How are we to view the moving of the United States Embassy to Jerusalem? What message are we meant to see therein?
Allow me to share something that came to mind at the very outset of hearing about this. As the Navi Zecharia tells us, and we repeat daily at the conclusion of Aleinu, with the arrival of Mashiach, “On that day Hashem will be One and His name will be One” (Zecharia 14:9). The entire world will recognize Hashem’s existence and presence in the world. As we move closer to Mashiach’s arrival, we will begin seeing glimpses of this reality materializing. This is yet another one of those glimpses.
Additionally, the name of Yerushalayim brings to light some other thoughts. Why is the city in fact named Yerushalayim?
Our Sages (Bereishis Rabbah 56:10) relate that Malki-Tzedek, also known as Shem, son of Noach, named the mountain upon which Avraham later brought Yitzchak up as a sacrifice “Shalem.” Avraham himself, though, named it “Hashem Yireh” [“Hashem will see”] (Bereishis 22:14). In deference to both Malki-Tzedek and Avraham, Hashem combined both these names and named it Yerushalayim.
In this sense, what then defines the city? When Avraham Avinu looked at the holiest of cities, what prompted him to give it the appellation “Hashem will see”?
The Meshech Chochmah explains that when Avraham looked at the city, he noticed that so long as a person looks with an honest eye, he will see Hashem’s presence and miracles. It is a city which is infused with G-dliness and spirituality at all corners. As we stand at the threshold of Mashiach’s arrival and move closer to that Utopian world, we cannot help but see incredible events, the likes of the moving of the Embassy, unfold right before us.
With the city of Jerusalem becoming that much more esteemed and honored in the eyes of the world, G-d’s presence is becoming more perceived by the world upon the very site which Avraham dictated is the place wherein “Hashem will be seen.”
The beholding of Yerushalayim in its glory and the recognition that G-d’s presence overlays the Land of Israel and Jerusalem in particular is meant to further enhance our lives and connection to Him.
We as well must show our appreciation to the many messengers of Hashem who serve as the means of aiding the world in obtaining this recognition.
Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein One More Step
For the king, it was his greatest dream to marry off his daughter. For years, he waited until she would find the right husband, but nothing ever materialized. Until one day when the king devised a way he would be able to sift through the many men in his kingdom and focus his eyes on the most capable of them.
He built a tall tower with a thousand steps leading to the very top. It was there that the princess sat, awaiting to see which of the two hundred men racing up the steps would reach her first. That would be the man who would luckily be offered the princess’ hand in marriage.
And so, at sunrise one day, two hundred men lined up at the bottom of the tower awaiting the signal to begin their climb to the top. The steps were long and wide, and it would be no easy feat for anyone to make it all the way up. Even a mere two hundred steps up, the vast majority of the men tired out. Most of them were out of shape, and lacked the physical strength and stamina to push themselves any further.
That was when the rumors began. With most of the men incapable of making the trek to the very top, they connived to spread the word that there in fact was no princess awaiting anyone. Rumor spread, and soon, just about everyone had decided it was not worth any more effort in continuing up.
All the men except two gave up. For the last two folks, they stared at each other with a look of hope. Yet, they were also realistic. At least one of them. “You know,” he said, “we have a few hours left. I don’t think there is a way we can make it up there. The king must have set us up for failure. I bet, just like everyone else thought, there is no princess there. I think I am going to head back down.”
But the other fellow begged to differ. “Wait a minute. I know the king, and he has no sense of humor. He doesn’t make jokes. Besides, I worked for him for five years, and he is the most honest man I know. Whatever he says, he means.” “I don’t know…,” the other fellow reiterated. And with that, he quickly sped along down the steps away from the tower.
There, on the seventh hundred step, remained the last standing man. With confidence, he looked up to where the princess ought to be. “She must be there,” he whispered to himself. “I am sure the king will give the princess over to me; I’m not going to stop.” No sooner than later, the man took one more step, and a door opened.
The man looked a distance away, his face immediately brightening up. It was an elevator. “Oh my!” he exclaimed. Turning back around to his friend, he yelled out, “You shouldn’t have left! Elevator!” But all the other man could make out was some mumbled scream, which he shrugged his shoulders to and dismissed. The man, who was still on the seventh hundred step, could not help himself but dash to the elevator and hit the button taking him all the way up.
