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Sept. 16, 2021

A Reckless 8 MPH (Ha'azinu)

Did you know that the first person ever convicted of speeding was driving a whopping 8 mph?! According to the Guinness World Records, on January 28, 1896, an English man named Walter Arnold drove his ‘horse-less carriage’ through the village of Paddock Wood, Kent, at more than four times the speed limit – a reckless 8 mph. He was ultimately charged and found guilty on four counts: using a vehicle without a horse on a public road, allowing the vehicle to be operated by fewer than three persons, failing to display name and address on the vehicle, and travelling at a greater rate than two miles per hour.

It’s hard to imagine that not too long ago, driving 8 mph was considered speeding. Today, if someone were to drive 8 mph on a regular street, they would get pulled over for driving too slowly. In fact, according to research, driving slower than the surrounding traffic is more likely to cause an accident than speeding.

I believe there is a powerful idea here. As time moves along, the world is getting faster and faster. What was considered fast and “over the speed limit” a hundred years ago is considered turtle-like slow today. However, in a world that is so focused on futuristic pursuits and how much faster trains, plains, computers, and phones can be, the challenge of our generation – from a spiritual perspective – is to slow down and be present.

This week’s Parshah is composed of a Shira, a song. It is called שירת האזינו – the Song of Haazinu. Chazal tell us that everything – all of the commandments and all of world history – is alluded to in this song. If you think about it, a song – by definition – requires a certain rhythm and tempo, the speed at which a piece of music should be played.

Listening to someone sing a slow song really fast sounds almost comical. And similarly, listening to someone sing a fast song really slow also sounds funny. A song that is not sung along its proper tempo changes the entire vibes and dynamics that the creator of the song had in mind when composing it.

Hashem, the composer of the world, created the world with a certain rhythm and tempo that when followed, carries a melodious and harmonious tune. Hashem’s tempo is one of calmness and tranquility. With that said, however, much of the world ignores G-d’s tempo and chooses their own – faster and quicker – way of connecting to the world.

The lack of meaning and happiness that is rampant in our world is a direct result of the human race failing to live along the intended tempo that Hashem created the world to be played in. When our personalistic-fast-paced-ignoring the present-keeping up with the times-type of lifestyle is played, the reason why we are often left feeling empty and filled with despair is because we are singing the song of life but not in its proper rhythm or tempo.

The Song of Haazinu, which is symbolic of the entire Torah as a song, is our guidebook – our sheet music – that instructs us as to what tempo the song called Life should be played. It teaches us to live in the present and value the present. It teaches us to be mindful and do our best in each moment of our lives. It teaches us to slow down and live with a constant awareness about the Ribbono Shel Olam.

With the help of Hashem, if we slow down and live in the present, and sing our personal songs along the slow-paced and melodious tempo that Hashem has in mind, we will experience the utmost productive, healthy, and spiritually inclined lives.

Have a holy Shabbos!