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Moses appointed twelve emissaries to scout out the Holy Land and return with a report. The representative for the tribe of Ephraim was Moses’ primary disciple, Joshua. Until this time, the lad’s name was Oshua. But Moses added a letter to his name and called him Joshua.
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Home » D'varim Parshah, Events in the News, Free Choice, Tragedy, Uncategorized

Devarim: It Is Not About You

Submitted by on August 6, 2016 – 11:52 pmNo Comment | 2,772 views


Two things drastically different events are taking place this week. Jews around the world are mourning the Temple that was destroyed in 69 BCE and Olympians from around the world are competing for gold medals. What is the connection between them? Both have learned the secret to life: It is not about you.

If life were about you, you would never leave your comfort zone; never push your envelope. The path of least resistance is always the most expedient path. But life is not about you. Life is always about something larger than you and when you realize that, there are few limits to your reach.

Olympic athletes are motivated at first by the thrill of victory and the glory of adulation. But those motivations don’t last. They can’t catapult you over the finish line. To get to the Olympics you have to push yourself beyond your norm; way beyond your comfort level. You need to endure physical pain, emotional turmoil, debilitating fear and beyond everything, iron steel determination.

So long as you think you are the best, you can’t win. To win, you have to be in peak form and you can’t get there with complacency. To be shaken out of complacency, you need to realize that you are not the best, but can be it if you push beyond your limit. How do you push past your limit? How do you find the stamina to push through pain, resistance and revulsion? By the realization that it is not about you.

When athletes start thinking about glory of country and the privilege of representing a nation, their limits become elastic and stretch. Once they inject a fervor of patriotism, there is no limit to how far they can go. Indeed, it is not about you. It is about something much larger.

It Is Much Bigger Than You

As we mourn for the loss of our temple and the exile of our people we come to realize that our personal life choices are not about us; they are about something much greater than us. They are about the nation, they are about history, in fact they are about G-d.

The temple was lost because of our sins; of that we have no doubt. The prophets and sages exhorted us to return to G-d lest the Temple be destroyed and the commonwealth shattered. Our ancestors turned a blind eye to their warnings and sadly the prophecy was fulfilled.

Our sages teach us that if we don’t experience the rebuilding of the Temple, it is akin to the Temple being destroyed in our day. During this week we contemplate our relationship with G-d and observance of Torah. We recognize that not meriting to rebuild the Temple is akin to destroying it. Another way of putting it is this. Our behavior is responsible for the fact that the Temple lies in ruin.

Indeed, it is not about you or me. It is about G-d, history and the coming of Moshiach. If we increase in senseless loving of our fellow Jew, if we increase in our observance of Torah, we can hasten the arrival of Moshiach. We might not be inclined to change our lifestyles for ourselves, but when it is not about us, our capacity for change is enlarged. We can push ourselves beyond our norms. Beyond our limits.

The Drone

Just last week an incident was reported in the local media. A medical evacuation helicopter had a dangerous encounter with an unmanned drone in the skies above London, Ontario. The drone was not supposed to fly higher than three-hundred feet, yet somehow it had risen to a thousand feet.

Anyone can buy a drone and fly it. It doesn’t require training or a license. The fact is though that without training, it is possible for your drone to fly where it is not meant to go. This can arise from ignorance, negligence or mishap. When drone operators break the rules, they might enjoy the thrill and be cavalier the danger, but when they learn that the lives of a patient, nurses, pilots and doctors were put at risk, they quickly realize how dangerous their neglect can be.

When we realize that our clueless flying puts lives at risk, we learn to take it seriously. we resolve to never fly a drone without proper training.

The same is true in Judaism. So long as we think our religious experience is for and about us, we meander along the path of life with nary a care. We observe what we choose and neglect the rest out of ignorance or wilfulness. It doesn’t matter. It’s just about me. But when you realize that it is not about you, that the redemption of all Jews depends on the behavior of each Jew, you take it more seriously.

No longer are we content with limiting our observance to the Judaism we practiced at home. We take it seriously and study seriously. We start exploring the Torah and discover what Judaism really means. Exactly what is prescribed and what is proscribed. This isn’t about us. The fate of a nation, the fate of history, the fate of G-d, depends on our behavior. We are important. We make a difference.

A Cosmic Wedding

Two short years after the Holocaust a group of young Jewish men organized a weekly Torah study group in Paris. One day a bearded man entered and asked what they were studying. They told him they were learning about the proper day for a wedding. For her first marriage, a bride should marry on the fourth day of the week. For her second marriage, a bride should marry on the fifth day of the week.

The bearded man made the following observation. At Sinai we were betrothed to G-d and the wedding will take place with the coming of Moshiach. There are six millenniums in Jewish history and we are now in the midst of the sixth. If a thousand years is, to G-d, like a day then this millennium is Friday.

In the third day (millennium) of history, G-d destroyed the temple. If this was merely a breakup, then our reconciliation and wedding would be our first marriage. First weddings should be held on the fourth day of the week, but Moshiach didn’t come in the fourth millennium. If you argue that it wasn’t just a breakup, but a divorce, then Moshiach would represent a second marriage for us, in which case it should be held on the fifth day of the week. Yet Moshiach didn’t come in the fifth millennium. We are now toward the end of the sixth day. On Friday we don’t usually schedule weddings, but there is one crucial exception. When a husband and wife remarry, they may schedule it on Friday. Since Moshiach would represent a remarriage between a formerly betrothed couple, it can come on this Friday of history.

This, said the man with tears in his eyes, is the Friday of history. It is time for our wedding, but instead we have suffered a holocaust. It is high time for our suffering end and for our wedding to begin.

Around the table, the young men gazed at the speaker with broken hearts. He had captured their sentiments; tears for their suffering and hope for their future. They knew this man would go far and indeed He did. This bearded man, would go on to become the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

This week, as we mourn the temple’s destruction and our resultant exile, let’s stretch our limits; let’s reconnect with G-d and with each other. It is not about you. It is about the nation. It is about G-d.

This year – 5776 – in the waning hours, of the sixth millennium, let’s write the invitation for the cosmic wedding. The marriage between G-d and the Jewish people,