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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Vayelech

Parshat Vayelech

Compiled and Edited by Rubin Kolyakov


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter    Print Version

Parashat Vayeilech
6th of Tishrei, 5777 | October 8, 2016

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Fischel Schachter
Saving a Life

כי ד' אלקיך הוא ההלך עמך

For Hashem, your G-d, goes with you (Devarim 31:6)

As a family once decided to take a vacation in Teveria, the wife and two daughters made their way down to the Kineret for a swim while the husband traveled to the gravesite of R’ Meir Baal HaNeis. While the girls continued to enjoy themselves swimming in the water, the older daughter began drifting off a bit too far and being unable to competently swim, started to drown. It was then that the mother, frantic and herself also incapable of swimming, began hearing her daughter yell for help.

Running to the highway, the mother began flagging down oncoming cars in a plea of desperation. After much effort, a luxurious car pulled over to the side and out walked a well-dressed man. “My child is drowning! Please, can you help?” the mother cried. Without hesitating, the man removed his coat and ran into the water, his wife screaming in the background, “Remember, you just had a heart attack!” Jumping into the water, after a short while, the man located the girl and brought her ashore.

Letting out a sigh of relief, the mother looked at her daughter, grateful that she survived. But then she looked again and gasped. Laying before her was not her older daughter, but younger daughter. Her younger daughter must have swum into the water to help her older sister. “I still have another daughter in the water!” the mother screamed back at the man. Diving back in, the man looked around asking, “Where is she?” “Over there,” cried the mother as she pointed to the water. Finally spotting the girl, he began dragging her to the shore.

By now, a number of people had gathered around nervously watching the man in the water. As the man continued holding the girl, he soon was met by a throng of bystanders yelling, “Her head is still in the water! Lift her head out!” Realizing that the girl’s head was still submerged in the water, he immediately lifted it up and placed her body on the sand. Within moments, a medic rushed over and started performing CPR, after which an ambulance crew arrived to take her pulse. But, unfortunately, they did not seem too optimistic. “Her head was in the water too long,” they said. Rushing her to the hospital, the doctors as well returned with sullen faces. “There doesn’t seem to be too much hope.”

While the family began fervently and anxiously praying for the girl’s recovery, she was administered an MRI. After its completion, the doctor walked in with the results. “I don’t believe it,” he said, “but your daughter has regular brain activity; she is perfectly healthy.” Two days later, the girl was released from the hospital. “We never saw anything like this before,” the doctors said. “With her head underwater for quite a while, she couldn’t breathe and should have suffered major brain damage.” But, to everyone’s relief, she miraculously pulled through.

A few days later, the family arranged a seudat hodaah (meal of thanks) thanking Hashem for the miracle. Looking to invite the man who saved the two girls, they called the hospital thinking that perhaps he had called to find out how the girl was doing. And sure enough, he had done so. Receiving his phone number, the family contacted him and invited him to the meal. He was an attorney from a non-observant kibbutz who had never experienced any close connection to Yiddishkeit his entire life. Yet, it seemed that he had something on his mind which he wished to tell the family. Asking that he share his story with the family, he went on to relate the following:

“Just before this incident, I had been recovering from a heart attack. My wife and I were traveling up north for a vacation when we saw a woman frantically waving down cars in the street. My wife told me to keep on driving as it didn’t seem that there was any major problem, but I stopped to help. I used to be an Olympic swimmer, but after becoming ill, I hadn’t swum in years. Just last week, though, as part of my recovering therapy, I had decided to swim laps in the hotel I was staying at. My wife at the time mentioned that it was dangerous for me to swim, but I replied that for some reason I felt like I needed to do this. Now, I know what I meant when I said that. If I hadn’t practiced my swimming then, I don’t think I would have been in shape to save your daughters.

“So I jumped in. Coming back with your first daughter, you then told me that your other daughter was still in the water. I then dived back in again. But this time, as I neared the shore, it was brought to my attention that I had kept her head underwater. Unable to deal with what I had done, I came back crying to my wife. “I killed the girl!” “What do you mean?” asked my wife. “I didn’t pull her head out of the water! It’s all my fault that she’s now dead.” I didn’t know what to do with myself.

“And so, sometime after the incident, I decided to drive back next to the water and climb to the nearby mountaintop. When I finally made it up there, I began to talk to Hashem. “Ribono Shel Olam, never in my life have I prayed. I grew up in a kibbutz and scoffed at the idea of prayer. This is the first time in my life that I am doing so. If this girl dies, I will never be able to live with myself again. Please consider as if I had prayed my whole life, and combine all those prayers to save this girl.” After finishing my prayers, I proceeded to drive to the hospital and check up on the girl.

“And as soon as I arrived, I was updated with the news. Your daughter had woken up an hour ago and was doing much better. She would survive and soon return to her full health.

“The moment I heard that, I couldn’t believe my ears. She had awoken during the very few moments I silently stood in prayer on the mountaintop. At the exact time I had turned to Hashem in heartfelt tefillah, she came to her senses.”

