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Is our best really our best?

Written by Rabbi Moshe Kormornick

I pleaded with Hashem (3:23)

The Medrash tells us that when Moshe was told by Hashem that he would not be allowed to enter into Eretz Yisrael, he immersed himself in prayer.  After the 515th request, Hashem commanded him to stop, because with one more prayer, Hashem would have been obligated to annul His decree.[1]

In life we always try to do our best. The question is, is our best really our best? If Moshe would have asked to be let into Eretz Yisroel and been rejected, perhaps that would have been considered “his best”; after all, he tried very hard and received a “no.” Perhaps after 100 times, he would have considered that he has done “his best.” After all, after pleading with Hashem 100 times, one could certainly say that he exhausted all options. Yet, Moshe continued until he was physically told to stop praying.

How may times do we put in great effort towards attaining a goal and but not succeeding? We tell ourselves that we tried our best; we put in all possible effort. Yet, in truth, our best is only attained once we make a diligent appraisal of our goal and then to push ourselves out of our comfort zone to achieve it. Unless we have reached that point, perhaps we have not truly tried our best.

Rav Tzvi Mayer related the following true story about a boy he knows who didn’t give up:

There was a young boy called Yoselle who lived with his mother. Ever since his father passed away, there was very little money in the house and Yoselle had to work from a very young age. Towards the time of his bar mitzvah, his mother told him about his obligation to learn Torah, and Yossele immediately ran to the cheder to be accepted.

He met the principal and asked to be enrolled. The principal asked him which Gemara he can be tested on, but Yossele said that he knew no Gemara. “Then which Mishnayos do you know?” asked the Principal. But Yossele said that he knew no Mishnayos. “Then what can I test you on?” asked the bewildered Principal. “You can test me on Siddur. We only have a Siddur at home and I know it very well,” answered Yossele.

“But the post-Siddur class is for 6 year olds,” responded the principal. “Then let me join that class,” answered Yossele. “But there’s no room for you, I’m afraid.” Disheartened, Yossele said the principal. “Will you write that on a piece of paper?”

“Excuse me? Why do you want me to do that?”

“Because after 120 years when I go to Heaven and meet my father, he is going to ask me what Torah I have learned. I’ll explain to him that when I was 12, I came to Cheder and was even willing to embarrass myself day-in-day-out by sitting with the 6 year-olds, but the Principal still wouldn’t let me. Then, not believing me, my father will say, “What kind of principal would every do such a thing?” Then I’ll show him your paper!”

Upon hearing this, the principal allows Yossele to join the cheder, and he grew up to be a learned scholar and a widely respected Rav.

[1]Yalkut Shimoni 31

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