“Every man by his flag with ensigns of his father’s house shall Bnei Yisrael encamp.” The concept of achdus — that all of Klal Yisrael must cleave to one another as a single unit — is a fundamental and crucial one. Yet each of us has a unique and specific role to perform within this unit.
Every Yid has his own place, and must recognize his personal “flag,” his calling.
The Rebbe Reb Zishe of Anipoli would go out dressed as a simple Yid and travel incognito from town to town, ostensibly to afflict himself and purify his soul to even greater heights, but also for the opportunity to reach out and be mechazek spiritually-starved Yidden along the way.
On one such journey he heard of a yeshivah in the town of Zolkava whose head, Harav Yozpa, was said to deliver brilliant shiurim. The Rebbe Reb Zishe decided to make his way to that town. When he arrived at the yeshivah he saw bachurim running into the beis medrash. “The Rosh Yeshivah is about to start his shiur,” they told him.
Reb Zishe, too, entered the beis medrash and listened to the shiur. Rav Yozpa’s immense knowledge in the great sea of Shas was evident, as were his brilliance, depth and incisiveness.
After the shiur, the Rebbe Reb Zishe walked over to Rav Yozpa and complimented him.
“They say that you give wonderful shiurim, and indeed you do.”
Rav Yozpa looked closely at the stranger dressed in rags who was praising his shiurim.
“Do you know how to learn?” Rav Yozpa asked him.
“No,” Reb Zishe replied.
“Then what do you know?” Rav Yozpa inquired.
“I know a little davening,” Reb Zishe answered.
“Show me,” Rav Yozpa pressed him.
The Rebbe Reb Zishe took out a siddur and began teaching Rav Yozpa the deep hidden meaning of davening according to Kabbalah.
Mesmerized, Rav Yozpa told Reb Zishe, “I will leave my position and all my talmidim and follow you wherever you go, so you can teach me how to daven.”
“No, you are to stay here with your talmidim,” Reb Zishe said. “Every Yid has his tafkid in life, his special duty in avodas Hashem. Yours is to give shiurim, and mine is to daven.”
* * *
The obligation to be humble is also a fundamental and crucial one. Yet one must be careful not to allow what appears to be humility from preventing him from accomplishing his tasks and carrying out his responsibilities.
The Gemara (Sotah 49b) tells us that when Rebbe was niftar, “humility came to an end,” i.e., the level of humility of Rebbe no longer existed in the world.
Rav Yosef states, “Do not teach [the termination of] humility — for there is I.”
A perplexing statement! But there are numerous explanations for it.
Hagaon Harav Berel Soloveitchek, zt”l, the Brisker Rosh Yeshivah, said that Rav Yosef did not mean to say that he personified the continuation of the level of humility reached by Rebbe. Rather, Rav Yosef was saying, instead of stressing the modesty of Rebbe, tell about the “I” of Rebbe: the times when despite his unequaled level of humility, he stood up and with strength and determination fulfilled his obligations as a leader of Klal Yisrael.
Of course, it is not necessarily misplaced humility that prevents us from fulfilling our role. Often it is simply a lack of self-confidence.
Rabbi Avraham Pinter, menahel and noted askan told us:
The Gerrer Rebbe, the Beis Yisrael, would invite people in for tea in the very early morning, and I was once called in. It was still very dark outside and the curtains were drawn, the doors closed. The gabbai was not there and I stood outside feeling lost. Suddenly the lights came on and the Rebbe opened the door wide.
“The door was open all along,” he said. “All you needed to do was turn the knob and push the door.”
He then told me the following vort. When Yaakov Avinu came to the well that had the very large stone on it, other shepherds were standing around waiting for everyone else to come so they could all lift the stone together.
“Anyone could have lifted the stone,” the Rebbe said. “But they all saw a big stone and said ‘I can’t lift it, so I am not going to even try.’ Yaakov Avinu also saw a big stone and also believed that he wouldn’t be able to lift it, but he said, ‘Let me try’ — and sure enough he could do it.’”
May the Ribbono Shel Olam grant us the wisdom to recognize our role in life, and may we merit to fulfill our obligations in avodas Hashem.