MORE THAN IT’S CRACKED UP TO BE
Blessings upon those who cheer the Red, White, and Blue. Kudos who asked whether that star-spangled banner still waves over the land of the free and the home of the brave. Where, however, have all the Liberty Bell fans gone? It seems that that have become silent as the Bell itself. And that is quite a shame. It may very well be, that the Liberty Bell carries with it a message that ought to be heard by everyone in this country, especially those whose task in life seems to stress the shortcomings and sins of the United States.
Although not designed as such, it is the crack in the Liberty Bell that proudly represents the very essence of this country. “One nation under G-d,” is a phrase much too poignant to be relegated to the Pledge of Allegiance. A mere look at a map of the world or a glance at a globe, provides an excellent commentary for the opening chapter of Torah. When HaShem separated water from dry land, it was not by any means a clean break. The ragged shorelines of what was ultimately to become continents suggests “cracks” more than mere divisions. Put differently, the world handed down to humans, is replete with cracks. Yet, in no way ought this to suggest carelessness on the part of our Creator. Quite the opposite! HaShem wished to convey, that quite often in life, cracks are a prerequisite for completion.
Ironically, it was an 18th century French Royalist soldier and politician Francois de Charette who taught us “you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.” Meaning no disrespect, but when it came to cooking and especially understanding HaShem’s world, Francois de Charette “knew from borscht.” Truth be told, you cannot eat any style of egg, without first cracking the shell. So too is the case with nuts. Would anyone even think of eating peanuts, or walnuts, or hazelnuts without first cracking the shell? Completion for these types of foods, necessitates that cracks be made. True, other foods may be neater to eat, but life is not always neat. Quite often, cracked shells are a reality of life. Moreover, tragedy abounds when society refuses to clean up the cracked shells, just as tragedy abounds when society refuses to recognize and applaud those who cleaned up the cracked shells.
Halacha forbids a male over the age of 13, and a female over the age of 12 (otherwise known as an adult) to be together in a closed room. Because halacha is a legal system, and because learned rabbis are steeped in the study of halacha, a solution was found. It was determined that it is permissible for a male and a female to be together in a room, provided the door to that room is left open a crack. In doing so, those in the room are in no way in violation of halacha, yet at the same time, those in the room are afforded their privacy. Modern technology, however, often operates totally differently than halacha. Advances in technology have trained us – perhaps even spoiled us – with the efficacy of sealed systems. Cracks, no matter how minuscule, often compromise the functioning of that system. As dependent as we have become on technology, let us never lose sight that human relationships – particularly when a feud and a falling out has occurred in human relationships – are often repaired, once there is a crack. When there is a “crack in the ice” that has developed in the relationship by one of the injured parties, there just might be a warming to that “crack in the ice” on the part of the other injured party.
It was the 19th century great sage Menachem Mendel of Kotzk, more commonly known as the Kotzker Rebbe, who taught that “there is nothing so perfect as a broken heart.” Had the Kotzker Rebbe been fluent in English, he might very well have followed up by saying that the best remedy for one who is stiff-necked, is a cracked heart. Stated differently, the best atonement for inflexibility is flexibility. As far as religion is concerned, “wholehearted” is synonymous with one who realizes and acknowledges that his heart is broken or cracked. For only then is there the possibility of repair and improvement of that heart, for only then is there the possibility of growth. Much to HaShem’s chagrin, Adam and Eve were not broken-hearted over disobeying HaShem and eating the forbidden fruit. Neither was their son Cain for the murder he had committed. One can only speculate how different things might have been had Adam, Eve, and Cain felt cracks in their hearts for what the acts they committed.
This Thursday, we commemorate and mourn a crack or chasm in the wall of Jerusalem by the Romans, which culminated in the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash or Holy Temple, three weeks later. If only our ancestors would have had their own version of a cracked Liberty Bell, and if only our ancestors been able to realize that the crack or chasm in the wall surrounding Jerusalem was moral warning sign of crack or chasm that existed within Jewish society, things might have turned out differently.