Understanding Our Role As a Tzelem Elokim
Ha’bocheir b’amo Yisrael b’ahavah
…Who chooses his people Israel with love.
We mentioned last week that the conclusion of this brachah is telling us that Hashem is choosing us now – in the present tense – with love. When were we actually chosen?
The Gemara (P’sachim 118a) states that from the creation of the world, and for 26 generations – until Rosh Chodesh Nisan of the month that Hashem took us out of Mitzrayim – Hashem sustained the world purely because of His chesed. On that Rosh Chodesh Nisan, everything changed.
At that time, Hashem gave us the mitzvah of “Ha’chodesh ha’zeh lachem rosh chodashim.” Hashem, at that moment, turned over to us the control of deciding when the new month would begin. As a result, we determine precisely when the Yamim Tovim will occur. HaRav Chaim Friedlander (Sifsei Chaim, Moadim 2) explains that there was a fundamental change in creation at that moment. From that moment and forward, Hashem also gave us the ability and the responsibility to influence His guidance of the world and all that happens in the world. Our thoughts, words, and actions down here impact the way Hashem runs the world.
If we are alive and breathing, each and every one of us has a unique purpose that nobody else in the world can fulfill. Every one of us is unique in our nature and our life setting. We all have our unique strengths and weaknesses. We each have our own individual challenges in life and on each day. Most of us likely think about how our thoughts, words, and actions affect others around us, and how they affect our future eternal world, Olam HaBa. But how many of us recognize and appreciate that on each and every day we impact the world? Every tefilah and mitzvah has the potential to change someone’s life – maybe not the person we have in mind – but our heartfelt tefilos are affecting the world and others around us.
We may be thinking that, while we can accept that tzadikim affect the world, it is difficult to believe that I – a simple, plain Jew – can have that impact. The Arizal, who lived about 500 years ago, is quoted by his students as saying that a very small action in his generation was equal to many mitzvos performed by the great Tana’im, Amora’im, and Rishonim. We don’t know the method used to measure up in the Heavenly court, but the Arizal is telling us that the level of challenge and difficulty is a huge factor. If he said this about his generation 500 years ago, when the Beis Yosef and many other greats lived, what would he say about the generation we live in today?
One of the most dangerous weapons of the yeitzer ha’ra is to convince us that we don’t matter. Who are we? Each of us is just a “simple Jew.” We need to constantly remind ourselves that not only do we matter to those around us, but we matter to the entire world! Our “small” decisions do impact worlds. Some examples of daily world-impacting decisions are whether: to overcome various challenges and not sin, to not be angry, to say a kind word of praise or comfort, to smile at someone when we don’t feel like smiling, to learn another minute of Torah, to focus a bit more during tefilah despite many issues on our minds, and endless other decisions we make each day. Can we imagine how precious it is to Hashem and the impact on the worlds when we remain strong in our emunah and bitachon despite extremely difficult and painful events in our lives?
The availability today of immorality and thinking that is totally in opposition to Torah values, coupled with such unprecedented ease through the click of a finger almost anywhere and anytime, presents challenges the Arizal could not have fathomed without ruach ha’kodesh. If despite the mountains of challenges that surround us, we live a Torah life with emunah and bitachon in the face of painful and difficult events in our lives, work slowly and steadily on our midos, deal honestly in business, learn Torah, and perform mitzvos and acts of chesed, who can imagine how precious that is to Hashem and how we are impacting worlds?
We don’t need to make it into Hamodia or the Queens Jewish Link to be g’dolim, great people. Each and every one of us has greatness within us. We just need to recognize and appreciate that we do matter, and that any one single, tiny movement closer to Hashem is huge. The farther we are now, the more precious is one tiny movement closer. The more difficult it is for us, the more precious it is to Hashem, despite how “small” the action we did or did not do is.
We have the tremendous privilege of Hashem choosing us as His nation every day with love. Let us work on recognizing, appreciating, and taking advantage of the great opportunity we have to influence the flow of blessing to the world, to those around us, and to ourselves.
This final segment and the entire review of Ahavah Rabah is perfectly suited to the start of Elul. Elul is a month of great opportunity and love: “Ani l’dodi v’dodi li.”
May we merit to feel Hashem’s great love for us and reciprocate with our love for Him. The magnitude of our ability to impact the world, klal Yisrael, our loved ones, and ourselves, is greatest during these 40 days from now through Yom Kippur. Let us all thank Hashem for the great gift of Elul and put forth our very best efforts to take maximum advantage of the opportunity to come closer to Hashem through Torah, t’shuvah, tefilah, increased awareness of and love for Hashem, character refinement, and chesed/tz’dakah.
We wish all an inspired and uplifting Elul, b’ezras Hashem.
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You can direct any questions or comments to Eliezer Szrolovits at 917-551-0150.