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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Rosh Hashanah

Parshat Rosh Hashanah

Compiled and Edited by Rubin Kolyakov

Rosh Hashanah

"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter    Print Version

Special Rosh Hashanah Edition
1st of Tishrei, 5777 | October 3, 2016

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Ari Bergman
Twenty-Seven Successes

דלתיך דפקנו...נא אל תשיבנו ריקם מלפניך

At Your doors we knock…please do not turn us away from You empty-handed (Introduction to Selichot)

Having successfully established and run an electric company for a number of years, the owner eventually grew old and intended on retiring. Looking to sell the company, a friend of mine wished to buy it. He was relatively young, yet was ambitious and determined to make a successful life for himself. But there was only one problem: where would he get the credit to make such a large purchase? Applying to one bank after another, each one promptly rejected him. His hopes looked quite dismal, but he was not ready to give up.

After spending tireless hours attempting to find a bank which would agree to lend him the money, he finally found the one. But that was only after twenty-seven banks had previously refused him. It was only on the twenty-eighth attempt that a bank complied.

Going through with buying the electric company, he went on to achieve tremendous success. Close to a billion dollars of revenue were brought in for the company. While accomplishing such a feat was surely remarkable, there was something else that impressed me even more.

As I one day entered his office, I was in for a surprise. His office walls were not simply graced with tasteful and elegant design; there was something more to them. Hanging behind his desk were the twenty-seven refusal letters he had received from all the banks he had applied to, yet was rejected.

“Let me tell you something,” he said to me. “If I would have given up after the first few tries, I probably would be working for another person running this company. But my failures never deterred me. And in truth, the failures themselves brought me to achieve this success. After every fruitless attempt in applying to a bank, I learned what I could do to improve and be better equipped for my next try. And in that respect, those twenty-seven failures were in reality my greatest successes.”

The wise words of this man speak for themselves. We should never be deterred by our past failures and letdowns. Quite to the contrary, they are what build us and prepare the way for our greatest and most treasured triumph.

Rabbi Yisroel Reisman
The Bee’s Honey

יהי רצון מלפניך...שתחדש עלינו שנה טובה ומתוקה

May it be Your will… that You renew for us a good and a sweet year

One of the most widespread customs associated with the night of Rosh Hashanah is that of consuming various food items – e.g. carrots, leeks, beets, dates, pomegranates, head of a fish – for a good omen. Intending to serve as a source of merit for our upcoming year, we hope that we will be blessed with a new year filled with prosperity, success and productivity.

Of the many foods eaten, arguably so, the apple and honey serve as one of the main highlights. Taking an apple and dipping it into honey, we wish that the year we are about to embark upon be full of sweetness.

Yet, this is not the only instance in which honey plays a significant role in Judaism. In praise of the Land of Israel, the Torah tells us that it is a “Land flowing with milk and honey” (Shemot 13:5). Nevertheless, there is a clear distinction between the nature of honey mentioned in this verse and that which we use on the night of Rosh Hashanah. As explained by Chazal (Ketubot 111b), the honey referred to in this Pasuk is that of date’s honey. And as common custom has it, the honey used to dip our apple in on the night of Rosh Hashanah is that of a bee. Yet why is that so? Why in fact do we not use date’s honey and instead resort to bee’s honey?

As any keen observer would quite quickly notice, the manner in which honey is obtained from a date and a bee are strikingly different. When a date is crushed, its honey easily and smoothly flows straight out. Little more is necessary to attain the desired honey from within the date. It is in this respect that Eretz Yisrael is praised as a land flowing with honey. When the Jewish people abide by the Torah, the Land produces an overabundance of blessings, including sweet honey, which is easily obtainable and accessible by all.

But such is not the case with bee’s honey. Aside from the arduous process which the bee undergoes in producing the honey, the concerted effort needed to procure the honey subsequently is not so simple and easy a task. Needing to contend with the bees and circumvent their stinging efforts used to protect themselves and their honey, only after much labor can one anticipate returning with anything.