And sure enough, upon reaching the very top, his friend stepped off the last step at the very bottom. As the elevator door opened, the man looked over and saw the beautifully decorated door leading into the princess’ private quarters. Immediately upon the two of them making eye contact, the princess could not help but express her deepest appreciation. “Thank you so much for arriving!” she elated. “Thank me?” confusedly asked the man. “I am but a peasant and you are a princess; I should be thanking you!” “Allow me to explain,” began the princess, “why I ought to thank you for making it here.
“My father, the king, clearly told me that if no one makes it to the top, I will remain stuck here for the rest of my life. As soon as I saw everyone running off the steps, I began worrying that no one would come for me. But then I looked over at you and saw you and your friend mulling over what to do. But then your friend began to leave, which only made me more nervous that I would never get married. I looked at you, motioning for you to take another step, although you didn’t see me. “Take another step… Take another step…!” I yelled out. But you didn’t hear me.
“But now you are here. You continued taking steps and you finally arrived.”
This may seem like a simple anecdote, yet its underlying message is so ever true. Many times in life we feel that we would like to turn back and head away from surging forwards in life. Yet, it is precisely then that the greatest opportunity lies ahead for us. Hashem wishes for us to succeed, and so long as we take another step, He will help us along. That next step will open the elevator door and we will surprisingly end up in a place we never imagined we would have before. And so, always remember and tell yourself, “Take another step!” Because that next step is the one that has the elevator.
Rebbetzin Miriam Krohn Coping with Plan B
We all have a clear picture of how we would love for life to be. We would like to have a nice home, reliable car, good parnassah, stable family and nachas from our children. Our only wish is that Hashem shower upon us a life of blessing and happiness. But the reality of life is not always as we wish. There are disappointments and challenges and ups and downs experienced day after day.
While many challenges are small and fairly easy to handle, some are big and difficult to cope with. How in fact we are to deal with such vicissitudes?
After living in Israel for nine years, my son and daughter-in-law decided to move back to America. Being an artist and nostalgically thinking about the beauty of life in Eretz Yisrael they were soon to leave, my daughter-in-law in a moment of inspiration took out a canvas and began painting a gorgeous picture of Yerushalayim. As she was nearing its finish, accidentally, a few drops of the paint fell to the bottom right corner of the painting. Trying to remove the stain, she only made it worse.
Now left with a smudge which wouldn’t come off, my daughter-in-law told herself, “This was meant to be. The smudge is there and it reflects my heartfelt feelings for Eretz Yisrael.” A little stain was not going to ruin her entire masterpiece, after all.
Taking the painting to a framing studio, when she later returned to pick it up, her eye immediately drifted towards the bottom right corner where the smudge had been. And to her surprise, it was no longer a smudge which was there but a sticker. Thinking how a sticker could have gotten there, she remained without an answer. And so she approached the proprietor of the store. “Would you perhaps know why there is a sticker on my painting?” “I do know,” the man replied. “There was a smudge which I covered over with a sticker.” “I’m so sorry,” my daughter-in-law replied, “but can you please open up the frame? You cannot have a sticker on the painting. I know it had a smudge and I gave it to you with that in mind.”
As the proprietor unscrewed the frame and took off the sticker, my daughter-in-law was only more astonished. Underneath the sticker was a hole. “What’s this?” “Well, when I saw the smudge, I tried removing it with acetone. But instead of improving the smudge, I actually created a hole. I therefore covered it up with a sticker.”
Hearing how someone had taken matters into their own hands and made the painting only worse, my daughter-in-law was understandably upset. But, exercising self-control, she did not say anything. She simply told him to put back the sticker and reframe the painting. And with that, she returned home.
Of course when she returned home, she vented her frustration to her husband. “Isn’t it self-understood that you can never improve on the work of an artist? Every artist is defensive of what they’ve created. You can never alter a painting which is done!”
Looking at my daughter-in-law, my son said to her, “I now understand what Chanah meant when she declared after giving birth to Shmuel, “אין צור כאלקינו” –“There is no Rock like Hashem. Chazal, based on the Pasuk’s usage of tzur (Rock, a reference to Hashem) which linguistically relates to tzayar (artist), interpret this phrase to mean, “אין צייר כאלקינו” –“There is no artist like Hashem.” Chanah meant to say that no human being can improve upon the artwork of G-d. We cannot improve on how the world is meant to be and what Hashem wants for us. Hashem wishes for us to grow from our challenges, cope with our misfortunes and help each other pull through hardships. Hashem’s artistic world is beautiful; we cannot in any way better it. All we must do is learn how to deal with what life has to offer us and embrace it.”
