As the covid-19 situation continues, we are charting new territory. Many are coping with loss and others are trying to heal. Some are home all alone and have difficulty accessing food and provisions they need, in addition to having feelings of loneliness. Others who are blessed to be healthy, still have their challenges. While working from home, many are helping their children with all their “homeschooling“ needs – juggling phones and various devices to ensure their children can listen to their classes, and printing out and picking up papers needed for their school work. In addition, they are ensuring there is enough food in the house, given the limited shopping abilities.
Many of us are feeling strained; I certainly am. That’s why I started a new short (2-3 minute) daily shiur called the “Daily Bitachon Builder — the key to peace of mind,” as a WhatsApp group: https://chat.whatsapp.com/Cbc0Ckj9xZY2xBTUPgOvZd. Further developing our reliance on Hashem will give us peace of mind. Whatever happens in our life is not up to us. Hashem placed us in this scenario and we need to do our best to deal with it. The rest is up to Hashem.
Sometimes we may feel like we’re falling short. Particularly now, during Sefira, we’re supposed to be enhancing ourselves spiritually, but we may feel we’re far from reaching our spiritual goals.
Take a deep breath. There is a very reassuring concept learned from an episode mentioned in the Gemara regarding Shammai and Hillel. Someone approached the great sage Shammai and asked to be converted while standing on one foot. Shammai pushed him away with a builder’s measuring stick. The person then approached Hillel, who agreed to convert him by teaching him one concept. “What you don’t want done to you, don’t do to others” based on the pasuk in Parshas Kedoshim, “V’ahavta lereacha kamocha (Love your neighbor like yourself).”
What’s the significance of standing on one foot and why reject the prospective convert by pushing him away with a builder’s measuring stick? Rav Avrohom Schorr, in the name of the Maggid Hagadol, explains the prospective convert’s intention in his insistence on standing on one foot. When we stand on two feet, we can move either closer or away from a destination. But if we stand on one foot, we are stationary. He was asking to be converted on condition that he stay on steady ground, with no unwanted ‘ups and downs.’ Shammai pushed him away with the builder’s stick to signify one can’t ‘build’ his service of Hashem this way. Nothing stays put. Hashem created the world with various waves: sound waves, light waves, magnetic waves, etc. Waves are the way of the world. When a person in the hospital is hooked up to an EKG machine, it displays the person’s heartbeat with waves. If the waves go flat, the heart has stopped beating.
Our service to Hashem also has waves, with lots of ups and downs. Hillel agreed to convert him by teaching him one concept: “What you don’t want done to you, don’t do to others.” This is the key to the Torah. If you master this, you can learn the rest.
How so? The Sfas Emes explains Hillel was teaching that the way to ensure consistent performance in the service of Hashem is by always taking other people’s needs into account. If we are sensitive to the needs of others, if we can put others first, then we are also showing we are open to making the service of Hashem the highest priority. The way we can stabilize ourselves if we personally have a slump, is to connect with others and with Hashem. That’s the way one is able to stand on one foot and weather the ups and downs of life.
This week is Pesach Sheini. During the first Pesach after leaving Mitzrayim, those who were unable to offer the sacrifice because they were tamei, were given a second opportunity by Hashem one month later — on the eve of the fifteenth of Iyar.
Part of being a Jew is having a second chance to do what is required. We all have ups and downs and these experiences can in fact make us better! We learn and grow from our mistakes. While we might not be performing to the standard we want and we might be in a slump, that’s part of life. We need to pick ourselves up so we can ride the next wave upward. Let us thank all those who are going out of their way to keep us healthy – nurses, doctors and healthcare workers. Let us think about others who are also having a hard time, perhaps even more challenging than ours, and see how we can help them. Let us reach out to one person today to see how we can help, even if it’s just to provide a friendly ear.
Together, we can strengthen each other.