Be Careful; Don’t Fall by Rabbi Joel Grossman


Our Parsha begins with the Pasuk of, “Vayehi Beshalach Pharo Et Haam Velo Nacham Elokeem Derech Eretz Plishtim Ki Karov Hu, Ki Amar Elokeem Pen Yinachem Haam Birotam Milchama Vishavu Mitzryma,” “And it was when Pharo sent the people, He did not lead them by the land of the Philistines since He said perhaps the people will regret leaving Egypt and will return to Egypt.”  Zelig Pliskin in his Growth Through Torah quotes a question from Rabbi Yehuda Leib Chasman, which asks how Bnai Yisrael could have ever thought about going back to Mitzrayim, a place where they suffered so much?  They should have trusted Hashem since He already had performed so many miracles on their behalf and hopefully would continue helping them in the future.  Why would they ever think of going back to that terrible environment?

He answers, that this can only be understood when one realizes that a person is made up of a mixture of a body and a soul.  Even when a person is on a very high spiritual level, he can fall.  For this reason a person needs to watch out and look into themselves constantly.  At one moment a person can be elevated and the next moment, as we see from Haman in the Purim story, the person can be all the way on the bottom.  Although Bnai Yisrael was aware of Hashem this feeling can be lost in a very short time.

Many years ago I had the privilege of Davening Shacharit with Rav Moshe Feinstein.  I noticed when he took off his Tefillin he didn’t waste that precious time, rather he studied Mishnayot.  When I asked someone why he did this I was informed that Rav Moshe quoted the Gemara in Masechet Yuma about Yochanan Cohen Gadol who served as the Cohen Gadol for eighty years going into the Kodesh Hakadashim every year.  At the end of his life, though, he became a non-believer.  Rav Moshe said if it could happen to Yochanan Cohen Gadol it could happen to him too.  Therefore, he constantly worked on himself to learn torah and come closer to Hashem so that he could remain connected to Him for his entire life.  This idea of constant effort allowed Rav Moshe to become the Gadol Hador and it permits each of us to reach our potential as well.

This concept of being able to change can give one great hope, too.  If you can fall quickly, you can pick yourself up very quickly too.  Never give up hope when you feel that you are on a low level.  Remember the Gemara in Masechet Megila, which states that if you put in effort, you can believe the person that they have succeeded.  Don’t waste time with self-pity if you feel you are not on the level you want to be on.  Remember things can change in the blink of an eye and who is on the bottom today could be on the top tomorrow and vice versa, it just takes work on your part and hopefully Hashem can see how much we want to change and He can assist us.  Remember the Gemara in Masechet Yuma teaches us about the power of Teshuva that it works to change all your sins into Mitzvot if you do Teshuva out of love.

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