Knowing the Shepherd

A friend and mentor of mine sent me this recent 20-minute talk by Rabbi YY Jacobson, and what a gift! Highly recommend listening to the whole thing but if I were to sum it all up in a few words, I might choose: passion over perfection!

Rabbi Jacobson begins by recounting that his niece just got married and of course the wedding had to be massively scaled back from hundreds of hundreds of guests to only ten attendees. It was painful for the extended family, especially for the couple’s grandparents, not to be able to attend the wedding even though it was taking place just a few blocks away from them. 

The rabbi then recounts how the couple chose to be creative; they got into a bright red limo with a musical truck driving ahead of them in an effort to bring their wedding and their joy to the neighbourhood. “And what unfolded was one of the most moving, spectacular scenes of love, affection, and unity that I have ever seen. Literally, thousands and thousands of people came out of their houses, on rooftops, on gardens, and danced while the bride and groom were in the street. They came by the grandparents’ house. And you saw the inner values that have sustained the Jewish people – our unity, sense of family, sense of community.”

Next, Rabbi Jacobson discusses how immediate families being together all of the time can either be a blessing or a curse depending on how this time is lived. He proposes, “There comes a time in history where God tells the Jewish people, ‘I’m going to empower you to transform each of your homes into little sanctuaries.'”

Of course, in the craziness of everyday life and, particularly, in the likely to be exacerbated tensions in family homes now, it may seem like they are far from sanctuaries.

And here’s where Rabbi Jacobson offers this story: 

There was once an opera singer who got up and did a rendition of Psalm 23. And it was a beautiful rendition. People gave him a standing ovation.

But when he finished, an old Jew stood up and asked for permission to do his own rendition of Psalm 23. The opera singer said, “Sure.”

The problem was this gentleman couldn’t carry a tune to save his life. He couldn’t even pronounce the words correctly. But his heart was in the words and it was so emotional that people started to cry.

When he finished, the opera singer said, “I don’t understand you. I did an impeccable rendition and nobody shed a tear; they gave me a standing ovation. You violated every law of grammar and your musical skills… we won’t even talk about those. And yet, you had everyone in tears!”

And the old Jew replied, “My dearest friend, you may know the psalm, but I know the Shepherd.”

What matters is that our hearts are in what we do, in how we live – passionately and imperfectly invested in the persons God has entrusted to us and to whom we have been entrusted.

This time might seem off-key, we might not always have the right words to express ourselves or to give space for others to be understood. But what counts most of all is that we live this time in the sight of God, the Shepherd of our souls. And this is what will make this time beautiful and moving for us, too.

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