Yet that is the very point. Our definition of a sweet new year is a year of effort and accomplishment, of labor and fulfillment. We are not simply looking to enjoy an easy year where we do not work and feel any sense of achievement. Quite to the contrary, we recognize that by exerting ourselves to confront challenging situations and overcome them, we will attain the sweetest life possible.

Such is the message of the bee’s honey. A sweet year is a year of fulfillment, of attainment and of satisfaction. Yet we understand that such sweet feelings are only a byproduct of hard work and much effort. And that is best represented by the bee’s honey. If we wish to enjoy such sweetness, there is no better place to look for it than the beehive.

Ms. Chevi Garfinkel
Our Problem

מי כמוך אב הרחמים...

Who is like You, Merciful Father…

Imagine the following scenario. You need to attend a class which begins at eight o’clock and is a fifteen-minute drive away. Knowing this, you decide you will leave half an hour before eight. And indeed, you make it out of the house at your expected time of departure. But then, as soon as you turn the corner, you notice that right in front of you is a large truck blocking the road. Not moving even an inch, you begin worrying about arriving late.

Is it hard to turn to Hashem for help under such circumstances? Not really. You did everything possible from your end, and the rest is for Hashem to take care of. You responsibly left your house on time and took all the necessary steps to being punctual. Now, after taking care of your half of the bargain, the remaining half is on G-d’s shoulders. “You put me in this difficult situation to begin with,” you say to Hashem, “and I feel comfortable asking You to help me out of it.”

But now imagine a slightly different scenario. Considering that you have a time management issue, you did not leave the house at seven-thirty, but at five minutes to eight. Knowing that you did not give yourself enough time and people are waiting for you, will you be inclined to daven to Hashem for help? Less likely than in the above situation. After all, you say, isn’t it my fault? Why should Hashem have to fix up my mess? Under such circumstances, we do not feel it our place to ask for help.

The truth, however, is that precisely then we need Hashem’s help most. We mistakenly believe that as long as something goes wrong despite us, not because of us, we can turn to Him. But when it is our fault and our own doing, then we have no right to daven that things end up alright. But that is a terrible mistake. G-d is always with us during our moments of difficulty and wishes for us to turn to Him.

This is not only true about external issues, but internal issues as well. When working on middot, relationships or struggling to make smart decisions, Hashem is there for you. “I am always with you,” He says, “because I created you with these issues.” Even when it seems as if it is only your problem, the truth is the opposite. It is never just your problem; it is always our problem.

And this is true even at a time when we find ourselves doing something we know we shouldn’t. Quite literally.

Sometime ago, a previous high school friend of mine was working on her observance of Shabbat. Although she was not too religious, she had grown to feel a connection to Hashem. One Friday night, however, she was faced with an inner struggle. Overcome by a desire to attend a party, she headed outside and gave up on keeping Shabbat that week.

Arriving there and entering the stairwell, she slowly made her way down the steps. But then she paused. Thinking about what she was doing, she began questioning herself. She deep down wished she possessed the conviction to scrupulously observe Shabbat with all its detail. And so, she uttered a heartfelt prayer. “Hashem, I want to keep Shabbat, but it is very difficult for me. I now desperately need Your help. I know it was a mistake to get involved with this in the first place, but now I need You.”

She then reached the end of the staircase. Immediately upon opening the door and stepping foot inside, she heard the words, “That’s me in the corner, that’s me in the spotlight, losing my religion…” To her disbelief, at the exact moment she crossed the threshold inside, a popular song was being played. Halting in her tracks, she didn’t take a step further. She could only imagine that Hashem was standing in the corner, in the spotlight and reminding her of her religion.

Without further ado, she turned around and closed the door. She was now intent on returning home and reopening her own door to the wonderful aura of Shabbat.

