But why pinch?

Friday, 12 May, 2023 - 7:19 am

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

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