Knowing Ourselves

The Gerrer Rebbe, the Beis Yisrael, zy”a, had a custom of inviting people in for tea in the very early morning. On one occasion a young bachur was invited to the Rebbe for a pre-dawn visit.

It was still very dark outside and the curtains were drawn, the doors closed. The gabbai was not there and the young bachur 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 it.”

The Rebbe then told the bachur the following vort, which relates to our parashah:

When Yaakov Avinu came to the well that had the very large stone on it, other shepherds were standing around, waiting for everyone to come and 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 even going to try.’ Yaakov Avinu also saw a big stone and believed that he wouldn’t be able to lift it, but he said, ‘Let me try’ — and indeed he could do it. My door is open 24 hours a day; one must just push it,” the Rebbe concluded.

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A crucial component to spiritual growth is the acknowledgement of our gifts and potential. Often we feel that there are some things that we can’t possibly achieve.

We may feel this way in any matter of life, but especially in regard to ruchniyus.

We often see admirable traits in others and quickly conclude that “this is not for me,” or “I couldn’t possibly reach that level anyway, so why should I try?”

In reality, the door is open; all we have to do is walk in.

But it isn’t only our potential that we are too often ignoring, it is also our self-worth.

One Shavuos a talmid of Mesivta Torah Vodaas walked across the Williamsburg Bridge from Manhattan to Brooklyn so he could spend the Yom Tov afternoon in his beloved yeshivah. Harav Shraga Feivel Mendlovitz, zt”l, the legendary menahel of the Mesivta, noticed that this bachur was sitting and learning while the other bachurim were dancing.

Rav Mendlovitz approached him and said, “If you will not rejoice on Shavous with what you do have, you won’t be able to do teshuvah on Yom Kippur for what you don’t have!”

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The Chernobyler Maggid, zy”a, related that the Baal Shem Tov used to say:

A Yid busy with his work, spending the entire day in the markets and streets, nearly forgets that there is a Creator of the World. Only when Minchah time comes does he remember Hashem, and he gives a sigh in his heart over how he spent the entire day absorbed in the futilities of this world. His sigh splits the very heavens! He runs to a corner on the side and davens Minchah, and even though he doesn’t know at all what he is saying, this is very precious to Hakadosh Baruch Hu.

The Piaczesner Rebbe, Harav Klonymous Kalman Shapira, Hy”d, famously begins Chovas Hatalmidim, his classic sefer for young students, with the words, “Fortunate are you, naar Yisrael (Jewish youth), fortunate is your portion, the Torah, the light of Hashem you have merited to learn, and [the position of] a beloved, cherished son of Hashem [that] you have ascended to. The angels up high envy you and treasure you; the fiery seraphim of Hashem wonder at you and honor you. The Heaven and all its legions, the earth and all that is in it, rejoice over you and stand humble before you…”

The Rebbe was speaking to young students, but his message is meant for us all. We have no notion of the greatness of a Yid. If we would have only a small inkling of how beloved before Hashem is every tefillah that we utter, how every moment a Yid spends learning Torah or doing chessed has a ripple affect through the entire universe, without a doubt we would be inspired to devote more of ourselves to the tasks for which we were actually created.

May the Ribbono shel Olam grant us all the wisdom and the courage to forge a path through the stones that block our way to spiritual greatness, and walk through the door of true life.