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Thursday, 16 July, 2015 - 12:09 pm

An American Jew visits Russia and is asked about life in America. “Thank G-d,” he replies, “life is good. How is life in the Soviet Union?”

“Here,” replies the Russian, “it is also good, but here we don’t say thank G-d. Here we say Thank Putin.”

“What will you say when Putin dies?” the American inquires. 
“Then we will say thank G-d,” replies the Russian.

In this week’s Torah portion, Matot-Maasei, it says, “These are the journeys of the children of Israel who went out of the land of Egypt… And Moses recorded their travels and encampments, in accordance with the command of G-d.” 
The journey made by the Jewish people from Egypt to the Holy Land was a one-way journey, but on the eve of their entry into the Holy Land, they were able to look back upon their forty-two encampments and re-experience them in a different light: not as a people venturing from Egyptian slavery toward an unknowable goal through a fearful wilderness, but as a people who, having attained their goal, could now appreciate how each way-station in their journey had forged a particular part of their identity and had contributed to the what and where on that very day.

The same is true in the human story. At each stage in our lives, 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 journeys and see them for what they truly were: challenges and opportunities that paved, rather than impeded, our advance through the desert. Rather than recognizing them, as we first did, as pitfalls and obstacles, we can recognize them as rungs in the ladder that have raised us to this elevated plateau.

Moshe requested the Almighty to "Show me, please, your glory.” The response: “You will see My back, but My face may not be seen.” What does this mean?

The Talmud explains that Moshe was asking the profound and age-old question: "Why are there righteous people who suffer and wicked people who prosper?" The Almighty responded: “You will see My back, but My face may not be seen." In life you will not be able to see Me in front of you, only behind you. Life cannot be appreciated in foresight, only in hindsight. As you are living your life, and curve balls come your way, you will be clueless as to why this must be part of your journey. Only after you go through your pathways, will you sometimes be able to look back and say, Ah! Now I see how that particular encampment was an important stepping stone in my narrative.

Warren Buffet once remarked: “In the business world, the rearview mirror is always clearer than the windshield.” Ditto with life.

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 to 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 in the summer, and the youngest son in the fall.

When they had all returned, their father 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. The essence of who someone is and the pleasure, joy, and love that come from one’s life can only be measured at the end, when all of the seasons are done. 
If you give up during your winter, you will miss the promise of your spring, the beauty of your summer, the 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. 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.

This coming Shabbat we also conclude the fourth book of the Torah, Bamidbar. At its completion, we say together aloud, Chazak Chazak Venitchazek! Be strong, double and triple strength, to all our challenges! May Hashem show us His infinite blessings very soon.



Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yoseph Geisinsky


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