Never in a million years would I or anyone who knew me imagine I would end up in a Yeshiva in Israel for a year. After graduating high school my plan was to go straight to college, but one day, I decided I wanted to go to Israel. I didn’t think it would have much of an impact on my life; I was just using it as an excuse to get away and meet new people. Thankfully, with Hashem’s love and grace, I was able to spend a year of my life studying in Aish HaTorah in Israel. There, I was able to grow, learn how to become a true עבד ה׳, and develop into the person I always wanted to be. However, coming back wasn’t an easy transition. My time spent in Yeshiva was truly life changing, but boy was I in for a rude awakening when I returned home. My environment, surroundings, influences, etc. were no longer the same, and I started to see myself falling back into the bad habits I had developed for myself before attending Yeshiva. Thankfully, with the help and guidance of my Rebbeim and mentor, I was able to turn my life around and continue where I had left off in Yeshiva. Although he may not be aware, Rav Gavriel Friedman, has had a tremendous impact on the way I live my life today and on the publication of this article. “The decisions we make have the ability to impact the course of our lives forever, and if not forever, then at least the very next day.”
There are many decisions that we have to make over the course of our lives, but some are known as permanent decisions, decisions you can never retract. Getting married and having kids are examples of a permanent decision. Once these decisions are made, there is no going back. Marriage is a commitment to love, value, support, and care for your spouse—forever. Furthermore, the moment you and your spouse decide to have children, there is no going back. You will have to love and support these children for the rest of your life. It’s not every day that we are forced to make a life altering decision, but in reality every decision we make has the potential to change our lives and perhaps the lives of others as well. It is important to remember that many of the decisions we may classify as minute and insignificant are in fact monumental, each in a unique manner. For example, we know that Eisav made a poor yet seemingly insignificant decision of selling the Bechora (the right of the firstborn). As we know however, Eisav ended up regretting and paying for this seemingly “insignificant decision” for the remainder of his life.
Many of us don’t classify each one of our decisions as crucial components to our success or our growth, when in reality they are. Each and every one of the decisions we make throughout the course of our lives has the ability to impact those around us—our family, friends, peers, and most importantly ourselves. Have you ever looked at someone and thought “wow I can’t believe they were able to accomplish that” or “I’m jealous. Why can’t I do that?” Well, it doesn’t have to be that way. By understanding that the small and seemingly insignificant changes and decisions we make have the ability to truly impact our lives, we can accomplish almost anything. Changing your ways begins with a simple thought: “I want to be better” or “I want to change.” Once you’ve decided to change and are focused on making the right decisions, you can begin making a difference in your life. In the past, I never enjoyed putting on תפילין; in fact I dreaded having to do it. Days, and sometimes even weeks could go by without putting on תפילין and praying. One day I decided that I would put them on, pray only certain parts of davening, and then take them off. The following day I did the same. Eventually, after some time, I found myself going to minyan three times a day, putting on תפילין in the morning, and praying the entire תפילה. It all began with that one seemingly insignificant decision to put on תפילין again. For some, saying ברכות is difficult. However, the שולחן ערוך recommends that each and every person say 100 ברכות a day. This idea is alluded to in a פסוק recited by דוד המלך and is also alluded to in the Torah. The שולחן ערוך goes on to say that there are 100 curses written in the משנה תורה that one is susceptible to each and every day. One of the ideas behind reciting 100 ברכות a day isn’t for Hashem, Hashem doesn’t need our ברכות, they are solely for our sake. The 100 ברכות correspond directly to the 100 curses, and by saying 100 ברכות a day, we are creating a shield that can protect us from any possible curse the יצר הרע wishes to bestow upon us. Again, we see that it is the small decisions and the proper mindset that help mold a person into the עבר ה׳ they always desired to be, whether or not they were aware of it.
I once heard a story about an individual who came to learn with a big Rav. This individual was part of Facebooks original team before it became a popular and renown social media platform. This individual got into a foolish argument with Mark Zuckerberg which inevitably cost him his job. If this individual would’ve swallowed his pride and ego for just a moment and held onto his stake in the company, he could’ve been worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and instead was left with absolutely nothing. In life, you never know what will become of one small decision. As stated by my Rebbe, Rav Chaim Yagoda, we know that Hashem helps those that are trying to do the right thing. The גמרא in Yoma 39a states that Hashem helps those that initiate “הבא ליטהר מסייעין לן” and even if we are only able to open up a small hole the size of a needle, He will open up a hole the size of a ginormous room. It is the small decisions that get us started. You never know where they will take us and how much Hashem will help us because of them.
Everything that people do in this world is of eternal significance. There’s no such thing as past; everything is present and future. What you did ten years ago will live on for eternity, and the decisions which many perceive as small and insignificant are sometimes the decisions which have a greater impact on us than we could have ever imagined.