July 18, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
July 18, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Rav Shlomo Freifeld zy”a, legendary rosh yeshiva, builder of people and Torah, master educator, was beloved for his simchat hachayim, joie de vivre, positivity, optimism and originality. He founded Yeshivah Sh’or Yoshuv to create opportunities for young men at different stages of growth and development on the path of mitzvah observance and learning. The rav focused on individuals, warmly inviting each person into a haven of Torah.

One morning, while traveling from Far Rockaway to Brooklyn, the jalopy that Reb Shlomo was driving broke down in the middle of traffic. A couple of friends received word and arrived at the scene to help push the car to the side out of the way of traffic. As they pushed the car to safety, the engine revved. The friends, who assumed Reb Shlomo would leave the car on the side of the street to be towed to a mechanic, were surprised when he stepped on the gas pedal, started to speed up and reenter the line of traffic. Smiling, Rav Freifeld explained, “I need to go to Williamsburg!”

“But how do you expect to get there when your battery just died?”

Reb Shlomo smiled and reassured them, “The car didn’t die… it just fainted.”

And continued on his way.

~

In our sedra this week, Hashem instructs Moshe Rabbeinu to deliver the message of impending redemption from Egypt to klal Yisrael as well as to Pharaoh:

Moshe spoke to Bnei Yisrael but they did not hearken to Moshe because of their shortness of breath and because of their hard labor (Shemot 6:9).

Rashi justifies the nation’s inability to “hear” Moshe and appreciate the joyous message he was attempting to deliver by explaining that when one is suffering or under stress, “his spirit and breath are short, and he cannot take a deep breath.” In the throes of persecution, surrounded by pain, our spirits were crushed by backbreaking labor and generations of slavery. In addition to “hard labor” we experienced “shortness of breath,” making it impossible to imagine that things were going to improve. Without the ability to take a deep breath, there was no way to process Moshe’s message.

The Ohr Hachayim HaKadosh adds further insight into the emotional state of kotzer ruach that we faced in Egyptian bondage: Perhaps, since we had not yet received the Torah, we were unable to hear—and this is what is called “shortness of breath”—for the Torah expands the heart of a person.

Torah is spiritual oxygen, our source of life, the ruach, the breath that provides vitality to our heart and mind, like fresh air for our physical senses.

Yiddishkeit is expansive, and when lived consciously it empowers us to recognize how big we are, how wondrous a world we inhabit and how great life can be. When we draw from the Torat Chaim through study of Jewish law and ritual, not only do we deepen our understanding of the instructions for how to enjoy the best of what life has to offer—but it directly maximizes our opportunities for growth, connection and joyful living. Torah expands our horizons and consciousness, opening our hearts and minds so that we can “breathe” deeply and vigorously engage in a life of meaning and purpose.

May we be revived from our kotzer ruach, our faintheartedness and shortness of spirit, and be blessed with expansive consciousness to perceive the depth and beauty of Hashem’s promise and blessing!

Hashem’s Torah is whole… and restores the soul (Tehillim 19:8).


Rabbi Judah Mischel is executive director of Camp HASC, and mashpiah of OU-NCSY. He is a member of Mizrachi’s Speakers Bureau ( www.mizrachi.org/speakers ).

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles