As well as being Charles Dicken’s 13th completed novel, “Great Expectations” in a person’s life is often the forerunner of “Great Disappointments.” All too often we are left standing helpless, watching our plans, hopes and dreams fade away into the stratosphere of life. Our noble and lofty undertakings of Yom Kippur, our longing for the love and closeness of another, and the belief in our own integrity and virtue, are many a time the seeds of our frustration and letdown.
Of course, zero expectations lead to zero disappointments, but successfully adopting such a state of mind is not exactly straightforward. Rabbi Meir Leibush (1809-1879), better known as the Malbim, presents a stunning perspective on the ‘song’ of this week’s Parsha that can ultimately shield us from dashed expectations in our own lives.
The song of Parshas Haazinu appears on its surface to be anything but a song. This seventy line ‘song’ delivers a stern admonition to Bnei Yisroel to remain true to their calling in life and the consequences they will face should they veer from the correct path. The Torah spares no effort detailing its Nation’s shortcomings and misdeeds.
However, the Malbim describes how Shiras Haazinu is indeed a beautiful song. He likens it to a king who redeems an imprisoned thief to safeguard his treasure house. Since the king understands this thief’s nature and knows that he will inevitably steal, he writes for himself a reminder that it was he who appointed the thief as his guard, knowing that his deficiencies will most likely lead him to a bitter end, and therefore he must not sentence him to death.
Similarly, explains the Malbim, Shiras Haazinu is Hashem’s reminder to Himself that He chose to redeem Bnei Yisroel and make them His Nation, despite all their imperfections and inevitable misdeeds, and, therefore, He can never dispose of them nor wipe them out.
Hashem chose us as His nation because He believes in us and knows that we can accomplish what He desires. However, He also remembers our shortcomings and proficiency in “messing-up.” Parshas Haazinu, so to speak, hones Hashem’s expectations and hopes for us, making them realistic and attainable.
This serves as a powerful lesson for our own lives. We must take care to ensure that our own expectations do not go unbridled. Our expectations energize and motivate us – and give us hope – but we cannot let them become the seeds of disappointment. Remembering our limitations must accompany our undertakings to improve; our expectations of those we love must be in constant view of all facets of their personality, and the belief in our own integrity and virtue must never disregard the restraints of our character. Then, with Hashem’s help, we can look towards a future bereft of disappointment and pain, and rather filled with accomplishment and joy.
In memory of the Neshama of Reb Asher ben Tzvi Haynoch
L’iluy Nishmas Aidel bas Avraham