Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

18 Sivan 5762 - May 29, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment

by Rabbi Doniel Hool

Derek slid open the door of the Cessna 206. It was a tiny airplane and you couldn't even stand fully upright in it. He looked just as nervous as I did, even though he had parachuted more than four thousand times before and this was my first jump. I had already done teshuva on the short flight upwards till our jumping height of three-and-a-half thousand feet. Now my thoughts were on the dayan who had permitted me to parachute jump during bein hazmanim (it should be noted that he has since retracted his heter on this matter). I wished then that he had forbade this insanity, for there was no turning back now as the pilot gave his thumbs up sign -- time for me to jump to oblivion.

There I was sitting on the floor of the aircraft with my legs dangling out like a child sits on a log, except the deafening noise of the engine and the ferocious wind stinging my face along with the most terrifying drop below me left me feeling far from serene. Instead of an El Al steward saying, "Cafeh, teh, bevakashah," as on the flight to Israel, all I heard was Derek utter those fateful words: "All right Doniel you're next!"

I had just seen another young man dive out the plane about five seconds before and I was wondering if his parachute had opened! Derek shouted at me something like, "Wake up, Doniel. Remember your training . . . " but I literally froze in fear. Derek grabbed my wrist and placed it on the wall and then placed my other hand on the aircraft floor.

I was now "ready" for the jump! I said I'll do a countdown: "Thrrrree . . . tttwo . . . (probably the slowest time I had ever counted down) one!!!!!!"

To this day I have no idea if I jumped or Derek pushed me out.

What followed were the most confusing five seconds of my life. I was supposed to be counting to five while arcing my body backwards, but sheer fear left me totally out of control. There must have been a strong jerk as the canopy opened but I don't remember it.

"Three thousand, four thousand -- check canopy!"

I looked up and saw the colorful parachute canopy perfectly opened above my head. "Boruch Hashem!" I yelled.

But it wasn't over yet, I still had four minutes to dangle through the air and I had to make sure that I landed correctly. I was told that if I landed suspended on a telephone pole I would be in the newspaper! The noise of the plane's engine soon faded into the distance and as I floated down there was total silence.

Then a voice crackled on the head mounted radio. "Well done, Daniel. Now open your legs wide so you can show me that you can hear me.

"Lovely, Doniel. Now right toggle. Ok, left toggle. Beautiful, Doniel!"

I couldn't speak to him, but received instructions from the headset: how to direct this contraption. They guided me in to a very bumpy landing, but as an elderly gentleman who was watching said, "If you walk away from it then it was a good landing!"

I was so happy to be on terra firma that I kissed the ground and banged my legs furiously like a two-year- old in a tantrum.

"I did it!!" I screamed.

But what did I actually do? When I related my experience to friends they looked at me in amazement saying, "Weren't you scared for four whole minutes just hanging there?!"


Well, this brings me to the purpose of this essay. If you examine the actual deed I can get "credit" for, it really isn't that much. True I went to the training, but big deal! Who says that I will actually jump?

And though people wonder in amazement about how I managed to survive dangling for four minutes, they don't realize that I was really hanging on for dear life, terrified out of my wits, longing for an end to the torture!

The only thing I should truly get credit for is the fraction of the second in which I decided to jump (but even that is suspect, as Derek might have pushed me). Once I had jumped, I had no choice but to stay floating for four minutes! However, people give me credit for the whole thing!

Another example of this phenomenon of achieving much with just a small action is that there are two ways one can choose to travel to Israel. One can either walk here, or one can board an airplane. Besides the obvious advantages of air travel, there is another profound difference in choosing the plane. Once he boards the plane, he is almost one hundred percent sure that he will arrive in Israel, since once the plane has taken off he cannot get off even if he wants to (unless he has a parachute of course!).

However if he decides to walk to Israel, then at any point along the way he may change his mind and decide to return home. Therefore, in order to ensure his arrival in Israel he is better off choosing the plane.

This is similar to what the Torah instructs us many times when it tells us to make a fence for ourselves. For example the Torah forbids a Nozir to even walk in a vineyard, lest he may be tempted to pluck a grape that is forbidden to him. If he never enters the vineyard in the first place, he has guaranteed himself that he will never pluck forbidden grapes. So by putting himself in a situation, or keeping away from others, beforehand he ensures his future success.

I once knew of a yeshiva bochur who was aware that his loshon was far from the standard that a ben Torah should have. He managed to solve his problem instantly!

When he was with his friends once, and another boy used unfitting language, he said "Hey guys, come on, we're yeshiva bochurim now!"

His friends laughed aloud as he of all people should be the one to rebuke people in this matter. But from that moment on, he could never utter anything but the purest words in front of those friends, as he knew how embarrassed he would be if, after telling his friends off, he himself continued in this shameful manner.

I once told a bochur who was considering one more year in yeshiva before returning to the U.S. that if he writes a letter home right now, while his mind is clear, stating to his parents that he wants to stay one more year, then it will be much more difficult for him to change his mind when the yetzer hora cools him off.

It cannot be stressed enough, however, that one must be very careful using this derech even in ruchniyus. If a person takes on too much and has no way of retracting his commitments, then this can destroy him as well. I have witnessed all too often a ben Torah who overexerts himself with hasmodoh and then when he finds that he can no longer maintain that high level, he gets depressed and convinces himself that he has "burnt out" and neglects his learning altogether.

But when used with chochmoh this technique can be used to achieve great levels in Torah and yiras Hashem. A bochur who has instructed a friend to wake him for shacharis is much more likely to be there than one who sets an alarm clock -- he can always turn off the alarm on its first ring! By putting himself in a position whereby he himself cannot change this, it guarantees his success.

This may be a pshat in the gemora Kiddushin 30b that states, "If you meet the yetzer hora drag him to the beis hamedrash." The Tana doesn't say, "Start learning in the beis hamedrash," because all that is needed is to go there. Once he finds himself there he is sure to start learning. The decision to go to the beis hamedrash will give him the credit of beating the yetzer hora, and it is that decision alone that is the key to success.

This may also explain another famous gemora in Kesuvos 62b where it is related that Rachel the wife of Rabbi Akiva said to Rabbi Akiva (who was then an am ho'oretz), "If I marry you, will you go to the beis hamedrash?"

Interestingly, she just demanded that he go there. She did not say that he must stay there for twenty-four years! This may be because she knew that all that was needed was that he go there. Once there he would automatically grow to fill his potential. This understanding of hers is backed up by the Tosafos Kesuvos 63a (Adaata) which states, "It can be expected that anyone who travels from home in order to learn Torah will become an odom godol."

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