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HOW CAN I CHANGE?

Thursday, 9 February, 2017 - 8:30 pm

A successful businessman met with his new son-in-law. "Welcome to the family," said the man. "To show you how much we care for you, I'm making you a 50-50 partner in my business. All you have to do is manage the daily operations in the factory.”

The son-in-law interrupted, "I hate factories. I can't stand the noise."

"I see," replied the father-in-law. "Well, then you'll be in charge of the office responsibilities.”

"I hate office work," said the son-in-law. "I can't stand being stuck behind a desk all day."

"Wait a minute," said the father-in-law. "I just made you half-owner of a moneymaking organization, but you don't like factories and won't work in an office. What am I going to do with you?"

"Easy," said the young man. "Buy me out."

This week’s Torah portion, Beshalach, talks about the splitting of the sea. Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and toward morning the sea returned to its strength, as the Egyptians were fleeing toward it, and the Lord stirred the Egyptians into the sea. The Midrash focuses on a strange term in this verse: “The sea returned to its strength.” The Midrash explains that the verse can be understood to mean that the Red Sea returned to its original condition. What condition? When G-d created the Red Sea during Creation, He made a condition that on the seventh day of Pesach, when the Jews would be by its shores, the sea would split open and allow them to pass through.

There are two obvious questions: Why the need for a condition at the onset of creation? If G-d is in control of His world, then even with no condition, He can “instruct” the sea to split!

Additionally, why does the Torah say that “the sea returned to its condition” only when the waters came back together? The Torah should have stated that the sea returned to its condition when it described the SPLITTING of the sea, not when it reverted back to being a regular sea!

The Chassidic masters gave a fabulous explanation.

The above Midrash points out that G-d makes conditions not only with the sea, but with all of existence. G-d also makes a condition with every person in the world. He tells each person, “There will be one moment in your life when you can save someone else’s life, a moment when you can achieve the purpose for which I created you, but—you have to “split your sea.” You have to be ready to transcend your nature, go out of your comfort zone, and be something else. There are times when you have to replicate the splitting of the sea, when the water ceased to be its natural self and became dry land. In life, I can’t be you; you can’t be me. But there are moments I have to be what I am not.

The Talmud says that finding your soul mate is like crossing the Red Sea, because for two people to find each other, love each other, and live and build a life together, they have to “split the sea” every once in a while. If they only live by their own schedules, if they cling stubbornly to their own ways of seeing and doing things, they will never make it together. They will always be “I” and “you”—unless they are like the Red Sea which understood that sometimes, you have to challenge your instincts and habits, and open yourself up for another to pass into your heart!

But how can we change? It is the hardest thing in the world, because we believe it will destroy us.

Therefore, G-d embedded the ability and willingness to change its nature when the right moment comes into the DNA of Creation. When G-d created the Red Sea, He made a condition that there would be a moment when it would stop being a sea and become dry land. Our ability for transcendence is inherent in our very design and chemistry. We were created with the “brain elasticity” to try new things, to shake up the system, to split our sea. The Talmud states that before a person is born, an announcement is already made in heaven that he or she will marry this lovely woman or man, but for this, we need to be ready change a thousand times!

A Buddhist monk visited Manhattan. In a Jewish grocery store, he took a bottle of water, gave the owner a 5 dollar bill, and stood there.

Finally, after 10 minutes of silence and deep meditation, the Jew asked, “Sir, can I help you?”

“Change,” the Buddhist Monk said, pointing to the owner of the shop.

“Change? Change must come from within,” the Jew replied, pointing to the heart of the Monk.

A story is told about a hardworking man who simply couldn't make a living. He had to marry off his daughter, but there wasn’t a penny in the home.

Under pressure from his wife and kids, he went to a great Chassidic master for advice. "Go to the market and spend your last dollars on the first deal you see," advised the Rebbe. The man decided to follow this advice, as no other strategy had helped.

He went to the market and the first booth he saw was a jewel dealer. "I'd like to buy a jewel, but I've only got $10," said the man. "Ha! For $10, you can't even buy a counterfeit jewel!" replied the merchant. "I beg you," responded the man, "sell me something for $10. Anything!" The merchant thought for a moment and made an offer. "If you really insist, I'll give you my share in the world to come for $10." The man agreed, paid the money, and walked away.

When the jewel merchant told his wife what had transpired, she was furious. "Even if you are no great believer, why are you so reckless as to throw away something that might have real value for something so insignificant? Go find that buyer and demand he return your share in the world to come!"

When the merchant found the man and asked for a “refund,” the man resisted. "I'll sell it back for $100,000, but no less," replied the man, realizing he had a chance to marry off his daughter and have some spare money to begin a business. The merchant was livid that the man would try to make such a profit off him, but the man stubbornly refused to return it for less than $100,000. After some time, they agreed to ask the town’s rabbi to resolve their dispute.

The rabbi sided with the poor man, and explained his decision to the merchant: "When you sold your share of Olam Haba, it was truly worth nothing to you. Now that you've reconsidered what you have sold, you realize that its value is beyond measure! $100,000 is a bargain for your share in Olam Haba. The man has the right to sell it for that much."

He paid the money and the Jew was overjoyed.

When he went back to the Rebbe to tell him what had happened, the Rebbe said:

The truth is that in the beginning his Olam Haba was indeed not worth more than $10. But now, as a result of the charity he has given you, his world to come is indeed worth much more than $100,000!

Shabbat Shalom,Rabbi
Yoseph Geisinsky


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