it´s my Birthday

Friday, 1 November, 2019 - 6:18 am

Sometimes when I come into my office on Monday mornings, I understand why I cried when I was born. Not because life is difficult – it isn’t. And not because the tasks facing me are daunting – usually they are reasonable. It’s just that when I see the list of tasks and jobs, sometimes all I want is that someone else will do the work, or that it will be done by itself and the responsibility won’t be mine. And then I understand why I cried.

Babies cry after birth, because they don’t want to be independent; they don’t want to be a separate unit from their mothers. They prefer that someone else eat for them, sleep for them and be dressed for them. They want to be covered and protected. As adults, as well, we prefer to be safe and covered, under the auspices of someone big and warm, who will make sure we are enwrapped and protected.

I had a birthday yesterday – Thursday, 2 Cheshvan. And this brings me to think: What is a birthday? What am I taking note of? What am I really celebrating? There are those who celebrate their accomplishments so far. I’m happy with them, but that does not seem to me to be a Jewish approach, and certainly not a Chassidic approach. First of all, because generally we don’t celebrate and note accomplishments so much – what, after all, have we done that is so great?! And mainly, because the past is less interesting to us. What is interesting is what more we have to accomplish, what more has to be done and fixed, how to bring more light and warmth in the future.

So what are we celebrating and noting?

More and more I understand that a birthday is the day on which we once again celebrate our being independent units, possessing tasks and unique goals that come together with strengths and abilities, which will enable us to accomplish what we were chosen to do. Today, several decades ago, at a certain hour, I was born to my role on earth. This is a source of great joy. But like every great happiness in the life, it comes with tears. Parents cry at their children’s weddings. They are not crying out of sadness, but out of happiness. They are crying over the girl who is setting off on her own journey. They are crying over the son who will have to cope alone with the world. But, with all that, they are certainly happy that this moment has arrived. I was once at a Jerusalem wedding in which the groom was happy and danced. Suddenly I saw next to me a Jew, holding kugel in one hand and soda water in the other. An older Jerusalem Jew who enjoyed making a Yiddishe krechtz every few minutes. He said to me in Yiddish: “Do you know why he is dancing that way? Because he doesn’t know what’s waiting for him the day after sheva brachot end. But nu, the kugel is worth it.”

A birthday is a day on which we take note of Hashem’s choosing us to be independent people with roles and goals, together with our having free choice. A birthday is a day on which I should look at myself and my environment, and see if there are realms and things that regarding them I am still not an independent unit. And when I say independent unit, I mean someone who takes responsibility over what is supposed to be his responsibility, and manages these things and leads them on, correctly. In his speech on the 12th of Tammuz 5731 (1971) the Rebbe encouraged every person to go out and do more for other people and for their surroundings. Among other things, he defined the role of the head of the family as the president and leader of the family.

Many are familiar with the gemara in Masechet Eruvin 13b: “Our sages learned: for two-and-a-half years Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel were divided in their opinion. Some said: it is better (noach)for a person not to have been created, more than to have been created. The others said: it is better for a person to have been created, more than not to have been created. They decided finally: It is better for a person to not have been created, but now that he was created, he should examine his deeds, and some say, handle his deeds.”

The classical commentary for this says that Beit Shamai and and Beit Hillel disagreed over what is better for a person: to be created or not? But we can also relate to the simplest meaning of the word “noach” and understand that it would have been more comfortable for a person not to have been born – it is much more comfortable to be protected and covered, with someone else doing what needs doing. And that is also the final conclusion. But at the end they said, that if you were already created and born, get up and do the following two things: a. examine your past deeds, and learn from your past, b. survey the deeds you have not yet done, examine the future, look ahead.

I will be courageous and talk about myself. By nature I tended to let things flow and manage with them somehow. I needed a good few years of awareness and self-work in order to understand that emerging into the world, a true birth, means to face life head on and to begin to manage and lead. To head a home with a clear, Jewish, Chassidic agenda; to create an atmosphere of joy and optimism with fiery faith; to broadcast stability, clarity and trust.

Not everything can be done by oneself. I made use of studying, reading and also of learned professionals.

In the past few years I have been privileged to be in close contact, to listen to, to suggest and sometimes even to guide many family men or community leaders who were coping with crises, emotional earthquakes or merely being stuck – some of them medical situations and some of them economic, and mainly emotional. The people who were able to change (Baruch Hashem, the vast majority of them) were those who understood and internalized that when Hashem gave them a task to do, He also gave them the tools to do it, and they must lift their head above the water and begin to lead.

That is my central message on my birthday. A birthday signifies emerging into the world as an independent unit. That is the moment in which a person becomes a miniature leader. And so, it is possible and even necessary to be born again a bit more all the time, and certainly on your birthday. Like with every birth, it might come with pain and cryng, but all this is nothing compared to the true joy that will follow.

One more thing; I once heard a wonderful sentence from Rabbi Yossi Jacobson: the perfect people are only those that I don’t yet know well. That is most probably the truth. We are not perfect, but we are good, and mainly, we can be even better in every realm of life.

On my special day I am blessing all my dear readers: May Hashem fulfill all your heart’s wishes for the good, in the material and the spiritual, in the visible, revealed good. And the main thing is that you should all merit to the complete and real Redemption soon, in our days.


Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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