Rabbi Label Lam
Who We Might Be!
Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzatto writes in his Etz Chaim, "A person should ask
himself what our forefathers did that caused Hashem to choose them." What
did Moshe and David do? He should answer and then say, "It would be well
for every person to do the same."
Moshe’s actions immediately prior to the burning bush are described as
follows, "And Moshe was shepherding the sheep of Yisro, his father in-law,
the priest of Midian, and he led the sheep after the dessert and he came to
the mountain of G-d, Choreb." (Shemos 3:1) Then, suddenly, the burning
bush appears, and the task to save a nation.
Why did he lead his sheep to the dessert? Moshe, Rashi, tells was
distancing himself from theft by avoiding fields that might potentially
belong to others.
As King David tells us, "Who will ascend the mountain of G-d, and who can
stand in that holy place, someone who has clean hands and a pure heart…"
What else was Moshe doing at that time? The Netziv asks why Moshe led the
sheep "after the dessert" and not simply to the dessert which would have
been sufficient. He answers that Moshe went deep into the dessert to
isolate himself and search for G-d. How does isolating oneself lead to
The Chazon Ish writes, "When a person with a sensitive soul finds some
quiet time to meditate on existence, away from the pulls of desire,
astonishment over takes him. The sight of the heavens above and the earth
below fills him with emotion and wonder. The world suddenly strikes him as
a mystery, a marvelous enigma… and the desire to fathom this mystery
consumes his soul. He is willing to brave fire and water to gain
understanding. He wonders: 'What is the point of this life, however
pleasant it may be, if its purpose eludes him?'"
Vaclov Havel, the former Czechoslovakian president and poet wrote, "We may
know immeasurably more about the universe than our ancestors did, and yet
it increasingly seems that they knew something more essential about it than
we do, something that escapes us."
Psychologist Eric Schumacher stated, "It is a grave error to accuse a man
who pursues self-knowledge of "turning his back on society". The opposite
would be more nearly true: that a man that fails to pursue self-knowledge
is and remains a danger to society, for he will tend to misunderstand
everything that other people say or do, and remain blissfully unaware of
many of the significance of the things he does himself."
I remember many decades ago watching an episode on "Candid Camera" where
high school students were being given in private consultations the results
of their aptitude tests. Each one sat uneasily as the news that would
determine the direction of their whole life was read to him with total
sobriety, "We have been studying your test results and we find that you
have the qualifications to be a shepherd!" The existential nausea,
anxiety, despair and forlornness that danced across their vulnerable little
faces were tragic and comical. They whispered with looks of disbelief, "A
Shepherd!? A Shepherd?!" You could see worlds of hopeful imaginations
crashing down around them.
What’s so wrong with being a shepherd? Some of our greatest people toiled
in this field and they were able to produce themselves by working dutifully
and diligently inwardly and out!
Surely, every job has its occupational hazards and it matters probably less
which exact career one toils at. More importantly, we espy Moshe at work
with great personal honestly, uncluttered by little lies, conscience free.
Simultaneously, he fulfills his truest ambition; to quiet the noise of the
world around him sufficiently to allow his spirit to soar to the heights it
In a world that is dumping new mountains of information on us daily and our
little brain sensors are being bombarded constantly with varying
stimulation, I wonder seriously if there might be a better way to make real
personal progress. Rather than following frantically the beat on the
street, what if, by answering the inner talent search, we were to lead a
life that allows pauses long and deep enough to hear the bleat of the
sheep. (As King Solomon said, "The righteous knows the soul of his beast"-
Mishle') You never know where we might end up or who we might be!
Tapes of Rabbi Lam are available at Foundations. For a free tape on the
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This Dvar Torah is Dedicated in memory of Kalman Ben Gedalia, of blessed
Text Copyright © 1998 Rabbi Dovid Green and
Project Genesis, Inc.