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our wrong way is the right way for them

We went on a pleasant family trip in our car from Basel to London. On the way, we boarded the ferry in order to cross the English Channel. The children fell asleep as we left the ferry and went on to London, and only after an hour of driving did our six-year-old Mendel wake up and ask, panic-stricken: “Abba, why is everyone driving the wrong way?!”

I explained to him that in England people drive differently – and our wrong way is the right way for them, just as their right way is the wrong way for us.

Amused by the incident, I remembered a favorite story of mine, about an insane person who was standing in front a committee of doctors as they decided that he must be committed to a mental hospital. The insane person asked, “Why? Why should I be hospitalized?” And the doctors replied together: “Because we have determined that you are insane!”

To which the crazy man replied, “But in my mind it’s the other way around – you are insane, and I’m normal!” And here comes the sentence I love so much: The doctors responded, “You may be right, but, after all, we are the majority.”

As parents and in general, we must always remember this, and remember it well. Often what we see as normal and logical will not necessarily seem so to another person, and sometimes not to our children.

The Parasha of Masei counts the 42 journeys made by the Jewish People in the wilderness over forty years of wandering. The Ba’al Shem Tov says that this is true not only for the Jewish People in the wilderness, but for every Jew: we all have to go through 42 journeys – some long, some easy and short, but journeys nevertheless. And it is best to understand this and accept it.

As far as I can see, it seems that every person has his or her own personal journey, the way that for him is normal and straight; and often this way might seem wrong and backwards to someone else.

So what should one do?

Perhaps, like we do when we disembark from the ferry at Dover in England: look around, understand that what is “wrong” for one is the “right” for the other, and try to merge with the rest of the traffic.

 

Good luck!

Shabbat Shalom,

 

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

Why to fall in order to rise?

 Dear Friends,

Pinchas is this week’s hero of the Parasha. It is he who stood alone, among a confused people, when even Moshe Rabbeinu wasn’t quite sure what to do, and in an act of zealotry stopped the shameful behavior of the Jewish People.

Like anyone who does anything in this world, Pinchas paid a price. People don’t usually forgive, and, mainly, they don’t allow anyone the pleasure of honor. It seems that the Jewish People in the desert were no different from us in this matter. They claimed that he was just putting on a show as if he was being zealous for the sake of Hashem and Moshe, His servant, but no, he really had a cruel disposition, like his maternal grandfather, Yitro, who was cruel to calves for the sake of his religion. Chazal (our Sages) bring us only a few quotes of the discussion. I don’t want to think of what went on on the WhatsApp groups and what video clips were sent all over. He didn’t have it easy.

But then Hashem came and raised him up high – very high. First, by relating him to his paternal grandfather, Aharon HaCohen, who loved piece and sought peace. Hashem then continued with making him a Cohen, even though he was born before his father, Elazar, was anointed to be a Cohen. And then comes the verse we all know from a Brit Milah, with which the newborn is received a moment before his Brit – “Therefore I am granting him My covenant of peace.”

This motif, that only after difficulty and pain does one merit greatness and growth, reappears many times in the history of our people. The expression, “Yeridah L’tzorech Aliyah” – descending in order to ascend – is known by every child. And the truth is that in our lives as well, every one of us, if he or she looks carefully, will see that the rise begins right after the fall.

And the question is, why? Why does one need the fall in order to rise? Why do we need to go through pain and difficulties in order to grow?

The Rebbe’s attitude to everything connected with destruction and difficulties is to view them like the plowing of a field. If a child who was raised in the city would see a farmer breaking up the earth of his field using heavy machinery, he would wonder, even cry out: “Why are you hurting the field? Why turn over everything that was so smooth and nice-looking?” The farmer will just smile at him, as someone who has seen a thing or two in life, and say, “My child, I am not hurting the field – I am plowing it! I am not destroying; I am building. I am not upsetting things; I’m putting them in order. There is only one way to make the land activate its power to make things grow, and that is the plowing that I am doing right now. You see overturned clumps of earth, and I can already see the grain growing in this field.”

Friends, often we encounter troubles and pain, and of course, destruction (may it not come to us). We approach these things with the attitude of a city boy who comes to visit a farm. But what the correct attitude is to view the descent, the fall and difficulty through the eyes of the plowing farmer, who knows that the disturbance is plowing and the hurt is the way to release the potential.

 

May we be successful!

 

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

Could it be that I am the Mashiach?

 Dear Friends,

Could it be that I am the Mashiach? I’m not joking; I’m really trying to understand. The most famous Passuk (verse) about the Mashiach in the Torah is “A star has issued from Yaakov and a scepter-bearer from Yisrael.” It is Bilam who says this in his prophecy in this week’s Parasha, when speaking about the End of Days. The commentators, including, notably the great Rambam, understood this as Bilam prophesying about the Melech HaMashiach – the (anointed) king who will be Mashiach, about whom it says, “A star has issued from Yaakov”, and it is he who will come and redeem the people. But, on the other hand, Rabbi Yishmael in the Jerusalem Talmud learned from this same verse that we are all stars. According to him, about each one of Yaakov’s descendants it is said that “A star has issued from Yaakov.”

And it is not only Rabbi Yishmael; we say this about ourselves. In many Siddurim there is a special prayer to be said when the Ark is opened on holidays. It is a very moving prayer in which every person prays for himself and for his family. “May we have the merit to do Your will wholeheartedly… and may we have our part in Your Torah, and may we merit having Your Presence will rest in us.” And then, all of a sudden, we ask: “And may the following scripture come true with us, as it says, “The spirit of Hashem will rest upon him, a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of counsel and strength, a spirit of knowledge and fear of Hashem.” But, wait a minute – this verse “The spirit of Hashem will rest upon him” is from a prophecy of Yeshayahu, in which the prophet is defining the Mashiach’s personality – the spirit of Hashem will rest upon him, which will include counsel and strength etc. So why are we asking for ourselves, for each and every one of us, what is said in prophecy about the Mashiach, the Anointed One? Could it be that I am the Mashiach?

The answer is: Yes. That is, to a certain extent.

But before you get all excited or uptight, I wish to bring a wonderful, sharp and special quote, which is completely fitting for the person who said it, the Kotzker Rebbe: “When I was young, I wanted to change the whole world. When I grew older I discovered that it is hard to change the world, so I tried to change my people. When I saw I couldn’t change the people I tried to at least change my city. I failed in that too and decided to focus on changing my family. Today, when I am old already, I understand that the only thing I can change is myself. And suddenly I understand that if, a long time ago, I would have changed myself, it would have influenced my family, a change would have occurred in my city and in my people, and then I really would have changed the world.”

Well, the Baal Shem Tov said that in every Jew there is a little Mashiach. In every soul there is a spark from the Mashiach’s soul, as it says in Masechet Shabbat about the verse from Tehillim, “Do not touch Meshichai - My anointed”, and Chazal say,  “Do not touch My anointed – those are the children. “ The practical significance of this Mashiach within us is very simple: Before we come to fix the whole world, we must fix ourselves, or, rather, as the Kotzker said, the way to change the world is through making a personal, internal change.

Be your own Mashiach, and that way you will speed up the coming of the Mashiach to the entire world.

And if you say, It’s hard for me, I can’t – remember that Rabbi Yishmael declared that it is about you that it is said, “A star has issued from Yaakov.”

 

Shabbat Shalom,

 

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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