Feb 21, 2014

Who Are We Really?

I read a poignant story in an October issue of Hamodia's Inyan magazine, written by R' Avraham Y. Heschel.  It begins with a story that the author tells of a man, we'll call him Shimon, who protested nearly every week in shul, complaining that he should get the second aliya. 

The problem was, the rav of the shul was a Levi, but Shimon felt that as a Levi too, he should have a chance at that aliya.  The rav even frequently told the gabbai to let Shimon have the aliya at least some of the time, but the gabbai refused, saying it was the rav's aliya and Shimon had to make do with occasionally getting maftir and only receiving Levi on the rare occasions that the rav was away.

This went on for years.  Shimon remained a member of the shul but was always bothered about not receiving the Levi aliya.

One day, Shimon came to shul all excited about his older brother, we'll call him Yaakov, having received permission to leave Russia and come to America.  The rav told the gabbai that he absolutely must give Shimon's brother the second aliya, Levi, on Shabbos, and the gabbai agreed, considering the special circumstances. 

When Yaakov was called up he seemed puzzled.  He asked why he had been given this aliya.  The gabbai said, well, your brother is a Levi, so I assumed you are too.

Yaakov chuckled and said, "He thought he was a Levi? Shimon was a little kid when he had to run away during the war.  He doesn't remember.  We are not Leviyim."

R' Heschel says the story is true and he heard it from the rav of that shul.  He goes on to write a powerful lesson from the story.  For years, Shimon was upset because he thought he should be getting the second aliya.  Actually, the second aliya was not his and he could have had any of the other aliyos.  "Shimon's problem was that he didn't know who he really was."

Many people are stuck deep in negative feelings, struggling with painful memories or a difficult life.  They are convinced, he says, that they are not capable of moving forward, that their problems are too great, their hurts too deep, their challenges too mighty for them to live a relaxed, happy life.  But, this is only because they really don't know themselves!

to be continued

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