I was recently at the levaya of Mrs. Blau A”H, formerly of Boro Park, but now firmly and rightfully ensconced somewhere in the neighborhood of the Kisei HaKovod.
There was much talk of her sterling middos in addition to a selflessness that recognized no limits that would restrict her multifaceted chesed activities in any way.
When it came to the needs of yenem, be they financial or emotional, NO was missing in action from her vocabulary, as was Yes as far as her own needs were concerned.
And from the midst of all this goodness one particular middah stood out from the others in the words of several of the maspidim (funeral speakers). We were told that Mrs. Blau A”H had a special love for doing mitzvohs in general and that the mitzvah of Hafrashas Challah (the separation and burning of a certain quantity of dough) occupied a very special place in her heart.
For many years already, Mrs. Blau rose very early on Friday mornings to join several other women in one of the Boro Park bakeries to perform this mitzvah.
A year or so ago, the bakery purchased a much larger facility in the neighborhood. It moved its baking operations into the second floor of the new building and the women continued to perform the mitzvah of Hafrashas Challah as before.
With the exception of Mrs. Blau that is.
She had some serious problems with her legs, which precluded her from climbing the stairs, so she was forced to take a pass on the mitzvah which she loved so much.
At some point, one of her sons found out that she was no longer going to the bakery to perform the mitzvah of Hafrashas Challah and also the reason why. He told his mother that he knew the owner of the bakery and that he would arrange for her to take the freight elevator to the second floor of the bakery where the other women met to “take off” challah from the dough.
On the very next Friday, a very excited Mrs. Blau showed up at the bakery at 4:00 A.M. to perform her beloved mitzvah, but when she attempted to enter the freight elevator the operator wouldn’t let her on. It seems that there was a miscommunication of some sort and the freight elevator operator was never informed that Mrs. Blau had permission to hitch a ride to the second floor.
What could she do? She had given it her best but under the circumstances her best simply wasn’t good enough.
We said in EmunahSpeak: It’s All About Desire, that we learn from Rabbeinu Yona that for his whole life a person should constantly desire higher goals. One shouldn’t say, “I’m giving it my best,” because as laudable as it might sound on the surface, in reality it’s nothing more than a declaration of surrender to one’s present circumstances.
But it’s more than simply pushing the envelope on what hopefully is a goal oriented life. Rabbeinu Yona takes it a step further by telling us that one should desire and yearn to attain UNREACHABLE levels.
There are times, of course, when one is not in a position to actualize his desires. For physical, financial, or emotional reasons one may find it impossible to traverse the barriers placed before him, courtesy of his inherent limitations.
But Mrs. Blau was cut from different cloth.
Faced with a non-cooperative freight elevator operator interposed between her and the mitzvah of Hafrashas Challah, Mrs. Blau would have received full credit for the mitzvah had she dragged herself home.
But she didn’t schlep out to a bakery at 4:00 for full credit. Mrs. Blau was strictly cash and carry. She came for the love of the mitzvah.
And as we also said in EmunahSpeak: It’s All About Desire, this greatness is not bestowed for giving one’s best but rather for desiring to give even better.
So she crawled up the stairs on her hands and knees one step at a time propelled by nothing….but her desire to break through every barrier that was placed between her and her mitzvah.