While we may at times feel forlorn and beset with problems, Hashem is always there at our side. Even during the most difficult of times and places, He accompanies us. And then sometimes, to our surprise, we receive a tap on the shoulder or whisper into our ear. It is Hashem speaking to us, “I am here with you. You may not see Me, but if you listen close enough, you will most definitely hear Me. I am right in the corner… where you least expected.”

Mrs. Chani Juravel
A Call into Action

יום תרועה יהיה לכם

It shall be a day of shofar-sounding for you (Bamidbar 29:1)

Of the many names for Rosh Hashanah, the Torah itself refers to it as Yom Teruah, the day of the Teruah. Named such in recognition of the obligatory Teruah Shofar blasts, one is led to wonder why the Torah chose that sound of the Shofar to name the holiday as opposed to the other blast of Tekiah, which is sounded sequentially first. Why not name Rosh Hashanah “Yom Tekiah”?

As delineated by the Torah in Parshas Be’halotcha, the Jewish people were signaled to various functions based upon the sounding of trumpets. If the straight, elongated sound of the Tekiah was blown, the Jewish nation knew they were being summoned to gather at the Tent of Meeting. On the other hand, the short, staccato sound of the Teruah was blown either upon the occasion of Klal Yisrael beginning to travel onwards and relocate their encampment or in preparation for war (Bamidbar 10:1-9).

It is for this very reason that the Torah references Rosh Hashanah as Yom Teruah and not Yom Tekiah. Rosh Hashanah is a time of awakening, a time when we are roused to make a move in our life and fight our inner battles. In essence, the very same Teruah which prompted the Jewish people to either travel forward or ready for war in the desert is blown on Rosh Hashanah. We are being summoned to progressively move onwards and confront our challenges and weaknesses. Now is not the time to remain stagnant and stationary; now is the precious opportunity to fight for life, fight for change and fight for greatness.

And once the sound of the Teruah has been blown, all that awaits is our response.

Rabbi Bentzion Shafier
The Elephant and Harvard

וכתבנו בספר החיים...

And inscribe us in the Book of Life…

Imagine taking a trip to Asia. There you stand observing the Asian elephant. Burly and husky, you would never consider getting too close. Serving to this very day in Asia as the primary beast of burden, you begin marveling in its extraordinary ability to trudge through undergrowth day after day and lift up logs that weigh a thousand pounds.

And then nighttime falls. Looking up towards the distance, you catch sight of a familiar figure. It’s the same elephant you just observed earlier that day. Looking a bit closer, you struggle to believe what you are seeing. Rubbing your eyes, you look again.

Is that it? Standing there in front of you is a muscular elephant tied to a little peg and frail rope. Startled, you begin wondering if a mistake has been made. Why is this huge elephant attached to a peg which can be smashed into pieces with the slightest movement?

Running over to the elephant’s trainer standing nearby, you start explaining that maybe something needs to be redone. This elephant belongs in a steel cage, not left in the open attached to a thin rope. “Don’t worry,” calmly replies the trainer, “he’s not going anywhere.” Standing there still nervous, the trainer continues, “You see, ever since this elephant has been a baby, it has been tied to this very same rope and peg. At the time of its birth, it weighed a mere 250 pounds, and the rope was strong enough to restrain it. Throughout its youth, it made many attempts at breaking loose and freely moving around, but never succeeded. At such a young age, the rope was sturdy enough to keep it chained down and under control.

“Now, the elephant weights around 14,000 pounds and can effortlessly set itself free. But it will not try. And that is because it still believes it cannot escape. Those experiences of its youth remain fixed in the its mind. For the elephant, this rope has kept it tied down ever since it knew, and will continue to do so for the rest of its life. Were it to know what it is capable of, without question, it would unfetter itself and break free.

While this may sound like a nice parable, it is true. The elephant does not believe it can free itself and so it won’t. Yet, as any keen observer will realize, it is living in a world of imagination.

But, we must ask ourselves, are we any different?

