Let’s Get Rid Of the Boxes

by | Sep 26, 2008 | 0 comments

How does the Ribono Shel Olam decide our destiny for the upcoming year?

How does He judge us? The answer is simple. The same way we judge others.

A Medrash. Hashem said to Moshe “Hain Kirvu Yamecho Lamus”. Your time has come. The end of your life is here.

The Hebrew word “Hain”, the commentaries explain, implies finality. Hashem told Moshe, “You have been praying, arguing and negotiating with me to extend your life. It is not going to happen. The conversation is closed. The decision is in. “Hain!” Your time has come. You will not live to enter the land of Israel.

Moshe cringed at the finality of the statement. “Why do you have to say ‘Hain’? It’s so final!”

Hashem responded, “Because you said ‘Hain’ when describing the condition of the Jewish people. Way back at the burning bush, when I originally charged you with the mission of freeing the Jewish people, you said ‘Hain lo Yishma lee’. The Jewish people will definitely not listen to me. You were so final about that. I too am final.” (Medrash Rabba)

Moshe Rabeinu passed a life sentence on his people. They will not listen, period. His psychological assessment was correct. The people of Israel did not appear to be candidates for redemption. But they did listen. Moshe did not take into account their ability to change and to grow. He looked at what they were and he pegged them. That was a mistake. One can never label someone or freeze them into a slot. Yesterday is not today, and what I do today is not necessarily the definition of my life.

We certainly do not want G-d to judge us by what we are, we want Him to look at what we could be. We want Him to tie our destiny to our potential. If we want that kind of decision from G-d we must stop categorizing people, stop pigeonholing them and perhaps stop judging them altogether. The way we judge is the way Hashem judges us.

Yesterday I met a young man who as a child was diagnosed with an alphabet soup of learning disabilities. His behavior was so unmanageable that after tremendous agony his parents sent him to a special boarding school in the Midwest. They received rabbinic decisions allowing them to forego the child’s Kashruth and Shabbos observance so that he could attend this program. His parents described him as a ‘Ben sorer umoreh’. But he returned from the program and he grew up. Today he is a teacher, a baal koray, getting a college degree, and the apple of his parents’ eye. Somehow this child transcended his labels.

We are a society full of labeled boxes, and everyone must fit into one. It’s not even conscious, the moment we meet someone we start processing; good or bad, rich or poor, frum or not, black hat, kipah srugah or bare headed; brainy or slow, generous or miserly. Today there is a box for everyone. Once you put someone in a box it can be so hard for them to crawl out of it. But it’s much worse than that. The last thing we need is for G-d to put us in a box. We never want G-d to look at us and say, “He or she just can’t cut it.”

In honor of the New Year let us all take a fresh new look at our children, our friends, the person sitting next to us, our husbands, our wives, our teachers and our students. Look at them carefully, look at them with fresh eyes, look at their potential, exactly the way you want G-d to look at you.

By Rabbi Yaacov Haber

Rabbi Yaacov Haber has been a leading force in Jewish community and Jewish education for over forty years. He lived and taught in the United States, Australia and in Israel. He is presently the Rav of Kehillas Shivtei Yeshurun, a vibrant community in the center of Ramat Bet Shemesh, Israel, and serves as the Rabbinic guide to many of its wonderful organisations.


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