How We Can Find Space for Other People in Our Life

When we stand firm, no matter how much space we have, we’ll always feel hampered, threatened, and inhibited by others. But when we “prostrate” ourselves to a higher purpose, we’ll have plenty of room for the other people in our life.

By Rabbi Mordechai Lipskier

At a seudah in the Frierdiker Rebbe’s sukkah in Crown Heights 5705 (1944), someone urged the crowd to stop pushing because they would soon push the table into the Rebbe.

The Rebbe heard this and said: “א איד מאכט מיר ניט ענג,” a Yid doesn’t make me feel cramped.

The Rebbe then added something, but first a brief background.

In the spring of 5687 (1927), the Frierdiker Rebbe was arrested by the Soviet regime on accusations of “counter-revolutionary activity.” His “crime” was his relentless activity on behalf of Russian Jewry, building mikva’os, chadarim and more, risking his very life time and again. Unfortunately, it was members of the Yevsektzia, the Jewish branch of the Communist party, who were ultimately influential in pressing charges, arresting, and then torturing the Rebbe in prison. One particular Yid named Lulav abused the Rebbe, verbally and physically. One night, after throwing the Rebbe down a steel staircase R”l and bringing him into the office for interrogation, Lulav informed the Rebbe with glee that in 24 hours he’d be shot.

Baruch Hashem, on the 12th of Tammuz of 1927 the Frierdiker Rebbe was released from prison and this day has been celebrated as a victory ever since for all Yidden.

Back in the sukkah, the Frierdiker Rebbe added: “Even when Lulav told me that in 24 hours I’d be shot, he didn’t make me feel cramped. The Yid in him didn’t make me feel cramped. A Yid does not make me feel cramped.”

In this week’s Pirkei Avos we read about ten miracles that occurred in the Beis Hamikdash. One of them: When the Yidden stood in the Beis Hamikdash they were so crowded that oftentimes people were suspended in midair with their feet above the ground. They were held up by the crush of bodies around them. Nevertheless, when it was time to prostrate themselves before Hashem, there was suddenly an abundance of space!

A fantastic miracle, indeed. But why was it necessary? And why is it mentioned in Pirkei Avos, which generally teaches us lessons in the behavior and service of Hashem? What’s the message in the miracle?

The Rebbe explains,[1] that the space didn’t grow simply to facilitate their prostration. It was actually a result of the prostration. Bowing to Hashem means submitting ourselves to Him, and in the Beis Hamikdash this submission of the physical to the spiritual was so genuine that it caused the actual physical space to become non-restricting.

As the Kotzker Rebbe said[2]: When people stand firm, stubborn and arrogant, they’ll always feel cramped. No matter how much space they have, they’ll constantly feel hampered, threatened, and inhibited by others. When, however, a person “prostrates” himself to a higher purpose, he’ll have plenty of room for the other people in his life.

This Shabbos is the 12th of Tamuz. Let’s take inspiration and search for the Yid within ourselves and within our fellow. These “Yidden” don’t stand guard over their personal space, they have room for another Yid. And so, the room expands…

[1] Likutei Sichos Vol. 25, pg. 300, footnote 32

[2] Amud Ha’emes

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