Pick Your Head Up!

Consider how much we miss with our heads bent over a cell phone as we walk down the street. When we lift our heads, life becomes much more manageable and brighter. When the head of the household lifts his head, he uplifts the entire home. 

By Rabbi Mordechai Lipskier

The mikveh in Reb Meir of Premishlan’s town was at the foot of a steep hill and whenever the weather was bad, the hill became dangerously slippery forcing everyone to use a roundabout route. Everyone except for Reb Meir. No matter how slippery the hill was, he always used the direct route. Once, two young wealthy men visited Primishlan. They were “enlightened” and not impressed that these simple folk were falling for Reb Meir as a miracle worker. They set out to prove that anyone can climb the hill. They followed Reb Meir but quickly slipped and were badly injured. After recovering, one of the (now humbled) men paid a visit to the tzaddik to find out how he did it. And Reb Meir famously replied, “When one is attached from above, one doesn’t fall below.”[1]

This week’s sedra begins with the mitzvah to count the Yidden. The words כי תשא את ראש בני ישראל literally mean, to lift the heads of Bnei Yisroel.

In 5747 (1987) the Rebbe explained that in addition to the literal mitzvah of counting the Yidden, the Torah is also instructing a Yid to lift his own head. The average Yid’s head is mostly occupied with things other than Torah. This can cause a Yid to feel spiritually bogged down. The solution is to make a special effort to fill our heads with Torah, thereby lifting it above the mundane. And when our heads are lifted, our bodies follow. Daily activities become lighter and more enjoyable.

The Rebbe then added an unusual twist (loose translation):

“If you can’t understand the importance of this, ask your child! He knows, because every morning he reads the mishneh that lists important mitzvos, such as gemilus chassadim and hachnasas kallah. And he knows that the conclusion of that mishneh is that talmud Torah trumps all!

“When a child in this day and age (where children tend to be more chutzpadik) sees that his father doesn’t learn, he’ll question his father’s conduct: ‘No matter how important your work is, why haven’t you lifted your head this week?! Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and of course Shabbos and you still haven’t learned?!’ And children can’t be and shouldn’t be fooled by lame excuses.”

Lifting our heads, said the Rebbe, also gives us confidence when we face opposition to our Yiddishkeit. We will be stronger and more able to hold our heads high like Mordechai HaTzaddik even when others are quick to bow their heads to “Haman,” the secular ideals of today.

And like in the days of Mordechai, those who formerly bowed their heads to Haman will begin to respect our pride. As is written in the Megilah: “And many of the people of the land became Jewish.” And the Gemara says a similar idea in regards to Ki Sisa. “Moshe Rabeinu asked Hashem, ‘With what shall the horn [pride] of Yisroel be exalted?’” And Hashem replied, “Through Ki Sisa.”

But what if my head is already filled with ruach shetus, which even causes me to sin, R”l? Is it just too late for me?

To address this, we read a little further in the sedra that the mitzvah of “Ki Sisa,” of raising our heads with Torah learning, atones for those who have transgressed the Will of Hashem. When this Yid finally does lift his head again, he has the added advantage of a baal teshuvah.

We need not be a tzaddik like Reb Meir of Premishlan. We each have a Yiddishe kop, and a connection to the Torah. When we lift our heads, life becomes much more manageable and brighter. Consider how much we miss with our heads bent over a cell phone as we walk down the street.

When the head of the household lifts his head, he uplifts the entire home. 

Even a child knows this.

[1] Likkutei Dibburim​,​ Vol. 1​,​ ​P​g. 272. 

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