I find driving in Israel a difficult task. When you have a “nation of priests,” everyone thinks they rule the road. God tells the Jewish people that they are a “stiff-necked people,” a prophecy one can experience any time one needs to switch lanes in a pinch.
I always get a laugh when I see is a car with Ain Od Milvado, There is nothing other than Him, a passage from Devarim, printed in large letters on the back windshield of a hatchback. As he cuts me off, I’m wondering if he thinks the translation is “There’s nobody else but me on the road.”
It’s only one of the many ways one can experience holy chutzpa in modern day Israeli culture. But this stubbornness is a character trait that can be redeemed.
According to Rebbe Nachman of Brestlov (Meshvat Nefesh 31), one needs great stubbornness in the service of Hashem. There will be endless ups and downs in this endeavor, and in order to overcome the many obstacles one must be tremendously stubborn.
Strengthening our character and becoming more aware of Hashem’s presence in our life is an endless process filled with pitfalls. The normal daily details of life constantly pull us way from this growth.
So too with any meaningful goal; there will be challenges at every point, and in order to find success we must act with diligence. Only through being stiff-necked can we reach our goals, whether in service of God or otherwise.
Dedicated to our new daughter Sara Temima, named after my grandmother Sarah Jean Cohen, a strong, stubborn woman whose determination helped turn around many lives.