In Parshat Bechukotai God promises that if we keep the mitzvot, God will provide us with all sorts of blessings and with a secure existence in our ancestral land.
Describing this security, God says “I will grant you peace in the land. You will lie down for there will be no cause for fear. I will even remove wild beasts from the land…”
There is a fascinating disagreement in the midrash between Rebbe Yehudah and Rebbe Shimon about how this prophecy will be manifest in messianic times. According to Rebbe Yehudah, God will simply remove all the wild animals from the world, thus fulfilling the verse. Rebbe Shimon, however, argues that just as Isaiah prophesied, “the wolf will lie with the lamb” – wild animals will still exist in messianic times, but their natures will have been changed. There will have been a tikkun (a “fixing”). The animals will be tame instead of predatory.
On the surface, this is a debate about how a particular prophecy will come to be in messianic times. In fact, however, this debate is between two different approaches to engaging with our own personalities and natures.
Each of us has elements of our nature that are cultivated and refined. But admittedly, each of us also has negative aspects of our natures. Rebbe Yehudah counsels us to complete destroy the wild, uncivilized aspects of ourselves and our natures, and while this seems like an eminently reasonable approach, Rebbe Shimon demands more. Instead of destroying the negative elements within us Rebbe Shimon wants us to transform them! Ultimately, the midrash agrees with Rebbe Shimon, that through doing a tikkun on these parts of ourselves, we will turn the bad into good!
As we finish packing for camp, as we get ready to transition from our lives in the outside world to our lives at Yavneh, I realize that camp is a place where I am free to do that tikkun, a place where I feel empowered to follow Rebbe Shimon’s advice and to continually improve and integrate (instead of simply cutting off) those aspects of myself that are more “wolf” than “lamb.”
I bless us all that this and every Shabbat should be a time of transformation, and that this summer we should all feel empowered to engage with our deepest selves and turn our wolves into lambs.
Questions for the Shabbat Table:
- How have you tried to change yourself or your nature (habits, character traits, etc)? What was that process like for you?
- Why do you think the midrash ultimately sides with Rebbe Shimon, that we should integrate and transform the negative within ourselves rather than destroy it?