It’s hard to believe that I’ve been writing these musing for over 20 years. Over the years I’ve seen my viewpoints and interpretations on many parshiyot and haftarot change, adapt, transform even come a full circle. The one I am resharing today certainly represents a younger, simpler, more naive viewpoint than I hold today. Indeed, I have come back to this story many times with varying interpretations and analysis. Just as interesting, the following year, in 5758, I wrote one of my most popular musings ever from the early years – the one I titled “Crispy Critters” in reference to Nadav and Avihu. (How my views on this story from Sh’mini have changed over time is so clearly illustrated by the fact that some 11 years later I wrote a musing called srettirC ypsirC just to illustrate my change in approach.) 5758’s Crispy Critters,” one of my most popular posts, will get it’s due honor next year on it’s 20th anniversary. However, in honor of the twenty-year anniversary of one my earliest weekly random musings, I thought I would reshare it in all its naive glory. Remember, too, that at the time I was still in the theater business, on the threshold of making the switch from doing the Jewish thing on the side to making it my full-time work. My musings drew heavily on that experience.
Out of all the many things one could learn from and talk about in Shemini (dualities-sacred and profane, clean and unclean; holiness, why God cares about what we eat, etc.) one though kept coming back into my head. I kept thinking about what happens to Nadav and Avihu. What a bummer. They thought “more is better.” And what is their reward? Fwoosh-burnt to a crisp. Proof that there really can be “too much of a good thing.”
Now that may be a flippant way to put it, but it’s an important lesson nevertheless. It teaches us, as do so many other things in Torah, that life needs balance. And indeed, that fits with much else that we learn about in
Shemini. After all, there’s no clean without unclean, and vice versa. No profane without sacred.
I have a philosophy that I use at work. It’s one I learned from a old, experienced theatre professional. He called it:
GEFTS-Good Enough For This Show.
Now, at first hearing, it sounds like a negative approach. Like the old “close enough for government work” philosophy. But that’s not what GEFTS is about. It’s about balance, It’s about “more isn’t always better.” Here’s how I apply it – though this may be a theatrical example, I think the concept is
transferable to life:
It takes many components to create a show. The capabilities of each component are determined by the resources (people, time, space, money, dedication, attitude, et al) available to it. Each component therefore has a “highest achievable level of quality” affected by those resources. The production will benefit most if all departments work together towards a highest COMMON achievable quality level. Therefore, each component should work towards this common achievable level (which, theoretically, could be somewhat lower than the level achievable by
that unit alone. And lot’s of people don’t like that idea-but hear me out.)
Some of the best shows I have ever seen were productions in which everything was mediocre. Now, I’m not saying that one should only aim for mediocrity (though as Frank Loesser and Abe Burroughs aptly put it in “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” – “mediocrity is not a mortal sin.”) The shows worked because everything gelled together into a complimentary whole. If the acting were brilliant but the costumes were slipshod, it wouldn’t work. If the lighting was magnificent but the scenery was only so-so – well, I think you get the drift. When all shoot for the same common achievable level of quality, you have a production that can’t be beat.
The same is true in daily life and in serving God. Think about it. This is the true lesson of Nadav and Avihu.
Shabbat Shalom to you and yours,
Sh’mini 5775 – Vayyidom Aharon (Revisiting Calm In A Crisis)
Sh’mini 5774 – Indubitably Delicious
Sh’mini 5772 – Collect Call
Sh’mini/Shabbat Parah 5771-So Say We All
Sh’mini 5770 – Don’t Eat That, It’s Not Kosher
Sh’mini 5769 srettirC ypsirC
Sh’mini 5767-Don’t Be a Stork
Shemini 5765-It All Matters
Shemini 5764-Playing Before Gd
Shemini 5763 – Belly of the Beast
Shemini 5762-Crispy Critters
Shemini 5761-Lessons From Our Students
Shemini 5760-Calm in a Crisis
Shemini 5759-Porking Out