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Saturday, March 6, 2021

Columnists > Jewish Culture

To Survive and Thrive

Jan 14, 2021

By Moshe Unger - columnist

Thank you for everyone who inquired on my daughter's recovery. Thank G-d she has fully recovered from the procedure and it was successful. I'm very grateful for all who shared in concern and empathy!!!
The Talmud tells a story that the great sage Rabbi Akiva was once traveling by boat and the boat drowned. Another great sage, Rabbi Gamliel, saw from afar that the boat drowned and he was very distressed on the loss of Rabbi Akiva. A while later he went into the synagogue and he sees Rabbi Akiva studying with students. Astonishingly he asked him what happened.
Rabbi Akiva responded, “a plank of the boat appeared and I hung onto that. And on every wave that came I shook him my head.”
The Talmud then says, “if one sees evil people come at him, he should shake him his head.” The Talmud understands the waves to be any kind of turbulence in a person's life, be it basic needs or evil people. This story has inspired generations of how to preserve in difficult and turbulent times - to grab onto a plank and to shake the head on the difficulties.
What is this plank? The Talmud uses the word “Daf” in Hebrew for plank. The same word can also mean a page in a book. Many sages have relayed the story to say that if a person grasps the pages of Talmud study every day, they can preserve any hardships.
I take it to mean also other things that are fundamental values. If we hold on to them tightly, we'll survive any turbulence.
We live in times of turbulence, at least that's what the news and television tell us. To survive, we need to find a plank and hold on to it tightly. The plank can be daily study of sacred texts, daily prayer, doing a good deed every day, or making it a point to help at least one person with something every day. It can be small but permanent. It can be something that's effortless but of high importance in the day.
The second part of this survival advice is shaking the head at the turbulence. Don't think it's the end of the world. Don't allow it to overtake you.
If someone would not listen to the news of the past few weeks, they'd think nothing changed. There are serious things happening in the nation in both directions, but it hasn't affected the commoners whatsoever. Of course, I don't take the things lightly and they may have an impact in the long run on our nation, but it's worth taking a step back too by shaking the head and to shrug it off a little bit.
I read an interview with Jeff Zucker, CEO of CNN, in 2016. He was saying how the network has gotten a huge uptick in viewership with Trump's presidential run. He related how they are strategizing how to keep the newly acquired viewership after the 2016 elections when Trump won't be on the scene. It didn't work out quite as he expected, to his good luck.
President Trump and the media have fed off each other in a fascinating symbiotic relationship, but we don't have to get caught in the middle.
I understand that there are serious issues, and values behind the politics, but we don't need to digest every possible scenario and hear all opinions on the TV shows on what will happen.
This serves the media moguls the most and does not serve us too well. It disturbs daily happiness and affects relationships. There are much better things and literature to consume and talk about.
Hold on to the plank tightly and shake your head on every wave that's coming and you'll survive, thrive, and you'll be a blessing to everyone around you!





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