* Translation by Yehoshua Siskin (http://yehoshuasiskin.blogspot.com)
These days we are supposed to speak with brevity and wit. This was the style of Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk, who passed away 163 years ago today.
He was a leader who was known for his sharp, profound witticisms. Long before tweets, he was adept at delivering his messages in highly compact form. Here are some of his pearls which prove that you can be both brief and deep:
* *"Silence is the most beautiful sound".*
* *"Everything in the universe can be imitated except the truth, since a copy of the truth is no longer truth".*
* *"Where is God to be found? Wherever you let him in".*
* *"I would not want to worship a God whose ways are understood by the minds of mere mortals".*
* *"I want to bring my students not to sin, not because sinning is forbidden, but simply because they won't have time to sin."*
* *"Sinning is not about the sin itself, but about the lack of belief in self-rectification and teshuvah after the sin occurs - which is the greatest sin of all."*
* *"Nothing is more whole than a broken heart".*
This lesson, while not from the Kotz\ker Rebbe, suits his outlook:
The pairing of the words "לא טוב" or "not good" occurs only twice in the Torah. The first time is in parashat Bereishit: "It's not good for a man to be alone." These words are spoken by God just before Adam meets Eve. The loneliness that accompanies the single life, alongside the quest for a lifetime partner, preoccupies us until today.
The second time these words appear is in the Torah portion that we just read on Shabbat. Yitro sees Moshe taking too much upon himself, judging disputes between the people from morning until evening, and then Yitro says to him: "The thing you are doing is not good." In other words: You need to allow other people to assist you in your work, to delegate authority.
The message here is the same, in fact, as in parashat Bereishit: "It's not good for a man to be alone." It's not good to work alone, all by yourself, without partners.
Extreme isolation and exaggerated individualism are among the plagues of our time. May we be privileged to learn how to upgrade from what is not good to what is good. Shavua tov.
And speaking of isolation, I received this letter:
"Shalom Sivan, I read that you tested positive and that you are in isolation. Me too. I wanted to share a thought I had once my door was closed, and members of my household and my customers had to manage without me.
"In this week's Torah portion, Yitro joins the nation of Israel and notices that Moshe Rabbeinu, his son-in-law, is working from morning until evening, sitting in judgment of the people's disputes. Yitro does not understand why and asks Moshe: 'What is this thing that you are doing to the people? Why do you sit by yourself, while all the people stand before you from morning till evening?'
Moshe Rabbeinu explains to him that his work is never done, that the people never stop coming to him, to which Yitro sharply responds: 'The thing you are doing is not good. You will surely wear yourself out, both you and these people who are with you, for the matter is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone.'
Yitro suggests that Moshe appoint a bevy of assistants: leaders over thousands, leaders over hundreds, leaders over fifties, and leaders over tens - in other words, that he delegate authority to others. There are matters that others can address so that Moshe Rabbeinu has time left over to do what is truly important.
And then, Yitro promises, if Moshe will heed his advice, 'then you will be able to endure, and this entire people, as well, will arrive at its destination in peace.'
If even Moshe Rabbeinu cannot and need not do everything, it would seem that I can't either. And it's notewrothy that all of this happens just before matan Torah, the giving of the Torah. In other words, the prerequisite to receiving the Torah is knowing how to delegate and how to manage our day so that we can make time in our schedule for our souls.
May we be so privileged and may you and all mankind have a speedy and complete recovery."