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Baby steps, it's the Jewish way

Thursday, 16 February, 2023 - 10:10 pm

Desmond Tutu once wisely said that “there is only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time.” Meaning, that change, even extreme change, is possible by gradually taking on, just a little bit at a time.

Let’s say someone wants to become fully  Torah observant. The whole deal; kosher, Shabbos, daily tefillin, daily study, tithing and charity, praying 3 times a day etc. I used to think that Judaism would say go for it, take it all on!

I thought it was not sustainable. Therefore, I often encouraged people to take things on in smaller bites, while always growing in their connection to Hashem and spirituality. 

This week, while learning a midrash connecting the end of last week’s Torah portion to this week’s, I discovered that this thought process is a Torah based belief.

Last week’s Torah portion ends with the mitzvah not to make steps going up to the Altar in the Holy Temple. This is explained to mean that the Kohen should go up a ramp and should not walk in large strides but should only take baby steps. This week’s portion begins with the words “And these are the laws” (referring to the justice system).

The midrash explains that the reason why the section on judicial laws immediately follow the mitzvah of baby steps going up to the Altar, is to teach us that just like the Kohen needs to take baby steps, so too when making rulings in Jewish law, one should not pass sweeping legislation that make major changes or causes waves, but small, incremental changes based on Torah, to slowly make a major impact.

As we each grow in our connection to Hashem, we need to do it slowly. We take on one practical mitzvah at a time, leading towards a continued connection with The One Above.

Have an amazing Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

P.S. we will have a big contingent of yeshiva students this Shabbos, join us for a lively prayer service at 10 AM.

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