Shabbat Greetings – 1/16/2015
Rabbi Steinhardt's Shabbat Greetings

Shabbat Greetings – 1/16/2015

Dear Friends,

So much happening in the world. Many of the events are on a global scale with profound implications for our future. This Shabbat, we will talk about some of them; particularly the terror experienced in Paris. For now, I want to write about something totally different. It’s about the spirit of men, human beings and what they are capable of doing.

Did you see Tommy Coldwell and Kevin Jorgeson at the summit of El Capitan? They achieved something incredible. These men free climbed, in the course of a week and a half, the dawn wall of El Capitan at Yosemite National Park. It is the world’s most difficult climb – over 3,000 feet – and it appears to be completely vertical. Without ropes to advance, they scratched and grabbed and hung on to the smallest pieces of granite as they made their way to the top. It’s a skill that demands great strength, spatial intelligence, and courage. And you need every fiber of muscle in your fingers, your hands, and your body to succeed.

Why would they do it? Because it was there? Because they could? Because they are risk takers looking for the next thrill? They are climbers by vocation and avocation. And like all climbers, they look for the next big challenge. They took it and succeeded. One of them was missing a finger which, in this climb, represented a big disability. When asked, he said, “Well, I have nine to work with.” There’s a lesson! We all have what we have to work with, and are challenged to make the best of that.

One of the wives indicated that something was sad about the achievement. Now what would they do? They have completed the ultimate in free climbing! Hopefully, they will find something to do, and that may be transcending their interest and using it in the world to work with others. They are certainly skilled. When our challenges are only material, if we are fortunate to arrive, we realize that there is more in this world to do.

Finally, this reminded me of this week’s Torah reading. Moses was “called” to speak with Pharoah and tell him to “Let my people go.” Moses’ initial response was that he couldn’t speak well. Perhaps he had a lisp or another difficulty in speech. He was embarrassed. He felt inadequate. We all know the end of this story. And we know what happened to Moses, who had speech difficulties.

Last year, I was in a hotel where I needed to use a special elevator. I inquired at the desk as to the availability of the elevator for the disabled. The man behind the desk corrected me. He said the elevator was for the differently abled.
Such is life. Each one of us is challenged to use our own abilities as best as we can. And, none of us should think the task is impossible.

In Pirkei Avot (The Ethics of our Fathers) we learn it is not up to us to finish the task, but we are not free to desist from it either!

Shabbat Shalom…See you in shul,

This column is dedicated to the memory of Rubin Shafran z”l