How Far it Might Travel
By Rabbi Label Lam
Moshe said to the children of Gad and the children of Reuven; "Shall your
brothers go out to battle while you settle here? Why do you dissuade the
heart of the Children of Israel from crossing to the land that HASHEM has
given them? This is what your fathers did when I sent them from Kadesh
Barnea to see the land." (Bamidbar 32:6-8)
The Malbim points out that from here we find out something that was not
clearly stated earlier. We had the impression that the main problem of the
spies was that they had spoken badly about the land. Now, forty years
later, we learn that the more serious crime was that they had spoken words
that were discouraging to the Children of Israel. A whole generation later
and Moshe is still extremely guarded on this issue. How vulnerable then is
the average person to being discouraged. See how important it is to lend
encouragement to others and not to do or say anything that might soften
On our way out of town one Erev Simchas Torah we stopped by to visit
Rabbi Hershel Mashinsky ztl. He was sitting in his Sukkah. He greeted each
of us individually with his usual warmth. As we were speaking one of the
young children reached uninvited into a bowl with sugar cubes and grabbed
one. I quickly tried to stop him. Rabbi Mashinsky with his sweet softness
said to the child, "Nu?! A brocho!?" The child said the appropriate
blessing to which we all answered, "Amen!" Then Rabbi Mashinsky chimed
in, "That was a smart brocho!" We carry that phrase till today and employ
it daily- "A smart brocho!"
On the flip side, my wife told me that she had taken the time and expense
to buy something new for one of our young daughters. The little girl had
selected an outfit she liked very much and the first day she was proudly
wearing it, another child said to her, "Where did you get that shmata???"
She refuses to wear it again!
A teacher of thousands over the past 29 years told me this week the
disheartening words spoken to him by a teacher of his more than three
decades ago and how it hurt him so. "You'll never achieve anything."
Still, he attends the dinner each year, remembers clearly, but never says
A woman keeps a framed note on her table from an educator that met her son
once, years ago, and took the time to write that he's a fine boy! How
simple it is to add zest to another's day or entire life! A husband, with
glowing praise, eulogizes his young wife by recalling that he had
purchased a van that his wife had advised him strongly not to buy and
after it turned out to be a lemon she said nothing at all.
Rabbi Zelig Plskin writes in Gateways to Happiness, "Be aware of the
positive traits and behaviors of the people with whom you come into
contact and help them build upon their strengths. Encouragement is a much
more powerful tool for change and growth than blaming and condemning. You
can bring about miracles in a person's life if you believe in their
potential.(P. 388) With the casual power of remote control, and
in a given moment, one can easily turn someone on or turn them off, and
never know how far it might travel.
Text Copyright © 2005 by Rabbi Label Lam and Torah.org.