While standing and davening at the Kotel Hama’aravi last week I was reminded of the following anecdote I had once heard:
An elderly man was attending an NFL game one Sunday afternoon with his family. In the middle of the game, the man suddenly stood up and began screaming at the top of his lungs, “SIXTY-FIVE THOUSAND PEOPLE! SIXTY-FIVE THOUSAND PEOPLE!” The family became alarmed as they tried to calm him. But he continued repeatedly screaming, “SIXTY-FIVE THOUSAND PEOPLE! SIXTY-FIVE THOUSAND PEOPLE!” They feared that he had lost his mind until he screamed, “THERE ARE 65,000 PEOPLE AT THIS GAME! AND THAT BIRD FLYING OVERHEAD COULD NOT FIND ANYONE ELSE BESIDES ME!”
I was reminded of the story while my eyes were closed and my head was leaning upon my arm which was propped against the Kotel. I leave it to you, dear reader, to understand why I was reminded of that story at that particular moment.
I also remembered a friend of mine relating to me that he had a similar experience while davening at the Kotel. He looked up and said, “I know when I’m not wanted.” And with that he turned around and left.
But then I thought that perhaps the opposite is true. Maybe my prayer is so potent and important that the Satan is doing all in his power to hinder it because he knows just how valuable it is.
So, after cleaning myself off, I resumed my prayer.
Whenever one intends to accomplish something good, he should expect that all will not be rosy and easy. To attain anything worthwhile entails exertion, effort and perseverance.
My rebbe, Rabbi Berel Wein, notes that he used to have a clip which held his bills (he notes that it was a rather large clip) on which was written: “Confidence is the feeling you have until you realize the problem!”
It’s not enough to be motivated to accomplish; one has to be motivated enough that he is ready to deal with the inevitable challenges.
It’s kind of like playing in the Super Bowl. It’s not enough for a team to want to win badly and to be motivated as such. They also have to know how to break through the opposition who stand starkly in the way of their ultimate goal.
I’ll conclude by saying that lest you think birds don’t take aim at great people too, I was told that the noted (and very sharp) rosh yeshiva, Rav Baruch Mordechai Ezrachi, also had a similar experience that I had at the Kotel.
Afterward he relates that the Gemara recounts that Rav Yonasan ben Uziel was so holy, that “if a bird flew overhead while he was learning it was immediately consumed by fire.” Rav Ezrachi then quipped, “I’m not Rav Yonasan ben Uziel who causes birds to become consumed when they fly overhead. But ‘efsher a tziter’—perhaps (I cause them to) tremble.”
By Rabbi Dani Staum
Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW is the rabbi of Kehillat New Hempstead, as well as guidance counselor and fifth grade rebbe in ASHAR, and principal at Mesivta Ohr Naftoli of New Windsor and a division head at Camp Dora Golding. He also presents parenting classes based on the acclaimed Love and Logic methods. For speaking engagements his email address is: [email protected] His website is: www.stamtorah.info.