Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim – Associate Rosh Yeshiva – PTI – Passaic Torah Institute – Bo – Using All Your Talents For Positive Accomplishment

I remember the wedding of a good friend of mine, Rabbi Dovid Kaplan, who is now a major maggid shiur in Yerushalayim. During one of the lively dances, a bochur came in dribbling a basketball, passed it to Dovid and signaled him to continue the dribble, but Dovid modestly tossed the ball back. Then the Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel, picked up the basketball and threw it to Dovid with a twinkle in his eye. This time, Dovid started to dribble the ball with the speed and precision of a superstar player! Few people there knew Dovid had been an accomplished player in high school. The Rosh Yeshiva knew…and sent him the message that he should be proud of all his talents and use them well. As a talmid, Dovid was a star in Gemara learning but he could be a star dribbler on the dance floor also, to enhance his great simcha.

One who has a distinct quality or predisposition can’t ignore it. Rather, he needs to properly channel the talent. In Parshas Bo, Pharaoh initially grants permission to the Jewish nation to leave Egypt to serve Hashem in the desert. Yet, he included a foreboding statement: “Hashem should be with you when I send you and your children—see that there is evil in front of you.”1.1KHas the travel ban harmed Israel’s relations with the diaspora? – Rabbi Dr. Warren Goldsteinhttps://player.adtelligent.com/prebid/iframe.html?adid=941ca08193f9e5fd&ref=https%3A%2F%2Fjewishlink.news

Rashi quotes the Midrash, which explains that Pharaoh was telling Moshe, “I am a master astrologist and I see a star called Ra’ah—evil—that is looming over the Jewish nation in the desert.” This is a sign of bloodshed—indicating that the Jews will all perish in the desert. Therefore, Pharaoh claimed that the Jewish nation was better off staying in Egypt. Rashi notes that this is exactly the scenario Moshe conveyed to Hashem after the Sin of the Golden Calf. Moshe entreated Hashem not to kill the Jews since people in Egypt would think Pharaoh’s astrological prediction was true: the Jews were doomed from the start of the redemption! So Hashem suspended the decree until klal Yisrael entered Eretz Yisrael and Yehoshua performed a bris milah (circumcision) on all the male Jews and the blood of the milah replaced the decree of blood on the Jews.

But why not just abolish the decree altogether? The Sefer Toras Chaim explains that Hashem never negates His decree; rather, when appropriate, He replaces it with something not harmful. We see this in the moving prayer Unesaneh Tokef on Rosh Hashanah. “Teshuvah, tefillah and tzedakah…ma’avirin es roah hagezeirah,” simply translated as “repentance, prayer and charity remove the evil of the decree.” While the word ma’avir is loosely translated as “remove,” it more precisely means to trade in or exchange. The harmfulness of a decree is exchanged for something more positive when the individual engages in repentance, prayer and charity.

Rav Yonasan Eibeshitz explains that the Gemara says a person who is born under the mazal (astrological influence) of ma’adim (Mars, the red planet) is predisposed to a measure of bloodshed. They will be either a mohel, butcher or murderer. When Pharaoh, with his astrological insight, foresaw the star of blood over the Jewish nation in the desert, he knew the Jews would not perform bris milah while they were in the desert and they would not be slaughtering animals for their own consumption, so the only other option for the sign of blood meant bloodshed for the Jewish nation. This was only prevented by Moshe’s prayers, which led the Almighty to exchange the bloodshed decree for the blood of bris milah when the Jews entered Eretz Yisrael.

Rav Shlomo Wolbe notes that when the Gemara lists the options for the person born under the mazal (star) of ma’adim, it lists only certain related options for a profession involving blood: a mohel or a butcher. Otherwise, a more evil option (murderer) may ensue. The Gemara is teaching us that we cannot dismiss our tendencies. What we need to do is channel them for good use. For example, many children are very active and find sitting still in school very difficult. They need to be given activities or learning approaches that channel their active natures. Denying who they are will only worsen their school experience.

Hashem gives each of us many talents, and programs our every inclination. Parents and teachers have the opportunity to help shape and nurture the unique attributes of their charges into ways to serve Hashem and to fulfill each person’s fullest potential.