As the temperatures outside continue to rise and my schedule becomes increasingly more hectic, I have found myself humming this tune on more than one occasion. The Mishna (Avos 2:15) repeated a famous teaching of Rabi Tarfon. He would say that the day is short – Hayom katzair – and there is a lot of work to be done – v’hamlacha merubah – and the Master is pressing – uBa’al Habayis docheik. After learning this, one might despair. “What’s the point of trying? I’ll never finish it all anyway!” The very next Mishna (2:16) responds: “It’s not your obligation to complete all the work. However, you are not free to give up on trying to do it.” Do whatever you can; more than that was never asked of you.
Rabi Chanina ben Dosah was a very poor man. He felt bad that he was not able to afford a korban, so he decided to go into the forest and see if he could find something that was special enough to bring to the Beis Hamikdash.
In the forest, Rabi Chanina found a large, heavy stone, which he cut, smoothed down, and carved with beautiful designs. At last, it was fit to decorate the Hashem’s holy house. But how would he ever get it there? The stone was so big and heavy that Rabi Chanina could not possibly bring it such a great distance himself. He asked people to help, but they all wanted more money than Rabi Chanina could afford to pay – he barely had five gold coins as his whole life’s savings!
He was about to give up, when he suddenly noticed a group of five men standing next to him. “Rabbi,” they said, “we will help you carry this stone to Yerushalayim. Can you give us each one gold coin?” Rabi Chanina, thrilled, agreed at once. “You must also help us carry the stone,” the men said. And so, together with the five men, he lifted the stone. He had only placed his hand on the stone when he noticed that it felt incredibly light! Instead of straining to move it, they immediately found themselves, with stone in hand, in Yerushalayim! Rabi Chanina recovered from the shock of his sudden trip and turned to pay his miraculous movers – but they had vanished into thin air…
R’ Zushe of Anipoli once said: “I am not afraid that when I arrive in the Heavenly court, they will ask me why I wasn’t like our forefathers or Moshe Rabbeinu. I am afraid they will ask me why I wasn’t Zushe.”
Hashem doesn’t expect us to be as great as any other person. What He does expect of us is to maximize our own potential. A person who has a deep mind or is a quick learner is expected to learn more Torah than those who don’t. A person blessed with wealth is expected to give more tzedakah than those who have less. A person who is naturally influential has the responsibility to influence others for the better. Each person is expected to use the tools and talents that he was given to serve Hashem to the best of his ability.
In the story above, Hashem had sent malachim to help bring the stone to the Beis Hamikdash. All Rabi Chanina had to do was put in a little effort, and Hashem took care of the rest. Friends, it is in our hands to bring Moshiach. That might seem like an impossibly difficult task. How can we ever do it? But we must take a lesson from Rabi Chanina. If we really want to bring Moshiach, we need only try. Even if all we do is put our hand on the stone, Hashem will make it possible. And before we know it, we will find ourselves in Yerushalayim, together with Moshiach, and all the Jewish people – bimheira biyameinu!
Shema Kolenu was created on the fourth day of the Yom Kippur War. As Jews throughout the world united to aid their brethren, six young singers got together to contribute their share. Jed Atlas, Motti Kornfeld, Zale Newman, etc. went on the road and logged over 180 performances in support of the cause. They subsequently released their first record in 1974, and were back in the studio in 1975 to record their second. Volume 2 was entitled …A Time to Weep and a Time to Laugh… and gave us more of the same great Shema Kolenu signature style and sound.
Lo Alecha was composed by Jeff Klepper & Dan Freelander who, while still college students, founded the Jewish folk music group called Kol B’Seder. The original (though slightly different sounding) Lo Alecha was first recorded in 1974 on a “Songs NFTY Sings” record and would eventually be recorded by the composers themselves in 1982 on their debut LP, “Shalom Rav.” However, by then (thanks in part to Shema Kolenu), this popular song was already being sung all over the world.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I really must get back to work!