In 1984, Mark McCormack, one of the most successful entrepreneurs in American business, published his bestselling book, What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School. Offering numerous practical insights and tips into the business world, amongst other topics, McCormack speaks of a study conducted at the Harvard Business School involving graduating students.

Upon graduation, students were asked if they had set any concrete, realistic goals for their future and put them into writing. 13% of the students responded that they had formulated actual goals, yet not committed anything to writing. Only 3% replied that they had thought of personal goals and actually put them into writing.

Ten years later, the same graduating class was reevaluated. Analyzing their respective job positions and earnings at the time, the results of a decade later proved something quite telling.

Those 13% of the class who had set goals for themselves were earning on average twice as much as the remaining 84% of the class. Quite remarkable. Yet that was not the entire picture. When researchers investigated even further and looked into the 3% who had not only outlined goals for themselves, but physically written them down, they were incredibly surprised. They were earning on average ten times as much as the other 97% of the class.

This 3% was not found in any way to include brighter students with higher IQ scores. It was simply due to their clearly written and defined goals that they achieved above and beyond their peers.

We all have aspirations and dreams. But there is a considerable difference between wishing to achieve and actually achieving. And that difference lies in a vision. A vision clearly mapped out and seriously embraced will take theory and create reality. We all too often shackle ourselves down and forget that we can reach above and beyond our limitations. We have to dream and must dream big; but we can never forget to take that dream and concretize it. And it all starts with picking up a pencil and paper and saying to ourselves, “Who do I want to become? How do I want to improve this year? Now is when I will begin to untie the ropes that hold me down and actualize my latent potential.”

We all can do it. It doesn’t take much; just a little imagination and a pencil and paper. And then in ten years, when we look ourselves in the mirror, we will appear not like that immobilized elephant who doesn’t realize he can break loose. We will have grown into individuals with aspirations and achievements, with dreams and accomplishments. And then will we realize that it all began that one day we sat down and said, “Today is a new day and a new year. Time to change.”

See you in ten years. Or hopefully, much sooner than that.

Mrs. Esther Wein
A Life-Saving Deed

בראש השנה יכתבון... מי במים

On Rosh Hashanah it will be inscribed…who by water?

As a young child, I remember my family greatly enjoying camping outdoors. On one such excursion in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, my family decided to go swimming in the Delaware River. While I was only six years old, my siblings and I were told to refrain from swimming out too far out. And indeed, we complied.

While we continued to enjoy ourselves, we soon noticed a man and a woman down the river. Preoccupied with our own swimming, we didn’t pay too much attention to them. But then, all of a sudden, the woman came running down to us in a panic and began screaming, “I can’t find him! He tried swimming across the river and I don’t see him!” As she said this, my mother noticed the man’s body floating near her. Pulling him out of the water, my father immediately placed him down on the ground and was successful in resuscitating him.

Notifying the campground rangers of what had occurred, meanwhile my mother decided she would stay with the man as he was driven to the hospital. She wished to ensure that he was okay and simultaneously soothe the woman’s nerves. After being admitted into the closest hospital, he was stabilized and nursed back to full health.

We later discovered that the man’s name was Pat McEntire from Perth Amboy, New Jersey. My father used to wonder if this man had any special merit to be saved. While we never believed we would discover the true reason, we were in for a surprise.

As my father was accustomed to doing, whenever someone would walk into shul, he would extend a hearty welcome. One day, a man walked in and responded to my father’s greeting by saying he was from Perth Amboy. As soon as my father heard the name, he knew what to ask. “Would you happen to know the McEntire family?” “Of course I do,” replied the man, “everyone knows them. Dr. McEntire, an Irish man, was known to have treated all the Jewish refugees who came from Europe to America. And he did it all for free. He wished to give something back to the Jewish people, and that is what he did.”

And Dr. McEntire was none other than the father of Pat.

