Rabbi's weekly Blog

But why pinch?

You know sometimes a person is sitting, and someone motions to him to move over a bit, and he doesn’t understand, and then he is told explicitly, “Move over a bit, make room,” and he doesn’t hear these words, even when they are repeated, and finally he is pinched and he moves over and yells, “But why pinch?”

Why pinch? Because you don’t seem to understand hints, nor words, so you’re pinched, and – surprise-surprise! – you move. 

I have a few friends who are between jobs. They have very good, lucrative professions, but just now they have been told – each one of them in a different profession and situation – that their area of work or the product they were developing will be shut down soon, and they will be unemployed. 

This is worrisome and stressful. Instability in life is not at all pleasant. 

It’s not just the people around me; all kinds of institutions and organizations that I know here in Basel or in general are standing at a crossroads now. The way is not clear. There is a feeling that any moment something else is going to come to an end or collapse. There is instability, and that is definitely disquieting. 

And then I remember the guy who doesn’t move until he’s pinched. 

And that guy is us. All of us are like that – we don’t move until we’re pinched. We’re comfortable in our comfort zone, so why do we have to move now and cope with whatever will come up?

It is obvious that when a person is at a crossroads and he has to submit his resume again, and again compete for a new job, he has to first of all examine himself. Who is he? What does he want? What is he looking for? What is his mission here in the world? 

Who has the strength to answer these questions all over again? 

It’s the same thing with a school that needs a new principal or a new plan of action; also a community that suddenly needs to find a new rabbi. They have to deal with those same questions: What does one need a principal for? What is his role? Why does one need a rabbi? What will he do? And once all that is clarified, the next question arises: What rabbi do we need? What principal will be suitable for our school? 

And who has the strength to deal with these questions all over again?

But Hashem doesn’t let us off easily; He doesn’t give up on us so easily. And when we don’t budge and don’t move forward, He sends us his angel with a pinch that will make us move, whether as an individual, or a community, or an organization. Then people will be fired or will quit, because one must move forward all the time. And to move forward one must recalculate the route and what else can be done when we don’t know how to reroute when everything is good, pleasant and comfortable? 

So if you are coping with something similar, stop a moment and think why the Creator of the World sent you to this crossroads. What does He want you to learn and find out about yourself and your goals and your mission? I think that is the way to both individual and communal salvation; this is the way to move forward.

Oh – I forgot to connect this to this week’s parasha. Oh yes: the laws of Shmitta (the sabbatical year). The demand that a person leave his land fallow for a year and count on Hashem to take care of him is exactly about this same issue. A forced stepping out of one’s comfort zone, simple faith that everything comes from Above, and yes, I imagine that during Shmitta farmers rethink their lives and move forward. 

Wishing all of us success,

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

Are you a lost case?

Nothing ever is lost. The more you believe and accept the fact that you are not a lost case, that inside you nothing is completely lost, you will see that really there is no such thing as a lost case when it comes to people. 

In my role as a coach, every week I meet people, most of them local ambitious leaders, very busy, and to tell the truth, accomplished and successful. And yet, they come to talk to me on Zoom because they want to improve themselves. 

Some of them come with a specific, focused goal, and together we analyze the challenge and with Hashem’s help find the right way to handle it. 

But there are those who show up with a constant feeling of having missed out on something, and it gives them no rest. They feel that they are not really good, not really doing what’s right. It means getting up in the morning breathing heavily because they feel they are lacking air. 

A person may do wonderful things, but he knows in his heart that he could do a lot more – and not only in his heart does he know this. He can see in a friend’s page or post an example of serious and thorough work. And it hits him anew every time.

A Jew can give his all, but have a primal fear that one day people will discover that it’s not real, that it’s all superficial, and that really there is no true foundation to it all, certainly when compared to what he sees elsewhere, and that can sometimes make him feel he is suffocating.

A person can meet people and give good classes, but when they are over, he knows deep inside himself that he said some nice and pleasant things, but not what he really wanted to say. “I have no one to whom I can relate the depths that exist in this material. I guess the people around me are not up to it.” What a pity. What pain.

A person can come out of an impressive production of his that cost him much money, and was, of course, a success, but his heart is telling him that something here is not good, that it is not what he should have done, and that the people who were really supposed to come, didn’t. He is consumed by loneliness.

And because it has been that way for many years, the person is deeply convinced that nothing will change. “I guess that is who I am. Nothing can be done about it.” People don’t change. This accomplished successful, ambitious and busy person walks around with a broad smile on his face, and an aching heart. He helps everyone and fails to help himself. He is sure that that is impossible. So he gets up every morning anew to a battle, to one more day of doing. He is strong, and he wins the daily battle, but he is completely exhausted emotionally, energetically drained and looking to escape into whatever is most easily available at that moment. 

The first and crucial step in our work together when we meet is to believe that there is no such thing as a lost case. The more you believe that you are not a lost case, that by you, inside you, nothing is truly lost, you will learn that it is possible to correct things. That there is light, and it is worthwhile to search for it. 

Today, the 14th of Iyar, Pesach Sheni, is the holiday of “There is no such thing as a lost case.”

Let’s remember it all the time – not only does nothing get completely lost, but that there is no such thing as a lost case when it comes to people.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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