Friday, March 25, 2022

D’var Shmini

The many rules about how sacrifices are to be handled and what fire to use reminds me of the story of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem-Tov. When he saw misfortune threatening the Jews it was his custom to go into a certain part of the forest to meditate. There he would light a fire, say a special prayer, and the miracle would be accomplished, and the misfortune averted.

Later, when his disciple, the Magid of Mezritch, had occasion, for the same reason, to intercede with heaven, he would go to the same place in the forest and say: ‘Master of the Universe, listen! I do not know how to light the fire, but I am still able to say the prayer.’ And again the miracle would be accomplished.

Still later, Rabbi Moshe-Leib of Sasov, in order to save his people once more, would go into the forest and say: ‘I do not know how to light the fire, I do not know the prayer, but I know the place, and this must be sufficient.’ It was sufficient, and the miracle was accomplished.

Then it fell to Rabbi Israel of Rizhyn to overcome misfortune. Sitting in his study, his head in his hands, he spoke to God: "I am unable to light the fire, and I do not know the prayer; I cannot even find the place in the forest. All I can do is to tell the story, and this must be sufficient.’ And it was sufficient.

What I learn from this is that it's important to learn from the leaders before us, but that we don't need to follow precisely in their footsteps to be successful. We should remember and retell their stories as we do in reading the parsha every week. But we will be approaching the challenges we face in our own personal way.

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