Measured Extravagance

2000-09-28 - 9:29 p.m.

In 1998, Rabbi Chaim Stern published a daybook called Day by Day: Reflections on the Themes of the Torah from Literature, Philosophy and Religious Thought. It's a wonderful compilation, drawing not only from Talmud and Midrash and Jewish folktales, but from philosophers (Emerson, Einstein, etc.), playwrights (as disparate as Thorton Wilder and John Dryden), and other thinkers.

This morning, I was looking over last week's readings (on the theme of "Teaching") and was struck anew by the quotation from Israel Knox. Last week, his words resonated with me on a visceral level - I simply read them and nodded, "Yes, that makes sense." Reading them more slowly over breakfast, I marvelled at Knox's command of language - such precision!:

"There is a beautiful saying that comes to us from Hasidic lore: 'There is only one thing that is whole in the entire world, and that is a broken heart.' Reflect for a moment: here is a world that has not yet been redeemed, a world in which there is tragedy at the root of things. How could a moral and sentive man or woman walk about with a heart that is not broken? The broken-hearted -- paradoxically and profoundly - are the whole-hearted. And the task of education, especially of Jewish education, should be to break your heart. Unless it breaks your heart it is a false education, a pseudo-education. The gift of education will be a heart that is whole."

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