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The Measure Of The Man

Friday, January 20th, 2012

“This was Aharon and Moshe to whom Hashem spoke….” — Shemos 6:26

After Hashem commanded Moshe and Aharon to be the emissaries to free the Jewish people, the Torah lays out their lineage. At the conclusion, the Torah repeats the names of Aharon and Moshe, this time in reverse order, with Aaron mentioned before Moshe.

Rashi seems bothered by both the repetition of the names and the reversal of their order. He says this comes to teach us that Moshe and Aharon were equal: Even though from this point forward Moshe would be the leader of the Jewish nation, don’t make any mistake. Aharon was just as great.

The difficulty with this Rashi is that according to all measures, Moshe Rabbeinu was far greater than Aharon. Moshe was the leader of the Jewish nation. He brought the makkos on Mitzrayim. He led the Jewish people out of slavery. He split the Yam Suf. He went up to receive the Torah on Har Sinai. But even more telling, he was the greatest prophet who ever lived. The only human who reached the level of seeing Hashem with total clarity was Moshe. There never was, nor will there ever be, a person who will reach that level.

So how can Rashi tell us Moshe and Aharon were equals when clearly Moshe was on a higher madreigah?

Two Systems for Measuring Greatness

The answer to this question seems to be that there are two systems for judging a person’s greatness; one is absolute and the other is subjective. When measuring a man based on the absolute standard of greatness in Torah and perfection, Moshe was far greater than Aharon. He towered over any other human ever created. However, there is another system for measuring a person’s success. Based on his capacity, and his potential, how much did he accomplish?

Before each person is born, he is predestined for certain abilities and talents, a particular level of intelligence, and an exact disposition and temperament. At the end of his days, he will be compared to what he could have become. How far did he grow? How much did he accomplish with the tools given to him? This system is subjective. How much of his potential did he fulfill?

Moshe may well have reached 99 percent of his potential, but so did Aharon. So even though in the absolute sense Moshe was far greater, and others had to treat him as the greatest human being ever, in the subjective sense of reaching one’s capacity, Aharon was his equal, and as such was just as great. That is what the Torah is teaching by exchanging the order of their names.

I Won’t Be Compared to You

One of the most sobering concepts is that when I finish my job on this planet, I will be judged. But I will not be measured in absolute terms of how much Torah I mastered or how much I accomplished. That is far too inequitable.

I won’t even be compared to others in my generation. I won’t be compared to you, or to him, or to her, or to anyone else. I will be measured by a far more just and exacting standard – me. How much of me did I become? 80 percent? 60 percent? 50 percent? And that is who I am for eternity.

In this world, we can’t measure a person’s capacity, so we give honor and respect based only on the absolute measure of the person. If this person is functioning on the level of a great person, we are obligated to respect him and treat him with honor. However, when we leave this temporary existence, everything will become clear. I will understand exactly what I was destined to be. And I will also know your capacity and what you could have been. There are no head starts, no advantages or disadvantages, just percentages of realized potential.

At that point in our existence, there will be individuals who appeared to us as great while we were occupants of the physical world who will shrink dramatically, having only reached 20 percent of their potential. They’ll be pygmies. And there will be many others we once cast into the category of the insignificant, but who are actually towering giants, having reached 85 percent of their potential. Just as with Moshe and Aharon, it wasn’t the rank or position that they held that is the final determinant, but rather their subjective greatness with regard to whom they should have been.

This concept has great relevance to us – both positive and negative. It seems to be a natural tendency to compare ourselves to others: “I am smarter than he is. Better than she is. Not as talented as he is…” If my disposition is to favor myself – being kind to me and tough on you – I become inflated, over-confident, and full of myself. If my prejudice is to be harsh on myself, then I will constantly find others superior, and my sense of self will suffer.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 4/15/11

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

Dear Readers,

The Gemara declares the art of matchmaking to be as complex as krias Yam Suf – the splitting of the Red Sea. According to the interpretation of the Divrei Chaim (the Sanzer Rav zt”l), the word kasha (difficult) can be understood as hekesh (comparison or connection) — thereby the comparison of Hashem’s wonders at krias Yam Suf with His miracles in the pairing of zivugim.

The Divrei Yoel (the Satmar Rebbe zt”l) held that it is all in the timing. The sea received its divine instructions to split at a certain point in time, way back when the world was first created. Though to human perception the sea appeared to be reluctant to split, it actually waited for the right moment to dawn, and when that moment came the sea parted seamlessly. So it is with zivugim — when the right time comes, the seemingly difficult and impossible fall smoothly into place.

