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  • Writer's pictureAliza Davidovit


There are many strong, eloquent words in the dictionary, even very long ones, such as Floccinaucinihilipilification. At 29 letters it is considered one of the longest non-medical words in the English language. While saying it you even get to spit in someone’s eye and pretend it was by mistake. Ironically, the word is much ado about nothing and means “the estimation of something as valueless.” It seems like a lot of effort at articulation to deem something worthless. Conversely, the word "if," so short and succinct, is often taken for granted though it is among the most powerful words in our lives. It is upon this very simple two-lettered swivel point that our entire lives spin. It means, basically, “on the condition that.” We learn the conditional value of "if" early on in childhood: “If you behave, you will get a toy”; “If you eat your spinach, you can have cake.” It’s a slippery word that slides so easily off our tongues that we don’t take notice of how it controls us day in and day out. If my parents weren’t so tough, I’d have more confidence. If I was working full time, I wouldn’t be gaining weight. If I get a promotion, I’ll propose to her. If I saw a miracle, then I’d believe. There is not a second or circumstance of our lives that is not controlled by ifs. It allows us to manufacture excuses by the dozen whereby we blame conditions or the lack thereof for every move we make--or don’t make. After 40 years of wandering and blaming their rebellious nature on the desert conditions and every possible reason to justify disobedience, God brings the Jews to the border of the Promised Land with an "if" of His own. Basically, He tells the Jewish people that they will be impervious to anything harmful, such as illness, famine, enemies, drought, infertility, etc., on the proviso, “IF” they keep his laws. But in the Hebrew text, the same word used to imply if--the word ekev--also means “heel,” as in the heel of a foot. In short, the same foot that hits the pavement to usher them into the land has the ability to pivot—to turn on one’s heel--and to drive them out if they stray from God’s laws. We thus learn from this week’s Torah reading that our own actions will contribute to creating perfect conditions and not vice versa. I’ve heard many a Jew say, “If I had more money I wouldn’t work on the Sabbath” instead of having full faith that by not working on that day God would step in and help. When we start doing what we must and stop making excuses why we can’t, we will find Him there to sustain us even in our times; for, “man does not live by bread alone, but rather by whatever comes forth from the mouth of the Lord does man live.” We survive not only by the sweat of our brow but also with faith and service to the Almighty. I can’t begin to tell you how many times as a student, as a journalist and working at ABC News and Fox how observing the Sabbath posed a challenge. Yet I chose God and things always worked out in my favor regardless of how I stressed over it at the time. Both in our personal lives and in our relationship with God, we have to stop relying on ifs, i.e., those perfect conditions in which we will find the impetus to pick up our tuchuses from the couch and start doing what’s good for us in life. We have to create the conditions in which we thrive and thrive in all conditions. The plant, the Wandering Jew, was named as such because like the people no matter where it is planted it adapts and grows. As individuals we must all learn to do the same. The perfect time and place hardly ever comes. And so, perhaps the best sentence starting with the word "if" is from the great rabbi Hillel who said, “If not now, when?” ************************* Sponsored by the Wordsmithy for all your editing needs. Contact: for further information



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