Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Never Give Up

By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

I spent this past Shabbos in the company of some heroic individuals who are dedicating their lives to making a difference. Ignoring all the naysayers who surround them, and being more optimistic than realistic, they change the world. In small towns and large cities all across the country, they go about their holy work day after day, many times receiving little credit or adulation for their heroic work.

Rabbi Zvi Bloom of Torah Umesorah has dreamed for years to bring together the Zevuluns of the schools and yeshivos so that they can support each other and work on solutions for the issues which confront them all. Last weekend in Palm Beach, Florida, leaders learned from each other’s experiences and returned to their home cities across the fruited plain re-energized to confront the challenges which lay ahead.

While there, I met the dedicated people battling mightily to develop a religious elementary school in Palm Beach, Florida. Despite the many obstacles thrown in their path, they are succeeding in planting nascent Torah seeds in one of the fastest growing Jewish population centers in the country. A visit to their beautiful school brought home the realization that even a desert can be transformed into a blooming garden when blessed with able leadership and support. Rabbi Dovid May, Dr. Charles Steinberg and Benjamin Wohl present a partnership which will no doubt yield great benefit for the Jewish people. It is a shame that not all Jewish residents of Palm Beach appreciate the opportunity they present and instead invested their millions with a charlatan who took them down a losing path.

Wherever you live, you can look around you at the people who have utilized their lives to make an enduring difference. Examine some of the people who have really made the world a better place and see what makes them different. You will often discover an ordinary person, with the difference being that when he saw a vacuum, he stuck his neck out and sought to fill it. With dogged determination and persistence, he fought off the urge to pull back and give up. He ignored the nagging voices that said it couldn’t be done and found the strength to accomplish his mission.

People like this refuse to be discouraged by those who advise them that their goals are impossible to attain. Because they work lesheim Shomayim and refuse to be deterred, the Divine Hand reaches down from on high and assists them.

Every one of us was created to carry out a shlichus, or mission, in life. Those who succeed are the ones who don’t let anything deter them for long. With faith in the One Above, they ignore the difficulties that would throw off lesser men. They continue their hishtadlus with the knowledge that Hashem will assist them and take over for them at the proper time.

We learn in Parshas Beha’aloscha that Aharon Hakohein was upset that he had no part in the chanukas haMishkan. Hakadosh Brouch Hu told him, “Shelcha gedolah mishelohem - Your share is greater than that of the nesiim, she’atah madlik umeitiv es haneiros - because you set up and light the wicks of the menorah.”

Rashi explains that the word “beha’aloscha” indicates that the kohein kindles the wick until the fire rises by itself - “ad shetehei shalheves oleh mei’eileha.”

The kohein is commanded to clean out the vessel and light the menorah, but he is told that, in the end, it will light by itself. It is his duty to me meitiv, a word which also can be translated to mean to do good with others. Indeed, Aharon Hakohein was an oheiv shalom verodeif shalom. A kohein who is meitiv, a kohein who is prepared to reach in and do the dirty work, will merit that G-d will help him and the ner will light by itself, if he just carries out the initial steps of lighting it.

The kohein is told that if he does the initial hishtadlus and has the requisite belief and commitment to actualize his shlichus, he is promised that the task will be completed by Hashem.

Shelcha gedolah mishelohem.” Thus, the act of kindling the menorah is greater than the korbanos that the nesiim brought up for the chanukas haMishkan. The avodas hahakrovoh was not done by them, and in fact, with the exception of Nachshon ben Aminodov, they didn’t pay for their korbanos, but rather the money was raised by each individual shevet for the korban that their nosi brought.

Such a donation to the Mishkan does not have the same everlasting impact as the hadlakah and hatavah performed by the kohein himself as he was waiting for the shalheves to be oleh mei’eileha.

Additionally, Chazal say that “aron nosei es nosav,” the aron carried those who carried it. Thus, even though the bnei Kehas would place the aron on their shoulders to transport it, carrying it did not require more than the initial effort of lifting. Following that initial exertion, they were in fact assisted by Hashem. The heavy keilim they shouldered actually carried them.

Those who endeavor to accomplish and spread holiness in this world and are prepared to work hard and get dirty are granted Heavenly assistance to complete the task.

