Power of Rejection
To see what someone is really made of,
observe the person
in time of crisis.
Moses is in the news this week.
In the Torah portion of this week we read: Devorim
these are the words that Moses spoke
This is the beginning of the fifth book of the Torah, which
in its entirety documents the words that Moses spoke to the
people in the last 37 days of his time on Earth.
Knowing that he has a short time to live, Moses
reviews all the events that the Jews had experienced over the
last 40 years since they left Egypt, he discusses the relationship
the Jews had established with G-d, G-ds instructions to
them, and he encourages them to carry on these teachings for
the generations to come. In the Book of Devorim, Moses in effect
is leaving the people his last will and testament.
Indeed, in his immortal words (devorim)
Moses leaves us with eternal messages that are especially appropriate
to this time of the year.
It is therefore no coincidence that this time
period when we read Moses words in the book of
Devorim coincides with the time that Moses spent on the
mountain engaging G-d.
Time, according to Jewish thought, is a spiral
energy flow that annually repeats its orbit. Events in history
are actually forms of energy-experience that we relive when
we reach the same point in time each year.
So though Moses climbed the mountain 40 years
before he spoke his last words, yet in this time the prevalent
energy is that of Moses and his words.
This also coincides with the saddest part of the
Jewish calendar. On the thirteenth day of Moses 40-day
journey on Mt. Sinai, we enter the difficult month of Av.
This is the second segment of three 40-day periods
that Moses will spend on the mountain. The first 40-day period
(Sivan 6-Tammuz 17) is the time when Moses receives and is taught
the entire Torah. He then descends, discovers the Golden Calf,
destroys it, shatters the tablets, and then returns to the mountain
for the second 40-day period (Tammuz 18-Av 29), beseeching G-d
for forgiveness. Unsuccessful, he goes back for a third 40-day
period (Av 30-Tishrei 10) and this time he succeeds and descends
triumphantly on Yom Kippur with the Second Tablets in hand.
We know much about the first and third 40-day
period. Both are well documented in the Torah: The first
when Moses receives the Torah; the last when G-d shows Moses
His ways and reveals to him the Thirteen Divine
Attributes of Compassion.
By contrast, we know precious little about the
middle forty-day period. We know that they are called days of
wrath (Seder Olam ch. 6. Rashi Deuteronomy
10:10), because G-d is not receptive to Moses pleas (in
contrast to the third 40-day period, which are called days of
compassion, when G-d welcomes the prayers of Moses).
As usual, human curiosity gravitates to the unknown
and the mysterious. What happened in this middle 40-day period?
How was Moses able to face an angry G-d for 40 days
on end? What did he say and what did he hear? Above all, what
kept him going when he was not receiving any positive response?
And how did he even venture to return a third time when he was
rejected for 40 long days and nights?
What is so intriguing about it is that this is
a true case study perhaps the ultimate one of
human resilience and confidence. When faced with a formidable
challenge, and the odds seem impossible, what are we people
capable of? When do we give up and when do we persist? And above
all, how do we hold on when everything is crumbling around us?
Had Moses succeeded in gaining G-ds forgiveness
with little or no effort, we would have been left with no lesson.
Of course, the great Moses has G-ds ear, so its
no surprise that he can break through any door. But what about
us ordinary people what can we really expect to achieve
when all seems lost?
to mind a story, that either is or is not relevant here [but,
hey, a good story is always timely
]: The Baal Shem Tov
gathered ten great tzaddikim to pray for a very sick child,
but to no avail. As a last resort, he went to the edge of town
and gathered together ten thieves and asked them to pray for
the child. Their prayers helped, and the child recovered. Later,
when asked how is it that the thieves prayers could achieve
that which the tzaddikim could not, the Baal Shem Tov replied
with a smile: I saw that all the gates in heaven were
sealed, and I needed someone to break in
But Moses did not succeed easily in breaking through
the gates of heaven. In this middle 40-day period all Moses
efforts did not yield the results he wanted. And yet, it is
precisely in this rejection that we can learn the most profound
lessons in life.