While Dr. McEntire may have believed he was merely helping Jews, little did he know that he was paving the way for his son’s safe survival years later. We may never know the reverberating impact of extending ourselves for another, but to be sure, every one of our efforts is well worth it. And who can know, our beneficiary may return one day to repay the deed.

Aseret Yemei Teshuva

A Lesson a Day

“The biggest sale of the year is happening right now. Don’t miss out. Spiritual growth is on sale for the next ten days.”

~Rebbetzin Chaya Levine

Day 1: Parroting Your Messages

Rabbi Yossi Mizrachi

A non-observant Jew was once walking down the streets of Israel when he came across a lost parrot. Apparently, it had flown away from its owner and landed helplessly on the street. And so, caring about the survival and life of the parrot, the irreligious Jew brought it home.

Days passed by for the parrot in his new cage in a new home. Finally, Friday night arrived. For this individual, though, Shabbat was no different than any other day of the week. At least he thought so. That was soon going to come to an end.

Shabbat Shalom! Shabbat Shalom! The parrot began wishing his newly found owner Shabbat Shalom! And again Shabbat Shalom! He couldn’t get enough of it. The entire Shabbat, all that could be heard out of the parrot’s mouth were these two resounding words: Shabbat Shalom!

The man got the message. He himself was to begin wishing others Shabbat Shalom! And in fact, he began his journey back to Yiddishkeit, returning to his roots. For all of us as well, we would be wise to listen to those messages which come our way. They may not always be as overt as a talking parrot, but then again, you never know.

Day 2: Firm or Flexible?

Rebbetzin Aviva Feiner

My husband and I once visited a friend of ours whose home had been devastated by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Living next to the bay in Back Lawrence, New York, the hurricane caused water to fill up until the second floor of his house. But there was something particularly interesting which he pointed out.

While all the trees adjacent to his house were smashed and broken, the reeds remained standing tall and strong. “Let this be a lesson,” he said, “that it is good to be malleable in life. If you are able to bend when the tide comes your way, you will survive. However, if you believe that everything has to be your way and you remain firmly stubborn as a tree, then when something hits you, you are going to crack.”

Day 3: Humble with Hashem

Rabbi Daniel Glatstein

When a couple seeking to have children approach Rav Chaim Kanievsky shlita for guidance, he advises them to work on the trait of humility. When asked what connection exists between humility and having children, Rav Chaim pointed to an explicit comment of Rashi in Parashat Noach (Bereishit 10:25). Of all the descendants of Noach, the individual possessing the largest family was Yaktan with thirteen children. In relation to Yaktan, Rashi comments, “he was humble and therefore merited many children.”

Why in fact is humility a meritorious trait to having children? Considering that a mother, father and Hashem unite in the creation of a child (Niddah 31a), and the Divine Presence only dwells together with one who is humble (Sotah 5a), the perfect quality for partnering with Hashem is humility.

Day 4: Blowing with the Wind

Rabbi Fischel Schachter

As it was heavily raining one day and I only had an umbrella that was half-opening, I came across my friend on the street. He was carrying a wide and sturdy umbrella that put mine to shame. Then the wind began blowing and made my situation even worse by turning my umbrella inside out. Struggling to hold my umbrella down, I was losing the battle.

But then I realized something. If I would turn around and face the wind, it would actually push the umbrella back into shape. And indeed that was what happened. It then hit me that the same is true in life. Instead of trying to change the winds blowing in our lives, we would be wiser to position ourselves in such a way that they actually help us.

Day 5: Your Honor

Rabbi Doniel Kalish

Have you ever wondered what the name of your neshama is? What about your friend’s neshama? In truth, they have the same name: kavod (honor). When Dovid Hamelech wishes to refer to the soul, he uses the expression “k’vodi,” my honor (e.g. “Ura k’vodi ura,” “Awake, my soul, awake” – Tehillim 57:9). The implications of this are far-reaching. As the Maharal articulates, when we honor another, we are doing no less than giving them life and uplifting their very being. We are recognizing their uniqueness and making them feel valued, important and respected.

