3 Teves 5782 / Tuesday, December 07, 2021 | Torah Reading: Vayigash
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Are You Stuck?    

Are You Stuck?

Do you ever feel that you're stuck and you'll never get out? Realize that failure is an obstacle and not an end result! Read on for amazing encouragement...


“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Breishis 1:1)  

The Lesson of a Thief   

Reb Zushe of Anipoli was once by the Great Maggid of Mezritch zt” l, and the Maggid taught him, that there are three traits of an infant, and seven traits of a thief, that can be utilized in Avodas Hashem, his observance of Yiddishkeit.  

What are the three things you can learn from an infant?  

1. An infant is always happy  
2. He never sits still for too long  
3. The infant always cries for what it wants.  

What can be observed and learned from a thief?  

1. A thief works under the cloak of darkness at night.  
2. If he doesn’t succeed on the first try, he tries again.  
3. He is passionate about his work.  
4. A thief is willing to risk everything, including his life, to steal, even if the item is not necessarily valuable.  
5. And, despite these risks, he is willing to sell what he has stolen for less than its intrinsic value.  
6. Even if he gets beaten, he insists and doesn't tell who took part in the action.  
7. He remains committed to his trade.  

There are deep and insightful lessons embedded in these words that every yid can utilize for their Avodat Hashem. However, one of the most important lessons is the fundamental idea expressed in the second trait of the thief: If he doesn’t succeed on the first try, he tries again.  

A thief is tenacious and persistent. They know what they want, and they will do everything in their power to try and achieve it. Failure for them is an obstacle, not a result. Their motivation – no matter how twisted - drives them to continuously attempt to succeed.  

This is a mentality, taught the Great Maggid, that every yid must apply to their Avodat Hashem, their observance of Torah and Mitzvot. 


Life’s Ups and Downs  

Living is about growing, and growing cannot happen without growing pains. Woven intrinsically into the reality of this world is a constant movement, an ebb and flow. Life has its ups and downs, successes and failures, achievements and challenges. While this is inevitable, it is also invaluable. Through these challenges, these moments of darkness, we can strive for light and through that process draw even more light into our lives. Every challenge can be met with a process for growth.  

However, this process can only work - you can only succeed - if you don’t allow your failures to define you. You cannot despair, give up, and wallow in self-pity. If you do, then you will be trapped in that moment of darkness. You can only become lost if you feel lost; if you fail to realize that every challenge is an opportunity to grow, to reach even higher achievements than possible before. Our shortcomings are truly the fuel for growth. Obstacles make us stronger. Failures can be and must be springboards for even greater success and growth.  

Like the thief, if we don’t succeed at first, we must try again. We cannot give up on ourselves. 


If You Are Stuck, Keep Moving  

Once, a yid came to his Rebbe, Reb Avraham of Slonim zt”l, and explained, “I struggle to connect to Hashem, to work on myself and my relationship with our Creator. However, I feel like I am not getting anywhere. I feel stuck. It is like I am trekking through mud: once I take one foot out and take another step, I get stuck again.”  

The Rebbe responded, “You are stuck in mud. But know this and know this well, if you stop, if you sit in your place, you will remain stuck forever. If you keep walking, if you keep trekking through despite how difficult if feels, you eventually will get out. Every step you take brings you closer to the edge, to unsticking yourself. You must keep moving.” 


The Feathers of an Eagle  

Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev zt"l expressed this very idea when he explained the sentence in Tehillim that says, (103:5): "Your youth is renewed like an eagle". What does King David mean that your youth renews like an eagle?  

As an eagle grows, it loses it feathers. However, they quickly regrow and are replaced by new feathers enabling the eagle to continue to fly. Just like an eagle, a yid must realize that at times it might feel like and actually be a moment when he is falling, losing his ability to soar. However, he cannot despair but believe in himself, believe that he has the power to regenerate, to grow, to regain his ability. He can still soar. 


