Eliezer Shemtov
Trying to make a difference

If you’re there, you can do it


“If I were G-d,” one of Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s colleagues remarked, “I would create the world differently than He did.” 

“And if I were G-d,” replied Rabbi Schneur Zalman, “I would create the world exactly as He created it.”

One of the causes of anxiety and distress is dissatisfaction or uncertainty regarding one’s role in life. “Why did I get to be a businessman? I would have preferred to be a Rabbi!” “Why did I get to live in this community? I would have preferred to live in another!” “Why did I get to be/do……? I’d rather be/do…..”

How can you feel better about your life? What can you do to meet the challenges of life with more joy?

There are, in fact, two questions here: 1) Why do I have to face these specific challenges? 2) How do I know that I can overcome them?

In this week’s reading, Pinechas [1] , we read about laws concerning the division of the Land of Israel and perhaps we can find some relevant answers there.

The Land of Israel was divided among the twelve tribes using two systems  [2] : 1) drawing lots; 2) according to population.

The topography of Israel is very varied, as we well know. It has coast, mountains, valleys, deserts and fertile lands with different potentials.

This physical topography reflects the spiritual “topography” of the Jewish people, both individually as well as collectively. Each tribe had a different main occupation. There were shepherds (the tribes of Reuven, Gad and half of the tribe of Menashe), merchants engaged in trade (the tribe of Zevulun), scholars (the tribe of Issachar), olive oil producers (the tribe of Asher), etc. Each one received the type of territory needed in order to be able to carry out their tasks optimally. Additionally, the population of each tribe determined the amount of land they would receive in order to be able to live comfortably.

The population of each tribe was something visible, accountable and rational; their specific life mission, not necessarily so. In other words, the territorial needs of each tribe reflected rational as well as irrational considerations. Hence, the two distribution systems: census and lots.

The message for us is that one’s personal life mission is not determined according to rational criteria. It is determined by G-d before we are born and it responds to criteria to which we have no access. A clue that our sages give us to be able to identify one’s mission is that if something is especially difficult, it is a good sign that it is very important for one to do it and that is why it generates so much resistance. Look at what happened to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. They had the whole world available for them to enjoy and they could not resist eating from the fruit of the only tree that was forbidden to them!

But, along with the irrational determination of the mission, there is the rational distribution of resources. In other words, while your personal life mission is not necessarily something that responds to rational considerations, rest assured that you were given the resources necessary to accomplish it. The extension of the territories —miraculously— corresponded to the population of each tribe.

So this week’s tool is: Internalize the idea that you are where you need to be and have everything you need to successfully fulfill your mission. With this in mind, you will be able to focus and dedicate yourself more confidently to doing everything that depends on you to fulfill your mission.

Sometimes it is difficult to understand how to get the job done. To help with this, we have the advice of our sages [3]: Aseh Lecha Rav, “designate a teacher for yourself”. Additionally, the Rebbe —may his merit protect us— repeatedly expressed his Bakasha Nafshit  —“personal request”—  that each of us designate a trusted personal Rabbi with whom to consult when making important decisions. Independently of the intelligence of the Rabbi, this system is a Kli  “conduit” through which to receive the special inspiration and blessing that come thanks to the merit of fulfilling the indications of a Tzaddik, especially a Tzaddik of the Rebbe’s stature.

Just do it!


Numbers, 25:10-30:1

See Rashi on verse 26:54

Pirkei Avot, 1:6

About the Author
Rabbi Eliezer Shemtov, born in in Brooklyn, NY in 1961. Received Smicha From Tomchei Temimim in 1984 and shortly after was sent by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, may his merit shield us, together with his wife Rachel to establish the first Beit Chabad in Montevideo, Uruguay and direct Chabad activities in that country. He has authored many articles on Judaism that have been published internationally. Since publishing his popular book on intermarriage, "Dear Rabbi, Why Can't I Marry Her?" he has authored several books in Spanish, English and Hebrew dealing with the challenges that the contemporary Jew has to deal with.
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