Would you have gone back to Egypt on the shore of the Red Sea? On a recent Judaism Unbound podcast, Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie shared that some Israelites did indeed people wanted to go back to Egypt, to the way things used to be. Others wanted to move forward into a scary unknown, and jumped in the water to cross the sea. He suggested that we are in a similar place now., in a moment of uncertainty. Do we want things to go back to the way things were, or will we exit this crisis looking to make a better world?
My perspective is that things will never go back to the way they were, even in the best of circumstances. Many flaws of the old way are being exposed by this crisis – the lack of healthcare and wages for many, and structural inequalities to name a few. It is my hope and desire to build a better world.
This became apparent to me in a small but real way over the weekend, when I unpacked my hair clipper. For 20 years I’ve gotten the same haircut – a number two clipper on the sides, and cut short to blend it in on the top. (Number two means 1/4 inch in length.) At first, I thought that I could replicate this on my own, by using a combination of a 2 and 3 clipper. But the clipper didn’t have a #2, only a #3 at 3/8 of an inch. And it had some fancy attachments to give a fade on the sides.
Thinking back on what Rabbi Amichai said, I realized that this was not the time to try to go back to a haircut I could not possibly achieve on my own. I realized that what I needed was to make my hair neat and presentable. So, I just cut it with the longest length, and it looks just fine. That is my haircut for the present. In the future, who know’s what I’ll decide to do? So to “cut your hair like a mensch” is to figure out what it is you need, and then to do it.
What is it that you really need right now?
This act of looking at what you need is critical when we then look to the needs of others. This weeks American Mussar Community Gathering will focus on the soul trait of Honor.