Elul 5762 – The Power of a Mashal

1 Elul 5762

From the Desk of: Rav Hanoch Teller

The Power of a Mashal

How does one convey an important lesson? There are educators who deliver fiery talks with every sortie delivered with the excruciating solicitude of a physician confronted with a patient who is oblivious to his own terminal condition. Others prefer Whitmanesque intonations and nudges of moral suasion. Some are able to keep the imagination in gear long enough to access storybook reality. There are, I’m sure, plenty of alternate approaches.

The only constant is the audience, that is the students, i.e. existential us. The key question is do we really listen to what we are taught, absorb the message, or do we prove that our ear canals are connected?

Far be it from you, my brothers and sisters, the traumatic occurrence that happened to me. I was driving down a central artery of Jerusalem on my motor scooter when a late-model jeep with a snarling grill, long muscular front end and about all the reach the law of physics will allow began to barrel at me at break neck speed. My 50cc engine was never really a match-up for the 310 horsepower vessel locked on to me with the accuracy of a heat-seeking missile.

There was an unfriendly encounter that sent the other driver wondering, “What was that?” and sent me into the air. When I landed I was much the worse for wear with dislocated fingers, bruises and cement burns all over my body and a broken femur, although no where like the exaggerated (and unappreciated) emails which reported me to be in critical condition, in the ICU in a coma r”l et al. (Still the incredible outpouring of emotion and concern was very touching!)

I was a wreck that a Hollywood cosmetician would be envious to mimic ¾ except my head. There was not a scratch or a nick anywhere from the neck up.

This is thanks to G-d Who is my co-pilot, and to a helmet that I had purchased thanks to a mashal (analogy) that I heard from the noted educator from Monsey, Rabbi Yankie Horowitz. Rabbi Horowitz was speaking about chinuch but employed a mashal relating to how a helmet can prevent irrevocable damage. The next day I went to a high-end motor-cycle shop in Santa Monica, California.

Up until this point I had been wearing helmets that could be categorized as better-than-nothing or in the colloquial parlance, kasher l’brachah that fulfilled the legal requirement. Barely.

This time I went for the mehadrin, kaful shemona super-duper import on sale for $400. I broke the bank because of the mashal, but had I not internalized the lesson and allowed the parable to speak to me, I probably would not be writing these lines.

So here’s a real concrete (pardon the pun) lesson: The next time your rabbi or your teacher or your Torah tape tells you a lesson, listen up. It may save your life.

Rav Hanoch Teller