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Thursday, 14 May, 2015 - 11:49 am

Sarah was always late to work. She just couldn't wake up on time. Her boss told her she would fire her if it did not stop. Sarah decided to seek the advice of her doctor. He prescribed some medication and told her to take one pill before going to sleep. She did so, and woke up before the alarm clock sounded. Feeling well rested, she headed to work. Sarah told her boss about the prescription and how well it worked. Her boss replied, “That's great, but where were you yesterday?”

This Shabbat is a double portion: Behar and Bechukotai. It is also Shabbat Chazak, for we conclude the third book of the Torah, Vayikra, as well as Shabbat when we bless the coming month of Sivan. During Sivan we celebrate the holiday of Shavuot, the receiving of the Torah from G-d at Mount Sinai 3,327 years ago. This year, Shavuot falls out on May 24th-25th.

There is a custom to study the Ethics of the Fathers each Shabbat during the summer. The Mishnah says, in chapter 5, “Ten things were created at twilight of Shabbat eve. These are: the mouth of the earth [that swallowed Korach]; the mouth of [Miriam's] well; the mouth of [Balaam's] donkey; the rainbow; the manna… as well as the original tongs, for tongs are made with other tongs.”

This is quite an interesting Mishnah—and its message seems clear. Towards the end of the Six Days of Creation, on Friday evening during twilight, on the 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 Jews in the desert, to Balaam's talking donkey, to the fissure that opened to swallow Korach and his rebellious congregation—all these and similar entities, existing on the border between heaven and earth, were conceived or created on the first Friday of creation, in the twilight bordering the mundane six weekdays and the holy day of Shabbat.

But how do “tongs” fall into this group? Granted, the first pair of tongs could not be formed in fire by a blacksmith since there were no previous tongs with which to fashion them. But why did G-d create this pair of tongs on together with all of the other supernatural objects? Was it that important for G-d, moments before Shabbat, to make sure that tongs were created with the manna, and Balaam’s donkey?

One of the frustrating elements of life is that so much of it is focused on preparing for something else.To get from step A to step C requires step B, and that can occupy even more time and resources than step C. Before you move in to your dream house, you need to build it—and that can drain the “neshamah” (life) out of you for years and years.

So much of our life is squandered on waiting. We wait for our “basherts” (soul mates) to show up while we date who-knows how many other people; we wait for our resumes to be accepted or rejected; we wait for the IRS to accept our offers; we wait for the universities to accept or reject our applications. We wait for the architect to come up with the plans, then for the bank to approve the loan, then to win the lottery ticket to pay the debt.…  At every stage of life there is something incomplete. We are always anxious about a problem: We either have back pain or a stomach ache; we are always overweight or under-paid. Nothing is ever perfect. So, if at every stage of life we are preparing for the next stage, if at every stage there is something to deal with, when do we start living? When is the time to be happy and content? When do we stop and say: This is no longer a preparation for living; this is life itself?!

This is the secret of the tongs. The first pair of tongs were nothing more than a preparation to be able to fashion other metals in the melting heat. Its entire identity and objective was to prepare for another objective.Yet G-d created it at the highlight of the week, with all of the supernatural objects, to teach us that He is to be found not just 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 onlyDivine time. There are long journeys and short journeys, there are obvious opportunities and situations in which we scratch our heads and wonder, "Why are we here?" But all of time is real; every moment is crucial. Every segment of our lives, no matter how fleeting or temporary, has a center, a purpose. This  is what G-d wants from us now, at this moment. This is not [only] an obstacle to overcome, but possesses meaning and magic of its own.

The Midrash relates the following story:

Once, before he became king, David was sitting in the garden watching a wasp paralyze a spider. Amazed by the scene, David, who was in constant dialogue with G-d, asked Him 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 cannot weave a garment. God’s reply was: “A day will come, and you shall learn to appreciate those creatures.” 
Eventually, King Saul began to envy David’s military success and wanted to arrest him, for he feared he was a threat to his kingship. David escaped to Judah’s land and hid in a cave. A spider found the cave entrance and weaved a web in it. Saul arrived at the entrance, but saw the web and thought, “If a person would enter the cave, he would probably tear the web.”

After King Saul left, David thanked the spider. 
In the next biblical episode, David went to the king’s camp in the desert to show him that his defenses could be cracked, but David would not harm him. David approached the king’s side to take his water canteen, but the king’s army minster moved his heavy feet onto David, thus preventing him from leaving the tent. A wasp appeared and stung the minister so he moved his foot, and David was rescued. David thanked the wasp in his heart, turned to G-d, and said: “I understand.…”

Even the “tongs” in our lives—those moments and realities in which we see no value, only endless stress and frustration, are necessary to get to the next stages. The tongs were created, fashioned and designed by G-d Himself, and when? At the time that He created all the things reflecting His infinite grace, wisdom and light.

Perhaps man could have used a mold to make tongs, but G-d wanted to give humanity this critical insight: Even the smallest, most insignificant moments and actions in our lives contain Divine meaning and can be sources of blessing, wisdom, inspiration and growth, if only we have the courage to see them that way.

Wherever I am, I must be fully present. If G-d put me through this encounter now, I need to treat it as a goal, as an essential part of my life’s mission. I have to think this way even about the most mundane things: traffic delays, appointment delays, chance meetings, building a company, calling the plumber to fix a leak, and so on.

A wise man once said, “An error doesn't become a mistake until you refuse to correct it.”

A young chemist had been working for some time at developing a new bonding agent, a glue. After years, the work was complete. He tried it out. It did not stick. What use is glue that does not stick? Many would have called this a failure. This chemist thought otherwise.

Instead of deciding his work was a failure, he asked, “What if it is a success? What if I have discovered a solution? The only thing left to do is find the problem.”

He refused to give up. He kept asking himself, “What is the use of an underachieving adhesive?” Eventually he found it. It became a huge commercial success. They're little and they stick—but not too much. This is how “Post-It” Notes were invented!

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


Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yoseph Geisinsky


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