I spent this past week in Los Angeles fundraising, and we thank our Los Angeles donors for all their efforts on our behalf. My fundraising trips require me to try to reach people who are difficult to reach and to find new donors, requiring much perseverance. This week’s parshah describes how Hashem provides us with extra strength, especially when we expend extra effort. Please see the enclosed article from Rabbi Yissocher Frand on this topic.
To Dream the Impossible Dream, To Count the Impossible Count
Rav Meir Shapiro asks, “What would be our reaction if someone told us to go out and count the stars?” Our reaction would be to simply ignore the request. We would say, “I know this is an impossible task. I know it is beyond the realm of possibility. Why even bother?” What did Avrohom do? He went out and counted the stars! He attempted to do the impossible. Hashem responded, “This is the way your descendants will be (koh yiheyeh zarecha).” This attribute that you are showing here now — when it looks impossible, when it looks beyond the reach of human beings, nevertheless try; nevertheless, give it your best — koh yiheyeh zarecha. That is the characteristic of Klal Yisroel. That is what a Jew is going to be like. Even though the task seems Herculean, it seems almost impossible, we must still try.
The least we can do is try. And when we try, we sometimes see that amazing things can happen. We think that we don’t have such strengths and such abilities to withstand that which life deals us. We think it is beyond our capability. But we try and we are granted kochos, strengths, that we never dreamed we possessed. That is the blessing of “Thus shall be your descendants.” Klal Yisroel has the attribute of looking at something that seems impossible, but nevertheless trying, never giving up…and being rewarded with powers they never thought they had.
A blind Jew once came in to Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer. The Jew put down in front of Rav Isser Zalman two volumes of chiddushei Torah, novel insights into Torah, that he had written before he became blind. The Jew told Rav Isser Zalman to look at a certain place in the book and said, “This piece was my last chiddush and then I went blind.” Rav Isser Zalman asked the Jew what he meant by saying that it was his “last chiddush.”
The blind man explained that when he wrote that particular insight he was already an older man. He had worked for years on these volumes. When he reached that piece he said to himself, “I’ve had enough. It is difficult to come up with new Torah insights. I am calling it quits. From now on I will learn, but not with the same intensity and thoroughness — I just don’t have the strength any more.” The man told Rav Isser Zalman that immediately after that decision, he became blind. The man went to the doctors and specialists of the day, seeking a cure. They examined him and told him, “With the way your eyes are now, you should have been blind ten years ago. We can’t understand why you weren’t blind long ago.” But we can. Because as long as that Jew felt compelled to write those chiddushei Torah, he dipped down to reach for strength that he never knew he possessed – and received super-natural strength. He saw things with eyes that perhaps a normal human being could not see out of – because he tried, because he reached, because he sought the impossible. When he stopped and said, “Enough,” he lost those strengths. It is that same quality of “Thus will be your children” that Avrohom exhibited by trying to count the stars. That is the quality of Klal Yisroel.
May Hashem grant us all the ability to view all of our trials and tribulations as opportunities, knowing that if we put in the effort, Hashem helps us to succeed.
Rabbi Peretz Scheinerman