Posted by: R Jonathan Gewirtz | January 11, 2015

No Business Like Snow Business

There’s an old expression, “Everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it.” In the 19th century this was high humor because, of course, you can’t do anything about the weather. Well, for the longest time, I was determined not to talk about it.

This winter in New York has been colder and had more snow than most years I can remember, and we’ve set some records. Through it all, though, I tried not to complain and when others lamented the constant precipitation I merely chalked it up to G-d’s will and smiled. I was confident that “MORE SNOW???” would not be a topic of conversation for me.

Now, in truth, you CAN do something about the weather. The first way is by davening and asking G-d about it. It may or may not change based on your request, but you have at least done something about it. The other way is to happily accept what HaShem sends your way. It won’t make you have to shovel any less, but you will be less annoyed as you do. You can actually learn to love the snow or sleet or whatever else HaShem sends your way because it is Him who is sending it.

In fact, when my wife posted pictures of the snow on our deck on Facebook, one woman commented, “How Beautiful!” OK, she lives in Florida so it doesn’t really count, but the point remains that you can see a good side to it if you try hard enough.

So, there I was, one snowy afternoon, several weeks into the daily wintry mix, driving home from work and listening to a Torah CD. The topic turned to the blessing in Sheva Brachos of She’hakol bara l’chvodo, that everything is created for G-d’s honor. As I looked along the edge of the road at the grimy piles of dull gray snow which had been plowed to the side and iced over, I thought, “How exactly is that snow showing “G-d’s honor”?” It was simply dirty, polluted snow that was doing no one any good.snow-dirty-road

It made me think of the phrase, “Pure as driven snow.” This snow had surely been driven upon, probably by thousands of cars, but pure? No way! I actually did research it and found that the ‘driven snow’ they’re talking about is snow blown by the wind into drifts and has been untouched. That’s why it’s so pure. They weren’t talking about the blowback from an eighteen-wheeler following a salt truck in a blizzard.

As I pondered this thought, I suddenly had an epiphany. I thought about the dirty snow. It wasn’t really dirty. True, the snow had mixed with the dirt and grease from the road, picked up pieces of asphalt perhaps, but it had not actually melded with the dirt.

When the weather clears and warms up, the snow will melt and the dirt will settle back down onto the road. Rivulets of pure water will stream toward the storm drains from under these piles of frozen mess and head back to the rivers and oceans and the water cycle will begin again.

That’s when it hit me. The Jews, too, are stuck in the muck, surrounded on all sides by people and situations that can tarnish us and coat us with filth. But it’s just a coating. The holy neshama of each Jew doesn’t change no matter how much dirt is piled on. Deep down, it remains pure, waiting to be freed from the negative influences of the earthly distractions.

I realized, “This was created for HaShem’s honor! It reminds us that all is not lost when we make mistakes. We only appear to be gray, but the blackness never really becomes part of us, it only obscures the view of our sparkling, brilliant purity.”

Along the road of life, things get messy. We might think we’re done for, too far gone, and simply changed into dull and dreary beings. That’s when the lesson of the snow comes forth, reminding us that though we’ve been driven and trod upon, underneath we’re still pure and pristine. We can rid ourselves of the road grime, because it doesn’t change who we are deep down.

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