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People with independent and powerful self-presence

Eighty percent of the drashas that the rabbis will give this Shabbat will deal with Moshe Rabbeinu’s personality. They will speak about the meaning of his name, about his humility, about his devotion to his flock – and about the fact that his name is not mentioned in this parasha. There are many parshiot in the Torah in which Moshe is the central character. He is mentioned, on average, twenty times in every parasha, but specifically in parashat Tetzaveh, the parasha in which his name is not mentioned, he is discussed more than usual. And not only by the sermonizers; Hashem Himself is standing close by him, so-to-speak, talking to him in the second person: “And you shall command”, “[they] will bring you” etc.

To put it another way, the parasha in which Moshe Rabbeinu is hidden is the parasha in which he is present the most.

I learn from this that a person’s presence is not necessarily connected to what he or she is called and whether he or she is being mentioned by name. There are people who make sure that their names be mentioned with their proper and dignified titles in certain places and at certain events, but the others present there won’t necessarily remember or even feel the presence of these people. But there are people who have powerful inner presence. They don’t need to be announced and will not mind if they are not called by their proper title. They don’t need that in order to be present; their surroundings will sense it.

The truth must be told: a name is an important thing. And one should mention the title as well, if there is one. This is a useful thing in our lives and particularly in any official function. But it is worth something only if the bearer of the name and title is really worthy of them.

How will we bring ourselves to be people with independent and powerful self-presence? In my opinion, only if we connect to a clean and internal truth, to the real essence of our being, the foundation of our existence.

 

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

Believe in it and go search for it

Occasionally I help people – sometimes face-to-face and sometimes via Skype. It is almost always a person or a couple who are not feeling good about themselves, each person in his own realm. Almost always it is a person who is saying, “I can’t,” “I’m not successful,” “I am not going to succeed,” “I don’t have the ability and I don’t have the strength.” We are so good at convincing ourselves, that sometimes we can’t see anything else, and that is paralyzing and painful.

My role at that moment is to look inside them, beyond what they are saying, and see their abilities and powers. I admit that sometimes it is not easy. Sometimes the people in front of me are wrapped in many layers of low self-esteem, so that at least regarding the points being discussed it is impossible to see the existing ability. So what helps me to see beyond those layers? The simple belief that every person has a set of tools that he received from Hashem, unique to him. By using those tools he is able to overcome and cope with everything that he encounters in life.

And how is all this connected to parashat Terumah?

When we read the pasuk, “You shall make the planks of the Mishkan of acacia wood,” a question arises: where did Bnei Yisrael obtain those trees, in the middle of the desert? The Midrash Tanchuma has a famous explanation, which Rashi, who usually sticks to the simple meaning of the scriptures, brings in his commentary on this pasuk: “Yaakov Avinu saw by holy spirit that Yisrael were going to build the Mishkan in the desert, and he brought cedar trees to Egypt and planted them and commanded his sons to take them with them when they go out of Egypt.” Let’s forget about Yaakov coming down to Egypt and bringing seedlings for the Mishkan; it is not surprising that someone like Yaakov Avinu took everything into account and already when going into exile was preparing for the redemption from it. Try, instead, to think for a moment about Bnei Yisrael, slaves, suffering under the Egyptians. I imagine that many of them completely forgot that there are acacia trees ready for the Mishkan. Possibly, the young people didn’t know anything about it at all. People were busy trying to survive, to get through the day and the month. Who could think about these trees growing in some forest at the edge of the land of Goshen, planted there two hundred years before by Yaakov?

And when they started to think about the Mishkan, they looked around for trees. I can assume that there were probably many who said to Moshe: “Rabbeinu, where are we going to get trees from in this desert?” And Moshe just looked into them, beyond their words, and told them, “You have trees, they exist. I know they exist, believe me. So instead of saying that there aren’t any, go look around for them and then you will discover, much to your surprise,  that they were with you all the time.”

This is quite a message. When we are sure we lack the ability, that we are incapable of doing something, unfit for it, it’s probably a good idea to remember the acacia trees of the Mishkan and think that maybe, just maybe, someone has already planted in us everything that is needed in order to move forward. All we have to do is recognize this, believe in it and go search for it.

 

Shabbat Shalom,

 

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

a process takes time

I was driving my car this week, while listening to an interview being conducted on Israel’s radio with Gilad Sharon, the son of the late Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon. Gilad Sharon is trying to get into politics. He turned to the Likud official institutions so that they will allow him to run in the primaries and earn a place in the Likud’s list for the Knesset. These institutions prevented him from doing so, and he turned to the organization’s court, and there too it was decided that he will not run. In this radio interview his response was requested. Gilad said: “I have time. My desire to get there and influence through politics is a long process that takes time. Right now I am being prevented from running. I will wait for next time, in a few years, and then I will be able to run.” At the end of the interview I turned off the radio, looked around me as I was driving through the carpet of snow on the sides of the road, and thought again and again about what I had just heard. “I have time. This is a long process that takes time. If not now, I’ll wait for next time.” There is nothing really new in this; it is not even a brilliant statement. Simple words, but of the type that are taken from life itself, perhaps especially from the life of a farmer who really understands what a process is, and that it takes time and that patience is required.

When the Torah speaks of the conquering of the land from the other nations it says, “I shall not drive them away from you in a single year… Little by little I shall drive them away from you, until you become fruitful and make the Land your heritage.” In my opinion, these words have national significance, coping with other nations who are fighting over our little strip of land, and there is also personal significance – coping with and struggling against inner forces over our personal land – our souls, hearts and our entire existence. We have inner work; there is what to drive away from inside us – each person has his own list: inappropriate pride, disdain for others, an inferiority complex, self-flagellation, fear of success, fear of failure, shyness etc. etc. Often, we want to do battle over our small personal piece of land and win quickly, in a one-time blow. But reality has its own sense of humor, as well as its own special timetable, and things don’t always happen the way we would like them to. We might fall into despair. In such moments one should remember what the Torah says this week, “I shall not drive them away from you in a single year… Little by little I shall drive them away from you.” Every process has its own pace. On one hand, one shouldn’t give up and one must continue to do constantly, but on the other hand, much patience and persistence is required.

Little by little, but in the end “you will become fruitful and will make the Land your heritage.”

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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