Yisro: To be a General

Sigh… this will be the first time in around 13 years that I will be unable to attend my matza baking. 

Originally, there was going to be a rule that only people who have been vaccinated or had Corona could go.  Then they changed it.  I’m due for my second vaccination shot the day before, so, technically, I could go, even though I wouldn’t be fully “covered” for another week.  However, my wife will only be on her first, and to put myself in a small bakery in Jerusalem right now, just for matzos… just not worth it.  I know of too many sick or dead.

May this be the worst of my problems.

“Then you will be able to endure…” (Shemos 18:23).

When Rav Yaakov Galinsky was in prison in Siberia, he noticed that one of the prisoners in a nearby cell would wake up in the middle of the night, put on clothes that he hid underneath his bed, gaze at himself in the mirror, and quickly redress, hide his clothes and go to back to sleep.

One morning, when Rav Galinksy was alone with this man, he asked him about this strange behavior.  At first, the man denied everything.  Finally, after some pressing, he explained, “I used to be a general in the Polish army.  The Ukrainians, of course, are sworn enemies of the Poles, and the higher ranking a Polish person was, the more he is disgraced and humiliated here by the Ukrainians.

“The entire day, I am subjected to terrible humiliation. At night, therefore, when no one sees me, I don an old army uniform that I managed to sneak into Siberia, to remind myself of who I really am.  I wear this uniform for a minute or two, and I look in the mirror and tell myself that no matter how much they try to humiliate me here, I am still a great general, with thousands of soldiers under me. This gives me encouragement, even though it’s an illusion, because now I’m in Siberia and I am longer a general.  But just the fact that I am able to return briefly to my old persona offers me encouragement, and gives me the strength to survive the next day.”

This is an important story and concept to remember.  One two levels, dealing with external and internal doubts and worries.

Where I live, somebody in a black hat and jacket is very much in the minority.  Even somebody with a kippa is a minority.  Especially where I live … being Jewish is a majority, but we have, ironically, a lot of Ukrainians and Russians who are not Jewish.  So, sometimes you walk around and feel like you’re sticking out quite a bit.  But it’s good to remind yourself: Here in Israel … this is MY land.  MY people have been here for thousands of years.  The growth of the country, contrary to popular opinion, is not because of the army or the tech industry of Tel Aviv.  The Torah states clearly that it’s Torah and Mitzvos that do it.  And I’m thankful to be part of that minority that is doing their “patriotic duty,” however much it is despised by others.

Also regarding internal battles.  Like any good soldier, a general will win, and lose, many battles.  But even after several losses, a general is still a general, and can still pick himself up and push ahead.  The Union, during the Civil War, saw generals being replaced all the time.  Why?  Because every time they lost, they pulled back and argued that the enemy was too strong for them.  Finally, Grant came to the stage and had a different opinion.  He pushed farther and farther into the South.  And many of the battles that he fought he lost, or fought until a stalemate, but he kept on pushing.  He knew that he was in charge and he was going to win.

We too need to have that attitude.  Yes, there will be times that we lose, sometimes we’ll have several, back-to-back losses, but if we remind ourselves that WE are in charge and we WILL win, we can continue to push forward.

Have a wonderful Shabbos!