Just like with the athlete

Thursday, 23 March, 2023 - 12:18 pm

Professor Avner Chai Shaki z”l was one of the people whom I enjoyed listening to. As a child, I would listen to every word of his speeches when he would come to Kfar Chabad, mesmerized by his pathos and by his throaty ayins and chets and rolling reishes.

I remember vividly how he told about being invited to the Rebbe in 1972. It was after he had stuck to the Torah principles and acted against the government of which he was a partner, as well as against his own party, the Mafdal (the National Religious Party), by voting for the amendment to the Law of Return, known as “Who Is a Jew.” His colleagues were very upset with him and he was forced out of the Mafdal, becoming a lone member of the Knesset in a party all his own.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe sent the lawyer Yechiel Gartner to him, with an invitation to come to Brooklyn. When he visited the Rebbe, the Rebbe supported him for having been strong enough to vote as his conscience dictated. Prof. Shaki told of this episode in his speech, given after he had gone back to being the head of the Mafdal and the Minister of Religions: “The Rebbe said to me, a true athlete takes a few steps backwards when he is about to leap forwards. Right now you are at the stage of having taken a few steps backwards.” And then the Rebbe added: “You had to resign from your position, but nevertheless you will return with great honor, and become a minister!”

The Torah describes a similar situation at the end of parashat Pekudei: “And the cloud covered Ohel Moed… and Moshe could not come to Ohel Moed.” The cloud of Hashem rested on Ohel Moed – the Mishkan, which was then the House of Hashem, so much so that Moshe Rabbeinu could not enter it, as he was used to do. This was a situation of Hashem’s hiding Himself from him. Moshe, who was accustomed to experiencing revelations of the Shechinah, suddenly couldn’t enter.

But a short time later, right at the beginning of parashat Vayikra, Hashem calls to Moshe, and, as Rashi says, it was a call of affection towards him. In other words, the period of hiding was over, and was replaced by revelation and favor.

Because this is how it works: before a revelation, and especially a revelation of affection and light, there is a hiding period. As the saying goes, “The darkest hour is before dawn.” But whoever knows to take the broad view and is patient will not become frightened by the moments of difficulties, darkness and hiding of the face. Because after the hiding comes the revelation, just like with the athlete.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski


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