Below, one young reader shares her story of how she arrived at that sublime moment in her own life.

 

My Story

Part 1

Many of us girls have much in common, going through “rough” patches before finding the “one.” But even those trying times are all meant to be.

Here I was in my mid-twenties, self-confident and an independent thinker, and yet I lost myself for a while. For about a year and a half I found myself stuck on a certain fellow. I was a bundle of nerves for most of that time. Why? Why would anyone like me lose herself over a guy?

What was it about him? Why did I let him take over my life? I can think of a few reasons, but you might say, “What kind of reasons are those to let someone almost ruin your life?” Well, I thought that he was what I was looking for, so I just ran after it. He was charming, good-looking and kindhearted. He was also a number of years older than me and had been on the dating scene for quite some time.

We became acquainted by chance and were simply “friends” for a while. During that time, I had sympathy for the girls he dated because I knew that each was just another of his conquests. He would get bored with them or not feel attracted to them anymore, and dump them. I kind of felt bad for him, too, wondering if he would ever find true love.

He always seemed to have the upper hand in our relationship, and the ball seemed to always be in his court. It bothered me tremendously that it was I who needed to run after him. It was a game, and I disliked playing it intensely. The few times I would find the ball in my court were brief; he always managed to retrieve it by finding yet another girl to date.

I was a strong woman and never let my pain show. He always knew to tell me, “There’s nothing between us.” Oh, how it hurt! And, still, I kept falling back into his trap. Like all girls, I love being complimented, and he knew it…

Ironically, I had a few friends in similar situations and it was I who would talk them out of it, support them, and eventually they would get out of that bad relationship. It was I who would say, “If he isn’t running after you, it won’t work.” There are exceptions to the rule, of course. But, let me tell you something, girls: if you’re running after him and texting him after he didn’t answer you for two hours, GET OUT! It’s not worth making yourselves miserable. There will be another someone waiting for you, and he will love you without all the game-playing.

While I was on this up and down rollercoaster, a friend suggested that I see a certain rabbi who visits here from Israel from time to time and who is said to have helped countless people in different ways. I, for one, credit this special man with changing my life. That is not to say that seeking such input is for everyone. I will, however, say that if you just let G-d play out your life, everything will fall into place.

I remember Rabbi B. looking at me with sadness, though I can’t quite recall what he said to me back then. He did not mention the man I was driving myself crazy about, and I think it’s because he knew I’d have been unable to handle what he had to say. That’s how these intuitive people work. They only tell you what you are capable of dealing with. Amazingly, he told me things about me he could never have known, plus things I needed to work on. My life didn’t change right then and there, but the transformation had begun.

While I still kept up the rollercoaster ride with my male friend, I constantly prayed to G-d to help me get off it. When I received an e-mail letting me know that Rabbi B. would be in town again. I was elated! I knew I needed to see him; I needed more guidance.

Once again, there was this sadness in his eyes. He told me things I’d already heard from him before, and I asked him about my zivug (soul-mate). He said, “don’t worry; you’ll cover the pot on someone” (a metaphor for finding the right one). That was good to hear, but couldn’t he be more specific as to when that would be?

When the session was coming to a close, I was reluctant to go. Rabbi B., as usual, read my mind. “You want more?” He asked. Maybe I should have left when the going was good — it hurt to confront reality. “You like a boy…” he began. I burst into tears. We spoke a little about it, he gave me a bracha and I left.

 

The conclusion in next week’s issue…

* * * * *

We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to  rachel@jewishpress.com  or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.

More Responses On The Topic Of Chronic Illness And Shidduchim

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

These letters are in response to a letter written by a woman whose daughter is having difficulty getting dates because her father has a chronic illness. She also pointed out that there is an assumption that life in their home is depressing because of the illness. These responses deal with both issues, but how they contradict the myth of depression is particularly interesting.


 


Dear Ms. Novick,

 

I read the letter addressing the issue of shidduchim in a family with a disability and I would like to share my own experience as a disabled mother . . . but my life as a disabled person didn’t start as a mother, it starts as a very disabled child who contracted polio at the age of 2.

