I had to get up very early on Sunday morning to catch a flight for a CA officer function and I was so taken with the radio program that woke me up, I made sure to turn it on in the car on the way to the airport.
On Being, an NPR program with Krista Tippet, featured Adele Diamond, a professor who studies the Science of Attention.
She was taking about how to teach a young child, 4 or 5 perhaps, how to draw a 6 accurately. Apparently, drawing a 6 backwards is a common early error. Simply tell them, when they are home and about to write a 6 with a normal pencil or pen, to put it down and pick up a red pen.
In Deuteronomy 8:13, Moses alerts the Israelites to the wealth they will acquire as part of their experience in the promised land. They will be wealthy with animals, silver and gold.
The Chafetz Chayim tells a story related to this verse about a wealthy member of his community with whom he was having a conversation. You need to set aside time to study at least an hour a day, said the rabbi. The wealthy man said, I don’t have time. The rabbi told him, You may be gold-rich, but you are time-poor. And there’s nothing worse than time-poor.
My wife has been working with a xeriscaper to redesign our yard so it has less lawn and more native grasses and plants. She’s also put a decent amount of time into growing some of our own carrots, leeks and lettuce as well as a small set of flower gardens. Then she went on line and filled out some forms to confirm that we are the proud owners of a Bird Friendly Habitat and a Certified Butterfly Garden.
Last shabbat we were sitting on the porch having our Seudah Sheleesheet the ‘third’ meal of the 25 hour sabbat on Saturday afternoon and we saw what looked to me like a yellow cardinal. My wife guessed correctly that it was a finch, a goldfinch to be precise. Sometimes when we are reading on the porch we’ll see bees and butterflies and the occasional hummingbird as well.
The reason a child, in order to learn to draw a 6 accurately, needs to be told to pick up a red pen, is that a five year old can’t be told to reflect, to pause and to pay attention. Picking up a red pen is an action they can take that will force them to do so.
Shabbat is my weekly red pen but I put it down instead of picking it up. If God didn’t tell me in many ways in various Torah readings throughout the year, to take a day and put down the pen, the computer, the remote, I’d probably never take the time to enjoy watching butterflies flutter by.
And that would be a shame.