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The humility of winners

Friday, 12 June, 2020 - 5:21 am

 Rabbi Elimelech Firer was once at the Kotel at pre-dawn. Those are the only free hours of one of the busiest people in the world. Suddenly he heard cries and heartrending weeping. “Tatte, Tatte,” a man was shouting, without being able to utter another word.

Rabbi Firer, who couldn’t stand hearing the crying, went over to the man and said: “Reb Yid, what happened? Why are you crying like this? Tell me! I promise I’ll help you as much as I can. But please, stop this crying!”

The man, who was praying tearfully, stopped and said, smiling: “Reb Melech, I am not distressed and not in trouble. These tears are not tears of pain, but rather of extreme happiness. I am crying out of gratitude. I have seven children, all healthy, all set up in life, and today – yes, today – I married off my seventh daughter. When the sheva brachot at the wedding ended I hurried to the Kotel to thank Hashem. I’m sorry, but I was overwhelmed. I could not stop my emotions from overcoming me, and that is the reason for the crying and the tears, the shouting and the exclaiming. I am calling out from gratitude and joy. Look – these are tears of Mizmor letodah – a psalm of thanks – for all the good that Hashem has done to me.”

In this week’s parasha, parashat Beha’alotcha (read outside of Eretz Yisrael this Shabbat), There is a commandment to sound the trumpets, a double commandment.

The trumpets are to be sounded at moments of difficulty and crisis, when the nation is facing a battle with an enemy who is threatening it; in this situation, the role of the trumpets is to arouse the nation to pray to Hashem and repent, so that He will stand by them in this war. “When you go to wage war in your land against an enemy who oppresses you, you shall sound short blasts of the trumpets, and you shall be recalled before Hashem, your G-d, and you shall be saved from your foes.”

The other occasion on which one is commanded to sound the trumpets is at times of joy and victory. “On a day of your gladness… you shall sound the trumpets.” Here, too, the trumpets are not only an expression of joy, but, like in a crisis, a call to arouse prayer and repentance, submission and humility in face of the Creator.

Like that Jew who came to the Kotel, crying tears of thankfulness and joy.

This is very, very important. Because we tend to raise our heads haughtily when we succeed. And that is dangerous. These are the moments when a person might forget his place, fail to note the fact that everything – everything – could have gone wrong, and he is to thank Hashem for all the good and normal in his life.


Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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