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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Nitzavim

Parshat Nitzavim

Compiled and Edited by Rubin Kolyakov


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter    Print Version

Parashat Nitzavim
28th of Elul, 5776 | October 1, 2016

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rebbetzin Tzipora Harris
The Letters

לשנה טובה תכתב ותחתם

May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year

Teaching in a unique high school for Russian Jews in Israel was Sharon, a primed educator with years of experience. Back in Russia, however, was Ivina, a 15-year-old girl with a very limited Jewish background and wishing she could attend the school. The only issue was getting there. With little money to pay for tuition, Ivina’s chances of making it there seemed slim.

However, that was soon to change. Ivina received news that someone out of the kindness of their heart wished to subsidize the cost of her airfare and schooling. Thrilled, Ivina headed to Israel looking forward to a prospective future.

Entering a foreign culture and country was nothing easy for Ivina. And unfortunately, Ivina befriended the wrong crowd of friends and began to slip. Making decisions that were not in her best interest, she was quite quickly asked to leave the school and return to Russia. Ivina, understandably so, was devastated.

While at home, matters did not go too well either. Ivina’s father had passed away sometime before, leaving her mother alone. Compounding that issue, bickering and conflict racketed the house and engendered much frustration and dissension between mother and daughter. Upset with life at home, Ivina decided it was time to move on. And so, she moved out of the house. But not to a friend’s house or hotel; rather, to the streets.

Roaming the streets as a young 15-year-old without any support system and place to call home is never a healthy situation. And particularly for Ivina, it only led to depression and loneliness. Life looked quite gloomy and forlorn.

But then one day, she received an envelope. Although Ivina’s mother was not on speaking terms with her daughter, she was kind enough to forward her this letter addressed to her name. With a tinge of excitement on her face, Ivina opened the envelope. And then she let out a smile.

Wrapped up very nicely was Ivina’s favorite strawberry-filled chocolate bar from Israel. Tearing open the envelop a bit more, Ivina went on to notice a small note included. Surprised that someone would be writing to her, she began to read the letter:

“Dear Ivina,

You are a very special girl. Always remember that. I have been thinking about you quite often, wondering how you have been doing. Never give up on yourself and always believe that you can achieve. Please stay in touch.”

With love,

As Ivina read this letter from her previous teacher in Israel, her heart warmed up. This was the only person Ivina could think of who cared for her. And indeed, the letter just ever slightly raised her spirits and carried her through.

Until one day when Ivina received another letter. It was from Sharon again. Reinforcing the same idea she conveyed in the first letter, Ivina actually began to believe in Sharon’s words. She was in fact special and had something to contribute to others.

Ivina went on to receive two more letters from Sharon. For Ivina, receiving each one of these letters was like receiving a burst of life. With Sharon’s love and warmth accompanying her, Ivina slowly began to turn herself around and forge a new future with a vision and purpose.

For Ivina, these letters were her most precious commodity. Comforting her at times when she felt down and pushing her never to give up, Ivina persevered and began searching for deeper meaning in life. Contacting her local rabbi in Russia, she was told that someone was willing to support her so she could return to Israel and reenter the school.

And indeed, she was accepted and made her way over to Israel. Now ensconced within the Land of Israel, Ivina began to make progress in her observance of Judaism and perspective on life.

Today, Ivina lives as a completely religious woman raising a beautiful family in Israel.

It all began with those letters. They provided Ivina what she exactly needed: the knowledge that she was valued and cared for. They uplifted her spirits and breathed new life into her. That is all it sometimes takes to turn a life around and set a person on the right path. And once that investment is made, even by means of a few words, the rest is history.

Rabbi Chaim Rosenfeld
The Remarkable Achievement

כי קרוב אליך הדבר מאד בפיך ובלבבך לעשתו

For it [the mitzvah of teshuva] is very close to you – in your mouth and in your heart – to perform it (Devarim 30:14; Ramban ibid.)

Growing up irreligious, a young teenage boy had never before in his life observed a full Shabbat. However, he slowly but surely began attending my Torah classes and growing in his awareness and appreciation of Yiddishkeit. Taking significant strides in his Torah knowledge, the weekend finally arrived when he would be put to the test.

A Shabbaton was arranged for the boys where they would be exposed to the sight of hundreds of other Jews davening and enjoying an uplifting Shabbat together. We were scheduled to stay at a hotel and spend the entire Shabbat there. All sorts of Jews – Chassidim, Ashkenazim, Sephardim – had gathered together. It was packed with people.

However, for the boy who was yet to keep a Shabbat, not everything went so smoothly. From the moment he pulled up in his car and entered inside the lobby, he wasn’t having a great time. “Rabbi,” he said, “I’m going home.” “Why? What happened?” I asked. “It’s all musky in here and there are so many people. Besides, there was supposed to be tons of sushi being served and there is not even a quarter of it prepared.”

While I knew keeping his first Shabbat would be fraught with ups and downs, I tried to encourage him. “Listen,” I said, “this is your challenge. Anytime you try to embark on something new and make the right decision, things will go wrong. Chazal, however, tell us that if you just put in the smallest amount of effort, Hashem will assist you to be successful. Just stick around and you will see that you will have a great time.”

While my pep talk motivated him a little bit, I knew it would only go so far. Unfortunately, in our day and age, many Jews who own a phone are literally attached to it day and night. I knew that this boy would therefore face a formidable challenge. He would simply be unable to go for over twenty-four hours without using his phone. His first real Shabbat was at risk.