Day 6: Watch Your Step

Rabbi Noach Orlowek

I remember hearing a very important life principle from a friend of mine who teaches mountain climbing in Denver, Colorado: “It is not those who look towards the top of the mountain who succeed in making it there, but those who carefully watch every step they make along the way.” The same is true about growing in Yiddishkeit. Those who value every small step of progress they make will eventually meet great success.

Day 7: Who’s Driving?

Rabbi Dovid Orlofsky

As a pregnant woman boarded a bus in Israel teeming with people of all ages from all walks of life, she was found without a seat. The bus was simply packed to its fullest. With no other resort, she remained standing. Time went by as the bus continued to travel and still no one offered her their seat. Finally, frustrated and without any other idea in mind, the bus driver looked back at the pregnant woman and said, “Here, take my seat!”

Even at a time when we are comfortable, we must never forget to look out for someone who could use our assistance and be helped along. It may sometimes entail giving up our seat, but without question, it is surely worth it.

Day 8: How Do You Drink Your Coffee?

Rebbetzin Batsheva Alpert

I once heard Rabbi Elimelech Biderman beautifully say, “When you make your coffee in the morning, you take bitter coffee, sweet sugar, hot water and cold milk. And then you say the blessing, ‘She’hakol nihiye bidvaro’ – ‘Everything came to be through Hashem’s word.’ Everything that happens to you in life emanates from Hashem – the bitter, the sweet, the hot and the cold.”

As you stir your coffee this morning, consider the implications of this idea. And then carry it with you every subsequent time you take a drink. It will surely provide you with a dose of encouragement and inspiration, and keep you coasting throughout your day awake and full of life.

Day 9: Never Too Late

Rabbi Dovid Kaplan

As a poor couple living in the Old City of Jerusalem stood together one Thursday night, the wife turned to her husband and despondently mentioned that there was no food for Shabbat. After confirming that they had depleted all their money and were nearly broke, the two of them sat down lamenting their fate. Sulking together, all of a sudden, they heard a window shatter. Running to the back room, to their dismay, a burglar had broken into their home. He proceeded to pull out a gun, whereupon the husband and wife immediately dropped to the floor.

“Listen,” said the husband, “you’re wasting your time. We have nothing left in our house. You’ve come to the wrong address.” “Quiet!” the burglar said, “I’ll decide that.” Making his way around the house, within minutes, he returned. “You’re right,” he said, “there’s nothing here. You need this more than I do.” And with that, he pulled out a wad of cash, handed it to the husband and jumped out the window.

It is never too late to make amends. For this burglar, instead of walking out of the house with some extra money, he provided his victims with their next Shabbat meal. If only all burglars would follow his example…

Day 10: Keep on Walking

Rabbi Dr. Akiva Tatz

As a peasant farmer once stood by the side of the road, he looked into the distance awaiting someone who would pass by. With no land and no means of providing for himself and his family, living conditions were dire.

Lifting his eyes up, the peasant within moments caught sight of an exquisitely ornate carriage, bedecked by shimmering gold and silver plates. Still sweltering with tears in his eyes, he didn’t seem too optimistic that this carriage would be any different than the last.

But then, suddenly, out walked a man. Dressed in robes of royalty, the peasant raised his head upwards. It was the czar. He had gotten out of his carriage and approached the helpless peasant. While the peasant stood there trembling and overawed by the presence of the czar, the czar extended his hand and said, “What’s the problem?”

Shocked that the czar would even take interest in his plight, the peasant fumbled with his words. “I am a peasant who has no land…” But such a problem did not seem to offset the czar one bit. “Don’t you worry. I own the land of Russia.”

And with that, the czar drove a stick into the ground and handed the peasant three others. “Take these sticks with you. Walk as far as you would like and plant the second stake in the ground. Then turn, walk again and plant the third stake in the ground. Then turn one last time and plant the fourth stake in the ground. And the land between all four stakes is yours. It is a gift from me, the czar, especially for you.”

