Zusya and Us


Chasidic masters told this story about Rabbi Zusya of Hanapoli:

Once, the Hassidic Rabbi Zusya came to his followers with tears in his eyes. They asked him:

“Zusya, what’s the matter? 

And he told them about his vision; “I learned the question that the angels will one day ask me about my life.”

The followers were puzzled. “Zusya, you are pious. You are scholarly and humble. You have helped so many of us. What question about your life could be so terrifying that you would be frightened to answer it?”

Zusya replied; “I have learned that the angels will not ask me, ‘Why weren’t you a Moses, leading your people out of slavery?’ and that the angels will not ask me, ‘Why weren’t you a Joshua, leading your people into the promised land?”‘

Zusya sighed; “They will say to me, ‘Zusya, why weren’t you Zusya?’”

Zusya, why weren’t you Zusya?

[________], why weren’t you [________]?

We can easily place our names in those boxes. In lifting this story up today, my point is not to raise the possibility of judgment, either here or in some future afterlife. My point is to raise questions like,

[________], what has gifted you to be [________]?

[________], what could be possible if you lived as [________]?

[________], how might your neighbors connect meaningfully to [________]?

[________], what is possible if you are fully [________]?

After all, there are gifts and abilities that come quite easily specifically to you. What could be possible if you felt their joy — a joy that then extends well beyond yourself? What could be possible if those very qualities, traits, gifts, abilities, and passions were turned in the direction of some of the greatest needs we witness and experience?

How could we give? How could we receive?

Renee Roederer

I inserted this story of Zusya, as I found it here: Be True to Yourself — Ask Zusya’s Question

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