A Historical Look at LIFE in ALEPPO

Past Articles:
REACHING GREAT HEIGHTS

By: Rabbi David Ashear

Emunahgives meaning to every moment of a person’s life. It takes a regular mundane issue and turns it into the greatest avodat Hashem. If, instead, of complaining, a person says, “I accept this as Your Will, Hashem,” then that challenge becomes Kodesh Kodashim – the Holy of Holies. Many times people misread Hashem; they think He is abandoning them when, in actuality, He is giving them the opportunity to reach great heights.

Someone told me recently, “I’m being so good. I try so hard to do all the mitzvot. All I ask from Hashem is to give me a little more money, but He’s not answering me.”

I told this man that out “greats” all went through challenging times and it was their emunah during those times that made them reach such high levels. The ability to say, “Hashem, You know what my soul needs better than I do. If this is how You know my life has to be to serve You at this moment in order to reach my potential, then I’ll do it with joy,” can take that hardship and turn it into the most precious avodat Hashem.

Life is a cycle; we move from one situation to another. One challenge passes and we’re on to the next. Each one presents us with an opportunity that will never come again. Being in a specific situation at a specific point in life never returns. We don’t want to look back after the challenge passed and regret our behavior. Let us learn from our “greats” that the challenges are not Hashem abandoning us, but just the opposite – they are there to make us great.

Yaakov Avinu had learned day and night for 63 years in the home of his parents, Yitzhak and Rivkah. Then, all of a sudden, he found himself running for his life, and then he was robbed of all his possessions. What was he doing wrong? We may ask. Why did that happen to him? But who is like Hashem Who knows how to make a person great? Hashem worries about us reaching our potential, and He gives each and every person the exact set of circumstances he needs to become the person he is supposed to be. Yaakov succeeded in learning and serving Hashem when the conditions were optimal, but now he needed to be able to learn under duress when things were unsettled. And he did. He went for 14 years to learn day and night amid that hardship, and that lifted him to a higher level.

Sometimes we think our prayers are not being heard, but we don’t know what’s good for us. When Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai was hiding in the cave with his son for 13 years, imagine the prayers of the community. They must have held mass gatherings praying for their leader’s return. Rabbi Shimon himself must have been praying every tefillah that Hashem should let him emerge from hiding. But during those 13 hard years, he produced the Zohar HaKadosh, which has lit up the eyes of Klal Yisrael and will continue to do so for eternity. Hashem heard every prayer, but He used them the way He knew was best. If Rabbi Shimon had left the cave right away, look at what the world would have lost. That challenge was his greatest gift.

When Avraham Avinu was told by Hashem to bring Yitzhak as a korban, he listened and journeyed with Yitzhak for three days to arrive at the designated location. Imagine the difficulty of having to walk all that distance with his beloved son. Avraham knew what he was commanded to do, while Yitzhak was thinking they were going to offer an animal. With every step Avraham took, he knew he was coming closer to losing his son. But those very difficult days produced one of the greatest zechuyot in all of our history. Every Rosh Hashanah, for thousands of years after, Hashem remembers that challenge and, so to speak, rises from His Throne of Judgement and sits on His Throne of Mercy. Millions and millions of Avraham’s children are benefitting from that challenge.

The challenges of life are difficult. We can either sulk about them, or we can follow Hashem’s lead and elevate ourselves. We can all become the great people we’re destined to become if we, too, cling to Hashem during the challenging times. If we pray harder and learn better and continue following the mitzvot despite the difficulties, our souls will soar.