Getting The Big Picture

Rabbi Yaacov Haber

Parshas Yisro

If you were G-d would you have chosen this Nation? G-d searched for a people to spread His light, to teach the world morality, to be a spiritual people guided by a sense of right and wrong and not by a need for satiation and comfort, and He chose us! Were our ancestors the obvious choice, were they even a sensible choice.

G-d took two million slaves, many of whom didn’t get along with each other – if we would have gotten along we would not have gone to Egypt to begin with – and brought us out to a wilderness for an en mass spiritual revival.

I remember once when I was leading a Shabbaton in Australia for a group of upwardly mobile men and women. At the end of the Shabbos, on Sunday morning, I gathered all the people together and spoke to them. I told them that I didn’t want to let the weekend remain theoretical. I wanted everyone to go home with something concrete. I asked everyone to take a minute with me to meditate in silence. During this minute, I said, everyone should introspect and think about what they can do to bring more spirituality into their lives. I asked everyone to make even a small commitment; to pray a little deeper, to study a little more, to do an act of kindness, or to call their mother - everyone should accept something during the next sixty seconds.

These kinds of moments are usually very powerful ones and this moment of silence started off as no exception. I myself began to think how I could do some growing.  It took about fifteen seconds until a deep voice resounded from the back of the room – “Rabbi, you have the wrong crowd!”… I don’t know if I had the wrong crowd or the right crowd, but that was it for that special moment and for what could have been accomplished on that weekend.

“You shall be onto Me a holy people!” G-d, you have the wrong crowd! We miss the lox and the melons that we ate in Egypt . We know from bricks and mortar. We didn’t want to leave Egypt all together. We are a stiff-necked people. What are we doing here in the wilderness, at the foot of a mountain being chosen to change the world?

Yet, at the foot of Mount Sinai something changed. We were “like one man with one heart”. We were completely united. We yearned for holiness, we accepted the Torah, we said “Naaseh Venishma,” we are ready! What transformed us? How did we get from petty, divisive and whining to loving and brotherly? How did we get from slaves to princes?

The answer is – that as we stood at that mountain we didn’t only see thunder, lightning and holy clouds – we had a moment of inspiration where in we saw the big picture and with that vision everything changed.

Imagine being lost in a dark forest, late at night, hungry, desperate, probably walking in circles with no clue how to get out. Then a storm begins to develop. You can hear it in the distance and suddenly there is a flash of lightning. For a split second it is daytime, for a moment you can see the forest from the trees, for a moment you have clarity. You cherish that moment of clarity, you memorize it and you work your way out of the thicket.

At Mount Sinai we had this moment – we saw the big picture. For a second everything became clear, we knew where we came from and we knew where we were going. We saw Avrohom Avinu and we saw Eretz Yisroel. We were a brand new people.

Until this great moment, we were petty because our lives were petty. We had no goal or vision. We worried about small stuff because there was no larger picture. We didn’t see a future. When we were shown a larger purpose, the paltry issues were shed. We had a purpose and a mission. When one has a mission, the little things just don’t matter. All the things that divided us suddenly disappeared. We stood at the threshold of greatness, and we found a whole new perspective.

Are we the wrong crowd? Do you see yourself as being holy? As a serious role model and delegate of G-d to spread His light? If we consider the big picture, than we are right there!

If we find ourselves acting petty, if we find that inconsequential things bother us, if we find ourselves so touchy that we draw a wedge between ourselves and the people we love the most, we are probably missing the big picture.

Even after the great epiphany at Mt. Sinai our people began to bicker again. They forgot the big picture. They lost their awareness. They had to recreate Har Sinai over again. So do we.

We need a moment of silence. We need a flash of lightning. We need to remind ourselves what life is really all about. We need to think about where we came from and where we are going. Even we are the right crowd – we can take the challenge of greatness and shed the small stuff. We too can be holy.

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