April 13, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

A number of years ago, I was standing and davening at the Kosel Hama’aravi when I was reminded of the following anecdote I had once heard:

An elderly man who 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 SIXTY-FIVE THOUSAND 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 Kosel. I leave it to you, dear reader, to understand why I was reminded of that story at that particular moment.

I also remember a friend of mine relating to me that he had a similar experience while davening at the Kosel. 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.

In his classic book “The Last Lecture,” the late Randy Pausch notes: “The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.”

It’s kinda 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 stands 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, I was told that the noted (and very sharp) late Rosh Yeshiva Rav Baruch Mordechai Ezrachi, zt”l had a similar experience to mine when he was davening at the kosel.

Afterwards, he relates that the Gemara recounts that Rav Yonasan ben Uziel was so holy, “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 ‘efshar a tziter,’ perhaps (I cause them to) tremble.”


Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW, is a popular speaker and author. He is a rebbe in Heichal HaTorah in Teaneck and an experienced therapist who has recently returned to seeing clients in private practice as part of the Rockland CBT group. To schedule an appointment with Rabbi Staum, call (914) 295-0115. Looking for an inspirational and motivational speaker or scholar-in-residence? Contact Rabbi Staum for a unique speaking experience by emailing [email protected]. Archives of his writings can be found at www.stamtorah.info.

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