Rabbi's weekly Blog

And I am dust and ashes

This week’s Parasha, Vayera, is full of wonderful stories: Avraham’s hosptality, Sarah’s laughter upon hearing that she will become a mother at age 90, the tragedy of Sodom, Lot and his daughters, Sarah and Hagar (episode II) and of course, Akeidat Yitzchak (The binding of Yitzchak). Definitely a fascinating Parasha. The stories in it contain directions for every human being as to what to do and what not to do.

Personally, what grabbed me most in this entire Parasha were three words spoken by Avraham; and I recommend that every human being say them every morning.

When Hashem told Avraham that He’s planning to destroy Sodom and Amorah, Avraham beseeched Him to have mercy on them. I wrote “beseeched”, but the truth is that he simply “nudged” Hashem again and again, like only he knew how to do. Right before he began to make his request, Avraham said three words: “And I am dust and ashes” (in Hebrew, “Va’anochi Afar Va’efer”). In other words, Avraham’s starting point was that he was not a superior patron coming to help, with the hopes of receiving some compliments for doing it on the way. Avraham was coming from a place of great humility and modesty: Who am I and what am I? Dust and ashes! So every human being is superior to me, and, that being so, I really do respect and appreciate every human being, so my help and giving are offered out of respect and appreciation.

If I am dust and ashes, then I can find room in me to have mercy and make a request even on behalf of the people of Sodom.

This attitude is important not only for accepting the other person and containing him; this attitude is of great significance for the person himself, as well.

Three times a day we pray and say, “And my soul will be to all like dust. Open my heart to your Torah.” The Baal Shem Tov’s explanation of this prayer is: If you want Hashem to open your heart to His Torah, you must first understand, grasp and agree that your soul is like dust to everything, because modesty and humility are the fertile, plowed and planted soil that is the basis for entering the world of Torah.

This is true for Torah and Mitzvahs and it’s also true for everything we do every day, and even for our very existence and lives in this world. A person who knows to get up in the morning and say to himself, “And I am dust and ashes” can be assured that today will be a better day, simply because “dust and ashes” expects less and therefore is less hurt and disappointed when problems come up.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

What really influenced the results of the elections in Israel?

What interests me most on the day after elections, in general, and in Israel in particular, is the attempt to analyze the various campaigns. There are many variables with quite a few components that bring about the results of elections, and it’s fascinating. I’m fascinated by it because it teaches us about historical processes and about people’s psyches – what motivates us to act, and what puts us to sleep – and the main thing is that one can learn a lot about how to act and what to do when one wants to succeed.

Three parties had great success in the elections held this week in the Holy Land, and I have already heard professional pundits saying that one can also say that only three parties actually had orderly, well-organized, proactive and efficient campaigns.

One can find many similarities between these three. I am not a professional pundit, but I think that it is quite clear that Shas, Religious Zionism and the Likud simply did a “Lech lecha” (walk, go).

Yes, it is true that they also identified painful issues that their target audience cared about such personal security and the high cost of living and they pressed those buttons hard, but, in my humble opinion, what mainly worked was that for four months they simply traveled all over the country, met the people, spoke with them, to the point that it looked that they were actually pulling people out of their houses.

And there was something else very significant, perhaps the most significant: Binyamin Netanyahu didn’t leave any loose ends; he tied up all the loose ends in his camp, and, as people say, didn’t leave anything to chance. 

What do I learn from this?

Sometimes it seems to us that it is enough to shout slogans, that a post in Facebook will do the trick, that a status or a story will be enough, that one sermon or statement is enough to influence people. It is apparently true that these have an effect, and especially as someone who writes from time to time and gives sermons from time to time, I definitely agree that these have an effect. But, and that is the main lesson, it’s not enough if you want to really make a change, transport, touch and influence the world. You have to travel, get moving physically, meet the people, speak with them on the phone, come to them in person, analyze the situation, renew old contacts and do away with new ones, coordinate, tie up loose ends, and move; simply move. 

Perhaps that is the reason that that is the first commandment our first Patriarch received in parashat Lech Lecha, and really, the entire parasha we will read tomorrow deals with a massive campaign of Avraham Avinu, consisting entirely of going from one place to another. He went through the entire land, meeting the people in person. Here are a few of the psukim: Avram went, Avram passed into the land, Abram journeyed on, Avram went down to Mizrayim, he (Avram) proceeded on his journeys from the Negev to Beit El, etc. etc. He made a surplus vote agreement with Lot and even got involved in wars as needed.

What do you think: Does this make sense?

And a moment before the “Shabbat Shalom” – this is not a political post; there is no need to comment on it politically.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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