The peasant could not believe his eyes and ears. Without a moment’s delay, he grabbed hold of the three stakes and began walking. After a few miles, he came to a stop. Looking down at the ground in search of a nice place to insert the stake, he all of a sudden paused. “I could have more,” he said to himself. And with that, he carried on walking a few more miles, after which he stopped again. Taking hold of a stake, he gazed up with his eyes and peered into the distance. “Why stop here?” he said to himself.

And as far as anyone knows, the peasant never stopped walking.

Our yearning for greatness should never be diminished. If we keep on walking, there is no limit to how far we can reach.

Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein
Coach Your Client

וישא אברהם את עיניו וירא את המקום מרחוק

And Avraham looked up and saw the place from afar (Bereishit 22:4; Second Day Torah Reading)

After Yehuda, a dear student of mine, lost his father, I began stepping in to mentor and guide him. Helping him along, he eventually went on to attend law school and become a teacher. Sometime after his schooling, I remember him coming over to me and saying, “Rabbi, the best lesson I ever learned in law school was a class called, ‘Coach your Client.’” “Tell me about it,” I said. And so, Yehuda went on to tell me the following story he heard from his professor:

When a well-to-do politician was charged with first-degree murder, he without delay hired a top-notch defending lawyer. This lawyer was known to have never lost a case, and his retainer fee was in the millions. The prosecuting lawyer, on the other hand, was a young boy just out of school. Functioning as the ADA (Assistant District Attorney) and matched against this other seasoned lawyer, everyone expected the case to come to a close quite quickly.

Yet for a few days, the prosecuting lawyer was doing unexpectedly well. Presenting cogent arguments, it was rather surprising to see the defending lawyer simply sitting back in his chair and saying nothing. Unsure why no defense was being taken on behalf of the accused, the media was under the impression that the defense lawyer was having a nervous breakdown. Something was certainly amiss.

A few days into the proceedings, the judge finally called for summation. By then, the prosecuting lawyer had lodged a significant number of compelling arguments with the defending lawyer saying nothing. But then the defending lawyer got up.

“You are all probably under the impression that something has gone wrong with me over the past couple of days. The truth, though, is that I was not worried at all. I didn’t want to waste your time nor my time. Just the other day, I spoke to the girl who was supposedly murdered by this man sitting in front of you. She told me that she is currently in Mexico, and after telling her the details of this case, she agreed to walk into this court room. Today, on Friday, between 3 o’clock and 4 o’clock, you will see her walk through that door.”

Taking the audience and media by surprise, the tables seemed to have turn. It was in fact the defending lawyer who had the upper hand all along. All that now awaited was the clock striking 3.

3 o’clock. The court room settled down and silence filled the room. 3:05, 3:15, no sight of anyone yet. At 3:30, the door opened. Everyone jumped as their heads turned towards the door. But it wasn’t the victim; it was a court reporter. 3:30 rolled around, 3:45. 4:00. No sight of anyone.

“Sir,” said the judge to the defending lawyer, “what do you have to say now? Where is she?” And then the defending lawyer stood up.

“Your honor,” began the lawyer, “let me ask you and the jurors something. In American law, is it not true that in order to find someone guilty, you must have proof beyond a reasonable doubt? Now, is it not that between the hours of 3 and 4, everyone in this court room was looking at that door and expecting that the girl would enter? And is it not true that at 3:30, when those doors opened, you all picked up your heads and thought she was there? That being so, I do not believe there to be evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that my client is guilty. I rest my case for his innocence.”

Brilliant. Now the media was in an upheaval. Turning the case on its head, the judge could not disagree with the argument. All he could do was tell the jurors to deliberate and reach a conclusion. And sure enough, not too long thereafter, they returned with their decision.

