If we would have seen Moe removing the “BLT” from between the slices of bread and placing it between two matzos, our first thought would be: A meshugner! What an unsuitable shidduch: chazer with matzah! What’s wrong with him?
By Rabbi Chaim Chazan
It was one of those days.
Without realizing it, I had set the alarm clock for 7 pm instead of 7 am. I awoke in a fog during the REM part of the sleep cycle. Things went downhill from there. First, my foot landed in the negel vasser, followed by a chaotic drawn-out morning routine. The rest of the morning consisted of a series of failures, coupled with mounting frustration. About to explode, I rushed in late to my daily 3 pm chavrusa with a chassidishe yid 45 years my senior, adding guilt for my late arrival to my bleak mood.
Upon entering the small shul where we learned, I breathed a sigh of relief when I discovered that uncharacteristically my chavrusa hadn’t yet arrived. Two men were standing by the bima, engaged in what seemed like a deep, meaningful conversation. The first words I heard as I walked in were, “R’ Nachman says ‘a bissel iz oichet a sach,’ a little is also a lot.”
This was just what I needed to hear on that dreary day. Hashem had sent me a message. Notice, appreciate, and celebrate the little victories, instead of crashing against the shore of unfulfilled expectations.
But why is a little really a lot?
We say in Birchos Krias Shma “chemla gedola v’y’seira chomalto oleinu,” Hashem, You have had great and abundant mercy on us. The simple understanding of why we describe Hashem’s mercy as ‘abundant’ is because He gives us more than we deserve.
But the Alter Rebbe in Tanya gives a deeper interpretation. Hashem’s compassion for Yidden exceeds His closeness to all malochim in the upper realms. If Hashem desired perfection or excellence He could have chosen the multitudes of malochim. But for whatever reason, he chose us humans, despite our puny intellect, limited emotional capacity, and unpredictable inconsistent moodiness.
From Hashem’s perspective, everything we do is “a bissel”, but because he chose to value it, it is “a sach”. As the Alter Rebbe states elsewhere in Tanya: the union between the soul and Hashem accomplished through mitzvos is eternal, since Hashem and His will transcend time. Thus, our union with Hashem and His will is also eternal and transcends time. In addition, a mitzvah is pleasure for Hashem, whose pleasure is infinite. One person’s small action is actually bigger than anything we can fathom.
One need not view the value of a mitzvah from Hashem’s perspective to understand that it represents more than the actual deed.
Aliya is a vital and wonderful organization in Crown Heights that serves kids from the community who struggle in the chinuch system.
Several years ago, during one of the Israeli military operations in Gaza, the boys connected to Aliya, arranged a table on Kingston Avenue to put on tefillin with their friends as a zechus for the Israeli soldiers. They received an enthusiastic agreement from whoever they approached.
Consider for a moment how much emunah is contained within that one-time donning tefillin. Despite the motivation being not because Hashem said so, rather as a zechus for the soldiers, the act expresses belief that Hashem runs the world and decides who wins wars. It exclaims that He gave us the Torah and our actions matter and can save a soldier thousands of miles away. Regardless of yesterday or tomorrow, the one-time mitzvah of tefillin displays the conviction of the neshama.
One of the thought exercises to bring joy that the Alter Rebbe outlines in Tanya is rejoicing in Hashem’s pleasure from a Yid’s Divine service. We are enjoined to look at matters from Hashem’s perspective.
At his son’s bar mitzvah, a Kloizenberger Chosid who is a baal teshuvah, shared the story of his yeshiva roommate’s first step towards observance.
Moe had been a successful day trader on Wall Street. The responsibility of the job was intense. Any tiny fluctuation in the market could bring major gains or cause devastating losses. He couldn’t take a break from the minute the stock market opened until it closed. Lunch had to be ordered to his desk, eaten while he sat with eyes glued to two large computer screens. Every day Moe ordered his favorite – a “BLT sandwich” (bacon, lettuce, tomato, apparently a popular dish among goyim in the US).
Brought up completely secular, the only Judaism in his life consisted of the annual family Pesach seder. One year, on the morning after the seder at his desk at work, munching on his daily BLT sandwich, he mused how he had just read during the seder that Jews eat matzah not only at the seder, but for eight days afterward. He decided to bring a box of matzah with him to work the next day. That’s how he found himself on the following day removing the “BLT” from between the slices of bread and placing it between two matzos.
Imagine the reaction had one of us who had been privy to the scene. “A meshugner” would be our first thought. What an unsuitable shidduch: chazer with matzah! What’s wrong with him?
But now try and picture Hashem looking down at this fellow sitting the second day of Pesach on the 19th floor of a Manhattan skyscraper. How precious! A Jew chooses to eat matzah on Pesach because he’s Jewish. Regardless of what else is the sandwich!
And indeed, this matzah “BLT” sandwich was the impetus for Moe to begin exploring his Judaism, ending up studying at a baal teshuvah yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel.
So, is it “a bissel” or “a sach”?