You Are So Much More
As it is a time of mourning for three weeks due to the many tragedies that befell our people, Jews are not allowed to partake in joyous occasions, such as marriages, shopping for clothes, listening to music, etc. Therefore, I was forced to put my Alexa app to another use today. Instead of requesting harp instrumental or Debussy, I decided to ask her a question: “Alexa. What is the health tip of the day?” I was hoping for some nutritional tip that would keep me young forever. To no avail. Alexa’s answer took an unexpected turn; she said, “Forgive yourself.” Wow, I didn't see that one coming. But as always, God fills my pen with His words. After all, what is forgiveness? Isn’t it truly the healthiest thing that we can do? For if we continually beat ourselves up over yesterday, what chance does today or tomorrow have?
For the purposes of this article, I'd like to fiddle around with the definition of self forgiveness. I will thus define it as breaking away from the past to extricate ourselves healthily so that we can move forward with optimism, positivity and G-dly light. Be certain, it is Satan himself who wants to keep us in a state of unrelenting regret, to keep us bitter, insecure and fearful. Whatever a coach does to cheer on his team to victory, Satan does the opposite. He poisons us with a defeatist mentality to keep us in a state of mourning over who we are, what we have done and from where we’ve come. He’s the confidence destroyer who makes a powerful unforgiving case against us sprinkled with manipulative anecdotes. He is none other than the Angel of Death who has come to kill our potential because he knows that the moment we become self-forgiving, we are freed from his fatal clutches and back in G-d’s Hands wherein all the things are possible.
I cannot help but think of King David as the best example. He was but a mere shepherd boy. He could not tolerate that the Israelites cowered before the Philistines. Even though he was not tall or trained as a warrior, he decided that he would be the one to fight Goliath. A mere lad with a slingshot stepped forward while all the King's men trembled before their fatal foe. When David was given King Saul’s armor to take on Goliath, miraculously, although he was of a smaller stature than King Saul, the armor fit him perfectly. With untempered devotion and faith in God, he did not put limitations upon his potential and hence reality catered to his will. Nonetheless, King David shed the royal armor because he felt more comfortable in his own skin. It is not the armor, nor the crown, nor your stature that defines you. It is your will and the spirit of God that will animate the steps you take in life and the blessings that accompany them.
So many of us are encumbered by past debts and would be only too happy to hear the creditors say that they forgive those debts. The same concept applies here: Don't let the past and who you think you are or what you've done weigh you down. Learn, “forgive” and move on. Feed your body and soul with new information. Even on a physical level, we know that our body replaces around 330 billion cells per day and scientists say that within 80 days we are for the most part a completely new person, so act like one!
In this week’s Torah reading of Pinchas, we are introduced to numerous situations where people were born into a “situation” that didn’t dictate nor assure their journey in life. Pinchas, in an act of zealotry and against his more docile and peace-loving nature as a grandson of Aharon, killed an Israelite prince and his Midianite paramour in honor of God Who prohibited such a union. The act curbed God’s wrath against the nation, stopped a plague and as a result Pinchas and his offspring were rewarded by God Himself. He acted in contrary motion to his limitations and thus opened up a whole new world for himself.
The next example we see is that of the five daughters of Tzelafchad who petition Moses that they be granted the portion of the land belonging to their father, who died without sons. Their petition is successful and is incorporated into the Torah’s laws of inheritance. On a practical level yes, they stood in for sons. But on a deeper level, though they did not have the power to conquer the land as did men, there are many ways to conquer: Sometimes it is with kindness, love, discipline, integrity and prayer. What is important to learn here is a lesson we learn in Ethics of Our Fathers, where it is written: “In a place where there is no man, strive to be a man.” Step in and step up.
In this parasha we are also briefly reminded of Korach's fate. The earth opened up and swallowed him and his cohorts for rebelling against Moses' leadership. But we are also reminded that "Korach's sons did not die." Why? Because they separated themselves from their father's evil ways and repented. As such, "they merited that Samuel the Prophet would be one of their descendants." We can cast off the "sins" of our "fathers" by being children of Hashem and keeping His Torah. Forgive yourself from whence you came and take ownership of where you are going. It should certainly teach us something that nobody is interested in buying yesterday's newspaper.
The next example in this Torah portion is the transference of Moses’ leadership to Joshua. Moses had sons, why didn’t one of them get the job? Because being a Jew isn’t about nepotism; not your father, or yesterday’s victories (or defeats), our last year’s applause or all your connections in the world are going to make you the person you need to be, only you can do that yourself by living day to day from struggle to struggle, by recognizing you are not struggling alone and that the power of G-d is with you.
The final example is Chushim, the son of Dan, who was deaf. The census taken shockingly showed that the tribe of Dan had 20,000 more people than the tribe of Benjamin even though Dan had only one son (Chushim) while Benjamin had ten. Due to Chushim’s “handicap” he was not subject to frivolous distractions and dissenting voices. He was focused and fought for his grandfather Yaacov’s honor. His story shows how handicaps and burdens can be the source of inspiration and the drivers of ultimate success (Rebbetzin Jungresi, Z’L).
Dig deep my dear friends, for the treasure is inside of you waiting to be discovered. It is there--and don’t let anyone or anything tell you otherwise. Shabbat Shalom.
Dedicated to the memory of my best friend Pinchas (Phil) who never let me cower in retreat but always told me, “You can do it,” no matter what the challenge was. Those words were among the greatest gifts I ever got. May his neshamah have an Aliyah.