When things don’t go our way, we must realize that it is the will of Hashem. As part of G-d’s world, expectations and plans will not always go as smoothly as we wish. There will be a number of rough patches along the way. Yet we must remain realistic and learn how to cope with Plan B. If your spouse forgets to turn on the oven at five o’clock and you return home at a quarter to six and nothing is cooking, switch to Plan B. Perhaps put the food in the microwave instead. Part and parcel of our life’s journey in this world is facing bumps in the road and learning how to handle them.
Along these lines, Chazal have coined the expression, “תחלתו קוצים וסופו מישור” –“The beginning is thorns, but the end is a straight plain” (Koheles Rabbah 1:35). Oftentimes in life, the beginning of an endeavor or experience is fraught with negativity and pain. It is only after everything plays out and all is said and done that the path looks straight. Only then can we look back in retrospect and perhaps make some sense of it all. That is what Dovid Hamelech meant when he said, “רבות מחשבות בלב איש ועצת ד' היא תקום” –“There are many thoughts in the heart of man, but Hashem’s counsel will prevail.” Ultimately, what Hashem wishes to happen will happen. While we can devise all sorts of plans, Hashem’s overarching plan stands above all. This is alluded to in the last word of the Pasuk, “תקום,” abbreviated for, “תחלתו קוצים וסופו מישור.” The plan Hashem puts into place sometimes appears to us as negative in the beginning and only turns out positive at the end. But we must remain steadfast in our faith that Hashem never abandons us.
I remember once reading how a woman speaking to parents of children with disabilities related the following story:
My husband and I were looking forward to a long awaited vacation. Having planned for months ahead of time, we made all the necessary arrangements to visit Italy. Purchasing maps and tour-guide books and even learning a bit of Italian, we excitedly prepared for the trip of our dreams. And then the day arrived.
Boarding the plane and comfortably taking our seats, the flight was relatively uneventful. But as soon as the plane landed, we were in for a surprise. The airline steward got onto the microphone and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Holland.” Looking at each other, we were sure a mistake was made. “Holland? We are not going to Holland? We are going to Italy!” Calling over the flight attendant, I said, “I think there has been a misunderstanding here. We are not going to Holland; we are going to Italy.” Staring back at me, the steward said, “Lady, I’m sorry, but there’s been a change of flight plans. We have landed in Holland, and it is Holland where you are going to stay.”
The woman relating this story continued: “I have experienced this trip of mine in real life in a different way. After carrying my baby for nine months, I was overjoyed when the day finally arrived. But then the doctor entered the room and told me, “Your son has disabilities.” “No, no,” I said, “you don’t understand. This is the child I am going to enjoy life with, grow together with, travel together to sites, learn about life and have nachas from. I think there is a mistake.” “Lady,” the doctor said, “there’s been a change of plans. This is your child; but the child has disabilities.”
“When my husband and I were informed that we landed in Holland, we took the maps, guide books and Italian we had learnt and put it aside. But you know what? Holland was also okay. There were beautiful tulips everywhere, the canals were pleasant, the weather was gorgeous, the people were nice and the air was crisp. Holland was not so bad after all.”
Concluding her speech, the woman said, “These are our children. But you know what? My child with all his disabilities became the child I am proud of. I am growing together with him, enjoying raising him, learning about life and having nachas from him.”
Life is about learning the skills to resiliently move on to Plan B and look at the large picture. While we all hope our challenges are minor, sometimes they are major. But notwithstanding all the distress, with Hashem’s support, we can most certainly confront and cope with the challenges we face and positively grow from them.
When matters don’t work out the first time as anticipated and we are faced with a troubling predicament, our next move must be Plan B. Instead of allowing ourselves to be setback and hampered by our experiences, we would be wise to chart for ourselves a new plan and only look forward to a better and stronger life ahead.
A Short Message From Rabbi Avi Wiesenfeld
As Jews, we are familiar with the concept of “segulos,” auspicious practices which lend us favorable outcomes. At the same time, we would be wise to recognize that many mitzvos which we take for granted are also segulos and incredibly valuable to perform with care and exactitude, for they too serve us well in many areas of life. For example, the Kabbalists write that a segulah for an easy labor and delivery of a baby is eating a Melaveh Malkah on Motzei Shabbos. It may seem simple and easy, but hearkening to the many mitzvos we are fortunate to have and performing them with zeal and the right intentions do far more for us than we may have imagined.
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