A personal talk

Friday, 7 June, 2019 - 6:09 am

 I have a memory of an event that I assume a few of the readers also experienced in their childhood. I did something not so good in school. The principal came into the classroom and started reprimanding all of us: “You cannot behave this way to teachers. It is forbidden to show such chutzpah to them, and it is forbidden to disrupt the learning” etc. from my point of view, that was just fine – because he was speaking to the entire class in general, leaving me out of it. But suddenly, without any prior warning, the principal said: “I mean you, Zalmen.”

Oops. At that moment everything changed. From my point of view this was no longer a general mussar lesson for the class, but a personal talk aimed at me. The entire event went from being general to being particular. Before this I wasn’t really listening and didn’t care that much; and suddenly I was in the center – listening to every word, and every word was relevant to me – right on target.

Such an event happened on the sixth of Sivan, 3331 years ago in the Sinai desert. An entire nation gathered at the foot of Har Sinai. Just the men, ages twenty and over, numbered about 600,000. Together with the women and children, the number probably came to a few million. The Creator came down onto the mountain to give His commandments to His people. But already at the third word everyone understood that this was not a general speech but a personal talk; not a class event but a private conversation. “Anochi Hashem Elokeicha” – I am Hashem, your (in the singular) G-d – He said, and not “Anochi Hashem Elokeichem” (in the plural). And so, commandment after commandment: “Remember the day of the Sabbath” – again, in the singular. “Honor your father and your mother” – the same. “Do not steal.” I don’t know how many of them were called Zalman, but it is clear that they understood at that moment that the principal had said, “I mean you, Zalmen.”

Because that is the Torah. The relationship is personal; the contact direct. Every act is connected; every action has its influence. Every individual can change. Every person is worth the entire world.


Shabbat Shalom and Chag Same’ach,

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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