The fact is that although our efforts contribute very little to the actual results, there is a factor we do control. Our mesiras nefesh plays a major role in evoking siyata diShmaya.

The only boundaries to what we can achieve are those we set ourselves. If we let the forces of negativity and cynicism get to us, we will achieve as little as those who cultivate the negative forces. If we ignore the chorus of naysayers, there is no limit to what we can achieve to benefit our generation and generations to come.

Let us set out to be madlik and meitiv to the best of our abilities and then watch as the shalheves is oleh mei’eileha. Our children and neighbors will bless us and our cheilek will be with Aharon Hakohein.

As we light the menorah at our doors and windows starting this coming Sunday night, we will be mefarseim the neis of hatzolas Yisroel, bayomim haheim bazeman hazeh.

And while we do that, we will look into the light of the wicks and we will sit there and contemplate. We will think about all that has befallen our people since the days of the Yevanim. We will make the bracha of She’asah Nissim and we will try to learn the lesson of the flames.

We will ask ourselves, what was so great about the miracle of Chanukah? Why is it that we celebrate that miracle till this very day?

In the time of the Chashmonaim, the Jews didn’t cut corners. They didn’t yield to those who advised them to use any oil to light the menorah. They resisted the urge to take the easy route and say “tumah hutrah b’tzibbur.” In the zechus of Aharon Hakohein shelo shinah, they also weren’t meshaneh.

They worked, searched and persevered until they found one small suitable flask of oil and used it to rekindle the menorah. Because they were so dedicated to the proper observance of the mitzvah, they were deserving of a Divine miracle. The one tiny jug was found and the oil in it miraculously burned for eight days, until new pure oil could be squeezed and brought to Yerushalayim.

In the mitzvah of hadlokas neiros Chanukah, we find a distinction that we rarely see. Everyone performs the mitzvah in its mehadrin form. We don’t look to find the cheap way out. We don’t say that one candle on the kitchen table is really all you need for the mitzvah.

We proudly set up our menorahs and set them to face the reshus horabim for everyone to see that we are performing the mitzvah the best way possible.

The mitzvah of pirsumei nisah is primary to Chanukah because it allows us to advertise to the world that we will not give in to the forces of darkness. We will not succumb to the power of evil. We won’t ever listen to those who say to do the mitzvah the easy way. We will be madlik and meitiv the neiros just as Aharon Hakohein did back then.

We light the menorah and say Al Hanisim and proclaim that we will never give up our belief that the menorah will once again light in the Bais Hamikdosh.

When we light the menorah in the window, we are saying that when we are asked to help out in a mitzvah, we won’t just write a check and be yotzeh. We will roll up our sleeves, get dirty, perhaps get embarrassed, throw our whole being into it, and make sure it’s done right. We will do what we can to help out; and we will know that our act will bring eternal reward and its impact will be lasting.

As more darkness descends upon the world, we recharge ourselves to shine more light. We will never permit the forces of darkness to overtake us. In the confusion of darkness, we still manage to still be little fountains of light.

That is the greatness of Am Yisroel and that is how we persevered through all the centuries of exile. And that is what will lead us to the geulah sheleimah. The ability to overcome the dark forces is inbred, but it has to be reinforced and fortified.

When darkness envelopes us, our mission is to spark the realization that we have to bring light into this topsy-turvy world. When we see people around us acting improperly, when people twist the truth, when injustice is perpetrated in the name of justice, when darkness overtakes light, we have to remind ourselves of the message of the menorah.

We have to be the exalted people Hashem intended us to be, capable - even in these frightening, confused times - of discerning truth from falsehood, love from hate, and justice from tyranny.

We have to be brave and have and strength of character to persevere, just like those heroes in Palm Beach and in cities and towns across the country who are moser nefesh to transmit Torah to the future generations.

We have to remember that every time someone says that you can do the mitzvah in a simplified manner and it’s just as good, think of Aharon Hakohein. Think of the neis Chanukah and remember that if you want Hashem to perform nissim for you, if you want light to banish the darkness in your life, throw everything you have into what you do, do it lesheim Shomayim, and you will succeed.

Think of the pach shemen tahor. Think of the menorah which burned brightly and proudly. Remember, shelcha gedolah mishelohem.

Ohr chodosh al Tziyon tair. Bimeheirah biyomeinu. Amein.


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