A Thought for the Week
A couple of weeks ago I spent a day in
Key West, Florida. There was a beautiful Government building that was
erected many decades ago. It was the southernmost government building in the
United States of America. The tour guide pointed out some of the unusual
features of this building. First of all it had a tin roof. The purpose of
this tin roof was to capture the huge amounts of snow that would fall on it
so it would eventually melt into drinking water for the use of the people
who worked inside the building. At that time there was no running water in
Key West. The tour guide also pointed out that the building was
equipped with eleven huge hearth fireplaces, capable of keeping the
building warm through the fiercest winters.
Getting stuck is an age-old phenomenon. When Moshe delivered his message of hope for the Jewish people he was met with mind boggling reluctance. Instead of blessing Moshe they cursed him. They believed Moshe, yet they couldn't listen to him. The Torah makes a bold psychological diagnosis in explaining the Jewish reluctance to accepting freedom. "They couldn't listen to Moshe - m'kotzer ruach - from a shortness of spirit."
Kotzer ruach must be a very powerful condition to cause a people to refuse freedom, refuse nationhood, refuse chosenness, refuse a land they could call their own, and refuse a future for their children.
What is this "kotzer ruach"
syndrome? It occurs when the comfort of familiarity overpowers all
dreams for the future. When one resists change, even when change will create
an improved and wonderful lifestyle. When one makes peace with a bad
situation because one just doesn't have the strength to change. It's a sad
condition but it is inherent in humanity. It is a syndrome that was labeled
by G-d Himself. It is also a condition that can and must be overcome.
I'd like to share a personal story. In
1994 our family was living in Australia. I decided it was time to make
a move. A number of opportunities came my way. One of the most enticing came
from a call I received from a student of mine who asked me if I would
consider being a candidate for Rabbi of Caesaria. I had visited Caesaria. It
is a beautiful coastal town, with exquisite homes and wealthy inhabitants.
It had a beautiful Shul and at that time was the residence of the President
of Israel. I had the qualifications, the language skills and the connections
necessary to get that position. The only problem was that in Caesaria there
were no schools for our children; it would have meant commuting to
neighboring Ohr Akiva on a daily basis. I remember calling my Rebbe to
discuss the matter with him. He asked me how old I was. I told him I was 38.
"Isn't that a bit early to retire?" he asked.
Every day we make a brocha in which we acknowledge Hashem as "Hanosein layaef koach". "He gives the weary strength". Every day we are weary; every day G-d gives us new strength. I'd like to recommend an exercise. Let's stop at this brocha for a full minute and think about what we are saying. Let's meditate daily on the renewed strength that G-d is willing to give us. Let's ask ourselves if we are kotzer ruach - or are we full of ruach.
Rabbi Yaacov Haber
Rabbi Haber is the OU's National Director of Jewish Education and the spiritual leader of the OU's Pardes Program
Comments and questions are very welcome
"A tree of life for those who embrace it"