Ari Shishler
Working to bring Moshiach

Don’t let your past define you

A very religious Jew travelling through Europe stopped overnight at a local B&B. He noticed a mezuzah on the door and wondered if he could rely on the kashrut standards of the institution. The fellow approached the bare-headed owner at the front desk and asked if he served kosher food.

“Look there,” the proprietor reassured him as he gestured at an ageing photo of a man with a tangled white beard, “That was my father! Surely, you can rely on the kashrut of my food!”

The guest smiled wrily and replied: “If this had been your father’s establishment, and he had hung a photo of you on the wall, I’d have felt more comfortable eating here.”

Jews love to tell you about their pedigree, how frum their father or grandfather was or how their grandmother chaired the women’s auxiliary back in the “old country”. “Oh, you’re a Hurwitz, are you related to the famous Kabbalist Rabbi Horowitz?” (When I introduce myself, I usually get: “Is that a Jewish last name? I’ve never heard it before…”)

Rabbi Dovber, later the Magid of Mezritch who grew to become the Ba’al Shem Tov’s successor, witnessed his house burn to the ground when he was a young boy. His mother seemed inconsolable, so he tried to calm her by reminding her that valuables are replaceable. She, however, explained that she was not upset over the loss of their material possessions. What bothered her was that she had a family tree that traced their pedigree to King David. The inferno had destroyed that priceless document. Young Dovber thought for a moment before quietly responding, “Don’t worry, mother, I will start a new illustrious family tree”.

It’s each man for himself in Judaism. You don’t get to ride on the achievements of your parents, nor are you entitled to blame them for your shortcomings.

Avraham’s father was an idolator, yet he fathered monotheism. Rivkah’s family were crooks, yet she grew to become one of the most pious people ever. Even Moshiach’s lineage is embarrassing. His ancestors include Moab, a child born from the incest of Lot and his daughter.

Don’t focus on who your parents were; show us who you are.

About the Author
Rabbi Shishler is the director of Chabad of Strathavon in Sandton, South Africa. Rabbi Shishler is a popular teacher who regularly lectures around the globe. he hosts a weekly radio show in South Africa and is the rabbi of Facebook's largest Ask the Rabbi group. Rabbi Shishler is also a special needs father. His daughter, Shaina has an ultra-rare neuroegenratove condition called BPAN. Rabbi Shishler shares Shaina's story and lessons about kindness and disability inclusion on his other blog, "Shaina's Brocha" and through lectures and Kindness Cookies teambuilding workshops.
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