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Thought for the Day: Bishvi Li Nivra ha'Olam

Not everyone was comfortable with my statement that "since I am watching this, there must be a lesson intended for me".  Can that really be true?  Have you checked that out with a rabbi?  Yes, it is true.  Yes, I have checked several times from different angles.

The clearest story I have heard on this issue relates how the Toldos Yaakov Yosef became a talmid of the Baal Shem Tov.  The Tolodos (from whom we know most of the stories of the Baal Shem Tov) was a misnagid but slowly coming to appreciate and accept the Baal Shem Tov.  One day the Baal Shem Tov told him that every thing that happens has a message for person.  The Toldos was struggling with the idea and arguing when a handy man (a goy) came into the bais medrash and, looking for a parnassa, asked if there was anything that needed fixing.  The Baal Shem Tov told him there wasn't any work for him today.  The goy said, "Rabbi; if you look, you'll find something that needs fixing!"  As he left, the Baal Shem Tov exclaimed, "See!  Do you hear that message min ha'shamayim?  If you look, surely you will find midos that need correcting and improving!"  The Toldos said that a message like that could not come through a goy; he just couldn't accept it.  "You can", said the Baal Shem Tov, "you just don't want to."  The Toldos left shortly thereafter.  There was an overturned wagon and the owner (another goy) asked the Toldos to help pick up the the packages that has spilled.  The Toldos (who was already an older man at this time) demurred, saying he really couldn't.  "You can", said the wagon driver, "you just don't want to."  Same words, even the same tonal inflection he had just heard from the Baal Shem Tov.  The Toldos went back immediately and became, well, the "Toldos Yaakov Yosef".

Maybe you are not as chassidish as I am, so you might prefer the ma'aseh of R' Elazar ben Dordia (Avoda Zara, 17a), who left no harlot unvisited.  He heard one day about a lady he had not met, so he set off on quite a journey with a big bag of money.  While visiting she said, "Just like this breath won't return to its source, so too the t'shuva Elazar ben Dordia will not be accepted."  R' Elazar ben Dordia took the mussar and, in fact, his t'shuva was accepted.

None of this is to say that G-d is sending you messages through your TV set, err.. I mean, computer monitor.  It does, mean, however, that HaShem gave you a mind and an intellect.  You are expected to look at every situation, regardless of where you are, how you got there, or even if you shouldn't be there, and take what mussar you can from the situation.  The Mesilas Yesharim notes that many verses in Mishlei begin with words like "I saw a lazy man", "I was walking and saw an overgrown field", and so on.  It's not poetry or a writer's device to make things interesting.  It is an exhortation for you to use your eyes to look... and learn.

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