January 18, 2017
Rabbi Gershon Avtzon in #1053, Ha’yom Yom & Moshiach, Shmos

Dear Reader sh’yichyeh, 

In our Parsha (Shmos), the Torah tells us (2:23): “Now it came to pass in those many days that the king of Egypt died, and the children of Israel sighed from the labor, and they cried out, and their cry ascended to G-d from the labor.”

In the HaYom Yom of Gimmel Tammuz, the Rebbe writes (about the power of a Jewish sigh): My revered grandfather, the Rebbe [Maharash], once said: “Even when the sigh of Jew is occasioned by an unfavorable material circumstance (Heaven forbid), this too is a significant act of t’shuva. All the more so, a sigh due to an unfavorable spiritual situation is most certainly a lofty level of t’shuva. It drags one out of the depths of evil, and sets him up in a good place.”

On similar note, the Rebbe writes in the HaYom Yom of 23 Teves: Groaning (sighing) by itself won’t do a bit of good. A groan is only a key to open the heart and eyes, so as not to sit there with folded arms, but to plan orderly work and activity, each person wherever he can be effective, to campaign for bolstering Torah, spreading Torah and the observance of Mitzvos. One person might do this through his writing, another with his oratory, another with his wealth.

And finally, we have the HaYom Yom of 8 Adar II: My father writes in one of his letters: “A single act is better than a thousand groans.” Our G‑d lives, and Torah and mitzvos are eternal; quit the groaning and work hard in actual avoda, and G‑d will be gracious to you.

The Rebbe is teaching us a valuable lesson: There are many of us who “feel good when we feel bad.” When tragedy strikes, there are those who are totally insensitive to the tragic situation. Most healthy people feel bad about the tragic events. Yet, many of us suffice – and actually feel good – with feeling bad. Our sighs and sad feelings validate to us that we are still human and caring people.

But that is wholly inadequate. We must keep in mind that “Groaning (sighing) by itself won’t do a bit of good.” We must ask ourselves, what have we done? We must change and better the situation! The situation won’t improve by mere sighing.

There is a famous story that took place in the early part of the 20th century in Russia. There was an evil decree against Russian Jewry and the g’dolei Yisroel convened to try and devise a way to have the decree annulled. This special Asifa (gathering) was attended by the Rebbe Rashab and Reb Chaim Soloveitchik of Brisk. The efforts of the Rabbanim however were unsuccessful. Seeing this, the Rebbe Rashab cried. R’ Chaim Soloveitchik, who was a gaon and the rav of Brisk, said to him, “Admur of Lubavitch, why are you crying?” The Rebbe said, “Because we were unsuccessful in having the decree cancelled.” R’ Chaim Brisker retorted, “But we did all we could do!” The Rebbe responded, “But we were unsuccessful!”

This is the attitude that the Rebbe wants to instill into each and every one of us. As one of the twelve “P’sukim and Maamarei Razal” that the Rebbe wanted each child to study and learn by heart, the Rebbe chose the following Gemara (Megilla 6b): “יגעתי ולא מצאתי’ – אל תאמן; ‘לא יגעתי ומצאתי’; אל תאמן; ‘יגעתי ומצאתי’ – תאמן” – If someone says, “I have worked hard, and I have not been successful,” don’t believe him. If someone says, “I have not worked hard and I have been successful,” don’t believe him. If someone says, “I have worked hard, and I have been successful,” believe him!

It is not enough to groan, sigh or even to say that we tried; we must accomplish. Chassidus teaches us something even deeper. While in the text of the Gemara, the word “מצאתי” means that I have accomplished, it literally means that I have found (something that was lost). There is an important lesson: A person gets paid a salary based on his abilities and how much he works. However, it is very possible that a simple person can find a big treasure (or win the lottery). The amount found can be incomparably higher than the effort put in. When we put in the right effort, we will be rewarded with even greater accomplishments than what we are naturally able to accomplish.

This attitude of action rather than sighing is especially important when it comes to bringing Moshiach. When one speaks about bringing Moshiach, many wistfully sigh and smile and let out big groans or just say “Halevai – If only.” They pay lip-service and maybe even sing “Ani Maamin” but after so many years in Galus, they do not really feel that anything we do can change the current situation. We become complacent in exile and only wish for a better tomorrow.

This attitude needs a drastic change. We must realize that “Groaning (sighing) by itself won’t do a bit of good.” We must take an active role in bringing the Geula. We can’t be waiting on the side for someone else to do something to bring Moshiach, we must get personally involved. In the words of the Rebbe (Shmini 5751, right after the historic Sicha of 28 Nissan 5751):

Simply put: All Jews, men, women and even children, have the responsibility to increase their efforts to bring our righteous Moshiach in actual reality! Therefore, it’s obvious there’s no place for relying on others or imposing the work on someone else instead of doing it one’s self – but this is the task of every man and woman; everyone must themselves do their job, “to serve my Maker” (for the sake of which “I was created”), and certainly one has the ability (since “I do not ask except according to their ability”).

Intriguingly, there is a small letter that the Rebbe chose to serve as a preface to the entire HaYom Yom: “At this time, when the world is quaking, when the entire world is shuddering with the birth pangs of Moshiach, and G‑d has set the walls of exile afire…, every Jew — man and woman, old and young — is obligated to ask himself: ‘What have I done and what am I doing to ease the birth pangs of Moshiach and merit the ultimate Redemption that will come about through Moshiach?”

[It is important to note, that this quote from the Frierdike Rebbe was not attached to any specific day of the calendar. The Rebbe wants us to be asking ourselves this question every single day!]

This Avoda feels overwhelming and difficult. To adjust our attitude, it is important to keep the words of the following HaYom Yom (4 Tammuz) in mind: One single chassid or student who devotes his heart, mind and soul to Torah and to bolstering Torah, effects wonders in a large city, in all that city’s affairs – in a manner that transcends the natural order, by the merit of our Patriarchs, “Fathers of the World.” [i.e., our Rebbeim].

When we think of bringing Moshiach, we think of huge – and many times unrealistic – projects. This deflates our eagerness and excitement. We must internalize that it is the small things that make a big difference. As it states in yet another HaYom Yom (2 Adar I): This avoda does not imply – as some think, altogether erroneously – that one must pulverize mountains and shatter boulders, turn the world upside down. The absolute truth is that any avoda, any act, whatever it may be, is perfectly satisfactory when performed with true kavana, intent: A bracha pronounced with kavana; a word of davening as it should be, with a prepared heart and an awareness of “before Whom you stand”; a passage in Chumash said with an awareness that it is the word of G‑d; a verse of T’hillim; a beneficent trait of character expressed in befriending another with affection and love.

“Let’s make the world great again” by being active in the Moshiach campaign. Let us stop sighing and kvetching as “Groaning (sighing) by itself won’t do a bit of good.” As this Shabbos is already Shabbos Mevarchim Shvat, and the preparations for Yud Shvat begin in earnest, let us make a “small” hachlata to learn a little more – and teach a little more – about Moshiach and together we will certainly merit the complete Hisgalus of the Rebbe MH”M now!

Rabbi Avtzon is the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Lubavitch Cincinnati and a well sought after speaker and lecturer. Recordings of his in-depth shiurim on Inyanei Geula u’Moshiach can be accessed at

Article originally appeared on Beis Moshiach Magazine (http://beismoshiachmagazine.org/).
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