January 1, 2013…Happy New Year
It is midday on the first day of the new year. I celebrated with my wife and some friends with our annual December 31st dinner (I cooked). Beginning with a small bite of ratatouille on a sour-bread crostini and a hearty bowl of lentil soup we moved on to a nice salad of mozzarella, basil, heirloom tomatoes, complemented by two black olives, a slice of avocado and Mission olive oil. On to the main courses. Scallops seared on a watermelon radish, a rich apple, raisin, brown sugar, butter and coconut milk compte, an onion pickled in a balsamic brine and a sprinkle of corn. This dish was followed by a palate cleanser of raspberry sorbet. Next came a chicken roulade stuffed with carrots, pistachios, green kale and corn accompanied with an oven roasted mushroom potato (a potato carved to resemble a mushroom). All this was complimented by a homemade fruit tart topped with whipped cream. What a dinner.
The truth is that not only were we heralding in the new year, an ever so arbitrary designation on an ever so arbitrary calendar, my wife and I were also celebrating the knowledge than my post-op PSA came back at a 0.06 level, nearly undetectable. The announcement arrived in the mail on the last day of the year. This low of a level was, frankly, unexpected. I was told to expect a level closer to a 1.6 due to the half-life of the antigen being measured so the shocking news of a 0.06 was something to be quite happy about.
Along with that good news, I can report progress with the incontinence I am experiencing. Over the past several days the leaking has slowed significantly and the stress incontinence, while still there, is more easily controlled. I can control the flow when I sneeze, cough and laugh. I can also control the excess leaking when I stand and walk about half the time. Progress is a wonderful thing.
Along with this good news along with my reflections on this past year, a year bottom loaded with medical issues that seemed to take over my life, I decided that I would make only a single resolution for the new year, it is a simple resolution, one that is clearly one that comes deeply from my core beliefs: I resolve to be available for the welfare of the other, to do so without reservation or expectation of reciprocation, to answer the call of the other whenever I am able to do so and to make no excuses when I fail in this ethical endeavor. There, I put it down in writing, not merely a theoretical ethical construction but a fully formed ethical obligation, one that cannot be recalled or redefined as fancy might suggest. I have accepted a rule for ethical behavior that, once accepted, is cast as a permanent obligation.
It is a beginning of thinking in Jewish, that an obligation, a Mitzvah so to speak, it seems is an obligation from which there is no appeal, no way of undermining or overturning. It is cast by acceptance of the obligation as a fundamental truth that one must connect to or suffer the consequences of willful failure. The very idea that the “law” is unchanging is contrary to rational thought. Laws are written by men who, at their very best, are flawed for any number of reasons. To think that there is no appeal from the law, there is not a possibility for reconsideration or for alteration as circumstances warrant seems to me to be harsh.
I learned this tidbit of thinking in Jewish from my friend, Rabbi Mendel, last Tuesday (Jews don’t celebrate Christmas). In a discussion of the law, Rabbi Mendel pointed out that the last bastion of appeal expired when the Temple was destroyed in 78 CE. It was at this point that the Sanhedrin the court of appeal on the law was disbanded. After the demise of the Sanhedrin, there was no longer a court of authority that could change or alter the law. Now, Rabbi Mendel spoke of the possibility that there may be changes in the law that might be warranted but the decision on that would have to wait until the Messiah comes, the Temple is rebuilt, and the Sanhedrin reinstated. At that point, and only at that point, will the truth of the law be explained and, most likely, narrowed making many obligations no longer valid.
At this point I have many questions for Rabbi Mendel, many I will ask this evening when we speak of the next segment of the Torah we are reading. The very idea that something can be unchanging for so long troubles me. But it is, at the same time, intriguing. There is something to be said for stability and permanence penetrating to the core of one’s existence. How is this thinking relevant in the modern world in which we live? I have trouble reconciling the two. More to come.
- Learning to “Think in Jewish” (rogerpassman.wordpress.com)