Sunday, August 4, 2013

Starry Nights in Jerusalem and Bunny Bunny

Dear Henry,
      When I lived in Connecticut for a year, I learned a lot of crucially important life lessons. But by far, the most critical thing I learned there was a game called "Bunny Bunny." I am not referring to The Bunny Game , which is a 2010 American independent horror film directed by Adam Rehmeier who also was co-author of the script together with the lead actress Rodleen Getsic. That is not what I am talking about. To be frank with you, Henry-- I haven't seen this film-- or any film for that matter-- since Snoop Lion's Oscar-worthy hit "Soul Plane" in 2004, or "Dude Where's my Car" in 2000.  
       So that is not the Bunny Bunny that I am talking about. Sorry Adam Rehmeier--its nothing personal. The Bunny Bunny to which I refer is an absolutely ridiculously ridiculous, absurdly absurd game that can be played in small groups. The game is about bunnies, and tongas, and hayugens, and upshifting to level 2, and yogaflames, and tiger uppercuts, and sonic booms.  Truthfully I have taken this game with me throughout my travels- in good times and in hard times. I played Bunny Bunny during two of the most special years if my life while learning Torah in the land of Israel. And I played Bunny Bunny in JFK Airport with my birthright group after being notified that our Aerosvit flight to Lithuania was delayed by 15 hours. 
       The game has a lot of depth to it-- depth that I discovered one Purim afternoon after having consumed a few too-many bottles of wine. But Henry, I ain't talking about the depth of Bunny Bunny in this blogg post. Rather, Henry, I plan to talk about something else in this blogg post.  
      First, though, I must give a little background. During those magical years in Israel, as I finished up my rabbinical school, I had the privilege of giving a weekly class (called a vaad) to a group of 8 studly guys who were in a gap year yeshiva program between high school and college. We happened to be the best looking vaad in the whole program, and there were about 130 guys in this program.  They came to me every week, at about 10:00 PM Israel time, or about 3:00 PM EST. I would give them delicious deserts that my wife baked, like challah french-toast casserole, blondies, brownies, krispy-peanut butter balls, etc... We would watch Tim Tebow highlights for about 10 minutes, and then I would dazzle them with my signature life-changing lectures on various Torah topics. One week however, I skipped the life-changing lecture, and instead, opted to teach them the life-changing game about which I now write: Bunny Bunny.
     With that little introduction, we can now begin. Seven days ago, Oh Henry, I happened upon the Facebook page of one of the strapping young lads that was in my vaad. On the page, he had posted a video that he took, of a group of his campers playing the very game that I had taught him, not three years before. And those campers were playing the game exactly how it is meant to be played-- as If I myself taught them, and as my mentor, himself taught me (the guy who taught me in Connecticut)! The campers seemed so familiar to me-- but I did not recognize them. They seemed like my own children-- yet I did not know them. And yet, they were playing Bunny Bunny as if they heard the instructions directly from my mouth! And then, I received clarity on two very significant points.
       The first point on which I received clarity was on a very crucial verse in the Torah, that incidentally is the basis for the entire Passover Seder. The verse says , "v'higadata l'vincha," "You shall tell your son in that day, (Passover) saying, this (eating matzah) is done because of that which the Lord did to me when I came forth out of Egypt." Judaism is obsessed with the "Mesorah," or the transmission of the Torah from one generation to the next. About 3300 years ago, the entire Jewish nation stood at the foot of Mt. Sinai, heard G-d speak, and received the Torah. If the average age that people have children is about 30, that means that there have been about 100 'passes,' or 'links in the chain' directly from parent to child, from the Revelation at Mt. Sinai until today. Many of us, however, are fortunate enough to have met our grandparents, and many of us even have them at our Passover seders- this means that there are in actuality only 50 'passes' from grandparent to grandchild, from Mt Sinai until the present. And for those of us, who have met our great grandparents, the number is even fewer. In short, Jews emphasize the crucial role of passing on, or transmitting our heritage,  which we received from our parents and teachers. The Torah of today is the same Torah of 3300 years ago, because of our obsession with accurately transmitting our Holy Torah and our national experience receiving the Torah at Mt. Sinai.  Watching the 'Bunny Bunny' product of my student teaching his campers Bunny Bunny, made me appreciate this concept even more.  One day, one of his campers will teach his/her campers Bunny Bunny, exactly as I taught him, on one starry night in Jerusalem. Then, one of his campers will teach his/her own campers Bunny Bunny, exactly as the strapping lad taught them, who in turn taught it exactly as I taught him one starry night in Jerusalem, who taught it EXACTLY as my mentor taught me, one sunny morning in Connecticut.
     The second point on which I received clarity, is a similar concept, namely, that we never fully comprehend the MASSIVE impact of our actions. I would have never thought that as a result of sharing this game with a strapping young lad, that many, many more younger lads and lasses would later be playing it, with every bit as much enthusiasm as the young lad, and myself. My little, seemingly insignificant decision to teach Bunny Bunny that historic evening, ended up having a massive impact on dozens of lives. And Henry, this applies to all of us, in every area of our lives. We might never know about the huge impact one little smile can make for another person. A great rabbi once said a person's face is a like a reshus harabim-- a public street. Just like one is not allowed to leave obstructively obstructive objects on his sidewalk, (or unshoveled snow/ice), as that can cause damage to the passersby, so too, one is not allowed to walk around with a pout on his face, because that pout affects, and harms the passersby as well. We might never comprehend how a few words of encouragement to a colleague having a rough day can be a game-changer in his/her life. I took notes from my esteemed colleague when he told a toll-both worker-- "Remember, life is worth living!" My whole worldview is changed as a result of a two-minute segment of a class given by a rabbi in Jerusalem to a group of seminary girls. This rabbi 'happened' to speak to the wives of the rabbinical students in my program, and my wife 'happened' to buy some of his MP3 lectures, and I 'happened' to listen to them one snowy morning in Albany on my way to synagogue. As a result of a few lines that this rabbi told seminary girls 5 years ago, the life of another rabbi in a different country has changed forever! And this Jerusalem rabbi has no idea about the impact he made in this particular case!
     The point here, is that it is incumbent upon all of us-- myself, and my thousands upon thousands of dedicated readers in this great country of ours, Canada, Russia, China, and Israel-- to as a starting point-- understand the enormous impact our actions can make upon the lives of those around us. I cannot necessarily go out every day thinking, "What can I do or say to change this person's life forever?" I can however, understand that I have a G-d given ability to positively impact this person's life in a significant way. Therefore it is all of our duties to engage the world with this fact in mind-- and to be beacons of light and pleasantness to everyone who comes our way.
    One special starry night in Jerusalem taught me that as a result of one small action, the whole world can be playing Bunny Bunny.

Yours truly,
Danny Wolfe

1 comment:

  1. Rabbi Wolfe,
    Guess I wasn't as good a Bunny Bunny student. Any chance you can publish the rules? I was looking to use this game in one of my recent trips and just couldn't remember how it went (I think I showed up late that day....).
    Beautiful post and so, so true.