April 16, 2024
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Chanah, the wife of Elkanah, was barren for many years. When she was finally blessed with a child, she named him Shmuel and dedicated him to God. He grew up in the Holy Temple under the tutelage and watchful eye of Eli, the high priest.

As a young boy, he was once lying on his bed when he heard his name being called. He ran into the other room and said to Eli, “I am here.” Eli responded that he did not call him and that he should go back to bed. A few minutes later, the same thing happened. Once again, Eli told him to return to bed. On the third occasion, however, Eli realized that God must be calling him. And so, he instructed Shmuel that next time he hears the voice, he should respond, “Your servant is listening.” Thus, began the exalted career of the Prophet Shmuel.

* * *

Today’s daf discusses how the court would administer the bitter waters to the sotah. The name of God was written on a scroll and then scratched off into the water. Prior to doing so, they would try to persuade her to admit her guilt and avoid the desecration of God’s name.

כְּדֶרֶךְ שֶׁמְּאַיְּימִין עָלֶיהָ שֶׁלֹּא תִּשְׁתֶּה כָּךְ מְאַיְּימִין עָלֶיהָ שֶׁתִּשְׁתֶּה אוֹמְרִים לָהּ בִּתִּי אִם בָּרוּר לִךָ הַדָּבָר שֶׁטְּהוֹרָה אַתְּ עִמְדִי עַל בּוּרְיִיךְ וּשְׁתִי לְפִי שֶׁאֵין מַיִם הַמָּרִים דּוֹמִין אֶלָּא לְסַם יָבֵשׁ שֶׁמּוּנָּח עַל בָּשָׂר חַי אִם יֵשׁ שָׁם מַכָּה מְחַלְחֵל וְיוֹרֵד אֵין שָׁם מַכָּה אֵינוֹ מוֹעִיל כְּלוּם לָא קַשְׁיָא כָּאן קוֹדֶם שֶׁנִּמְחֲקָה מְגִילָּה כָּאן לְאַחַר שֶׁנִּמְחֲקָה מְגִילָּה

In the same manner that they pressure her not to drink, so, too, they pressure her to drink. They say to her: My daughter, if the matter is clear to you that you are pure, arise to clear your name and drink. For the bitter waters are like a dry ointment placed on the skin. If there is a wound there, it will penetrate and enter, but if there is no wound there, it does not have any effect. (So, when do they pressure her not to drink?) It is not difficult. That is before the scroll was erased.

A doctor places the same ointment on two different people. One experiences healing, the other feels nothing at all. Does that mean he’s an incompetent doctor? Of course not. The first person may have been completely healthy and didn’t need healing!

Sometimes in life, we experience revelations that nobody else seems to have. Shmuel heard the voice of God. Eli eventually realized that if only Shmuel was hearing the voice, he was being called directly by Heaven for his personal Divine mission.

You might see something or hear something and have the most powerful reaction. You look around you and nobody else seems as moved as you are. You tell yourself: That’s a really important cause, but it doesn’t seem to bother anyone else, so why should I bother with it? But that’s not the right response. It may well be that Hashem is speaking to you directly. He is calling you for your personal Divine mission. If the “ointment” has penetrated your skin and not your friend’s, you have been chosen for this specific healing. If you have experienced a revelation that nobody else has been privy to, God has called you specifically for the mission. It is your unique task to fulfill.

One day, Jennifer, our shul programming chair, told me that she wanted to step down from the position. “Nobody ever volunteers,” she complained. “They come to the programs, but they expect it all just to happen. Why should I make the effort when nobody else does?” I explained to her that everybody has a unique mission in life. If she saw the need for programming leadership and stepped up, it’s because that was her Divine calling. For someone else, it might be helping to coordinate shiva minyanim or hospital visits.

Everyone has his specific mission in life. For some of us, it is to provide for the needy. Others were placed on this Earth to build Torah institutions. Yet others were given the gift of political advocacy on behalf of the Jewish community and the State of Israel. What wakes you up and spurs you to action won’t necessarily do the same for your neighbor. You have your ointment, they have theirs.

You were uniquely fashioned by God. Only you hear Heaven’s clarion call for your special mission. May you heed the call and fulfill your Divine mission on Earth!


Rabbi Dr. Daniel Friedman is the author of The Transformative Daf series and the founder of the Center for Torah Values. www.transformativedaf.com

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