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One of the basic Tenets of Judaism is Tolerance of all groups of Orthodox Jews who learn Torah and serve Hashem, even if their customs and practices are different from ours. As we have mentioned here before, one should not be nearsighted and believe that only he and his group who follow his Rabbi will be rewarded in the World-to-Come; while everyone else in the Jewish Nation will be punished for not doing it their way. One should realize that there are many different ways to serve Hashem and, although his way may be best suited for him, someone else’s way is equally best suited for him.
This is equally important in choosing one’s own way of serving Hashem. Although there are so many different paths to choose from, one has to find the one best appropriate for him. And when he adapts to it successfully, he should not look around at how others are doing it differently. That should not interest him in the least. The most important thing is that he or she is serving Hashem in the best way that they possibly can.
This truth of this can be observed in this week’s parashah. Before our Patriarch Ya’akov passed away, he called together all of his children and blessed them. These were not mere blessings which anyone can give his child. Ya’akov was instructing them in the direction they should take in their service of Hashem. And what is most obvious is that he did not tell them all to do the same thing. He did not say to them, “This is the way I served Hashem and I want all of you to follow me.” On the contrary, he gave each son an assignment which he knew best fitted the talents Hashem had provided him with. If one of the children had abandoned his father’s advice and chosen to go the way he directed another one of his brothers, he would not have been successful. Because that which is the formula for success for one person, may be the formula for failure for another.
In his fabulous book Aleynu Lishabeach, Rabbi Zilberstein shlita tells a remarkable story about a yeshiva student who was struggling to succeed. In the yeshiva system, a major method of success is the practice of “kabablos” (kabbalah means to accept) – accepting upon oneself obligations to fulfill. These kabbalos may be in the area of study, prayer, character correction or any other field related to the Torah way of life. In the yeshivas it is taught that taking upon oneself kabbalos helps one succeed in them, since the additional feeling of obligation to keep his word will push him to keep them. However, one has to be careful not to accept upon himself more than he is capable of doing at that particular stage in his life. Otherwise he will be frustrated in his attempt to succeed and if he fails he will be disappointed with himself and may even lose the motivation he was struggling to achieve.
This particular boy, relates Rabbi Zilberstein, had a very limited amount of self-control. Consequently, no matter what kabbalah he accepted upon himself, he failed to implement it. When the time came, he was always too busy or too tired or too something; and he invariably failed. This was leading him to frustration and, worst of all, to total despair. Lack of self-confidence; believing that one is a total failure, is the greatest impediment to success.
One of the times most fitting for making kabbalos is during the final service, Ne’ilah, on Yom Kippur. It is a time for introspection; during which one is supposed to regret the mistakes of the past and plan for a proper future. This fellow looked around him and winced. It was obvious that his friends were taking themselves into their own hands and working hard to insure that the coming year would way surpass the years gone by. Everyone was making many major kabbalos and praying to Hashem to help him fulfill them. But our friend felt that he could no longer fool himself; and certainly not the Almighty. He couldn’t stand before Hashem, at this, the holiest time of the year, and accept upon himself things which he honestly knew he would never fulfill. At that moment, he felt so cheap and useless, that he was considering leaving the Yeshiva World completely. I’m just not cut out for it, he thought to himself; not realizing that these words were being implanted in his mind by his archenemy, the Satan, who wanted to destroy him forever, chas veShalom.
Fortunately, his best friend, the Yetzer Tov (Good Inclination), came to the rescue and made him think the following. True, I cannot make big kabbalos like my friends can; there’s no denying that fact. But I am capable of making a small kabbalah; one which suits my personal talents. For instance, tonight begins the winter vacation from yeshiva and we will all pack our bags and go home. It is much more difficult to learn Torah at home than in yeshiva. I hereby make a kabbalah to learn tonight for 10 minutes!
Had someone heard this kabbalah he might have scoffed at its lightness and simplicity. What value could such a small kabbalah have? And he might have foolishly convinced the yeshiva boy who made it that he had better take upon himself something much more serious and difficult if he wished to compete with his fellow students. But, luckily, no one knew about this kabbalah other than he himself.
The general rule is that when one makes a kabbalah he can expect the Yetzer Hara (Evil Inclination) to make it especially difficult for him to fulfill it. But if he fights back, Hashem will help him and he will have achieved a major victory in the Battles concerning the Service of Hashem. This boy went home and found his father complying to the custom of building the Sukkah immediately after Yom Kippur. Of course, the boy helped his father all night and by the time they completed the job it was very late and he was very tired. Just as he began to prepare for bed, he remembered his kabbalah which he had made at Ne’ilah. At this moment, totally exhausted, he truly regretted it; it seemed like the hardest thing in the world for him to do right now. But he began to reprimand himself and he pleaded with Hashem to give him the strength to withstand the temptation to go to sleep and to help him sit down and learn for ten minutes.
And Hashem heard his prayer and answered in the affirmative.
The boy suddenly found new strength and he ripped himself away from his bedroom and sat down at the table and learned for an entire ten minutes; and maybe even a bit more for good measure.
It is impossible to describe how he felt when he recited the Shema and went to sleep that night. This young man felt like a great general who had been victorious in a major battle against a seemingly unconquerable army. He had actually fulfilled his kabbalah, which, although may have been simple for someone else, was extremely difficult for him. As he lay in bed, his self esteem began to build as he realized that he wasn’t worthless at all. He merely had to serve Hashem with his strengths and weaknesses and not look at what others were doing with theirs. His was his battle alone and he had to deal with it according to the way best suited for him.
He slept peacefully that night and woke up with new strength, dedicated to serving Hashem faithfully – in his way. After Sukkos, he returned to yeshiva a new man. No longer did he think of abandoning the Yeshiva World. He merely had to adjust to it properly and then he would succeed no less than the others. And that’s exactly what happened. Day to day he progressed more and more, according to his pace, until he became one of the most respected boys in yeshiva. Eventually he got married and established a Torah-true home and raised children properly by teaching them the lesson that he had learned: Everyone must serve Hashem in his own way (according to the guidelines of the Torah, of course), and not look at the way others serve Him. For what is good for them may not be what is best for him.
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