Yisro: Equal But Different

I had to take one of my children to the hospital in Tel Aviv the other day, for a certain type of test they only do there.  Six hours of travel, one and a half hours of standing and waiting at the hospital, and literally, three minutes of the actual test (yes, thankfully, all is good).  As many might know, Tel Aviv is often looked at as a "nation within a nation."  It represents all that is liberal in politics and not-so-friendly towards the Torah.  Obviously, there are plenty of religious who live and work there, and you don't get heckled on the streets or anything, but much of liberal Israel resides in that area.

When it was my turn to hand in my papers at the registration desk, the woman asked me a question about the test and why we needed it.  I answered her, "Honestly, my wife took care of the details, I'm just the mule who brings the kids where they need to go."  To which she yelled at me, "YOU ARE NOT A MULE! YOU'RE DOING A GREAT MITZVAH TAKING CARE OF YOUR CHILDREN! A VERY GREAT MITZVAH!"  I was rather (pleasantly) shocked to receive such a slap on the wrist.

Forty-five minutes later, I'm standing in line speaking to a non-religious woman ahead of me.  She was telling me about her dog and why dogs are great and cats are useless, egocentric animals (which is all completely true), and she mentions how hers sits during kiddush and havdalah on Shabbos.  Whether she keeps Shabbos fully or partially, I have no idea.  But, here in Israel, you really never know who you're talking to until you talk to them.

"So Hashem said to him, “Go down, and come back together with Aaron; but let not the priests or the people break through to come up to Hashem, lest [Hashem] break out against them" (Shemos 19: 24).

On this, Rashi writes, "All of them are with you. This teaches that you, yourself, ascend. Say from now on, you are for yourself, Aaron is for himself, and the priests are for themselves. Moses was more approachable than Aaron, and Aaron more than the priests. But fundamentally, let not the people undermine their status to rise to God."

Rav Shimshon Pincus asks: Shorly before this, Rashi explains that the entire nation was like "One man and One heart."  Yet here we find that Hashem is dividing people up: Moshe is here, Aaron is here, the Kohanim are here…  How could we be "one man and one heart" and yet at the same time we see a ranking system?

Once in a while I enjoy listening to Rav Breitowitz.  He has a question and answer session in Yeshivas Ohr Somyach, and it's interesting to hear all sorts of questions, and amazing to hear how he uses his wide breadth of knowledge to answer them.

In this past week, somebody asked about joining the army, especially in light of the current situation, and whether it is more important to sit and learn or more important to go and fight.  Rav Breitowitz gave a very nice answer, explaining that there are two "schools of thought" on this.  One, the Religious Zionists, promote the idea of combining learning and army service, and the other, the "Ultra-Orthodox" promote the idea that (during a time where there is no lack of man-power), it is better to work on the spiritual war to provide merit in the physical.  It should be noted, however, that the Religious Zionist model, does not disagree with the concept of spiritual merit helping the physical war.  That is why you will find plenty of religious soldiers on the front encouraging those "behind the lines" to strengthen themselves in Torah and Mitzvos.

After explaining both sides, he said that a person needs to make a decision based on an accurate assessment of himself and with speaking with his spiritual mentors.

Then he added something interesting.  He pointed out that many people at this time who are not serving in the war, can suffer a form of "survivor's guilt."  When you are living in Israel, it's hard not to notice that there is a war going on.  Even when I was in Tel Aviv the other day, we saw a medevac bringing in seriously wounded soldiers to the hospital.  It's hard not to notice that people are sacrificing themselves in defense of the Jewish people, while you … are not.  And even if you are sitting in learning, you still have this "survivor's guilt" that you are not sacrificing yourself in such a way as those soldiers are, and therefore, you start to doubt what you are doing is proper and right.

He warned that any decision cannot be made based on this, since this is clearly the Yetzer Horah at work.  Every person needs to know where his strengths and weaknesses are, and with that knowledge in his grasp, he can better ascertain what he should be doing.

Rav Pincus answered the above question, citing the Rambam in Hilchos Teshuva, where the Rambam famously writes that everybody has the ability to be like Moshe.  The equally famous question and answer is: "How can we possibly be like Moshe?" and we answer, "It doesn't mean like Moshe himself, but just as Moshe reached his potential, so too can everybody reach their own potential."

With this, we can understand, how the entire nation can be "one man and one heart," yet at the same time, every person can have their own special place and level.

When each person within the nation uses their talents at 100 percent of their capabilities, then each person is standing at their own level, and at the same time together, as one.

With that, I wish you all a wonderful and quiet Shabbos.