Being Put Into a Box

Rabbi Yaacov Haber

Parshas Vayeilech

The hour has finally come. Hashem said to Moshe “Hain Kirvu Yame..."(Medrash).

Hain implies fact, the un-negotiable truth. When I say Hain I am not espousing a theory or a possibility, I’m telling it the way it is. Hashem tells Moshe, “Hain” It is time for you to die. No Eretz Yisroel, no more prayers, Hain. Moshe cringes at the finality of the statement and points out that he only used Hain at the most final of statements. Hashem finally responds, You also said Hain lo Yishma lee. They will not listen to me. You were so final about that. I too am final.

This Medrash points to an extremely important principle. When G-d lays out our years before us He can go about this in a number of different ways. He can judge us with mercy, with justice or with tolerance. How does the Ribono Shel Olam decide which way to go? The answer is He looks at us and how we judge others. Moshe Rabeinu put a life sentence on his people. They will not listen, period. His psychological assessment may have been correct, they may not have looked like candidates for redemption, but the fact is they did listen. Moshe did not take into account their ability to change and to grow. He looked at what they were and he paskened. This is a mistake. One can never peg someone or freeze them into a slot. Last week is not this week and what I do today is not necessarily the definition of my life.

Our culture has us doing this all the time. We no longer say that a child got C’s, we rather pass a sentence and say he is a C student. We don’t say someone failed in his business, we say he is a failure. This is a trap that we mustn’t fall into because it not only distorts the truth but it stifles the growth and possibilities of whomever we are referring to. We are a society full of labeled boxes and everyone must fit into one. It’s not even conscience, the moment we meet someone we start processing – rich or poor, frum or not, black hat or kipah srugah or tzitzis out, generous or miserly, today there is a box for everyone. Once you put someone in a box it can be so hard to crawl out of it.

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