It’s Not All or Nothing! Grab the Flashes of Greatness

“Every one of us has an inner ambition to do great things,” writes Rabbi Shimshon Pincus. “I’m sure each one of us wants to be a great person. Our problem is that sometimes the goal is too great and unattainable. Each woman wants to be as saintly as our matriarchs and each man like the Chafetz Chaim, but these goals are unrealistic so we give up and do nothing at all.”

“But this is a big mistake! If you have an ambition even if you can’t grab it all, grab on to the ‘flash’ of greatness” says Rabbi Pincus and provides us with 3 anecdotes to illustrate his point.

“A woman was on the phone with her friend and her friend starts saying: “Do you know what my neighbor did to me?”… She knows she’s about to hear bad things about that neighbor which is forbidden. At this point she can say: “I’m sorry, my cake in the oven started burning” and politely get off the phone without listening to the forbidden gossip. She can overcome the test at that moment and it wouldn’t even be that difficult to do. But she might say to herself: “If I don’t say forbidden things now does that mean I never will? Who am I kidding? I’m sure I’ll end up speaking Lashon Hara (forbidden speech and gossip) tomorrow or somewhere down the line? I may as well listen to this now.”

“And that is where she is mistaken”, says Rabbi Pincus. “If this woman understands that never speaking forbidden speech is greatness, then she should understand that refraining from forbidden speech even once is a ‘flash’ of greatness which is also greatness. If she can’t grab the whole deal and totally refrain from forbidden speech she can at least grab the spark of greatness. The prophet Ezekiel says: “The angels are like the appearance of a flash.”

Rabbi Pincus gives another illustration: “There was once a great rabbi in Jerusalem, Rabbi Zelig Reuven Bengis who was one of the heads of the Jerusalem Rabbinical Court. He always learned diligently and every few months would finish all ‘Shas’, the entire Talmud and make a small completion party. One day only 2 weeks after such a party he made another one. People asked: ‘Doesn’t it take you a few months? How did you do it in only 2 weeks?’ The Rabbi answered: “No this is not from my regular learning schedule which I indeed just restarted and have a way to go. This is from a different learning program that I have: when I’m invited to officiate at a wedding or a circumcision I noticed you always have to wait for people to come or some other delay. I decided to utilize these little snippets of time to grab a little learning in and it is from these little bits of learning that I finished the entire Talmud,” Rabbi Pincus quotes Rabbi Bengis.

“This is a wonderful story of true greatness! When waiting for a circumcision or wedding to start if a person would know he can finish the entire Talmud he would definitely do it! But a person knows himself and says to himself “today I’ll learn 10 minutes and tomorrow I may forget altogether! So why should I even bother trying?” So what does he do instead? He talks to his friend next to him. This is a mistake! If you realize that learning 10 minutes here and there across a lifetime adds up to great attainments in learning, so grab that 10 minutes; it’s a ‘flash’ of greatness. You may not be able to learn every moment but these 5- 10 minutes aren’t beyond your ability?  Do it and you won’t regret it! Catch the flash of greatness because if it’s something great, a small part of it is also a flash of greatness!”

“Many women recite the Psalms and there are those that don’t. Why don’t they? The think to themselves: “To complete the whole book of Psalms is too much for me I just say a few here and there and it’s not really worth anything.” But that is a mistake. If finishing the whole Book of Psalms is greatness, finishing a few Psalms is a flash of greatness that is attainable,” concludes Rabbi Pincus.

Grab every mitzvah; it’s a flash of greatness which will make up the tapestry of greatness which is your life.


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