try the large map

Friday, 1 June, 2018 - 6:19 am

The military cabinet of the Russian Tsar was in despair. Napoleon’s army was in the process of conquering vast tracts of land; cities and villages were overtaken easily, and he was close to St. Petersburg, the capital. The Tsar was listening to the army generals, and they were showing him on the map how close the French army was. “In such a situation,” they summed up the discussion, “we haven’t any way at all to prepare a counter attack.”

The Tsar nodded, and then motioned to his personal military secretary to come to him. “Go to my office,” he said to him, “and bring back the large map of Russia that is hanging on the wall.” This map was ten times bigger than the map in the war cabinet room.

The map was brought, and then the Tsar turned to the army generals and said: “Now, explain the situation again. How close is Napoleon, and why don’t we have any chance of advancing?” On the large map, Napoleon didn’t look so close anymore, and suddenly it seemed that there was hope and that it wasn’t too late to go out on an offensive and save the situation.

I don’t know if this story really happened or not, but I use it often when I have to explain this concept to myself or to someone else who is at a crossroads in his life, and it seems to him that all is lost – it’s too late and all that can be done, as the saying goes, will be too little and too late. At that point I try to enlarge the map, stretch the picture of the situation both vertically and horizontally, and suddenly it seems that every step and action, which on the small map seemed barely noticeable and unimportant, can be seen on the large map as being significant and very impressive. And then one acquires the desire and the strength to prepare an offensive.

Presented in honor of the story of “Pesach Sheni” that appears in this week’s parasha, parashat Beha’alotcha. There, too, it seemed that all was lost, and that there was no way to make up for the missed Pesach. But the bigger picture told another story, and they were granted another chance.


Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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