Don’t Carry Your Mountains—Climb Them!
Do you sometimes wonder what you might have done to deserve the hand that life has dealt you?
A gifted silversmith was earning a good living in the city of Polotzk, Belarus when suddenly he lost his job and was unable to find work. Having no other choice, he moved with his family to the town of Vladimir, deep in the Russian heartland. Though he was able to make a nice living as before, Vladimir had no Jewish life at all. He didn’t even have a minyan to pray with.
As any chossid would do, he traveled to the town of Lubavitch to consult with the Rebbe Maharash—the fourth Chabad Rebbe. “Why would G-d have put me in such a spiritual desert if we wanted me to live a Jewish life?” cried the chossid.
“Do you really think that you moved to Vladimir because G-d could no longer provide for your needs in Polotsk?” replied the Rebbe. “Vladimir has a large community of Cantonists—Jewish Russian soldiers who were forcibly kidnapped from their homes at a very young age. After 25 years in the military, they know nearly nothing of their Jewish identity, other than that they were Jewish. G-d has sent you there to lovingly help them find their way.”
A Secret Transmitted in 2 Words
As we begin the book of Exodus, we are pained by the suffering that befell our ancestors as they descended into 210 years of slavery in Egypt. Why would G-d have made them suffer in this awful manner? What crime could they have committed that could have justified such anguish?
Yet a closer look exposes us to a stunning revelation about the enigmatic paths of our destiny: When G-d foretold the slavery in Egypt to Abraham, 200 before its onset, he said that:
“Your offspring will be slaves in a land not theirs.”
The strange conclusion is not intended to describe a mysterious land but rather to justify the reason for the decree they faced. Its truth is timeless and applies to us today as it did to them 3336 years ago.
“Not theirs” tells us that the reason they are going there is not for their own needs but for what they’re needed for—”Ask not what your country can do for you; Ask rather what you can do for your country.”
Though we tend to immediately assume that all suffering is punishment for a prior misdeed, the Torah is teaching us here that much of what happens to us is motivated by what we are needed for. Like the chassidic silversmith of Vladimir, the Jews descended to Egypt to illuminate the corrupt, pagan land with the light of Torah and monotheism.
The master craftsman of the universe coordinates every single one of its details. Nothing is left to chance. Wherever we are is exactly where we are meant to be.
Indeed, when Queen Esther was reluctant to speak truth to power to save her people from the Haman’s Purim decree, Mordechai convinced her when he told her, “It is for this moment that you were placed in this world.”
It is a liberating experience to meditate upon this truth: Realizing that I am exactly where I am supposed to be right now because this is where G-d has placed me now. All “could’ve, would’ve and should’ve” fade away and we are no longer overcome by guilt that we might have done better elsewhere.
Whether you’re in a troubled relationship, a struggling business, or you simply wish you had a different family—embracing the meditation of “Not theirs” can change your life.
Don’t carry your mountains—climb them! I am exactly where I am supposed to be right now to fulfill my Divine mission in this world. The only question is what am I going to do about it!
Raise your eyes to the horizon to see beyond the myopia of the wall that stands before you. Books, umbrellas, parachutes, and the mind—only work if they’re open!
Rabbi Dovid Vigler
Chabad of Palm Beach Gardens
6100 PGA Blvd, Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33418
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