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CHALLENGES OR OPPORTUNITIES?

Friday, 21 July, 2017 - 12:00 pm

The coach had put together the perfect team for the Chicago Bears. The only thing that was missing was a good quarterback. He had scouted all the colleges and even the Canadian and European Leagues, but he couldn't find the guy who could ensure a Super Bowl win.

Then one night while watching CNN he saw a war-zone scene in the West Bank. In one corner of the background, he spotted a young Israeli soldier with a truly incredible arm. He threw a hand-grenade straight into a 15th story window 100 yards away. KABOOM! He threw another hand-grenade 75 yards away, right into a a chimney. KA-BLOOEY! Then he threw another at a passing car going 90 mph. BULLS-EYE!

"I've got to get this guy!" Coach said to himself. "He has the perfect arm!" So, he brings him to the States and teaches him the great game of football. And the Bears go on to win the Super Bowl.

The young man is hailed as the great hero of football, and when the coach asks him what he wants, all the young man wants is to call his mother.

"Mom," he says into the phone, "I just won the Super Bowl!"

"I don't want to talk to you," the old woman says. “You are not my son!"

"I don't think you understand, Mother," the young man pleads. "I've won the greatest sporting event in the world. I'm here among thousands of my adoring fans."

"No! Let me tell you!" his mother retorts. "At this very moment, there are gunshots all around us. The neighborhood is a pile of rubble. Your two brothers were beaten within an inch of their wives last week, and I have to keep your sister in the house so she doesn't get abused!"

The old lady pauses, and then tearfully says, "I will never forgive you for making us move to Chicago!"

In this weeks portion Matot and Massei Moses said: These are the journeys of the children of Israel who went out of the land of Egypt... The Midrash compares G-d’s instruction to Moses to record all the forty-two stations in the nation’s journey from Egypt to  the borders of the Promised Land to the story of a king traveling with his child to seek a cure for the child’s illness. On their return journey, as they passed through the stations at which they had originally stopped, the king reminded his child: Here we slept, here we were cooled, here your head hurt.

Three obvious questions come to mind:

1) What was the objective of G-d commanding Moses to recount the entire journey in order to remember all the places where they fell “ill”?

2) What is the symbolism behind these three examples cited by the king to his son: “Here we slept, here we were cooled, here your head hurt”?

3) The metaphor does not reflect the biblical story. The journey from Egypt to the Holy Land was a one-way journey.  The Jews did not return to Egypt, nor did they physically revisit their encampments in the desert.

The Exodus marked our birth as a nation; our entry into the Land of Israel, the attainment of our national and spiritual maturity. In between, we had to undergo a 40-year journey through “the great and fearsome desert, [a place of] venomous snakes and scorpions and thirst for lack of water.” This journey had forty-two stations. Some, like the year-long stay at Mount Sinai, included moments of sublime revelation. Most, however, were accompanied by doubt, strife, betrayal, and the perpetual contest between man and G-d. In the end, however, they resulted in the attainment of “the good and broad land” that was the objective of the journey.

The same is true in the human story. At each stage in our life, when we fight our way out of the desert into our own promised land, we too can look back at all the stations of our journey and see them for what they truly were: challenges and opportunities that paved, rather than impeded, our advance through the desert. Rather than the pitfalls and obstacles as which we first experienced them, we can recognize them as rungs in the ladder that have raised us to this elevated plateau.

There was a man who had four sons. He wanted his sons to learn not to judge things too quickly. So, he sent them on a quest, in turn, to go and look at a pear tree that was a great distance away.

The first son went in the winter, the second son in the spring, the third son in the summer, the youngest son in the fall.

When they had all gone and come back, he called them together to describe what they had seen.

The first son said that the tree was ugly, bent, and twisted.

The second son said, "No," it was covered with green buds and full of promise.

The third son disagreed; he said it was laden with blossoms that smelled so sweet and looked so beautiful. It was the most graceful thing he had ever seen.

The last son disagreed with all of them; he said it was ripe and drooping with fruit, full of life and fulfillment.

The man then explained to his sons that they were all right, because they had each seen but only one season in the tree's life.

He told them that you cannot judge a tree, or a person, by only one season, and that the essence of who they are and the pleasure, joy, and love that come from that life can only be measured at the end, when all of the seasons are up.

If you give up when it's winter, you will miss the promise of your spring, the beauty of your summer, fulfillment of your fall.

Don't let the pain of one season define all of life. Don't judge life by one difficult season. Persevere through the difficult patches and the better times are sure to come sometime and they may even redefine the challenges of the past.

As the old saying goes: "Aspire to inspire before you expire."

Happiness keeps you sweet.

Trials keep you strong.

Sorrows keep you human.

Failures keep you humble. 

Success keeps you glowing.

But only G-d keeps you going!

Just as in the above parable, it is the father who takes his child and remains with him during each journey. Friends, our father is holding your hand. Stand strong and confident! 

Shabbat Shalom & Chodesh Tov,
Rabbi Yoseph Geisinsky

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