Instead of giving up and despairing, this man took his broken heart and poured it out to Hashem in prayer. It was a tefillah he had never uttered before in his life, and it wrought a miracle. Even at a moment we think all hope is lost, nothing is ever lost. Never are we to give up when trying circumstances confront us. Our words emanating from the heart directly reach Hashem, and hold the potency of effectuating miracles.

Rabbi Mashiach Kelaty
Take Your Picture

With the highly anticipated day of Lag Ba’omer approaching, one man living in Israel looked to take his family on a trip to Meron, the burial site of the great R’ Shimon Bar Yochai. And so, the family packed their bags and headed out.

Upon arriving there a number of hours later, the father scanned the area for a parking spot. And to his surprise, there was one available. Maneuvering around, he began making the turn into the open spot. But then he heard a slight noise. Pulling in a bit further, he straightened the car out and turned the ignition off. He knew something had happened.

The father proceeded to get out of the car and glance over to his side. And there it was. He had left a faint and small mark on the adjacent car. Knowing that it was caused due to his oversight, he realized what he needed to do. Although it was a tiny scratch which was quite hard to see and purely cosmetic, he didn’t even think twice. He wasn’t going to walk away as if nothing had happened and leave the damage for the owner to deal with.

Taking out a pen and paper, he wrote down his name, phone number and hotel address where he was staying. And then underneath, he wrote, “Please forgive me. If there is any damage, please contact me and I will pay for it.” And with that, he attached the note to the window.

Later that evening, a knock was heard at his hotel door. Opening the door, standing there was a fellow with a camera. Within seconds, the blinding flash of the camera snapped. Realizing that a picture had been taken, the man stood there motionless. All that was racing through his mind was how the man taking the picture must be the owner whose car he scraped earlier that day. He must have wanted a picture of him in order to file a complaint in court. But, in truth, the man holding the camera had something completely different in mind.

“Hi, I’m the man whose car you scratched earlier today. I saw your note and came to take a picture of you.” Having confirmed the man’s worries, he was now sure that this conversation wouldn’t end well. “I just wanted to personally come here and see you. I cannot believe people like you still exist. You wrote such a nice note. So many people I can think of would have simply walked away from the scene and dismissed the scratch as minor and something for me to deal with. But you went out of your way and apologized. I just wanted to take a picture of you so I would always have a picture of a role model who lives with such beautiful and idealistic principles. It will remind me that there are still people around with such integrity.”

The man standing inside was unsure if he had heard everything correctly. Although he was glad to have made a Kiddush Hashem, it never occurred to him to do otherwise. That was how he was raised. You are supposed to conduct yourself as befits a Jew with derech eretz and proper middot.

Speaking to the man a bit more, they carried on talking about each other’s background and personal lives. As it turned out, the man whose car was scratched was an irreligious Jew. By the time the conversation ended, the gentleman whose car was scratched had given the other man his phone number to keep in touch.

As the days went on, a few phone calls went back and forth between the two of them. Exchanging life experiences and stories, the irreligious Jew mentioned that he was in fact interested in exploring more about his Judaism. Would he, this other man, be able to help him get started on becoming more religious?

The answer was yes. And today, the answer is a resounding yes. He went on to become a baal teshuva and raise children and grandchildren who are Torah observant. And it all began from a tiny scratch. That little scratch was the beginning of his journey back to a beautiful Torah heritage. And today, he and the rest of his family are proudly living in accordance with those very same beautiful values and ideals they admired from the man who had hit their car.

Sometimes we think that our mistakes are our biggest failures and if only we could forget about them. But then other times, we muster the fortitude to face our errors and rectify them. And when we do so, we see that in fact that mistake was what led to our biggest success and was the best thing to have happened. Both of these men would most certainly agree that it was worth every penny for that scratch to have occurred. Just look at what came from it. A new life, a new future and a new purpose. The same applies to all of our past errors. With the right attitude, we can use them to inspire us to reach even higher and develop into that person we aspire to be.

A similar scenario plays itself out during this time period. Over the course of the past year, we may have said and done many things we wish we wouldn’t have. Yet now we have a choice. We can either leave the mark as it is and interpret it as unnoticeable and unimportant to fix. Or, we can write a little note to Hashem telling Him that we are sincerely sorry and wish to make amends for our mistakes. If we choose the latter, correct choice, we shouldn’t be surprised when we hear a knock on our door. It is Hashem, so to speak, with a camera. “My dear child, you look so beautiful; I just wanted to take a picture of you. I can see that you genuinely wish to make amends for your actions. Welcome home.”

A Short Message From
Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein

I was once talking to a 27-year-old girl who said to me, “Rabbi, I am having a very hard time with shidduchim. Nobody wants to go out with me. I have gone through a lot in my life, and every shadchan tells me, ‘I don’t know who to set you up with; you have a lot of baggage.’ I have been told this time and again. But, Rabbi, let me tell you something. Even though I have baggage, it is designer baggage.”

When I heard this, I was blown away. She was completely right. A person can have baggage, but it is Prada baggage. I then realized that the same is also true of every Jew. We all have baggage. And what is inscribed on it? Neshama. That is a Jew’s designer baggage. Each of us is unique and special in our own way and must be appreciated for who we are. With our beautiful neshamot, we each shine forth as beloved and precious children of Hashem.

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