Nicolini and the Lions

A great debate raged in early 18th century London: Was the lion battled by the Cavalliere Nicolini Grimaldi in the opera “Rinaldo” live, a real beast of the jungle, or was it only an actor in disguise?
I often wonder about the lions we battle in our religious lives; are they real or imagined? There are numerous terrifying threats to our spiritual being. But still, I wonder whether we are focused on the live or imagined lions. We can point at society with its values and mores and pinpoint how it differs from our image of a spiritual existence. I don’t want my children to watch television and learn that children may speak to their parents as if they were idiots. That is a very real threat. I do not want my children and grandchildren to grow up in a world in which relationships are casual and all too often, meaningless. However, the most fearsome lions I face are all internal. My own confusion, questions, desires, and inner battles all are greater threats to my relationship with God than those lions and threats outside the walls of my home.
Judaism has always focused on our internal development in order to face the lions outside on the street. Torah, Mitzvot and prayer all nurture our internal growth. They cultivate the clarity necessary to face the far more dangerous internal lions.
This week’s Haftarah, “A Mother In Israel” is the story of a woman who achieved such inner clarity that she was able to share her internal light with an entire nation and lead them to a generation of peace. The Music of Halacha, “The Piano, The Horse and The Pool – Part 2” addresses the raging battle between our drive for creative independence and our desire to relate to the Ultimate Creator. Rabbi Irwin Katsof uses Words Can Heal to teach us how many of our lions roar in our speech. The Rav Kook Podcasts give voice to his internal struggle for spiritual integrity. Chovot Halevavot – “Love of God”  and “Humility” podcasts gently guide us to calming our internal lions. The “Benching” recordings teach us how to feed and soothe the inner beast.
We hope that all the Torah on The Foundation Stone, the Tools, the Prayer and the Holiday offerings will help us all achieve the necessary clarity to distinguish one lion from the other.

Rabbi Simcha L. Weinberg

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