The Power of Teshuvah – Day 12
In Our Generation
The Olympic spectators gasped as the pole vaulter planted his long, thin pole into the ground and thrust himself into the air, soaring over the 20-foot-high bar and landing neatly on the other side. They were witnessing the setting of a new record in an Olympic contest that began with the ancient Greeks.
In all those years, the bar has gradually inched upward. The higher standards are the result of improved equipment and training, and the human urge to compete and surpass.
Spiritually, however, the world’s “bar” has been sliding downward with each new generation. Nevertheless, when we clear our generation’s bar, even if it is a few short inches off the ground, we win the gold. We cannot reach the heights of the previous generations, but we are not expected to do so.
The heightened awareness of Elul and Aseres Yemei Teshuvah are not intended to break our hearts and to have our souls give up … Hashem does not ask more than what a person can do. What does Hashem want from us? He desires teshuvah that is consistent with our abilities and strength.
Not only are we not expected to perform to the level of the earlier generations, we must realize that because the spiritual standing of our generation is so small, our minuscule accomplishments far outweigh those of prior generations. Just as a few wobbly steps by a toddler suffice to win his parents’ accolades, so do our wobbly steps toward Hashem bring Him to open “His arms,” so to speak, with love.
Rabbeinu Yonah states in the name of the Raavad that one who leaves over a little food in his plate at the end of a meal in order to overcome his desire for food is considered to have fasted many fasts. And that was in the Raavad’s generation. Imagine how significant this is in our generation.
The truth is that regardless of a person’s spiritual standing, everything a Jew does is important in the Heavenly scheme.
As the Nefesh HaChaim explains:
A Jew should never think to himself, “What difference can my insignificant actions make?” On the contrary, how exalted are his actions, each one reaching up … to have its impact in the highest heights, in the spiritual worlds and the splendorous lights above!
There is a well-known Mishnah that states that each person should think, “Bishvili nivra ha’olam — The world was created for me.” Each newborn is like the lead actor walking onto the stage precisely on cue to play his part. If he misses his cue or stands in the wings crippled by stage fright, the play will not unfold as it should. Each individual’s unique role is essential in completing God’s creation and in glorifying His Name.
Points to Ponder:
- Our teshuvah and spiritual growth is measured in light of our own generation.
- Because of the spiritual weakness of today, even the smallest steps are highly valued by Hashem.
- Every person in every generation has his unique role to play in glorifying Hashem’s Name.