Tapping Our Talents


rabbi-pinchos-lipschutz-By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

Everybody has special talents with which they have been blessed. Properly utilized, they can improve the world. If we would recognize and appreciate the gifts with which we have been endowed, we could make a difference in our community and the world.

Many excuse themselves for not aspiring for greatness because they aren’t blessed with a lighting fast mind or a photographic memory they think that they obviously were destined to be followers and not leaders. Others are insecure and don’t appreciate their potential. They therefore don’t apply themselves to accomplish what is within their grasp.

In the center of Yerushalayim sits Botei Rand, a small oasis where the rising sun sets the red rooftops ablaze with a golden hue. Inside the tiny enclave, unassuming tzaddikim and tzidkoniyos and their families live lives devoted to Hashem and Torah.

In the Botei Rand shul, facing the amud, a magnificent, colorful work of art is displayed behind a raised glass. The drawing, designed to bring glory and honor to the shul, contains words of Chazal regarding tefillah interspersed with relevant images.

The artist of the impressive work was the tzaddik in a neighborhood of tzaddikim, Rav Yitzchok Nosson Kuperstock, maggid shiur in the Tchebiner Yeshiva and mechaber of sefer Meoros Nosson. He passed away a few years ago.

It is said that when Rav Kuperstock was a bochur, his hasmodah was such that he spent the night alone in the bais medrash of the nearby Eitz Chaim Yeshiva. His rebbi, Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer, worried that it was dangerous for the boy to be alone at night in the unlocked building, which was located on a major thoroughfare. Rav Isser Zalman asked the administrator to give the young boy the key to the otzar haseforim, home to the yeshiva’s valuable collection of antique and rare volumes. Due to their value, the room remained locked and no talmid was trusted with the key. However, since Rav Isser Zalman had asked, the young masmid was granted permission to learn there.

Rav Kuperstock’s friend and chavrusah, Rav Chaim Brim, testified many years later that three decades prior, Rav Kuperstock did not walk four amos without being immersed in learning. Yet, this tremendous masmid was the same person who drew the artwork that is displayed so prominently at the Botei Rand amud.

Rav Kuperstock, who wouldn’t waste a moment, understood that if Hakadosh Boruch Hu had blessed him with artistic talent, he should find a use for it. And he did.

This concept is found in this week’s parsha. In Parshas Vayakhel (35:10), Moshe Rabbeinu tells the Jewish people that Hashem commanded for “kol chacham lev bochem, every wise-hearted person among you,” to step forward and help construct the Mishkon. Apparently, every capable person could be part of the effort to build the Mishknon and its keilim.

Later on in the parsha, (35:30), Moshe relates that Hakadosh Boruch Hu revealed to him the unique role that Betzalel would play in erecting the Mishkon.

So was it a communal effort or was it Betzalel’s job to erect the Mishkon?

Rav Moshe Feinstein explains that even though Betzalel eventually received the personal directive to oversee the construction of the Mishkon and its keilim, every person who was blessed with the abilities necessary to construct the Mishkon was obligated to be prepared to utilize those abilities in this endeavor.

This idea is reinforced by the language of the posuk (ibid.), when Moshe tells the Bnei Yisroel, “Re’u kora Hashem besheim Betzalel ben Uri ben Chur lemateh Yehudah – See that Hashem has called upon Betzalel for this work.”

The word “re’u,” which means to see, is problematic. How could the Bnei Yisroel visualize Hashem’s appointment of Betzalel? There was no bas kol that they could have heard proclaiming Betzalel as the one called upon to construct the Mishkon. There was no finger that pointed down from Shomayim indicating that he was the chosen one.

The sight they could have seen, says Rav Moshe, is the reality expressed by the continuation of the pesukim: “He has filled him with ruach Elokim, with wisdom, with understanding and with knowledge, and with every craft.”

If people are blessed with such apparent abilities, then it is obvious for them and for all to see that they possess those qualities in order to complete the tasks on behalf of the klal that those abilities are suited for.

