This week we read the Torah portion of Matos. We discuss several commandments, stories and lessons.

The first item mentioned is the concept of vows that one might take to distance themselves from erring. For example, one might say, 'every time I visit this person we always end up in a quarrel. From now on I swear I will never visit them'. Or, 'every time I walk past this non kosher café, I just can't help but buy a muffin. From now on I swear I will never walk near that café'.

What would you say, is such behavior advantageous? Is it a correct way to solve problems, by staying as far as possible from any situation that potentially could lead to error?

In the Talmud we find two conflicting statements. In Ethics of Our Fathers (Pirkei Avot) it says that such extra-precautionary vows lead to piety, and are thus viewed positively. In the Jerusalem Talmud however we find quite the opposite. 'Are the restrictions G‑d placed upon us not sufficient?!' admonishes the Talmud to one who takes restrictive vows upon themselves. Definitely not a good idea apparently. But which statement is correct? Both are. A good Jewish answer.

How so? Sometimes we find ourselves so accustomed to doing what we know is wrong that we simply can't seem to help ourselves. Then it can be necessary to go a little extreme and distance ourselves from any potential problem. But is that what life is ultimately about? Life is not about avoiding challenges, rather it is about overcoming them. True, sometimes we must avoid challenging situations when we feel the need to break away from our bad habits and come up for air. But ultimately we must realize that our true goal is to deal with any challenge we have face on, not only to defeat it but to find a way to transform it to something good.

We all have the power to overcome any challenge that comes our way; not by avoiding it but finding the power inside ourselves to overcome it.

A certain Rabbi Weinreb from Maryland once called the Rebbe's office in Brooklyn with an urgent issue he didn't know how he could possibly deal with. The Rebbe's secretary passed the message on to the Rebbe, while still on the line with Rabbi Weinreb. The Rebbe answered 'he should consult with Rabbi Weinreb in Maryland'. Rabbi Weinreb, quite surprised, exclaimed 'but I am Rabbi Weinreb!' The Rebbe just repeated the same answer...

As the talmud says 'G‑d doesn't give a camel a load it cannot handle'...

Rabbi Avrohom