Who Swallows Who?

11-year-old Reizi, 10-year-old Sheina and 7-year-old Mashie were sitting on the carpeted floor near the staircase, playing a board game. “Ooh!” I grinned in delight, “Risk! I haven’t played it or even seen it in ages!” “You know how to play??” the girls asked me excitedly. “Hmm, I used to. Don’t really remember the rules now. But I do know that I learned basic World Geography from playing.” “Us too!” “And what was it, again? Yakutsk, Irkutsk..” We all giggled. While I watched, they continued to play, and reminded me the rules of conquest as they went along. I had to smile when, at one point, little Mashie, in her squeaky voice, triumphantly finished her sister’s sentence, “… and then, the defeater SWALLOWS the defender!” Later, setting up the table for the Shabbos seudah, the girls watched as I poured from a small kos shel brocha bottle into the Kiddush becher and then slowly added regular wine to it. “Why are you pouring just a little bit at a time?” they asked curiously. “Well,” I explained, “when you mix the two liquids, whichever one has more of it in it decides what the bottle will be. So I keep pouring a little bit so the regular wine should be less than the Rebbe’s wine.” Blank looks. “Ok, how about this.” I tried again, this time using Risk lingo, “Whichever wine has a greater amount, swallows the other one, capturing it. We want the Rebbe’s wine to capture the regular wine so the Rebbe’s wine will be the winning side. I keep pouring just a little bit of regular wine at a time, always making sure the amount is being defeated by the Rebbe’s wine. As the Rebbe’s wine defeats the regular wine, the defending wine is captured by the Rebbe’s wine and all goes to the side of the Rebbe’s wine and is holy!” “Got it!” they smiled widely. We high-fived. ~~~~~~~~~~~~ Life’s like that, too, isn’t it? We have ourselves, the regular folk, and then we have the Rebbe, our holy leader. We mix the two throughout our year, throughout our day. A little bit of what I want, a little bit of what the Rebbe wants, now back to what I want… Who’s swallowing who? Are my desires and pleasures and activities the overwhelming presence in my life, and the Rebbe’s horaos there but getting swallowed up by existence? Or is it the opposite? Are the Rebbe’s teachings, directives, instructions and call for action the main voice in my life, and my little wants and needs are swallowed by the enormity of what I’m needed for? Now, we needn’t be frightened at the thought of getting swallowed up. When we’re swallowed up, we don’t disappear; we simply trade loyalties and are part of the new army. When we immerse ourselves in the Rebbe’s way of doing things, we don’t lose our identity; we simply take on the Rebbe’s energies. Wouldn’t we prefer to meet the world head-on with the Rebbe’s kochos rather than with our own?

Chava Isacovitch delights in uncovering Hashem behind and beneath every facet of life. She writes and lectures on a variety of topics and is the author of Aharon's Staff: Practical Chinuch Tips from Chassidus. She also coaches parents and teachers of children with behavioral challenges. Chava lives in Eretz Yisroel.

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