The last few days have been quite hot in the New York area, to say the least. With temperatures in the upper 90s, and intense humidity that drove the heat index over 100 degrees, it felt oppressive. Weather reports all cautioned against being in the sun for any prolonged period, and to make sure to constantly drink to protect from dehydration.
And yet, this past Sunday, tens of thousands of people did not drink (or eat) anything!
What’s more, in camp, counselors and junior counselors don’t have the luxury of staying in an air-conditioned room all day. They have over a dozen non-fasting children under their care who need to have activities during the day. Yet, we did not have one incident of dehydration during the fast.
The m’siras nefesh we have to maintain halachah is amazing. The fact that we were all able to make it through the fast without incident is really unbelievable.
Often, we hear stories of individuals who performed relatively minor acts, which had incredible repercussions, even lifelong or life-altering impact.
There are numerous stories of people who despaired of life or felt like total failures but regained their vitality because someone displayed a small act of caring.
Rabbi Aryeh Rodin of Texas famously related that a secular Jew donated a tremendous amount of money for the construction of his shul because he was inspired by the davening of a chareidi individual when he had been at the Kosel one recent morning. Rabbi Rodin related that when that chareidi Jew comes to the world of truth after his death, he will be shocked to learn that he has merits of countless prayers from a shul in Texas, where he has likely never been.
Rav Shimshon Pincus zt”l explained that when hearing such a story, most people marvel about the impact of one small action, and how the effect of our words and actions are far more powerful than we could imagine. While that is certainly true, there is a deeper and more profound point as well:
If we seek to live our lives based on our own abilities and means, we are very limited. However, if we live with the awareness that it’s Hashem’s world, and we are merely trying to play our part in the divine plan, then we tap in to the infinitude of the divine.
When we live with the knowledge that it’s Hashem’s world, and Hashem lacks nothing, we can merit far greater things than we ever imagined
Rav Pinkus related that, one Pesach, he and his wife hosted a lot of people. His parents and in-laws joined, along with his married children and grandparents. He spent over a thousand dollars just on matzah! He related: “As I sat at the Seder, I marveled at the miracle Hashem performed that somehow I was able to afford everything and had plentiful food for Yom Tov. But the whole time I was thinking to myself: What about next year? Maybe Hashem won’t perform the miracle again next year.
“This is stupidity! It’s an absurd thought! It was clear to me that Hashem, the Almighty, had provided for me though I couldn’t figure out how. So why did I lack faith that He would do it for me again?”
When we live with the knowledge that it’s Hashem’s world, and Hashem lacks nothing, we can merit far greater things than we ever imagined.
The lesson of those inspiring stories reinforces to us that Hashem could do anything. Here a person did something relatively insignificant, and may not have even remembered it or thought much of it. Yet Hashem caused his innocent action to set off an incredible chain reaction that changed lives. You can daven one morning at the Kosel and have an impact on the religious life of an entire community you never heard of. To Hashem there are no limits, and anything is possible.
I would venture to think that the m’siras nefesh displayed on Shiv’ah Asar B’Tamuz to maintain the halachah was a great z’chus, and was a big factor that Hashem enabled everyone to fast despite the oppressive heat.
When our enemies breached the walls of Yerushalayim, they also breached the feelings of closeness we had with Hashem. We commemorate that terrible event in the hope that we will be able to repair that breach by living our lives connected to the Divine, where there are no impossibilities or absolute limitations.
Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW, is a rebbe and guidance counselor at Heichal HaTorah in Teaneck, Principal at Mesivta Ohr Naftoli of New Windsor, and a division head at Camp Dora Golding. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Looking for “instant inspiration” on the parshah in under minutes? Follow him on Torahanytime.com.