Friday, 7 May, 2021 - 2:57 pm

A talented artist asked his gallery owner if anyone had shown interest in his paintings.





"I've got good news and bad news," she said. "The good news is that some guy inquired if your work will appreciate in value after you die. When I told him that it would, he bought all 15 of your original paintings. He spent 4.9 million dollars on your paintings."





“That’s awesome,” exclaims the artist. “I can now retire in wealth. And the bad news?"



"That guy was your doctor."





There is a fascinating Mishnah studied on this Shabbat—in chapter five of Ethics of the Fathers:



Ten things were created at the twilight of Shabbat eve. This is quite an interesting Mishnah—and its message seems clear. Toward the end of the six days of creation, Friday evening during twilight, on the very border separating the day of tranquility from the six days of work—all the “miraculous” objects that would emerge throughout history reflecting the imprint of a Divine force in creation were conceived or created. From the manna feeding the Israelites in the desert to Balaam's talking donkey to the fissure that opened to swallow up Korach and his rebellious congregation, to the Tablets containing the Ten Commandments—all these and similar entities, existing on the border between heaven and earth, representing a High Power in our world, were conceived or created on the first Friday of creation, in the twilight between Friday and the Shabbat.





It says in the conclusion of this Mishnah:



“And some say also the spirits of destruction as well as the original tongs, for tongs are made with tongs.”





What does this mean? Why are we talking about tongs?



The Talmud explains: When a blacksmith fashions a pair of metal tongs in the forge—or any other metal tool or vessel—the only way he can handle the red-hot metal is with tongs. Since we are speaking of the manufacture of the first pair of tongs in history, this possibility did not exist. How then did the first pair of tongs come into existence? The first pair must have been provided directly by the Creator himself.





Yet we are left with a few powerful questions:



1) Granted, the first pair of tongs could not be formed in fire by a blacksmith since there was no previous tong with which to fashion them. But why did G-d create this pair of tongs on Friday during twilight together with all of the other supernatural objects? Is it that important for G-d, moments before Shabbat, to make sure that tongs are created together with the manna, Moses’ staff, and Balaam’s donkey?





2) The entire premise that the first pair of tongs needed to be created directly by G-d is flawed. It was possible that the person who made the first tongs did so by first making a tong-shaped mold, and then filling it with molten fluid iron, which then assumes the shape of the mold. For thousands of years, to this very day, humans have designed metals through this method. Why did the Sages insist then that the first pair of tongs was created by G-d, not by man?





The Rebbe presented his marvelous answer to these questions. In this cryptic Mishnah the sages were expressing a profound theological and psychological idea.





One of the frustrating elements of life is that so much of it is focused on preparing for something else. Before you move into your dream house, you need to build it. And that can drain the “neshamah” out of you for years and years.





You arrive at the airport two and a half hours before your domestic flight, like a good gentile. You are trying to be on top of your game. The security line stretches for an hour; you are frustrated, but you have arrived early, so you will not miss your flight. When you arrive at the gate, you discover that your flight is delayed for two hours. Your entire day has been lost.



We are forever waiting. We wait for our “bashert” to show up, in the interim dating who-knows how many people; we wait for our resume to be accepted or rejected; we wait for the IRS to accept our offer; we wait for our husband to come home when he said he will be home an hour ago; we wait for the university to accept our applications or reject it. We wait for the architect to come up with the plans, then we wait for the bank to approve the loan, then we wait to win the lottery ticket to pay the debt…



At every stage of life, there is always something incomplete. We are always in therapy for something; we are always anxious about some problem; we always have either back pain or a stomach ache; we are always overweight or underpaid. Nothing is ever perfect.





So, if at every stage of life, we are preparing for the next stage; when is the right time to start living? When is the right time to be content? To be fully focused, happy, and feel that I have reached my destination? If all time is nothing more than in-between time, preparing for the next phase, when do we stop, sit down, and we say, finally, now I am busy living, I can’t be distracted by another text or email?



Ah, this is the secret of the tongs. The first pair of tongs was nothing more than a preparation to be able to fashion other metals in the smelting heat. Its entire identity and objective were to prepare for another objective. Yet G-d created it and created it at the highlight of the week together with all of the supernatural objects that all manifest the Divine in the most revealing way, to teach us that He is to be found not only in the goals but also in the journeys. From the true Torah perspective, there is no such thing as “real-time” and in-between time. There is only one kind of time: Divine time. There are long journeys and short journeys, there are large jobs and small jobs, there are obvious opportunities and situations in which we scratch our heads and wonder, "why are we here?" But all of the time is real; every moment is crucial. Every segment of our lives, no matter how fleeting or temporary, has a center, a purpose, an objective in and of itself: it is what G-d wants from me, now at this moment, hence it is not only an obstacle to get over but possess meaning and magic all its own.





The Midrash relates the following story:



Once David, before crowned as king, was sitting in the garden and watched a wasp paralyzing a spider. Amazed by the scene, David who was in a constant dialogue with G-d asked his creator why he created these useless creatures. The wasp doesn’t produce honey but can dispose of bees, and the spider weaves day and night, but it doesn’t manage to weave a garment. God’s reply was simple: “A day will come, and you shall learn to appreciate those creatures”.





After a while, King Saul began to envy David’s military success and chased him to arrest him fearing he was a threat to his kingship. David escaped to Yehuda’s plain and hid in a cave. A spider found the cave’s entrance and weaved its web in it. Shaul arrived at the entrance, noticed the spider web, and said in his heart: “If a person would enter the cave, he would probably tear the web”.





David when out from the cave, and was rescued this time. After King Shaul left the cave, David thanked the spider.





In the next biblical episode, David goes to King’s Shaul’s camp in the desert to show him that his defenses can be cracked and he still would not harm him. David approached to take the King’s water canteen and the King’s army minister moved his heavy feet on David and prevented him from leaving the tent. But then a wasp appeared and stung the King’s army minister and he moved his foot, and David was rescued from danger. David thanked the wasp in his heart, turned to G-d, and said: “I understand…”





Even the “tongs” in our lives—those moments, realities, experiences, work, encounters—in which we see no value but endless stress and frustration, simply necessary to get to the next stage—these tongs were created, fashioned, and designed by G-d Himself, and when?—at the same time, He created all those things that reflect His infinite grace, wisdom, and light.





Sure, we could have created the first tongue through a mold; but G-d wanted to give humanity this critical insight—that even the smallest, apparently insignificant moments and actions of your life contains Divine meaning and can become sources of blessing, wisdom, inspiration, and profound growth if you only have the courage to see them that way.



Shabbat Shalom and Chodesh Tov,





Rabbi Yoseph Geisinsky



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