Crossing The Sea: The Opportunity To Succeed

Rabbi Shloime Twerski zt”l didn’t allow the practice, common in most shuls, for someone to walk the tzedakah pushka around the room to make it convenient for everyone to fulfill the mitzvah of daily charitable giving. He explained that this practice, by introducing the element of avoiding shame, reduces the strength of the mitzvah. Better that a Jew makes the effort to walk over to the pushka on his own than to possibly make the donation even a little less-than-intentional because someone, standing in front of him, expects him to.

The value system of Torah places great emphasis on individual responsibility and growth. A major theme in many Kabbalah books in the movement from katnut, smallness, to gadlut, greatness, from mochin katnin, immaturity, to mochin gadlin, maturity (literally, from the brains of a child to those of an adult). Of course, everyone is familiar with the adage of the advantage of giving a man a fishing pole and teaching him the skill of fishing over merely giving him a fish.

No argument, the dollar given under gaze of the collector buys exactly as much as the dollar walked over by the giver. Likewise, a fish caught contains the same nutrition as one received as a gift. But this is examining the situation blind in one eye and with highly compromised vision in the other. Only a tiny part of the story is understood.

The greatest gift we can give someone in need is the opportunity to succeed on their own. Not only do we launch someone on their road to independence, their successes will be all the sweeter, lacking the bitter taste of what our sages called nechama d’kisufa, often translated as “bread of shame”, literally, “magic comfort”.

While the Torah is full of examples of God setting tasks and trials for mankind, Avraham’s instruction to leave the comfort of the familiar or to offer is son, Yitzchak, as a live sacrifice, the reading and entire theme of the seventh day of Pesach most clearly illustrates this value. God could, of course, just as easily presented the Sea already split with a dry path stretching in front of Bnei Yisrael. As we know, He didn’t choose to do that. Rather, we were faced with a roaring,  impassable barrier of water and an implacable enemy at our heels. We’re familiar with the story that only Nachshon Ben Aminadav had the gumption to set foot into those raging waters. But that first footstep, admirable as it was, was insufficient to split the waters. Rather, God gave him, and all of us by extension, the gift of being able to invest ourselves fully in order to succeed–it wasn’t until he was literally over his head that the waters parted, the future became clear and we all were able to clearly see that the opportunity to succeed is, indeed, one of God’s greatest gifts to mankind.

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3 Responses to Crossing The Sea: The Opportunity To Succeed

  1. Love the sensitivity you share of Rabbi Shloime Twerski zt”l; the nuancing of Mitzvot in this way is received by this reader as a form of honey from the Rock. Modem l’simcha!

  2. Mr. Cohen says:

    Shabbat Praised by Famous Non-Jewish Celebrity:

    Pop superstar Katy Perry recently said:

    “I wish there was a thing like Shabbat that wasn’t particularly religious-based, that was kind of a worldwide day where we’re not on our phones — like a movement…”

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