Heavenly Signs

When Rachel named Naftali, she explained his name with a cryptic statement.  According to Rashi, it is a reference to Rachel’s unique prayers.  She felt like she was the only one that wasn’t having the children that she so desperately desired – and that the Almighty wasn’t granting her wish.  Instead of taking it as fate and giving up, she stubbornly implored Him with prayer after prayer.  When she was finally answered, she named the child in a way that recalled her struggle, fervent prayers, and ultimate success. (Naftali was, actually, born to her maidservant Bilhah, but she nonetheless viewed the newborn as her accomplishment in some sense.)

signsThe dramatic saga that Rachel branded into Naftali’s name teaches an important lesson about spiritual growth.  Rabbi Yeruchom Levovitz  (ca. 1873- 1936 ), revered, visionary Mashgiach of the Mir Yeshiva in Pre-World War II Poland, taught that Rachel’s journey of having children was, in essence, a spiritual quest, to change and better the world through the family she would raise.  One might think that we should, in fact, take that repeated failure as some type of Heavenly sign that it’s just not meant to be.  Rachel teaches us, therefore, that when a person yearns to achieve something big, something spiritual, he or she must not get discouraged by defeat and failure – even when it appears to be providentially ordained.  As Winston Churchill once said: “Never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.” If you really want to do something great – make it happen, no matter what.

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