Home > Rabbi Werbin > Fidget Spinner – Kol Nidre 5778
October 2, 2017
I want to share with you tonight a personal story. It is a story that involves my oldest son, Ari, so I asked his permission to share it with you.
He said “yes”, knowing that without the story there is no sermon, without the sermon people will complain and if people complain I would lose my job, without my job he would not have the fidget spinner, you know, the little spinning toy, I promised him… So, to make a long story short… Thank the fidget spinner for all this…
Ari must have been 2 and half or 3 years old when this happened. We lived in Roanoke, VA and it may have been one year after we arrived in the US.
One night, the entire family was eating dinner. Dinner was almost over when my wife Patricia and I, saw Ari sneaking away from the table. He walked slowly to the pantry and, without making any noise, he opened the Jelly beans jar.
Let me take a side bar here. We had never been exposed to jelly beans in South America. So his excitement for jelly beans was equal to our excitement, love and passion for jelly beans.
Back to the story…
Ari very quietly took two jelly beans in his hand, closed the jar and started walking towards his room.
When I realized his mischief, I asked in a very serious tone:
What do you have in your hands?!
I looked at him very seriously and repeated: What do you have in your hands?!
Ari started crying. I asked him to open his hand and to give back his two Jelly beans.
We spoke about his behavior, we talked about not stealing.
A very serious conversation. He was not smiling. He was sad. He got the message.
But he still appeared very downcast. So I told him he could eat the jelly beans but first he needed to ask permission to take from the jar.
His smile returned and he immediately ate the two jelly beans preventing any possibility that I would change my mind.
That is the end of the story, a happy ending.
But the question I asked my son that day still resonates.
So dear friends, this year, in the holiest day of the year, I wanted to talk with you about what we have in our hands.
A fidget spinner.
Almost every house with kids has one.
Almost every adult in America has seen it.
Almost every person will have access to it in a minute since I am going to pass it to you in case you have not seen it before.
Did you know the fidget spinner was created to bring peace to the world?
The inventor of the spinner said that she came up with the idea during a trip to Israel in the 80s, during the First Intifada, as a way to distract the “young boys throwing rocks at police officers.”
Catherine Hettinger told in an interview to CNN that she first brainstormed the gadget while visiting her sister in Israel and hearing about the clashes between Palestinian youth and Israeli security.
She first considered designing a “soft rock that kids could throw,” according to CNN.
Quote. “It started as a way of promoting peace,” Hettinger said.
But soon after, upon returning home to Orlando, Florida, Hettinger put together the first fidget spinner.
Hettinger secured a patent for the device in 1997, but sales languished for over a decade, and she did not have the money to pay the 400 dollar fee to renew her patent in 2005.
Needless to say it didn’t solve the Palestinian kids’ problem, but at least it is good to know that what our kids have in their hands was created to promote peace. That is the positive side of it.
To be honest I am not very happy with the answer nowadays our kids have to the question: What do you have in your hands?!
So let me ask you once again, in this holy day to look at your hands.
See your hands.
I look at my hands and I see my grandparents hands. My Zeide of blessed memory had very special hands.
He was a gaucho, an Argentinean Jewish cowboy and he loved telling my friends the joke that he had 11 fingers. 10 9 8 7 6 plus five makes eleven…
Well now count correctly he said to my friends from school, and started to laugh.
My zeide had lost one of his fingers working in the farm and he loved to trick my friends with that. He had only 9 fingers and he would trick kids and adults and make a joke out of it.
Life gave him lemons he made lemonade.
As you look at your hands, think of your personal story.
I look at my hands and I see my Bobe, my grandmothers’ hands. Those hands cooked the best knishes ever. I know it is Yom Kippur and we are fasting.
Those hands never got tired of cooking for her grandkids.
I look at my hands and I see my dad’s hands. My dad is a biochemist. My dad has been waking up almost every morning for 50 years, very early in the mornings, to draw blood from patients who are fasting like we are today, very carefully, very delicately trying not to harm them.
I look at my hands today and I see my mother of blessed memory hands. I can feel her caressing me, every single day.
I look at my hands and I see my wife’s hands, and I think that when we hold hands we can still create something precious.
I look at my hands and I see how my kids’ hands have grown, the little guy who hid the Jelly beans already broke both pinkies and throws a baseball harder than I do.
Four of these little hands can play piano or make a French braid, four other little hands can tickle or start giving shape to some letters, but at the end of the day all these hands are searching for their parent’s hands.
Where is the spinner?
What do you have in your hands?
Abraham Gen 22:6 Vaykaj veyado et haesh.
What do you have in your hands Abraham?! Fire
Moses. What do you have in your hands Moses?!
50 years ago the paratroopers screamed on the radio: Har habait beyadeynu
The Mount of the Temple is in our hands!!! And then they blew the shofar in the kotel.
In your hands you have the potential to bring warmth to others.
In your hands you have the ability to do miracles.
In your hands you have the possibility to conquer your own Yerushalaim.
A fidget spinner?
Something that moves in circles and goes nowhere?
Something that was created to cause us to focus and makes some people be even more distracted?
A toy? Something that you can play with?
Abraham, Moses My zeides and bobes, my parents and all of us have the same things in our hands… our tradition.
Tonight, our tradition is in our hands.
In our hands we have a machzor, a book that we open only three days per year but we know we can leave our fingerprints on it for the rest of the year.
In our hands lays the possibility to hit our chests and say al chet shechatanu lefanecha recognizing our mistakes.
In our hands we have the ability to create or to destroy.
In our hands we have the opportunity to carry the fire and be like Abraham, to carry the staff and be like Moses and to be like all of us and carry our tradition.
We came altogether tonight because we all know our lives are in Gd’s hands. Beyado afkid ruchi. In Gds hands I deposit my soul every night.
In our hands, Gd had deposited our tradition.
In our hands we have the self-esteem of our own kids.
We can make them thrive or we can put them down. It is in our hands.
So let’s get rid of the fidget spinner that moves in circles and takes us nowhere.
Tonight is the night to make the decision to stop moving in circles and start moving forward.
In this holy night we have the chance to take in our hands a real teshuva, the chance to change, all that is in your hands.
There is an old story that I want to share with you.
It is an apocryphal story about Hillel and Shamai, two of the most important sages who lived about 2000 years ago.
Hillel and Shamai had lots of students and their yeshivot, their schools were rivals. The rivalry was tough.
One day, the students of Shamai decided to trick Hillel. They designed a plan. They were going to catch a butterfly. Once the had the butterfly in their hand they would go to Hillel’s house and ask him: is the butterfly alive or dead.
If Hillel would answer dead, they would open the hand and let the butterfly escape. If he would say that the butterfly is alive they would squeeze the hand and crush the butterfly.
And they did so.
Shamai’s students caught the butterfly, held it in the hand and asked: Hillel, is this butterfly alive or dead.
Hillel answered: The decision is in your hands.
The decision is in your hands, because we know, our lives are in His hands.
May our hands be ready to make the right decisions.
May the hands of Hashem be busy sealing all of us in the book of life.