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rabbi 05 smallsf badge lgRabbi Joel Landau  ( has been the Rabbi of Adath Israel since May 2013. He was ordained by the Chief Rabbinate in Jerusalem and has served previously as a congregational Rabbi in Charleston, South Carolina and Irvine, California. A full biography of Rabbi Landau is available here.

The renowned Tzaddik, Reb Zusha, was on his death bed, crying at the thought of his imminent demise. Surprised by their Rebbe’s reaction, his students who were gathering around tried to calm him, saying that such a Tzaddik need not be afraid, for the Rebbe is guaranteed to go straight to Heaven and has no reason to fear the outcome of his Heavenly judgment.

Reb Zusha turned to them and explained that he did not fear that upon arriving at the Heavenly Court to account for his actions, they would say to him, "why weren’t you like Moshe or why weren’t you a Rebbe Akiva?”  Rather, he said, “I am worried that they will say to me, why weren’t you a Reb Zusha?”

Everyone has their individual qualities and strengths that they were blessed with at birth. These are the unique tools that allow us to become great. By using these talents properly, in the way that they were given to be used, we are showing appreciation for having received them – and this is our way of serving Hashem.

Reb Zusha was a Tzaddik who was fully aware of his righteous deeds, but he nevertheless feared that he did not live up to the great potential that Hashem had given him, and for that reason he began to cry, because he knew that even someone great has potential to be greater.

Can we really say that we are fulfilling our potential in life? Are we the person that we are capable of being? This question should be given a lot of thought as we begin to think about the upcoming New Year. G-d’s decision regarding the quality of our lives in 5776 will greatly depend on the answer we give to this question. In my opinion, if we commit ourselves to working on becoming who we were born to be, then the Almighty will bless us with a year that will enable us to pursue our quest.

Rabbi Joel Landau