 

I grew up in a very happy environment. I learned at an early age that people resent unhappiness, not disability. My father and mother created a home with laughter, optimism, and acceptance, and above all with the knowledge that the Hashem is our Ruler and we have to accept our share in life. Ivdu es Hashem b’simcha, that was my father’s, z”l, motto until the end. My house was always the center of gathering. My parents, my brother, and I always had friends around, and so, my own home continues to be the gathering place. On Shabbosim, people drop by to visit, not because of chesed toward a disabled person, but because my house is fun. I love to tell stories and jokes of things that I’ve seen, experienced or read. My friends visit or call me to schmooze, some of them to uplift their own spirits; like my father, I love to make people laugh. 

 

With regard to shidduchim, I believe it is a difficult parsha for everyone, k’krias Yam Suf. People today have become increasingly judgmental, but I don’t believe that attributing the lack of potential shidduchim to a parent that is handicapped is correct. People find their zivug through their own merit and hishtadlus, and we parents have to give chizuk and stand behind our children with emunah, conviction, and a positive attitude.

 

As you wisely mentioned, depression can be, and should be treated because just like laughter and joyousness, depression can be catchy, and one member of the family can create an environment that affects the entire family.

 

As I mentioned before, I have four children, all of them sociable with wonderful personalities. Two of them are, B”H, married, and I don’t believe my disability hindered their shidduchim in any way. I have two more daughters and IY”H, and I hope when their time comes for shidduchim they are will be appreciated for all their middos and for who they are.


Betsy Greenspon


 


Dear Ann,

 

I’m a nurse. I’ve seen terrible illness in couples with no history of illness in their family and no illness where the family history is full of problems. When are we going to realize we are just not in control of these things? There’s more to a successful marriage than the fear of one partner inheriting an illness. It’s how you cope with what G-d gives you that is important. It’s loving and respecting each other.  These things make a marriage and family no matter what happens.


M.P.


 


Dear Ann,

 

Being the daughter of a handicapped mother my whole life, I’m proud to say that it has been a privilege more than a burden. My mother, although wheelchair-bound for many years has taught my siblings and me such important lessons in life. The first and most important being to serve G-d with joy. My mother has been handicapped for her whole life and struggled in so many ways to be like any other regular person. She has always had a beautiful smile on her face. She is an inspiration to my husband, my children and me.

 

My mother became ill as a child and never gave up hope. She got herself through all the years of schooling, although at times alone and in hospital beds; through, surgeries and therapies she managed to get a degree as a language specialist. She got married at 23 and had several children, all healthy B”H.

 

When I was dating, it never crossed my mind that it would be an issue for me not to find my zivug (intended). I am so proud of who my mother is and what she’s taught me. She is my strength and hero.

 

My children adore my parents and have even learned to be sensitive to my mother’s needs. We were just visiting them for Pesach and I was so touched to see my 6-year-old daughter jump up from playing and run to push my mother to the room she was struggling to get herself to. My 2 ½-year-old just happened to pop out of the house elevator all proud that he managed to run it himself (just like Bubby) and my 10-year-old son said going to visit Bubby and Zaidy is like going to Gan Eden.


Yonit Wenick


 


You can reach me at annnovick@hotmail.com 

Miriam – Tambourines Of Rebellion

Wednesday, April 6th, 2005

Bitter was the daily fare of the Jewish slaves in their Egyptian exile. The people were demoralized and depressed, stripped of any vestige of dignity. Under the taskmaster’s whip, the Jewish nation’s heart had become dulled, their minds numbed and their bodies too worn to muster any faith.

One group of slaves, however, did not succumb, and carried in their hearts an inextinguishable spark of optimism. Encouraging their families daily with superhuman strength, they remained confident that their prayers would be answered.

This group of slaves was the Jewish women.

After an exhausting day, the women would beautify themselves for their husbands. They would sneak out to the men’s camps bringing hot, nourishing food, speaking soft, soothing words. “Do not lose hope. We have G-d’s promise that He will redeem us.”

How did these women discover their reservoirs of hope amidst a hopeless situation?

The women had a leader and a teacher to emulate. Her name was Miriam.

From where did Miriam derive her courage and vision?

Miriam’s name has two meanings, both exemplifying her character.

The first, from the Hebrew root mar, is “bitterness.” Miriam was born at the time that the oppression had reached its nadir.

The other meaning of Miriam’s name is “rebellion”. Despite being born into the most difficult period of oppression, Miriam rebelled against the slave mentality engulfing her people. Though she felt their pain acutely, she would not despair.

