Every moment of the day feels like a race against the clock. To borrow a phrase from Carrie Fisher, which is in my bio; I’ll just toss it out again — “These days even instant gratification takes too long.” And if you think about how we to try to make things better, what do we do? We speed them up, don’t we? So we used to dial; now we speed dial. We used to read; now we speed read. We used to walk; now we speed walk. And of course, we used to date and now we speed date. And even things that are by their very nature slow — we try and speed them up too. I was in New York recently, and I walked past a gym that had an advertisement in the window for a new course, a new evening course. And it was for, you guessed it, speed yoga.
Today’s challenges aren’t new. They are ancient, in the Torah tracing all the way back to the curse of Cain.
Everyone knows the story of Cain and Abel. Adam and Eve have two sons, Cain and Abel. Cain kills Abel. God punishes Cain. And what is God’s punishment for Cain? Not to kill Cain but to make him spend the rest of his life as a “restless wanderer.” “You have banished me this day form the soil, and I must avoid Your presence and become a restless wanderer on earth” (Genesis 4:14).
If this punishment is literal there’s a problem as it says that Cain eventually stays in one place, gets married and has kids. Where’s the justice in that?
Indeed, it isn’t literal, it’s worse than that. Yes, Cain stays in one place, however, he never “settles down.” In the words of Maimonides, “his heart will not rest nor be quiet enough to stand in one place.” According to this teaching, to spend one’s life ceaselessly wandering and restless, particularly wandering and restless while staying in one place, is perhaps the greatest curse of all.
The difference between us and Cain is that for him there was no way out of this madness, trapped within the hellish consequences of his past actions. For us, however, there is a choice; we have a choice – we always have a choice.
We do not have to live as wandering spirits.
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