The impact of a spiritual leader can change how we perceive even the harshest of texts. * The true strength of leadership is in the ability to bring out the best in others, even during trying circumstances. * On the Hayom Yom for 17 Elul.
Consider how the words of a single individual can change the entire tone and meaning of a conversation. Now apply this idea to the reading of the Torah, the holiest text in Judaism, and think about how the person reciting these verses can influence your understanding and emotional response. This can be especially impactful when it comes to challenging sections like curses or admonitions.
The Hayom Yom entry for Elul 17 tells us about the Mitteler Rebbe's emotional response to hearing the section of admonitions, known as tochacha, read by someone other than his father, the Alter Rebbe. The child's distress was so acute that his father doubted if he could even fast on Yom Kippur, one of the holiest days in the Jewish calendar. The Mitteler Rebbe's response to why he was so distressed was poignant: "When Father reads, one hears no curses." The crux of this story lies in understanding the transformative power of leadership, as exemplified by the Alter Rebbe's ability to read Torah in such a way that even the harshest admonitions could be heard as blessings.
To understand this transformative ability, we can turn to the Talmud (Berachot 7a), which tells us that Moses also had a unique way of perceiving the Divine voice. When God spoke, only Moses could hear it, and to him, it sounded like the voice of a dear friend. Just as Moses had the ability to perceive God's voice in a singular way, so too did the Alter Rebbe have the ability to project a sense of peace and blessing when he read the Torah. The message here is clear: the way we engage with spiritual texts can be deeply influenced by the people who guide us through them.
In today's world, where messages can be harsh and words can be taken out of context, the Hayom Yom entry serves as a timely reminder. We all have the ability to be that transformative figure for someone else, changing the tone from one of curse to one of blessing, from conflict to resolution.
So, what can we take away from this? Every day, we are faced with the choice of how to present ourselves and how to interpret the words of others. Just as the Mitteler Rebbe felt the comforting presence of his father through his reading of the Torah, we too can provide a sense of peace and understanding for those around us. It's a lesson in leadership, empathy, and the powerful impact of positive influence.
In a world that often feels full of admonitions and strife, let's strive to be like the Alter Rebbe and turn our words, and the words we choose to listen to, into sources of inspiration and comfort for others.