But then the unexpected happened.

T-Mobile, his phone’s company, had no service. They shut down the lines Friday afternoon, thereby inhibiting all usages of the phone. While all other phone companies still maintained service, T-Mobile was the exclusive exception. And so there was the boy without a working phone in a hotel with throngs of other observant Jews.

And what do you think he did? Exactly that – observe his first Shabbat.

But that was only half the miracle. The other half was what happened soon after Shabbat. T-Mobile restarted their phone service and line connection. Not on Sunday or Monday, but immediately on Motzei Shabbat, this boy’s phone began to work again. Scrupulously keeping an entire day of Shabbat without turning on his phone, the young boy fully understood that a Divine hand was behind it all.

As Chazal teach, “Hashem says to a person, ‘You make for me [i.e. come close to me] an opening the size of a needle and I will open for you a large passageway’” (Shir HaShirim 5:2). All that we must do is take the small initiative to draw close to Hashem. And when we do so, He will embrace us dearly and show His smiling countenance towards us. It may seem as if everything is going wrong, but in hindsight, we will often realize that the opposite was true. Those moments of frustration and difficulty formed the impetus for our greatest achievement.

Rabbi Yossi Mizrachi
The Greatest Support

ובחרת בחיים למען תחיה אתה וזרעך

And you shall choose life, so that you will live, you and your offspring (Devarim 30:19)

After I once delivered a lecture to a large group of men and women, a young girl approached me. Introducing herself as Regina, she mentioned that she was a religious, twenty-year-old girl looking for a nice boy to marry. Would I perhaps know anyone suitable for her? Asking that she write down some basic information about herself, I said that I would look into the matter.

Three months later I returned to the same place to speak to around one hundred boys and girls. After the lecture, as everyone was taking leave, I noticed one of the girls who I remembered as being friends with Regina. Calling her over, I said, “Where is Regina? Did she come tonight?” “Rabbi,” the girl replied, “Regina recently got married.” As I heard those words, I let out a big smile. “Baruch Hashem. It’s wonderful that in just a few months she found her husband and now is married.”

But the girl had more to say. “Rabbi, do you want me to tell you who she married?” As soon as she said that, I knew she had a good story to tell. And so, with a large crowd now surrounding her, the girl began to reveal Regina’s story:

Regina came to America from Russia as a young girl with her parents. Settling in New York, her parents struggled to financially ground themselves and remained unsure if they would be able to send Regina to a Jewish school. They seriously considered sending her to a public school, although they were well aware that there was a risk of assimilation. Their ideal would be to send her to a Jewish school where she could retain her Jewish identity. But where would they procure the money?

Looking into the matter further, they soon discovered that there was there was an organization in New York which helped provide financial aid for poor Russian children to attend Jewish schools. It was exactly what they needed. Heading over to the organization, after the parents explained their situation, they were told what they wished to hear. “There is a philanthropist here in Brooklyn. See if you can arrange that he help you and your daughter.” Thanking the organization for their information and reference, the parents contacted the man whom they hoped would kindly help their cause.

After explaining to the man how they recently arrived in America from Russia, they pleaded their case before him. “If our daughter does not attend a Jewish school, we are afraid she will assimilate.’ Taking to heart Regina’s predicament, the man agreed to fully support her schooling.

Regina grew up to be a fine religious girl. Learning and growing spiritually, she inculcated beautiful Jewish values and grew in knowledge and appreciation of Yiddishkeit. For sixteen years of education, this man supported Regina and took care of all her needs. And then the day came, three months ago, when she came to hear you speak. After listening to the lecture, she approached you to see if you could assist her in finding a shidduch. Afterwards, she continued on to the library.

Arriving at the library, she was approached by another Jewish girl who was clearly irreligious. “I see that you are religious,” the other girl said. “Are you looking to get married? I think I have a nice boy for you.” Standing there startled, Regina wasn’t sure what to say. She assumed that the “nice boy” referred to by the girl was irreligious and far different than herself in terms of Torah observance and ideals. “I’m sorry,” Regina said, “but I had in mind a boy who is religious and spent time learning in a yeshiva.”

As soon as Regina said that, the girl became all excited. “Oh, I have the perfect boy for you – my brother!” Now even more confused than before, Regina could not imagine this girl’s brother to be significantly different than the first boy she mentioned. “My brother is a baal teshuva and currently studying in a yeshiva,” explained the girl. “He is also looking for someone religious who values Torah and wants to raise a Jewish family.” After hearing what the girl really meant, the proposal sounded good. “Okay,” said Regina, “if he would like, we can meet.”

Going out with the boy, Regina took a liking to him. He was a sweet boy who was serious about his learning and had proper ideals about Yiddishkeit and raising a family. It wasn’t before long that they were intently planning to get married.

It was now time for the parents to meet each other. Receiving the address of the boy’s parents, Regina’s mother and father made their way over to their home. When they arrived, they were surprisingly taken aback. The house was beautiful and spacious. It was clear that this family was wealthy. Being warmly welcomed into the house, the kindness exuded and hospitality offered by the parents was more than ever expected. And indeed, Regina’s mother and father were astounded when they realized who in fact the boy’s father was.

He was none other than the very man who had supported Regina for sixteen years of school.

We may not always realize it, but with every act of kindness we perform, we are impacting the course of another’s person’s day, week or perhaps life. Caring for a fellow Jew can accomplish no less than building and saving a life and forever shaping their future. And who can know, sometimes that very individual we extended ourselves for will become none other than our very own daughter-in-law.

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