Sign In Forgot Password

Parshas T'Tzaveh - It Ain't Over Till It's Over, Sir           9 Adar I 5779

02/12/19 11:42:52


Yogi Berra was an unlikely athlete: 5-foot-7, 185 pounds. He got his nickname as a teenager because he resembled a yogi, or so the story goes. He was a notoriously bad ball hitter, reaching for pitches outside the strike zone, and yet he won the American League MVP award three times, and played on 10 world championship teams, winning 14 pennant winners (both major league records) in the course of his 19-year career.

Berra's most famous turn of phrase was probably "It ain't over till it's over." -- a deceptively simple statement of depth. What he meant was that we need to stay aware, stay focused, and, most important, never give up. Stand firm for your values, stand up for yourself. There are times in life when things don’t go smoothly, particularly in the beginning. Perseverance is a critical value, a trait a person must have and refine to get through some of the difficulties and push backs in life. Opportunity knocks on the door for someone willing to work hard to open it up. If a person tries to open a door only one time, giving up after one unsuccessful attempt, that person will never be successful.

I must admit to my utter dismay I am surprised and saddened by a certain attitude that I sense within the community. We have dozens of events in our community, not limited to davening, learning, lecturers, meals and more. I hope I am wrong, but my sense is that if something is not right at the beginning, a give up attitude prevails. When a lecturer begins a talk, the first few moments may not be immediately effective, but by the end of the talk the impact of what was said may be profound. Even in a series of talks, I have witnessed people who do not come back and listen to the other lectures, based upon their initial assessment of the first lecture.

Unfortunately for the student or the mature listener, people tend to shut down when the speaker is not a top-class entertainer. Lecturers tend not to be entertainers; they are presenters of ideas, concepts, things to mull over and learn through. Most of the time the later lectures or presentations far exceed the expectations of those in attendance, yet people lose out because they gave up too early. It is disappointing to me how a person has such lack of patience. If a talk for some reason just doesn’t match with prior expectations, all too often the baby is thrown out with the bathwater. When a person eats out in a restaurant and is displeased or not excited about the appetizer, he usually does not just get up and leave the restaurant Just because a person didn’t enjoy the first lecture, speech, or initial impression of the guest presenter is not justification for avoiding attending remaining lectures of Torah yet to be taught. ( I might add very strongly while I’m on the subject, that it is a shame and an embarrassment to our kehillah when speakers are brought in particularly on Shabbos and people choose to do other things - including learning during the lecture. To put it frankly, person who learns while a guest speaker is talking is making a statement that their Torah is more important or greater. It is honestly inappropriate. Secondly, if the average person sees the above-average person not going to the lecture or shiur, a message is sent that it’s not worth the time, causing others to perhaps not to attend. There is a certain derch eretz that needs to be addressed; people need to think about how their actions affect the klal.

The path to a person’s growth may not take place with the instant gratification of one lecture; such growth needs time to perk, to take root It is actually Chazal who say not to give up even when the sword is on your neck; it’s never too late. Furthermore, we see in this week’s Torah reading how necessary it is to go through difficult times in the beginning to actualize the sweetness of life later on.

In this week’s Parsha T’Tzaveh the Torah states in Shmos 27:20 “V’Ata T’Tzaveh Es Bnai Yisrael, V’Yikchu Eilecha Shemen Zayis Zach, Kasis LaMaor, L’Haalos Ner Tamid”. “You, [Moshe], must command the Israelites to bring you clear, illuminating oil, made from hand-crushed olives, to keep the lamp constantly burning”. The great Chasidic master R’ Chanoch Of Aleksander* explains the idea of the oil in a different manner than the more common teaching. Shemen/Oil and olive oil in particular is a hint for wisdom and knowledge. There is a specific type of preparation needed when a person wants to acquire knowledge. At first, a person needs to walk in ways of a bitter soul. A bitter inside and an olive represents or hints to the idea of bitterness. This bitterness will crush (Kasis) a person’s soul and lead the soul to loftier and higher levels. After that Hashem will help him open, enlighten his eyes in the service and worship of Hashem, referencing L’Maor L’Haalos Ner Tamid.

This has a similar idea regarding the wood of the tree that Moshe threw into the water at Marah (the place named bitter). According to the Mechilta in B’Shalach 25 “the water was bitter and became sweet with bitterness”. In the natural order this makes no sense and is difficult to comprehend. Obviously, it was a miraculous feat as is confirmed the verse in Shmos 15:25 that the ‘waters became sweetened’. The Jewish people felt they had done something wrong by complaining about not having water to drink. As the Torah describes in Shmos 15:24: “The people complained to Moses, “What shall we drink?” They went around feeling and acting bitterly down to their inner being. The Jews then proclaimed, “What have we done that we have sinned?” This bitter feeling played on their emotions, working on them, turning the water on their lips from bitterness to sweetness.

The Midrash Chadash explains why olive oil is different than all other oil. At the outset the olive is bitter but in the end it is sweet. So too the Jewish people and the nation of Israel will endure bitterness through the exiles in order to be sweetened by the time of Moshiach. A second analogy is just as the olive is first bitter then turns sweet, so too the Jewish people will live bitter lives in this world so that they may earn reward for the world to come. Lastly, the olive is bitter but in the end turns sweet, so to the Jewish people will not return and repent from their evil doings until they are pressed and crushed like the olive so that they will enjoy the sweetness of the redemption during messianic times.

The Shiur, class, meal, book, or event is not over until it’s over, don’t give up on it and don’t leave early for you may lose out on the most basic and important things necessary to grow as a Jew.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky


*Rabbi Chanoch Henich HaKohen of Alexander was born in Poland, 1798-1870 (Adar II). Rabbi Chanoch was a disciple of Rabbi Simcha Bunam of Pshis'cha, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk and Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Alter, the Chidushei Harim. Rabbi Chanoch was known for his great wisdom in niglah and nistar, the revealed and mystical aspects of the Torah. A man of miracles and wonders, he was known also for praying loudly with great excitement.

Sun, May 24 2020 1 Sivan 5780