everyone got together to further the cause of Jewish family purity! Breslev Israel salutes you, Hamilton.

True spirituality brings people to truly love and respect one another. By the same token, material interests are devastating to peace, whether on a personal or national basis. Here's an example taken from chapter three of The Trail to Tranquility to show why:

Two Russian soldiers were once on a winter maneuver in the Siberian forest at midnight. The light of the full moon reflected on the snow, so the woods were well illuminated.

All of a sudden, they heard a thud. A distressed wild turkey with a broken wing had fallen from the treetops. Within seconds, two hungry wolves arrived on the scene. One grabbed the turkey by the wing, and the other sunk its teeth in the turkey's thigh. The two wolves began a tug of war. When neither wolf succeeded to free the turkey from the other's grasp, they attacked each other. Viciously and mercilessly, they literally tore each other apart, until one wolf dropped dead on the snow. The victor limped away, dragging the turkey between his teeth and leaving a trail of blood on the snow. A few minutes later, he keeled over and died too.

The gruesome but profound incident conveys a powerful message: The turkey weighed more than twelve pounds; it would have been a more-than-adequate dinner for both wolves. Their greed led them to anger, and their anger led them to violence. As a result, three corpses in were left in the snow - the turkey and the two wolves.

The Talmud teaches a consequent rule of thumb from situations like the wolf fight: Wherever you have peace, you have abundance; with no peace, starvation is prevalent.

Have you ever wondered why deer multiply so much faster than wolves? When a thirsty clan of deer arrives at a stream or other source of water, the bucks first allow the does to drink, and the does make sure that the fawns drink before they partake of the water themselves. The leader buck is the last one to drink - he won't take a sip until the entire herd is cared for. It's worth roughing the outback for an entire month just to witness such an inspiring sight.

Deer adults - both bucks and does - are extremely considerate of the young. When a herd of deer reaches a lush meadow, the fawns are first allowed to partake of the most luscious and tender greens; only after they've had their fill, the rest of the herd grazes.

Whereas the deer live in peace with one another, the wolves don't.

Peace is the true reflection of faith in The Almighty. People with faith know that The Almighty has plenty of resources to feed the entire world, so they don't have to use unethical means to obtain their livelihood. They know that G-d will provide for them without reverting to aggression or theft.

When there's peace, there's plenty for everyone.

King David teaches us that the humble shall inherit the earth (Psalms 37:11). Why? Humble creations – like the deer – get along famously with one another and therefore readily cooperate for the common welfare. Arrogant creations, on the other hand, want the whole world for themselves and therefore are constantly at each other’s jugular vein.

It’s no happenstance that the Land of Israel is nicknamed Eretz Hatzvi, or Land of the Deer (see Rashi’s commentary on Daniel 8:9). The Land of Israel is the inheritance of the humble and prolific deer, who by the way are a kosher species. Amazingly enough, the wolves are a dying breed. Today in Israel, the wolves need the intervention of the Society for the Protection of Nature to prevent them from becoming extinct altogether.

Let’s learn from the deer and live in peace with one another for the benefit of everybody. With national unity and mutual aid, we’ll certainly invoke Divine compassion to beat the rap of the impending recession and thereby insure an adequate and respectable livelihood for everyone, amen.