Parshot Festivals

Heed your calling for greatness

  • RabbiKagan (2)
Even though we find ourselves in the midst of the Hebrew month of Sivan, our parsha this week, Behalotcha, takes us back to an auspicious date just more than a month ago.
by Rabbi Shmuli Kagan, Bnei Akiva | Jun 11, 2020

The 14th of Iyar is the date set aside to fulfil the mitzvah of Korban Pesach for those who couldn’t bring their offering on erev Pesach because of circumstances beyond their control. The parsha tells us the reason for this remarkable “second chance”. “These Jews who were in this case impure because of contact with the dead approached Moshe and asked (Bamidbar Chapter 9 verse 7), ‘Why should we be diminished?’ In other words, why should we lose out on doing this mitzvah? On a deeper level, why shouldn’t we reach our ultimate potential and experience the spiritual completion this act will bring us? This small group of passionate individuals brought about a new mitzvah in the Torah which would benefit them and subsequent generations.

Pesach Sheini always occurs during Sefirat Ha’Omer, and begins the week of the character trait of Hod which hosts Lag B’Omer. The sefira is a time when we think about Rebi Akiva – during that week in particular. Rav Moshe Shapiro explained that the character trait which inspired these desert dwellers to demand a second chance also drove Rebi Akiva to strive for greatness and not be content with mediocrity and ignorance.

Legend describes how he witnessed a steady dripping of water splashing onto a stone, realising that over many years, the soft water had eroded away the hard rock. He reasoned that if such a gentle substance can penetrate such a course element, then how much more so could Torah, which is compared to water, make an impression on his soft heart! He asked, “Why should I be worse than a stone? Why should I not be worthy to learn? Why should I lose out on this opportunity?” Realising the void he could fill, he stubbornly fought against the odds because why should he be diminished?

It says that when Rebi Akiva died, honour for the Torah was lost from the world. Rebi Akiva honoured the Torah because he was aware of the greatness that lies in all of us, and the specific ability of the Torah to bring out our best. He taught that all humans are created in the image of Hashem, and the Jewish people are called His children. (Avot Chapter 3 Mishna 18) The omer period asks us to contemplate how this great teacher amassed 24 000 students and became a person about whom Moshe Rabeinu asked if Rebi Akiva exists, then what does Hashem need Moshe for? Similarly, Pesach Sheini reminds us to ask, “Why not us?”

When we feel a deep calling to act, it’s a plea to fulfil our potential, to bring out what we are worthy to reveal, and not settle for being diminished or incomplete. And when we listen to that call, we can achieve extraordinary things.

Shabbat Shalom


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