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Get Up, Stand Up!

obormottel Sunday, 28 December 2014

Rav Baruch Ber's genius is never doubted by anyone; however, we must also never forget that besides excelling in learning, he excelled, perhaps even more, in his exemplary character traits (Midos Tovos) and particularly in his extreme exactness with which he performed the mitzvah of Kibud Av (honoring one's father).

During the first World War Rav Baruch Ber was forced to flee to the city of Kremenchug and finally to Vilna. During this time Rav Baruch Ber took care of his father and provided him with all of his needs. After the war, Rav Baruch Ber's father took ill and Rav Baruch Ber would not leave his father's sick bed even for a brief respite. Eventually his students were concerned that the pressures of caring for his father were adversly impacting Rav Baruch Ber's own health. After much pleading and cajoling, Rav Baruch Ber agreed to take a brief break to rest, and his students assured him that they would keep watch by his father's bedside.

As Hashem would have it, during this brief break Rav Baruch Ber's father returned his soul to his maker. Rav Baruch Ber felt extermely guilty for "failing" his father precisely in his greatest moment of need, and he became depressed. His feelings of culpability in the death of his father were so intense that his students feared for his well-being.

The Chofetz Chaim went to meet with Rav Baruch Ber. The Chofetz Chaim did not attempt to alter Rav Baruch Ber's self-perception, nor did he attempt to assure him that there was nothing more he could have done for his father. Quite the opposite; the Chofetz Chaim said, “Perhaps you are correct. Perhaps you should not have left your father's bedside precisely at such a precarious time; perhaps, indeed, you erred in your judgment. Where does that leave us now? Does not the Torah speak about Teshuva? Does not the Torah recognize that people err, and when they do, they always have the option of turning over a new leaf and beginning a new page in their life through Teshuva? Even if you were culpable, does life stop? Is there no tomorrow to improve upon the mistakes of today?”

Rav Baruch Ber was shaken to the core, and the words of the Chofetz Chaim elevated him from the doldrums of depression to the burning desire to improve and re-embrace life. Rav Baruch Ber would often say of that encounter, “The Chofetz Chaim brought me back to life!”

(From “/Chofetz Chaim HaChadash Al HaTorah/”- arranged by Rabbi Shalom Meir HaKohen Vallach; Bnei Brak, 5767, pages 205-206)

How often in life do we need the reality ‘wake-up call' from the Chofetz Chaim? How often do we allow ourselves to wallow away our lives while drowning ourselves in a sea of self-pity?

We all make mistakes; some big and some little; however, a mistake should never be co-opted and utilized as an excuse for a failure to engage life and meet tomorrow's challenges head on. Everyone falls and everyone stumbles. The greatness of the Chofetz Chaim and his advice to Rav Baruch Ber was stressing the necessity to recognize that once you have fallen and once you have stumbled, get right back up and take on tomorrow. Using yesterday's mistakes as excuses for failing to act today is never acceptable or valid.

Get up, wipe yourself off, and become another Rav Baruch Ber!