‘We Can’t’

Two words spoken in the Torah sum up an entire world view. Negating those words, contradicting them, proving them untrue, is a noble and necessary mission. The words are “Lo Nukhal.”

In Genesis Jacob comes across a group of shepherds gathered around the well (Gen. 29:2). The well is covered by a giant stone. When Jacob asks them why they do not remove the stone and water their sheep, they answer “Lo Nukhal” — we cannot. Jacob walked over and rolled the stone off the mouth of the well. Perhaps you can’t, his actions declared, but I can.

Everyone lives with limitations. There are limitations of natural endowments and limitations imposed on us by upbringing and society. And it is true, we cannot do everything. But we shall fail to do anything if our motto becomes that of the shepherds — Lo Nukhal. Achievements begin in the belief that they can indeed be achieved. Success in life requires confident daring. Perhaps that is why thousands of years later we do not know the name of a single one of the timid shepherds, but none have forgotten the man who became Israel.

About the Author
Named the most influential Rabbi in America by Newsweek Magazine and one of the 50 most influential Jews in the world by the Jerusalem Post, David Wolpe is the Rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, California.
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