We are introduced to Miriam just as the new Pharaoh ascends the Egyptian throne commanding the Hebrew midwives, Shifrah (Yocheved) and Puah (Miriam) to kill all the male babies.

“The midwives feared G-d and did not act as the king commanded them” (Exodus 1:8-17).

According to the Midrash, Miriam was called Puah since she “revealed her face brazenly (hofiya) against Pharaoh pronouncing, ‘Woe to this man, when G-d avenges him!’

“Pharaoh was infuriated and wanted to have Miriam killed. But, Yocheved appeased him, ‘Will you pay attention to her? She is but a child!’”

Miriam was only five years old at this time. Despite her tender years, Miriam valiantly stood up to the mightiest ruler on earth, audaciously rebuking him for his cruelty.

This was Miriam, the mother of rebellion.

Another incident in Miriam’s childhood also reflects her strong character.

After Pharaoh decree, Amram, Miriam’s father, divorced his wife, setting an example for all others. If no children would be born, he reasoned, innocent babies would not be killed.

Miriam approached Amram saying: “Father! Your decree is worse than Pharaoh’s. Pharaoh only decreed against the males, but you are decreeing against both males and females!

“You must remarry Mother. She is destined to give birth to a son who will set Israel free!”

Miriam was six years old when she confronted her father. Her words made such a profound impact that he and all the Jewish men remarried their wives. An entire generation was transformed, due to the courage and vision of the young Miriam.

Shortly after, Yocheved gave birth to a son and the house was filled with his holy light. Their happiness was shattered, however, with the realization that he would be killed.

“And Yocheved took an ark made of reedsand put the child in it by the river’s bank. And his sister (Miriam) stood far away.”

Miriam stood by the river to see not if, but how her prophecy would unfold.

She felt the pain and bitterness of her brother being torn away. But at the same time, she was filled with her spirit of rebellion — she would not succumb to hopelessness.

This was Miriam. She encompassed the dual qualities of feeling the intensity of pain while at the same time rebelling against its overpowering hold to discover a seed of faith and yearning, deep within.

In the thicket of the bushes, Miriam witnessed Batyah, Pharaoh’s daughter discover the basket and rescue the child. A self-assured Miriam approached Batyah to suggest a Hebrew wet-nurse and brought Moshe back to his own mother.

Decades later, on the shores of the Yam Suf, after hundreds of years in exile, the Jews experienced a miraculous salvation. Under Moshe’s direction, they sing the Shirat Hayam, expressing their ecstatic gratitude to G-d.

And as Moshe and his nation concluded their song, “Miriam the prophetesstook a tambourine; and all the women went out with tambourines, dancing. And Miriam answered them, ‘Sing to the L-rd’”.

The men sang with their voices. But the women’s song was composed with voice, tambourines, and dance. The women’s hearts were full of a greater joy and their song was more comprehensive.



When the Jewish people left Egypt, they left hastily. Yet despite their hurriedness, the women took the time to prepare, something that they felt would be essential.

After hundreds of years in bitter exile — after witnessing acts of utter barbarism, after weeping rivers of tears — what did these women prepare while still slaves in Egypt? What do their worn, tired, tortured and beaten bodies carry out of Egypt?

Tambourines.

Instruments with which to sing and praise G-d for the miracles they knew would come to be.

Engulfed in misery, the women did not lose vision. They found Miriam’s spirit of rebellion.

Amidst their agony, the women prepared tambourines. They fanned the spark of yearning within their worn souls until it grew into an overpowering, inextinguishable flame of faith. Their only concern was being adequately prepared to sing with the appropriate expressions of joy for the miracles that were sure to occur!

This was the strength of Miriam. A feminine strength born out from bitterness; a faith sewed amidst despair.

This was the strength of the women who left Egypt.

And this is the strength of all women.

Chana Weisberg is the author of four books, the latest, “Divine Whispers” and “Jewish Women: Past, Present and Future” soon to be released. She is also a columnist for www.chabad.org’s Weekly Magazine. Weisberg lectures on issues relating to women, relationships, and mysticism and is currently scheduling a worldwide book tour to promote her new books. To book a talk for your community or for information on her speaking schedule please contact: weisberg@sympatico.ca

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/jewess-press/miriam-tambourines-of-rebellion/2005/04/06/

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