WHAT IS WITHIN YOUR POWER
By Rabbi David Algaze
In the Pesikta it says that when Moshe hard Hashem asking him to build a miqdash, a sanctuary, Moshe trembled. He reflected and thought, “How can a human being create an enclosure for theA-mighty? If the heavens and the earth, the entire universe, cannot contain Him, how could a physical structure built by human beings suffice? When Hashem saw Moshe’s puzzlement, He told him, “I am not requesting you to build a building according to My (infinite) standards; rather, I am asking you to build something just according to the powers within Man: use twenty beams to the North, twenty on the South and eight in the West. Similarly when Hashem says, in our parasha Ki Tissa, “Every man shall give Hashem an atonement for his soul when counting them….this they shall give a half shekel of the sacred shekel…a portion to Hashem”, Moshe wondered on the meaning of the shekel until Hashem showed it to him. Similarly, Moshe wondered how is it possible for a man to give a redemption for his soul when that would be an impossible amount. Hashem again reassured Moshe by telling him, “Not as you think but rather just give this, a half shekel, of the shekel you already know.”
From these words we learn a very important lesson. G-d does not demand the impossible. He does not command man to operate according to standards beyond his human ability. All the commandments, all the mitzvoth and demands that Hashem placed before us are all within our power to do. They never transcend the talents, gifts and abilities which we possess. The Rabbis describe this phenomenon as “Hashem never deals tyrannically with His creatures.” Hashem Who created us understands what we can do and what is beyond our capacity. No man need ever worry that the fulfillment of Hashem’s will is beyond him - that is impossible. On the contrary, we must have clearly in our mind that all that Hashem expects from us--is doable. Even things which appear difficult are not impossible.
King Shlomo said, “Whatever is your hand and power to do, do it.” We must do just what is in our power to do, no more. Hashem says to us, “Open for Me an opening as narrow as the eye of the needle and I will open for you gates as wide as the entrances of palaces.” This means that we do not have to complete the job, that we do not need to go all the way; we simply have to start and Hashem will provide us with the assistance to finish the task. Each of us has to set the agenda, just take the first step. For instance, in the study of Torah, all we need to do is schedule a time to learn. Hashem will help us with the rest. In giving tzedaka, we must do just what is within our power. If you cannot give more than a dollar, that is good enough. On the other hand, one should not give less that one can. The poor man’s gift –while perfectly acceptable when coming from the poor—is rejected if offered by a rich man. Hashem does not judge us by how much we give, how much Torah we learn, how many mitzvoth we do; He simply wants each of us to do what is within our power.
How much we can do and a proper assessment of our abilities is one of the most difficult insights. We will discuss this subject in a future column, but we should never underrate or minimize our abilities. Whenever a mitzvah seems difficult, remember that Hashem always asks us for something that is within our power to do. Just do it, it is within you.