FOOTSTEPS OF OUR FATHERS
Harav Y. Reuven Rubin Shlita
This is not an easy article to write, not simply because of its content but because I feel as if I am writing into an unknown void. Owing to the vagaries of publishing, I am typing these words on 29 March, a week before Shabbos Hagodol and yet I am tasked to write for the first week after Pesach.
At the moment we are living in perilous times, this virus is stalking the world, and one has no idea what the next moment will bring. Hopefully, this article will be deemed superfluous because the Moshiach will have arrived, if chas vesholom not, then at least hopefully the lock down will be over.
With this preamble, allow me to share my thoughts regarding the beginning of our yearly learning of Pirkei Avos, which starts this week. I want to focus on a lesson taught by the Rebbe Rav Bunim of Pshischa Ztl.
In Mishna 14 of the first chapter we read:
He (Hillel) used to say: If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And if I am for myself, what I am? And if not now, when?
Says the Rebbe Rav Bunim, a Yied has to have two pockets. In one he should place the aspect of humbleness as the passage says: ‘I am but earth and dust.’ and in the other he should put, “for me the world was created!”
The Yetzer Horah seeks to attack us at all different levels, sometimes he whispers, “Wow you’re takeh a tzadik, that was some Shemona Esrei you just said!” It is then that you should take out that supply of humility, because otherwise you just may begin to believe the Old Joker and have airs and graces. However, there are times when that Villain comes with the opposite approach. “Who do you think you’re kidding? You’re davening ain’t worth the time spent on it.” Then its time, says the Tzadik, to whip out that other aspect, after all, the whole world was in fact created so that each of us can fulfil our individual tikun. No one else can do that which we can, and this facilitates the ‘fixing’ of the world.
I will venture to say that when this article reaches you, we may well still be living in complicated times. Things will be difficult and we will have to muster all the kochos we can. Each of us must dig deep into ourselves. The world is created for us, and yes, our end will be earth and ashes. No matter, Boruch Hashem Yom Yom! Tzadikim tells us that we have only the moment we live in, the past is gone, and the future is not anything we can be certain of.
I once wrote a thought from the Izhbitzer Rebbe Ztl which spoke to his whole chasidous.
He mused, “The world is a very complicated place, we, each and every one of us, are extremely complicated, and most of all, Kaveyuchal the Eibishter is the most complicated of all. His wisdom, his love for Klall Yisroil, is far too complex for us mere mortals to fathom, and yet”, said the Rebbe, “we have total emunah and belief in Him, and this is the most complicated aspect of all”.
I venture a guess in saying that this Pesach has been an enormous learning curve, hopefully we have come out of it stronger and better. As humans, as family, as members of a community, in fact at every level. Hopefully we are better Menschen now, and we can move forward knowing that we all have that which the Rebbe Reb Bunim depicted, and have learnt to use them wisely.
The season for learning Avos has arrived, sweet Yidden, let’s delve into the rich tapestry of life’s greatest lessons and build ourselves further despite whatever the complicated world throws at us.