“Are you talking to me? Are you talking to ME?” who can forget this famous line forged by the character of Travis Bikle of Taxi Driver fame. They have been repeated over and over in comedic content and in drama. How often in writing do we see ourselves, and wonder that? So many stage plays and novels begin with a standard disclaimer of denial of real persons, places, or things. Good writing, we are told is universal; it appeals to a wider audience and holds some agreed upon, universal truths that speak to us all.
And aren’t Drushas, in part, good writing? Or at least good speaking? I have had some of my best conversations of the week just outside of out Shul because of the Rabbi’s Drusha. I have even asked myself, sometimes kidding and some times less so, if the Drusha was about me. Is he talking about me being… impatient? Judgmental? Unkind? Might I have treated someone unfairly? Some might find this type of introspection upsetting.
It was recently remarked to me that ‘people want uplifting messages’ and that maybe true. But is really the job of a good Rabbi to make us all only feel good about ourselves? And is he responsible for any discomfort people experience at all?
Judaism has specific rules for specific situations and though some customs change from place to place the rules do not. Nor does custom ever replace the rules. It is the job of a spiritual advisor to let you know about these rules. Try not to shoot the messenger. Every discussion, like every pancake, has two sides. For example, when there is a dispute about how something should be done and the Rabbi tells everyone what the rules are, there is always going to be a ‘side’ that didn’t get what he or she wants. I repeat, try not to shoot the messenger. And don’t ask your friends to shoot him either. Rabbis don’t just arbitrarily make up rules. And they DO have to be sure the rules are followed in the synagogue. It is up to you to decide to follow them in your own life.
The Rabbi often reminds us a this time of year, with the High Holiday on the horizon, that it is human nature to easily turn a critical eye toward our fellow man, but difficult, at best, for us to aim that all seeing lens at ourselves.
So, to be clear, he is talking to you…maybe through some universal truth, maybe by offering to educate you on some rule or custom you hadn’t known about, or maybe by giving you the means to become more introspective. But you cannot really hold any one other human being responsible for your internal dialogue or your journey or whatever processes you are going through. He can offer support and spiritual guidance.
The Torah is about behavior-and the Drusha is about the Torah, if it makes you regard your own behavior with a critical lens then perhaps it is not about you personally, but IT IS ABOUT YOU because it speaks to you. And that makes it a really good Drusha.