The Winter of Your Youth  

This struggle of ebb and flow, of ups and downs, is even more pronounced in someone’s youth. The Rebbe, Reb Zusha from Anipoli zt"l taught that our “youth” is described as our "Choref" = “winter” as it says in Job (29:4), "When I was in the days of “Chorfi” = my youth (in Hebrew, “Chorfi” has the same root as the word winter).”  

This period of your life, your youth, is like the winter months that run from Tishrei to Nisan. A time in the calendar when weather varies: Tishrei can be rainy, and that leads into a deep, cold winter when the days are short and dark. Eventually, that leads into the beginning Nisan when the weather becomes warm and pleasant, a time that is usually met with enthusiasm and excitement, a sense of renewal. During the cold days, we don’t despair. We know that better weather, and longer warmer days are coming.  

So too, in our lives. There are days that feel cold and dark. But eventually, they turn into longer, warmer days. 


Don’t Become Complacent  

At times, a person might feel like they have failed so many times, they have sinned so often in a particular area, it really doesn’t matter if they continue this behavior. After all, what is a few more times? Nothing could be further from the truth. It is particularly important in this moment to reinforce the idea that we must strengthen our faith in ourselves, in our ability to rise and pick ourselves up.  

King Solomon warns us in Ecclesiastes (7:17): "Do not be overly wicked". The Talmud teaches a parable to express this idea in Shabbos (31b). There, Chazal taught that if someone eats garlic and their breath smells horribly, eating more garlic will only make the situation worse, the stink will become stronger and more pungent. Each bit of garlic has an impact. So too, each sin, each act that is not aligned with Torah and Mitzvot, drags a person further away from Hashem. When a yid feels himself slipping, is feeling lost or distant, it is in the moment that he most strengthens himself with the fundamental idea that nothing is lost, a failure is not an end, but can be the beginning of growth if that person makes the right choices. He doesn’t have to remain in the mud and sink further. Rather, he must keep walking, keep moving forward with one good deed after another, one step of goodness after another. He cannot despair because of his shortcomings. He can and must strive to connect to Hashem through His mitzvot and Torah.  

This trait, this ability to struggle through challenges and to grow as a result is unique to the Jewish people. The Talmud in Beitzah (25b) says that the Jewish people have the strongest nature not to give up; They don’t despair despite many attempts followed by many failures. They continue to struggle until they achieve, until they succeed. So too, the Jewish people.  

This trait is why Hashem provided us with the opportunity to learn his Torah and perform His Mitzvot. It is a mission, a task, that requires tenacity, courage to continue and work through difficulties and failures; to strive for success and realize that success can and will be achieved if you keep trying. 


In the Beginning  

This is what the Torah is teaching us in this week’s parsha. The Torah tells us that, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Rashi explains that the word “In the beginning (Breishit)” is teaching us that the very purpose of creation is the Torah and the Jewish people; both referred to as Reishit. In Proverbs (8:22), the Torah is referred to as “The beginning of His way", and in Jeremiah (2:3) the Jews are referred to as "Israel is holy to Hashem, the first of his crop".  

Why are the Jews compared to crop”?  

Grains grow from a seed. However, before that moment of growth, before the seed can become a living plant, the seed rots to the point where it appears completely dead. Only then, in the moment of rot, does the seed bring forth a plant; only then can it grow.  

So too, the yidden. At times we might feel like we are deteriorating, that we are rotting away. However, we must not give up. Rather, we must know that it is within this moment when all seems lost, that we find the ability to grow. Our determination carries us through the difficult challenges in life. We understand that life is about ups and downs, failures and successes. We know that success often follows failure. We remain committed and hopeful. We don’t give up. This mentality, this dedication, leads us to succeed in learning Torah, performing Mitzvot, and connecting to Hashem. This stubbornness is essential to our growth.  

God willing, every yid should know with absolute certainty that life will have moments of darkness and challenges and that those are the moments we can find the greatest opportunity for growth. Each of us should feel this reality, flee from despair, and cling to hope. We should always keep walking regardless of how stuck we might feel. By doing so, may every yid continue to grow in their relationship with Hashem and continue to connect to the light in their lives. Amen. 


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