The Secret of Renewal

With great happiness a Yid approached Harav Shimon Shalom, the Amshinover Rebbe, zy”a.

“Rebbe,” he said, “we came to ask you to be the sandak at the bris of my grandson,” he excitedly declared.

After wishing him a warm mazel tov, the Rebbe asked the grandfather if he had ever been a sandak at the bris of a grandchild.

“No, Rebbe, this is my first grandson,” the Yid replied.

“So why don’t you take sandakus for yourself?” the Rebbe inquired.

“I want the sandak to be a tzaddik,” the grandfather answered.

“When is the bris?” the Rebbe asked.

“The baby was born today,” the new grandfather replied.

“In eight days you can also become a tzaddik….” the Rebbe told him.

***

One of the greatest challenges we face is that we define ourselves by our present status. We box ourselves in and draw around us a small circle in the sand. Even when we entertain the possibility of making significant improvements in regard to our spiritual standing, we mistakenly extrapolate from our failures in the past and reject the idea of positive change as something impractical and unlikely.

There is a moving Yiddish song that has become popular in recent years:

“What happened has happened. What was, was already. What will be, will be. But as for now — I am a Yid. Father, renew me completely, light a fire in my heart.”

This message encapsulates a key part of the lesson of Parashas Hachodesh, when we learn how the Ribbono shel Olam taught Moshe Rabbeinu that when the moon renews itself it is Rosh Chodesh.

In the middle of each month the light of the moon begins to wane. The full moon grows smaller and smaller, until by the end of the month it seemingly disappears. Then comes the renewal, a small slice of light that grows and grows until the moon once again shines its full face upon the earth.

This is true regarding Am Yisrael as a people and is equally true regarding individuals. There are times when it seems that the light has gone out of a person’s life. His business collapsed and he is overwhelmed with debt, or perhaps is facing a devastating personal crisis. His spirits plummet and he views his challenges as insurmountable, the gates to happiness sealed against him forever.

Life is a cycle. Just when one has reached what seems to be rock bottom, things begin to turn upwards. The main point is, no matter how bleak the situation may appear, never despair! Never give up!

This is true not only in regard to temporal matters, but spiritual ones as well. It is true even when one senses that his personal relationship with Hashem has weakened dramatically and the light in his heart dims and all but disappears; when he is tragically deluded into thinking that the relationship is beyond repair, and despairs of ever feeling true closeness to Hashem.

Parashas Hachodesh reminds us that even when the light has seemingly dimmed entirely, it can and does return to shine brightly again.

As slave laborers in Egypt, our ancestors didn’t merely endure horrific persecution. They were at the brink of the spiritual abyss. They had descended to the 49th level of impurity, and had they stayed another day in Egypt, they would have fallen over the edge to the point of no return.

Yet it was precisely at that moment that Hakadosh Baruch Hu, in His infinite mercy and love for Bnei Yisrael, took them out.

In 50 days, they rose from the lowest depths to the greatest heights, meriting to hear Hakadosh Baruch Hu speak to them; meriting to receive the Torah on Har Sinai.

As one wise Yid out it, a person should use the future to correct the past, and never allow the past to destroy his future.

Regardless of how far one has fallen, it is never too early — or too late — to renew one’s relationship with Hashem. This is true all year, but especially in these days of renewal, of his’chadshus. All it takes is willpower and the recognition that as long as one lives, there is hope. As long as one still breathes, one can put aside the past and start afresh.