A “Natural” Shavuos Lesson: The Buck(eye) Stops Here! Or How the TRUE MAN Should Behave by
Let’s see if you recall! On whose desk did there reside a sign stating “The buck stops here”
President Harry S. Truman’s, of course.
Now, my generation has faint memories of Harry Truman as the man who presided over the beginnings of the Cold War (remember that one, gang?) and who—as Commander-in-Chief— essentially fired General Douglas McArthur for insubordination. In short, he was a man who deliberated—and then took action!
“The buck stops here” is a powerfully laconic expression. In these few short words, the anonymous creator of Truman’s desktop sign tells us that he who would wield true authority must assume total responsibility for his actions, comments, plans—whatever! That makes sense to me. After all, Harry Truman was the consummate Midwesterner, hailing as he did from Independence, Missouri.
All this reminds me of the state tree of Ohio (my place of residence during most of my life so far)—the buckeye (Aesculus glabra), the quintessential Midwestern tree. Indeed, Ohio is known as the Buckeye State. So why mention it here in this column?
Perhaps, we may suggest why, as follows:
You see, May is the month when the buckeye (apparently so named because the white dot on its brown nut is reminiscent of the eye of a male deer, a buck) blooms in the Midwest—and let me tell you, the grandeur of its blooms is, in a word, magnificent. I wish only that the pictures you see in this article could adequately convey their striking appearance. (Incidentally, I recently took all these photos in New Jersey, not in Ohio!). The spikes of flowers are parti-colored in hues of pink, red, and gold (OK, so I’m being a little flowery in my language!) If you reside in New York or New Jersey, you may have seen the buckeye’s close relative, the horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum), sending forth similar spikes of white blooms flecked with rose pink and a touch of yellow in early to middle springtime—only that the horse chestnut generally has seven leaflets per palmately compound group as opposed to the buckeye’s usual five (see my photos). No matter: Whether buckeye or horse chestnut, each of these gorgeous trees actually becomes a sort of beacon, lighting up (as it were) the often uninspiring neighborhood surrounding the plant. Pelehdig!
Yes, I’m proud to say that in Ohio, my “home” state for all intents and purposes, “the buckeye stops here.” But if we can return to President Truman’s desktop sign (“The buck stops here”) for just a minute, I’d like to learn something out from it.
In Pirkei Avos, we learn that Rabbi Shimon ben Nesanel affirms that the good path to which a man should cleave is to be a “haroeh es hanolad: one who foresees the consequences of his actions” (2:10). Interestingly enough, the Tiferes Yisroel explains the advantage of this course of action: “V’lochein oseh l’atzmo gedder livli lavo l‘cheit: and therefore he makes for himself a fence so that he does not come to sin.” In other words, such a person understands that since “the buck” stops with him, he had better do his planning ahead—no excuses, no alibis accepted!
And at this critical juncture of the regel of Shavuos, aren’t we hearing the underlying message of “na’aseh v’nishma” resounding once again?
Now that we have finally reached Mattan Toraseinu Hakedoshah, are we busy finding excuses for our haphazardness in davening and in keeping our keviyos in learning Torah?
Or do we finally realize that for the TRUE MAN—the Torah-true Jew—the buck indeed stops here?>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
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Experience a wonderful Kabbolas HaTorah, dear readers!