Skip to main content

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.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Battling the Evil Inclination on all Fronts

Yom Kippur.  When I was growing up, there were three annual events that marked the Jewish calendar: eating matzos on Passover, lighting candles on Chanuka, and  fasting on Yom Kippur.  Major news organizations around the world report on the "surreal" and "eerie" quiet of the streets in even the most secular neighborhoods of Israel.  Yom Kippur.

As you know, I am observant of Jewish law.  Some have even called me "ultra orthodox" (not in a kind way).  Given that, I have a question.  How likely do you think that I would be tempted to eat on Yom Kippur, that most holy day of the year?  Let's make the scale zero to ten, where zero is "as likely as driving through McDonald's on Shabbos and ordering a Big Mac with extra cheese." and ten is "as likely as breathing regularly".  Take your time.  If you answered "zero"; thank you, but -- sadly and penitently -- no.  The answer is more like nine; I'd like to say lower, but i…

Thought for the Day: Using a Mitzvah Object for Non-Mitzvah Purposes

As I am -- Baruch HaShem -- getting older, I am more cognizant of the fact that I'd like to stay as healthy as possible right up the moment I leave this world.  Stuff hurting is not the problem (I am told there is an old Russian saying that once you are 40, if you wake up and nothing hurts -- you're dead), stuff not working, however, is a problem.  To that end, for several years now I commute to work by bicycle (weather permitting, 30 minutes on an elliptical machine when weather does not permit).  I recently took up some upper body weight training.  Not because I want to be governor of California, just simply to slow down loss of bone mass and extend my body's healthy span.  Simple hishtadlus.  I have an 18 month old grandson who is just the right weight for arm curls (yes... I am that weak), so I do about 10 reps when I greet him at night.  He laughs, I get my exercise; all good.  (Main problem is explaining to the older ones why zeidy can't give them the same "…

Thought for the Day: Thanking HaShem Each and Every Day for Solid Land Near Water

Each and every morning, a Jew is supposed to view himself as a new/renewed creation, ready for a new day of building his eternal self through Torah and mitzvos.  We begin the day with 16 brachos to praise/thank/acknowledge HaShem for giving us all the tools we need to succeed.  We have a body, soul, and intellect.  We have vision, mobility, and protection from the elements.  Among those brachos, we have one that perhaps seems a bit out of place: רוקע הארץ על המים/Who spreads out the land on/over the water.  After all, it's nice to have a dry place to walk, but does that compare to the gratitude I have for a working body and vision?  As it turns out, I should; as explained by the R' Rajchenbach, rosh kollel of Kollel Zichron Eliyahu (aka, Peterson Park Kollel).  Your best bet is to listen to the shiur; very distant second is to continue, which I hope will whet your appetite for the real thing.

First... since we have dry land, I don't have to slog to work through even a foot…