Should you ever change your mind?

Friday, 30 August, 2013 - 10:22 am


You’ve probably heard of the fable of a US naval ship on a collision course with what it thought was a Canadian ship.

The US ship orders the Canadian “ship” to adjust its course in order to avoid a collision. The Canadian “ship” advises that the US ship be the one to adjust its course. The belligerent radio operator on the US ship, feeling insulted by what it perceived to be receiving orders from an inferior, informs the Canadian operator that he represents the largest aircraft carrier in the US navy along with its numerous support ships and commands the Canadian “ship” to adjust its course. The Canadian “ship” responds that it is a lighthouse and advises the US ship that it just may want to oblige…

It may not be a true story but it has an important message and not only that, it’s connected to this week’s Torah portion!

There are times that we need fortitude and perseverance to stick with what we know to be true, even in the face of adversary. Like a lighthouse, standing firmly in one place, shining brightly even when the waves come crashing down on all sides.

There are, however, occasions where sticking to what we previously thought to be correct is not only deplorable, it’s detrimental. If we stick to our previous ideas of life, even when a lighthouse is signaling to us the correct and healthy path, we will crash and sink.

This week’s Torah portion is a double portion. The names of each of the portions are seemingly at odds with each other. The first is called “Nitzavim” or “standing firmly”; the second is called “VaYeilech,” or “and he went.” The first connotes resilience and conviction, the second growth and change.

At first glance the two names are incongruous; however the truth is that they actually complement each other. Even more, one without the other can be detrimental.

At times it’s necessary to take a stand and be firm in our conviction and belief. At other times it’s necessary to realize the need to change. Both take strength of character; both can be difficult. And above all, it takes deep insight to realize when to be firm and when to bend.

To paraphrase the serenity prayer: G-d, grant me the fortitude to maintain the things I should not change; the courage to change the things I should… and wisdom to know the difference.

Ketivah vachatimah tovah, may you be inscribed and sealed for a good year!

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