In fact, this is the deeper message of the month
we are now entering, the month of Av: On the surface, Av is
the saddest month of the year, being the time when many tragic
events took place in history, largest of which is the destruction
of both Holy Temples in Jerusalem. The Nine Days (from Av1-9)
is traditionally a period of mourning, when we avoid celebrations
and entertainment. The sadness intensifies as we get closer
to Tisha BAv (9th of Av), until the ninth day
that is a 25-hour fast day, when we dim the lights and sit shiva
in mourning of the destroyed Temples.
What are we to make of these sad days?
The Arizal tells us that in the throes of Tisha
BAv afternoon, as the raging fires were consuming the
Temple, Moshiach is born. Redemption is conceived from the ashes
In the deepest darkness lies the strongest light.
However, from our limited perspective we can only see one dimension
at a time: either we see dark or we see light. Someone with
deep eyesight and strong focus can see the light within the
Moses was such a person. When G-d refused him
during the second 40-day period, Moses did not see rejection;
he saw opportunity. Where others saw wrath, he saw
challenge. Where others saw hopelessness, he saw potential.
Moses had this vision because he had unwavering
faith in the essential goodness of G-d and absolute confidence
that good will always prevail. Moses did not have the word no
in his lexicon, nor the word impossible or hopeless.
Armed with such confidence, nothing, absolutely nothing, could
shake Moses. He didnt even accept G-d telling him that
his request was impossible. Moses was supremely resolute, persistent
absolutely sure that his cause was right, and that which
is right will triumph.
Rabbi Akiva was another such man, when he laughed
as he looked at the desolate Temple Mount. And so was the Arizal,
when he saw redemption in the darkest moments.
Our eyesight may not be quite on the level of
these great souls. Yet, we are blessed with the ability to look
at life through their eyes. When we read the words of Moses,
we are essentially being given the gift to see life through
his eyes. The same with Rabbi Akiva, the Arizal and others of
Ask yourself: How do you deal with rejection?
With disappointments, with shattered dreams and broken promises?
How do you look at the darker moments of life, at failures and
Moses seemingly unsuccessful 40 day journey
to Sinai in these days was actually very successful in that
it allows us a deeper glimpse into a man of G-d under pressure;
it empowers us with the ability to see the process, not just
Above all: it gave birth to the compassion of
the next 40 days, culminating with Yom Kippur. The Shaloh writes
that Aryeh (the mazal/sign of the month of Av) is an
acronym for: Elul, Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Hoshana Rabba.
The compassion of Elul; renewal of Rosh Hashana; forgiveness
of Yom Kippur; and sealing of Hoshana Rabba all are born
out of the energy of Av.
Its true that we are not satisfied with
these 40 days of wrath and neither was Moses;
what we want is to have compassion in our lives, and consciously
feel the triumph of hope that was finally achieved on Yom Kippur.
Yet, at the same time, Moses later success was determined
by how he dealt earlier with rejection, better said: how it
left him unperturbed, and more resolute than ever.
The saying goes: There are people who are like
teabags. You dont know strong they are until you put them
in hot water
When you think about it, it doesnt seem
too far-fetched to say that this 40-day period carries the secret
to life, the secret of Moses, the secret of eternity.
How you deal with crisis, with rejection, with
failure will determine how successful you will ultimately be.
One can say that success is actually born out of failure. Some
people are demoralized and crushed when they fail. Others allow
the failure to educate them and to motivate them, to build in
them a deeper fortitude, which gives them the power to succeed
in the future.
Yes, there are those who see this month as Av
the saddest month in the calendar. Some have even mastered
the methods to mourn and grieve.
But there are others who see the Menachem
(in) Av (the complete name of the month) they see the
comfort and the consolation within the pain.
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev tells us that
on Shabbat Chazon (the Shabbat before Tisha BAv)
each one of us is shown the Third Temple from afar, in order
to evoke in us the desire to have the Temple with us. Hence,
the name Shabbat Chazon Shabbat of Vision.
There are those that see the vision of Isaiah
(read in this weeks haftorah) which describes his vision
of destruction; and there are those that see the rebuilt Third
We were given the power to choose our visions.
Why should you not be one of those that see the
Menachem in Av?