Juxtaposition – Parshat Ekev
I love this word. I love the way it sounds, what it means and even just saying it. It is simply a cool word.
In Hebrew exegesis, this term is called 'semichut', meaning adjacency (is there such a word?). It is used to derive legal precepts, philosophical principles and moral behavior.
It is famously used in this week's parsha, Parshat Ekev. The Gemara notes that when throughout Tanach we find a description of God's greatness, we will also often find a description of his patience/humility.1 The example from the Torah is in this week's parsha. We read that God is above all others, that He is powerful, great, heroic, awe-inspiring and not susceptible to bribes. Truly divine qualities. In the very next sentence we might expect more of the same or even some examples. But noooo. Instead we read that He cares for proper judgment of the widow and orphan and cares for the basic needs of the stranger.2 The Netziv takes this one step further and puts forth that in the spirit of imitatio dei, copying God, the next verse commands us to love the stranger. If even the omnipotent God can take the time to care for the stranger, so, too, it is incumbent upon us to care for him. This is how juxtaposition works. We discern a context which effects the meaning of the whole section.
When I was studying logotherapy, a fellow classmate and friend, Dr. Aryeh Siegel, wrote his Diplomate thesis on the concept of synchronicity, which he describes as " 'meaningful coincidence' and can be defined as the experience of two or more events that are apparently causally unrelated and that are observed to occur together in a manner meaningful to the observer. Here, too, the meaning accrues via context the different events viewed as being a part of a timeline and not isolated events."3 In other words, synchronicity can also be described as "chronological juxtaposition", meaning that events happening in close proximity to each other and have some kind of meaning for the person experiencing it.
This week, we suffered a tragedy in the family.4 I have no answers for why this happened, or why this happened now. But, as I know and believe that the tragedy is not meaningless, I do look to see what I, personally, can glean from this. I also know that, in the long run, this event will not weaken me but rather strengthen me. How will that happen? What can I learn from this? I'm not 100% sure. But I do know that it is true.5 Everyone else will have a different takeaway or meaning from this tragedy. Some will realize it. Others won't.
We all have these chronologically juxtaposed events in our lives. In this case the events were heavy and painful. Other times they have been happy and joyous. Do we open our eyes to see the connections and sense the meaning within a context or choose to view them as isolated incidents with no meaning? It is a choice. Choose wisely and grow.
L'ilui Nishmat Yonatan ben Efrayim Fishel.
Have A Great Shabbat!