The Perilous Fright
I am not amused by amusement parks with their scary rides, nor do I have any appreciation for Halloween. It is simply beyond me, why people are eager to spend money and are prepared to wait in line to get on a hair-raising roller coaster ride or worse so that they can experience fright. Nor do I understand why people are willing to spend money to dress up as ghouls, ghosts, and goblins or use this terrifying trio to decorate their yards for the last night of October each year. Rather than being wild-eyed because of artificial fright, courtesy of our wild imagination as well as the culture of which we are part, we ought to be focusing on a much more perilous fright that comes with being human. We ought to be afraid of ourselves!
I would suspect that there have times in our lives, where we have surprised ourselves. Because we saw ourselves as being incapable of becoming even better versions of ourselves, because we regarded ourselves as not being equipped to adopting courageous positions, however unpopular those positions might be, there have been instances where we have surprised ourselves by rising to an occasion, where we typically would have refrained from taking a stand. By taking such a stand, we surpassed all expectations we had of ourselves. On the other hand, I would suspect that there have been times in our lives when we should have been afraid of ourselves. Because we saw ourselves as being above such behavior or because we regarded such deportment as being so unfathomable, because we were so smug that such repugnant behavior is beneath us, there have been instances, where we frightened ourselves by sinking to sinking to an all-time low.
We are products of a culture where achievement is measured in terms of “better”. Because of financial constraints, it is not in any way unusual for many in our society to make a foray into independence, by renting an apartment, that does not meet their standards. They make a point of reassuring themselves that in time when their earning power increases and their station in life improves, they will move into something better. The same holds true for the car they drive. In a good many cases, the same applies to leisure time activity and vacations. Personally, I see nothing wrong with “better” serving as a goal in our lives. I see everything wrong however when “better” is limited solely to tangible goals. Rarely, if ever, has one set a goal of being a better spouse or sibling Rarely, if ever, has one set a goal of being a better parent or child. Rarely, if ever, has one been resolute on becoming a better sibling or friend. Rarely, if ever, has one pledged to become a more loyal employer or employee. Because self-betterment seems to be relegated to the physical components of our lives while totally ignoring the spiritual component of our lives, we have every reason to be afraid of ourselves.
Long before the Coronavirus reared its nocuous head, our society was plagued and continues to be plagued with a virus, that while not threatening us physically, has severely compromised our taste in attire. Bluntly stated, a good many Americans dress like slobs. Clothing that hoboes of yesteryear would have shunned, is currently seen as being in vogue by Americans of all walks of life. Having acquired the moniker of “Rabbi GQ” by the residents of Lavendale Avenue, as they see me walk to and from Tiferet, I admit that I am far from impartial when it comes to attire. Nevertheless, seeing well-heeled Americans wearing shredded and ripped jeans, as well what can easily pass for undershirts (worn by Marlon Brando in his role of Stan Kowalski in the movie A Streetcar Named Desire) I cannot help but invoke the memorable quote Joseph Welch of the McCarthy Hearings who incredulously and indignantly asked: “Have you no sense of decency”. Ostensibly, the purpose of Halloween costumes is to instill fright. In my opinion, it is our daily dress and not any Halloween costume that gives us ample reason to be afraid of ourselves.
Some ten days ago, we asked for HaShem’s blessings for the upcoming Hebrew month. As part of that prayer, we asked that we be blessed with fear of heaven as well as fear of sin. Perhaps it would have been very much appropriate to have also prayed for fear of oneself.