“Your honor,” one of the jurors said, “we find the accused guilty of first-degree murder.” Pandemonium broke out in the court room. Shocked by the verdict reached, the judge asked for an explanation. “Your honor,” said one of the jurors, “let me tell you something. It is true that everyone in this court room believed that the girl would walk through that door. And it is also true that at 3:30, when the door opened, everyone here jumped up and thought she had arrived. However, I was looking at the accused for that entire hour. And not once, did he pick his head up and look at that door. And that is because he knew that he murdered the girl.”

Case closed.

And with that, the defending lawyer got up and walked over to his client. “You fool! I had everything in place for you. All you needed to do is just once look at that door!”

“And then the professor of my class,” Yehuda concluded telling me, “finished his lesson.”

In front of all of us young, aspiring lawyers, he said, “Let me tell you the most important principle in law. You can be the most brilliant lawyer and have everything ingeniously worked out, but if you do not coach your client, you will not win the case.”

As Yehuda finished telling me this lesson, I said to him, “Yehuda, that’s a big story. Not only for law, but for life.”

All too often, we are inspired for a short while, and then the inspiration disappears. We attend a convention or a lecture, and we hear all about how we can change our lives and improve. We hear motivational words from the best lawyers, the best rabbis and the best speakers. But then, we walk out of the room and return home. And then we wonder, what happened? Where did the inspiration go?

The answer is found in this story. If we do not wish to turn around and look at the door, we will end up losing the case. More than anyone else, the one who will change our lives the most is none other than ourselves. Speakers “coach the client,” but it is up to each and every one of us to take charge of own lives and make that change. Our job is to take their words of inspiration and make them words of reality. And when we do so, we will surely see doors of potential and opportunity open right before our eyes.

Rabbanit Amit Yaghoubi
Sounding the Siren

וצונו לשמוע קול שופר

… And has commanded us to hear the sound of the Shofar (Blessing over Shofar Blowing)

As a young man was once driving down the highway and looking forward to a wonderful day ahead of himself, there was one problem: traffic was heavy. Figuring that he would make best use of his time by listening to a Torah lecture as he drove, he inserted a CD of a lecture into his car radio.

No more than a few minutes went by until he heard the sounds of a siren. Looking down at his speedometer, his heart fluttered. Had he been speeding all along and not noticed? He didn’t think so. Without giving the matter any further thought, he pulled over to the side of the highway expecting a police car to soon pull up behind him.

After a few moments and still no sight of an officer, he looked behind himself. There was no car nor any person there. And then he heard the siren again. Slowly looking in all directions, he tried to pinpoint where the sound was emanating from. And then it hit him. Listening closely to the CD player in his car, he heard the sound of a siren. The noises were coming not from outside his car, but inside his car. As the lecturer was speaking, an ambulance or police officer must have driven by and the recording picked up the sound. Breathing in a sigh of relief, he was happy that he was spared an expensive ticket.

Looking back over his shoulder, he made his way back onto the highway and joined the traffic. Now traffic was very heavy. Bumper to bumper, he was barely moving. Wondering if something had happened during those few minutes he pulled aside, he began looking for the source of the traffic. And then he saw. An accident had taken place, whereby a large truck had collided with the car driving right next to it.

Now, while most people who drove by gave the accident one look and moved along, this man was shocked. Thinking to himself, he remembered that before he had pulled over to the side of the highway, a large truck was driving right next to him. And now before his very own eyes, that same large truck collided with the car beside it. Had it not been for the false siren sounding from his car earlier and delaying him, perhaps he now would have needed a real siren himself.

As we enter the days of Rosh Hashanah, the sound of the Shofar rings in our ears. It is a call for us to awaken and examine our own lives. While it may seem that such sounds reminding us to change are an inconvenience, in truth, they are what will ensure us another year of life. It is through hearing the call of the siren and Shofar that we will be able to momentarily pull over to the side of the road in our lives and reinvent the wheel that will steer us in the right direction.

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