| Parshah |

In the Pipeline

When you’re aware of this concept, your perception of the world and your life changes

"A

nd his master… should bring him to the door or to the doorpost, and … bore his ear with an awl, and he will serve him forever.”  (Shemos 21:7)

Rashi quotes the Gemara (Kiddushin 22b) to explain that the ear, which heard at Har Sinai that we were no longer servants of Pharaoh but of Hashem, shall be pierced to remind the eved Ivri that he is a servant of Hashem [since he has elected to remain a servant of his human master for longer than he needed to].

Yet in exchanging servitude of Pharaoh for servitude of Hashem, how did Klal Yisrael actually benefit? They were still servants, albeit to a different master. (Rav Itamar Schwartz, Bilvavi)

It was a dark and stormy night. But inside, as we made Kiddush, the candles flickered gaily and all was warm and snug.

Until a telltale dripping sound caught our attention. A steady drip-drop was descending from the ceiling, gaining intensity with each droplet. By the time we got a pail, the drip had become a steady stream that was spreading quickly across the dining room floor.

And then the lights went out.

Amazing how calm a person can stay when all is bright and cheery — and how chaos descends with the dark.

The kids were shrieking, skidding on the growing puddle of water. I ran to grab the baby, who was wailing with fear. The knock on the front door went unnoticed until one of my sons opened the door to let in the light from the building’s stairwell.

Standing in the darkness was my upstairs neighbor. “You also don’t have electricity.” He peered uncertainly into our house. “Looks like the leak is coming from you,” he gestured toward the wet line stretching across our dining room ceiling. “Looks like your heating pipe must’ve exploded and caused a short.”

Chazal explain that the world was created via hishtalshelus, a Heavenly chain that acts as a pipeline through which Hashem sends all shefa — blessing — to the world.

Just as a city has one main water source that supplies its residents via many connecting pipes, so, too, l’havdil, all Creation consists of many “pipes” that provide the shefa of Hashem’s light throughout the souls of the world.

It was a dark and stormy Shabbos. The dripping water overflowed the pails and puddled on the floor; pieces of cement from the ceiling dropped soddenly onto the wet. We sat through the seudos huddled in coats, trying to eat in pitch-blackness.

But the worst was knowing that we’d caused another family to suffer as we were. Several times I braved the flood to carefully ascend the stairs and see how my neighbor was faring. She too had many small children and was attempting to manage in darkness and cold. But each time I apologized for her discomfort, she laughed and graciously waved it aside.

“It could happen to anyone. Why are you apologizing? We were meant to have a dark Shabbos and we’re fine.”

When you’re aware of this concept, your perception of the world and your life changes. You realize that you own nothing: You’re but a pipeline to transfer Hashem’s good to the world. All of your worries — financial, family, health — are lifted. You’re not the one responsible for all of your life’s stresses.

When you absorb this perspective deeply, you can come to true bittul, self-nullification. This is what being a true servant of Hashem entails.  The true root of servitude is the realization that you yourself are nothing but a conduit for Hashem, and your purpose is to allow yourself to fulfill your part in a complex system of pipes.

The plumber and the electrician came on Motzaei Shabbos. They sloshed around, probed and prodded, then nodded toward the ceiling. “Your neighbor’s radiator pipe burst. They better turn off their water main quickly or you’ll lose the ceiling of your whole house.”

Their radiator pipe? Not our heating pipe? Apparently, as Sherlock Holmes would agree, this was a two-pipe problem — neither mine nor my neighbor’s.

I realized how my perspective had changed when, minutes later, my neighbor knocked on my door, apologizing profusely for the discomfort she caused us. She’d already taught me how to react. I laughed and graciously waved her off.

“It could happen to anyone.”

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 681)

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