* Translation by Yehoshua Siskin (http://yehoshuasiskin.blogspot.com)
I have heard Avraham Fried sing many times, but recently I heard him speak. Fried participated in the launch of a new book: "Lo Bikashti Lavo L'Olam" (I Didn't Ask to Come into this World). The book (in Hebrew only) was written by his brother, Rabbi Manis Friedman, and Dr. Elad Ben Elul. Here is a thought from Fried, as expressed during last night's event:
"I am here with my brother, but I want to pose a question from my sister. Recently she asked. Why do we begin the day with the rooster? The first blessing that we say in the morning blessings is: "Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who gives the rooster understanding to distinguish between day and night." Once the rooster served as an alarm clock since his cock-a-doodle-do awakened us at sunrise. But why do we need to remind ourselves of the rooster today?
"It's a reminder that the rooster starts his day with a song. He does not only know how to distinguish between day and night. As soon as the day begins, he calls out with great emotion. This is his niggun, and it is a call to us to begin our day with song. I am now reminded of this idea daily with the morning blessings, and try to begin each day with a niggun. This is especially pertinent now, in the month of Adar when joy increases."
No matter what song you decide to sing, work on personal development every day.
What are you good at?
"How many times in one minute can you hop on one foot?" Avi Avraham asked the girls in the Nifgashot workshop. Avi, director of the Coma Center for Advancement and Empowerment through Music, wrote down their answers: 20, 30, maybe 50 . . . and then the girls stood up during the Zoom broadcast, a signal was given, and the girls hopped for one minute. The results were astonishing: 90, 100, even 120 hops.
"You see? Sometimes we underestimate our abilities," Avi said. Through a number of such exercises, he taught us how to focus on our strengths and successes. "We are mainly preoccupied with our failures and our weaknesses, with what we are not good at, but much less with our successes. We are not taught to analyze the successes that reveal our true, if often unexpressed, potential. Everyone here must know how to answer the question: What are you good at? What we're good at should then serve as a starting point for all our future endeavors.
We learned the thoughts of two legendary rabbis on this subject.
Rabbi Yeruchom Levovitz (1873-1936) of the Mir yeshiva in Belarus told his students. "Woe to the one who does not know his weaknesses because he does not know what to fix, but woe ever more to the one who does not know his strengths, since then he does not even know the tools he has for fixing."
Rabbi Baruch of Mezhibuz (1753-1811) suggested a radical interpretation of a verse in Psalm 145. This psalm constitutes the Ashrei prayer, recited three times daily, which lists the qualities of God. However, whereas verse 12 of this psalm is typically understood as "To inform human beings of His strengths," Rabbi Baruch explained it as: "To inform human beings of their strengths." We must make people aware of their enormous strengths. People do not know the extent of their power. It's a mitzvah to inform and teach them about the awesome forces that lie within.
Thanks, Avi. And now you, too, are invited to hop on one foot for one minute, and count . .
Not right here, not right now
A certain rabbi was once asked his opinion of the French Revolution. "It's too early," he said. "It happened only two hundred years ago."
Regarding the hectic and frenetic times in which we live, this week's Torah portion includes a pertinent cautionary tale. The nation of Israel is waiting for Moshe Rabbeinu at the foot of Mount Sinai, but after forty days the people lose their patience. They lack the capacity to wait for the Ten Commandments and quickly prepare a substitute, a golden calf. The source of the sin of the golden calf is impatience, the desire to get everything right here, right now.
Rabbi Yaakov Galinksy was accustomed to say that in our days, too, sometimes "Moshe Rabbeinu is late." The Torah is not always immediately accessible or instantly understood. Eternal values are not necessarily transmitted at superhighway speed. Moshe Rabbeinu is not always the most "in the know" or up-to-date. He has no glittery magic solutions. In contrast to the golden calf, he does not offer any tangible, glittery form of instant gratification. Instead, he demands that the people undergo a lengthy spiritual process.
From then until now, Rabbi Galinsky explained, Jews have been criticized for not living with the times, for not changing in order to fit into the prevailing culture. Perhaps all of us, too, should ask ourselves: When are we, due to our impatience, likely to choose the golden calf over the Ten Commandments and opt for a temporary, fraudulent quick fix over a long-term process of growth?