Friday, 12 May, 2023 - 11:19 am

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 would 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. These are the mouth of the earth [that swallowed Korach]; the mouth of [Miriam's] well… And some say also the spirits of destruction as well as the original tongs, for tongs are made with other tongs.

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 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,

It is thus profoundly perplexing to encounter the conclusion of this Mishnah:

“And some say 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? Ergo, the first pair must have been provided directly by the Creator himself.

Yet we are left with a few powerful questions:

1)   Granted, why did G-d create this pair of tongs on Friday during twilight together with all 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)   Even if you will find an explanation of why the first pair of tongs had to be fashioned by the Almighty Himself, why do we single out tongs alone? This is true about every single individual species of animal and botany as well. The first pair of males and females of all species had to be created in order to allow for procreation and regeneration.

The Rebbe presented his marvelous answer to these questions.

One of the frustrating elements of life is that so much of it is focused on preparing for something else. Getting from step A to step C requires step B and that can occupy more time and resources than even step C. Many a business went down the drain because the people on top did not realize how many resources they must allocate to the infrastructure, independent of the actual goals. 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.

In the same vein, so much of our life is squandered on waiting.

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, then we wait for the bank to approve the loan, then we wait to win the lottery the ticket to pay the debt…

When we are teenagers in high school, we tell ourselves that when we'll graduate High School—that’s when life begins. But then, hey, we find some crumby job, and we tell ourselves, that when we cultivate the right connections, put away enough cash to begin a start-up, ah, that’s when life will begin…

But wait, we tell ourselves, life did not begin yet… first, we need to get married and purchase our own home, and then we can really begin to settle down and start living…

So, friends, if at every stage of life, we are preparing for the next stage; if at every stage there is something minus to deal with and get over with, when is the right time to start living?

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 the supernatural objects that all manifest the Divine in the most revealed 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.

The Midrash relates the following story:

Once David, before being crowned as king, was sitting in the garden and watching 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 into 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 of the cave and was rescued this time. After King Shaul left the cave, David thanked the spider.

If G-d allowed us to go through our lives without any obstacles, it would cripple us. We would not be as strong as we could have been. We could never fly!

 Shabbat Shalom, Chazak, Chazak, Venitchazek!

Rabbi Yoseph Geisinsky


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