Let My People Know

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz: “To start again from the beginning.”

It often does not occur to us to question the broader scheme of things.

Sometimes a person feels something nagging at him, a sense that something is wrong in his life.

But he cannot pinpoint what this trouble is, because he cannot look beyond what he sees in front of him.

He does not even raise the question of whether the entire framework of his life might need to be overhauled.

Where does such an attitude spring from?

When the big picture of a person’s life, with its problems and deficiencies, is acceptable to him, true remorse is impossible.

If a person presupposes that his current way of life is how things should be, then he can no longer have full remorse for anything, except for superficial, local problems.

This is not to say that it is unimportant to perfect even the minor details in one’s life; indeed, there is a great deal of value in this.

But if someone asks whether the point of the letter yod in his tefillin is perfectly precise when the text of the parchment itself has been erased, it is a sign that he does not see things in proper perspective.

In the story of the ten plagues, Pharaoh goes through a life-changing ordeal.

He suddenly experiences thunder and lightning, the likes of which he has never experienced in his life.

Strange things are falling from the heavens, and he is seized with terror.

He begins to think, for the first time in his life, that perhaps he is not a god.

At that moment, an abyss opens wide before him, and he asks himself: What have I done with my whole life?

Only when basic conceptions like these are shattered, and everything suddenly seems different, does it becomes possible to start again from the beginning.

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz