April 10, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Not everyone has the ability to follow directions perfectly enough to construct even the simplest pieces of IKEA furniture. It takes a great amount of patience and poise. For some this may come naturally, for others it may be a skill learned and perfected over the years. Then there are those like me, who have never been able to find success at Ikea’s creations. How well do we follow directions? It may depend on the task and less on our desire, which is our ability to actually follow the guiding hand provided for us.

The third pasuk of Parshat Behalotcha tells us that Aharon did as he was commanded in regard to the kindling of the menorah in the mishkan. On the surface, the language of the pasuk speaks to us as fact: Aharon did as he was asked. Rashi elaborates on this seemingly obvious description, and explains that the reason the Torah stresses this detail is to point out that Aharon followed the directions given to him precisely. He did not deviate in any way from the instructions given by Hashem when it came to the execution of the Menorah’s lighting. However, Rashi’s statement causes us to bring up a question. Would we ever think that Aharon would change anything from that which he was instructed? The answer to this question may lie in our tendency as human beings to attempt to fulfill tasks as efficiently and easily as possible. Aharon could have thought in his mind that lighting the menorah in a different way would be quicker, or that the menorah would look better if displayed differently. Perhaps the Torah is teaching us that it is unbecoming for us to follow our own directions when doing for others upon their request. Such behavior exudes arrogance which is abhorred by like minded people.

Years ago I was sitting at seudah shlishit in Shul and was asked by someone sitting near me to pass the Diet Coke. As I reached for the bottle I noticed a marketing slogan printed on the side label. It said “Do what feels good!.” I remarked to the person sitting next to me that in my opinion it was this type of message that can steer a person in the wrong direction. When we do what feels good without weighing the consequences of our actions, we act impulsively and can sometimes regret our behavior.

This lesson can be applied to our approach toward Torah and tradition as well. Our tradition teaches us that we serve Hashem as he wishes us to serve Him, rather than serving Him as we choose. In this world of freedom and personal choice such an approach may seem foreign, yet it has served as the lifeline of our people throughout history. As the generations develop we are desperate to connect on a spiritual level to something that we feel touches our soul in a positive way. Aharon’s actions teach us that following the directions as they were given is praiseworthy in the eyes of Hashem. If we strengthen our commitment to following our directions for life steadfastly we will be successful in constructing a promising future for ourselves, our families, and our communities.

By Rabbi Eliezer Zwickler

Rabbi Eliezer Zwickler LCSW is Rabbi of Congregation AABJ&D and a psychotherapist in private practice. Rabbi Zwickler can be reached at [email protected]

 

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