Gonna Do it My Way – Parshat Terumah
Children will often notice when parents repeat stories. Sometimes they will ask the parent to repeat a particular story because of the way it is told or the content itself. There are other times when the kids will roll their eyes when the parent will repeat the same story over and over - this happened recently while sitting shiva for my mom, hk"m, and I was telling over stories about my mother and my kids said "we know – you told that one already." I was once really surprised because I hadn't even been aware that I was retelling the story.
I expect different from the Torah. In this week's parsha, Parshat Terumah, the Torah repeats the same sentence almost immediately. In describing the building of the Ark of the Covenant, the Torah says: "and unto the ark you will give the covenant which I will give you."1 Just 5 verses later the same words are repeated with the only difference being that the first two words are transposed. I looked to see if there were any commentaries who referred to this anomaly and was happy to find that I was not the only one with this question. What threw me a bit was the fact that so many tried to give an answer that fit with the context of this section and with other portions in the Torah - and I'm sure that each was convinced that his answer was the most accurate.2 Why not settle for the previous answer? Is the authority of the previous sage not high enough? Is something else going on here? It is not at all unusual to have a plethora of opinions but this week it hit me and I looked for an answer.
To make this issue more challenging, Dr. Viktor Frankl writes of there being one right answer for every situation.
"To be sure, man is free to answer the questions he is asked by life. But this freedom must not be confounded with arbitrariness. It must be interpreted in terms of responsibleness. Man is responsible for giving the right answer to a question, for finding the true meaning of a situation. And meaning is something to be found rather than to be given, discovered rather than invented."3
So there's only one answer? How do I decide who from among the great scholars is correct? And how did they have the "audacity" to stand up to the opinions of the great sages of previous generations? And how do i translate this to practical questions?
It took me a long time to accept that there is one right way to go and honestly I never really felt comfortable with that notion. After spending years assuming that more than option is viable and correct, having only one correct solution was challenging and demanding.
This week, though, I came up with an addendum to this thought which makes the whole idea not only palatable but even correct for me. I would like to add to that sentence the words 'for himself'. So it would read instead, "Man is responsible for giving himself the right answer to a question, for finding the true meaning of a situation for himself." Two people can be faced with the exact same situation yet the correct response for the two of them must be different because they are two different beings. It may sometimes seem similar but there will always be a difference.
When stuck in a dilemma, whether philosophical or practical, it is important to find that one right solution for YOU and then go ahead and do it "yoooooour waaaaay".
In memory of my mother, Hentcha Leah bat Yitzchak Lipa, hk"m
Have A Great Shabbat!