Pathways Through Stone
Master of the World,
Give me strength for small accomplishments.
“Small people do big things, sometimes. Big people do small things, all the time,” say the baalei mussar.
One more choice, one more push, one more step through the desert towards the Promised Land, one more drop of water upon the stone. Let me appreciate the journey. Let me savor the process. Let me celebrate all of it: the unglamorous, the ungainly, the seven falls for each step forward.
The tzaddik grows like a mighty tree, tall as the cedar of Lebanon, from the smallest seed to a towering giant, while the act of growth itself remains unseen. You wouldn’t notice the difference from one day to the next. The progress is slow, incremental, uneven. Humble work. Old-time craftsmanship.
Where can we find the stamina, the perseverance, the stick-to-itiveness? How can we practice the art of self-construction in this era of “disposable” and “instant”? How can we fight the urge to compare personal progress against illusive standards of public pretension—the ever increasing societal pressure to show effortless perfection at all times? How have the struggles and imperfections that make us unique, beautiful human beings become marks of shame, to be masked at all costs?
“Al kein yomru hamoshlim bo’u cheshbon” (Bamidbar 21:27).
“Cheshbon,” the Gemara explains, refers to those who rule over their inclinations with calculation and strategy. It’s not about “trying your best” and working even harder at something that’s not working. It’s about doing what you have to do; it’s the honesty to face the uncomfortable, to face ourselves, to face change.
“Aseh lecha rav.” Make for yourself a “rav,” an authority, a mentor, for guidance along the way.
“Keneh lecha chaver.” Two is more than one plus one. Don’t walk the path alone.
“V’hevei dan es kol haadam l’chaf zechus.” We will never find a guide or a friend if we can’t see the good in others. We will never find the strength to persevere if we can’t see the good in ourselves.
One small drop, followed by another. Pathways through stone.