by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths
A family member’s son is having his bar mitzvah. In celebration I was invited to a small family gathering that also included several rabbonim.
Thank G-d my family member’s son is a well accomplished young man for his age. He does very well in yeshiva, both getting top grades and excelling at his Torah learning. He’s involved in several extra-curricular activities, where again he excels.
This boy was named after an illustrious family member of a few generations past. After a lifetime this family member was an accomplished Torah scholar, a very successful businessman, a big baal tzedakah (a big giver of charity) and a major positive force in his Jewish community.
The Rabbonim who spoke focused on his using his talents to become a Gadol b’Torah, a Torah leader of the next generation. A wonderful goal I thought, but what if he doesn’t reach it? Does that mean he’s a failure? Is the recommended goal for a bar mtizvah boy to become a Gadol b’Torah or simply a talmid chacham (as if that’s simple)? Or even just a life focused on Torah (as if that’s a weaker choice fallback position)?
The family members who spoke focused on the name he carries, the illustrious ancestor who reached much success and accomplishment in his lifetime, and how he’s expected to do the same (due to the name). This made me think, his ancestor was a special man, but this is just a boy of 13. The successes of a lifetime are a heavy load to drop on young shoulders. Of course he should be encouraged to set good goals, and certainly to strive. But we know neither the goals of the ancestor nor his struggles to get there. Perhaps he considered himself a failure (for he wasn’t a gadol b’torah)?
I asked to speak and delivered this short message…
There is a story about a Holocaust survivor (his name was Irving Bunim, sent to me by a reader) who knew the Satmar Rebbe before the Holocaust and came to visit the him in America. The Rebbe’s students saw a clean-shaven Jew speaking about all sorts of Torah subjects with the Rebbe and were surprised.
After he left, one of the students asked the Rebbe: who is this clean-shaven person who came to speak with the Rebbe?
The Satmar Rebbe responded: "When that Jew ascends to give a divine accounting, Hashem will ask him: "Jew, where is your beard?" But when you ascend to give a divine accounting, Hashem will ask you: "Beard, where is your Jew?"
We live in a time when many are operating by appearance and whether one has a long beard or not is the deciding factor in whether one is good Jew. I do not know what a Jew will be asked when he gets to Heaven, but in this world good is helping another.
You may be blessed with extraordinary abilities, but helping another is how everyone can change the world. Whether the mitzvah is tzedakah, a bit of charity, studying to help another student with a test or doing a good deed for another, you never know how your little moment of help may change their life!
Hashem brings opportunities by us all the time. For us they may seem minor, unimportant or worth letting another grab. Yet you never know how a little bit of goodness affects another. That ‘little bit of charity money’ might allow the person to pay for the bus to get to a job interview, get a job and rebuild their life. Your fellow student might come up to you 10 years later and say “you know, when you helped me study for that test, if I failed it I would have been thrown out of yeshiva – your help studying saved my life!”
Don’t miss your opportunity to change the world every day.