Since Betzalel was blessed with the skills necessary to build the Mishkon, it was as if there was a bas kol proclaiming that he is the one to build it.

The talents a person has are meant to be utilized for Hashem, for the public betterment, for Torah, for kedushah.

If a person is blessed with the ability to communicate effectively, he should utilize that gift to give chizuk to people, convincing people to grow in Torah and avodah and dispense tzedokah. He should write about yeshivos and mosdos and help address pressing issues from a Torah standpoint. If he can teach, he should use that ability to reach out to people and instruct them on how to read and write. He should assist others in becoming more fluent in the language of Torah and better and more productive people. If a person is a skilled craftsman, he should use his G-d-given talents to help build shuls, botei medrash, schools, and places where chessed can be performed. He should utilize his skills to help people as much as he can.

Every person is brought into this world for a reason and has a mission to fulfill in life. We identify our mission by recognizing and appreciating the gifts Hashem has given us.

Sometimes we need someone to make us aware of our gifts and give us the confidence we need to bring out the talent that lies inside us. Simple words of encouragement and support can provide the confidence necessary to reach greatness. We all have the potential to accomplish great things. All too often, regrettably, the potential remains untapped.

My friend learned in Yeshivas Mir Yerushalayim and was part of a weekly chaburah at the home of the rosh yeshiva, Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel zt”l. The chaburah was delivered by a different bochur each week based on a rotation system. The rosh yeshiva would listen, ask, and interject.

It was my friend’s turn to deliver the chaburah. He prepared very diligently for it, knowing that everyone present would be listening closely. On a small slip of paper, he jotted down his mareh mekomos and notes to remind him of his points in case he would be too nervous to remember them by heart. When he began to say his chaburah, he placed the sheet of paper near the top of his Gemara.

Everything seemed to be going well. The rosh yeshiva and the others in the room were nodding along, seeming to agree. When they asked questions, he had ready answers.

As he continued, to his consternation, he noticed the rosh yeshiva’s hand slowly moving across the table in his direction. The rosh yeshiva, with the hint of a smile on his face, seized the small piece of paper with the notes for the chaburah and placed it in his own pocket.

“You don’t need it,” he said to the stunned bochur, who wondered how he would manage to get through the complicated chaburah without his notes.

To his utter surprise, he succeeded in delivering a wonderful chaburah that day, just as the rosh yeshiva had predicted. He emerged from the room with a powerful lesson – not just about the sugya in Yevamos, but about himself.

Yated readers are no doubt familiar with the heroic work of Yerachmiel Simins in battling New York’s attempts to tamper with bris milah. Mr. Simins is a real estate lawyer who was always involved in good causes. Initially, he was involved in the milah issue in a peripheral manner as part of his askonus.

That changed when he met Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv several years ago. Realizing his brilliance and tenacity, Rav Elyashiv told him that he should do whatever he can to stop the gezeirah. Since then, he has led the campaign to turn back the designs of the city and state. He became well-versed in all the legal, medical and technical issues. He marshaled support from all segments of the community on legal, financial and rabbinic levels and, as Rav Elyashiv told him, he continues to do everything in his ability to combat the efforts of those who want to interfere and tinker with our time-honored traditions.

He has the ability, Hashem blessed him with many gifts, and he uses them all for the benefit of the greater Jewish community. He is an example we can follow.

Yitzchok Elchonon Spector was 12 years old when he went on a date in the town of Volkovisk. As he sat at the dining room table speaking in learning with the prospective shver, he absentmindedly and repeatedly dipped his hand into the plate of chocolates set at the center of the table, consuming all of them.

The girl refused the shidduch, stating that a boy who eats chocolate while speaking in learning wasn’t for her.

Many years later, when Rav Yitzchok Elchonon was the acknowledged gadol hador, he passed through Volkovisk. The townspeople came out to greet him and seek his brachos.

