Thursday, January 12, 2012

From Zusha to Moshe

There is a well known Hassidic story of the Rebbe Reb Zusha. He was known for the simplicity of his lifestyle and his inspiring humility. He once told his disciples, "When I die and face my judgement I do not fear the angels will ask me why I was not as spiritual as Moshe.I will simply tell them Moshe was a soul so much greater than my own. Nor do I fear they will ask me why I was not as kind as Avraham. If they do I will tell them Avraham was unique in his capacity to do hesed. How can you expect so much of me. Nor do I fear they will ask me why I did not compose songs to G-d as David. If they do I will say how can you compare me to the "sweet singer of Israel". But what I do fear if that they will ask me "Zusha, why were you not Zusha?" and for this I will have no answer!."

I thought of that story as I reflected on the opening parsha of Sh'mot in this the second book of the Torah which we begin this week. In the course of the reading we are told of the selection of Moshe to be the instrument G-d will use to bring an end to our servitude in Egypt and to our great national suffering. Moshe is told by G-d at the burning bush that he is to bring about the Exodus. He is charged with perhaps the greatest role in the history of humanity. Yet Moshe's response is to graciously yet persistantly decline the mission. Over and over he refuses his call. Only when he is partnered with his older brother Aharon does Moshe relent and take on the charge.

So I thought, isn't this odd. Here in the famous tale of Reb Zusha Zusha only worries that he will get to heaven and his failing will be that he was not Zusha, that he did not realize his full potential in his lifetime or worse that he took a wrong turn and became someone other than he was meant to be. Yet Moshe, of whom Reb Zusha spoke in his self reflection, given his preference, is ready to opt-out of being Moshe. Though G-d himeself tells him he is meant to be the one to facilitate the Exodus Moshe says " please send someone else". Why wasn't Moshe worried that when he got to heaven they would say to him "Moshe why were you not Moshe"? How could he have declined his mission and failed to realize his personal destiny?

For all of us who have mused over our life's choices and questioned whether we became who we were meant to be I think the answer to our riddle can be most instructive. What was Zusha really worried about in not being Zusha? And, in contrast, why was Moshe so unconcerned that he might fail his destiny.

The answer is that Zusha never was worried that he might have failed his destiny in choosing the wrong life role, occupation or interest. He was not worried that maybe he should have been a doctor instead of a carpenter or a shoemaker instead of a teacher. What made Zusha anxious was not that he made the wrong choices in the details of his life, no matter how important they may appear. What bothered Zusha was that perhaps he had failed to realize the self he was meant to become. Perhaps
he was meant to become more open to difference and more loving to those who wronged him. Or perhaps the opposite, the Zusha he was meant to become was to be more able to set boundaries and assert expectations. Zusha was worried that while his fame and reputation was for being humble and unassuming maybe the Zusha he was meant to become was assertive and bold. He could not be sure he had become the Zusha he was meant to be. The externals did not matter. It didn't concern him the form his life took. It was the self that troubled him. Zusha was not sure he had become Zusha.

Moshe knew who he was. He was the man willing to stand alone in the face of injustice and at great personal risk. He killed the Egyptian who was beating the Jew at great danger to himself as the story showed. As a consequence he had to flee the wrath of Pharaoh. A refugee, and a stranger in a foreign land, again in the face of injustice he risks to save those in distress. We read just after the story of Moshe slaying the Egyptian that he came to Midian and immediately rose to the defence of the daughters Yitro to save them from the harrassment of the local sheppards. It's clear, Moshe was Moshe. In fact it is because he was Moshe that G-d chose him to redeem his People. When Moshe declined the mission G-d called him to he was not compromising his ability to be true to the self he was meant to be. No matter his life circumstances Moshe was going to realize his personal greatness. Indeed he already had. What Moshe did not want was the role. He begged G-d to send someone else. Whether Moshe would have been the redeemer or remained a sheppard, he would have been true to the realization of his self.

Most of us make the error of spending the bulk of our energy trying to decide on the externals of our life. We worry over carreer choices and where we should invest our energy. We fear we will miss our call, make a mistake that compromises our self and destiny. And when we feel we made an error, sometimes not til years later, we rue our decision and lament our life. Whether we chose the wrong life mate, husband or wife, or whether we chose the wrong carrer path, we become morose over what we feel was a wasted life, that we did not live the life meant for us.

The message I glean from Moshe and the story of his willingness to reject his call is that our focus on the form of our life is misguided. True we may be disappointed. Perhaps we squandered wonderful opportunities that would have been far better for us.
But they are not telling as to the quality of our life. In the end what matters is not what happenned to us or even what we made happen, but rather who we have become.
Is the me I am now the me I was meant to realize? Have I become myself? And if not what need I do to realize the Zusha that is me.

Each of us has a life journey that is unique. To take the journey we need a map. Moshe and Reb Zusha teach us that the map we need is not the map of the world without. The circumstances of our life while important are not defining. The map we need is an inner map, a map of our self. Our life's journey is to come home to our self. For that journey we are not prisoners of our past and it is never too late!

Shabbat Shalom

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