There was one particularly sad woman waiting in line for a brocha from the rov of Kovna. As she approached him, she recognized that this was the boy she had rejected many decades earlier. She broke out in bitter tears and began to wail, “Woe is to me! Woe is to me!”

According to one version of the story, Rav Yitzchok Elchonon scolded her for failing to recognize the potential he possessed when he was 12 years old. It was a long journey of many years of ameilus from that humble dining room to the position of Kovno Rov, but she could have had the zechus of encouraging him and enabling him to grow. She could have had a life of eternal blessing. Instead, she was just another poor Lithuanian housewife.

Klal Yisroel recently celebrated the Twelfth Siyum Hashas of Daf Yomi. As much as anything else, it was a celebration of the personal dreams of many individuals and their wives and families, who committed themselves to a goal and encouraged each other to attain it. The mesayeim chased his dream and others helped him reach it.

Daf Yomi, a program that enables people to complete the study of Shas, was conceived by a man who himself followed his dreams.

The originator of the concept, Rav Meir Shapiro, the Lubliner rosh yeshiva, was once traveling and stopped at a train station. A man came up to him and introduced himself as Rav Yaakov Halberstam, the Tchakovah Rebbe. He said that he was a son-in-law of the Shotzer Rebbe. Rav Schapiro, born and raised in Shotz, asked the Rebbe if his wife happened to be traveling with him. The Rebbe was surprised by the question but answered that, in fact, his wife was with him. Rav Shapiro asked to speak to her, and when she came forward, he asked her if she recalled how they would play together as children.

The rebbetzin said that she remembered the times they would play in the shul courtyard in Shotz.

“So then you might also remember,” said the man renowned as the Lubliner rosh yeshiva, “how I was obsessed with my idea of implementing a program through which every Yid would learn the very same daf of Gemara every day.”

The rebbetzin nodded.

“Maybe you also remember how the children would all make fun of me and my big ideas.”

The rebbetzin indicated that she remembered that too.

“I want you to know,” said Rav Shapiro, “that the ridicule and scorn almost dissuaded me, but somehow, with siyata diShmaya, we pushed through anyway. Remember this story for its lesson: Never, ever, laugh at the dream of a child.”

The rosh yeshiva turned and rushed off to make his train.

Someone related this story in the presence of Rav Moshe Halberstam, the venerable dayan of the Eidah Hachareidis of Yerushalayim. One of those present said that it was a strange tale that made no sense and that it was surely a bubbe mayseh. A debate broke out. Rav Moshe quieted the discussion and said that the story was true. In fact he himself had heard it from his mother, the Tchakovah Rebbetzin, the woman in the train station.

Rav Meir Shapiro was endowed with the ability to formulate and conceive a plan that would change tens of thousands of lives and greatly increase the amount of Torah learning and knowledge in the world. He followed his mission and thus bequeathed to Klal Yisroel the treasure that is Daf Yomi.

Rav Yitzchok Elchonon Spector was a poor boy who worked on himself, struggling through Shas and kol haTorah kulah until he was the world’s master decisor of all halachic matters. He believed in himself and in his kochos, so he developed them and used them for the betterment of himself and the klal. In doing so, he enriched us all.

Betzalel ben Uri ben Chur lemateh Yehudah followed his calling and, through his efforts, the Mishkon was built.

Re’u! Open your eyes! Look in the mirror and see the tools that the Ribbono Shel Olam has blessed you with. Identify the job that awaits you and set yourself to carrying it out. You’ll be surprised by how much you can do.

Ability, combined with dreams, indefatigable spirit, self-belief, confidence, vision and resilience, gives birth to great accomplishments. Everyone can build towering spiritual edifices if they believe in themselves and commit themselves to reaching their goals.

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  1. I believe my writing can inspire others. Will the Yated once again publish my work, as you used to so frequently in the early 90’s? That would enable me,in part, to use what Hashem gave me in a useful way.