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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Ha'azinu

Parshat Ha'azinu

Compiled and Edited by Rubin Kolyakov


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter    Print Version

Parashat Ha'azinu
13th of Tishrei, 5777 | October 15, 2016

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Benzion Klatzko
From Rome to Israel

כי חלק ד' עמו

For Hashem’s portion is His people (Devarim 32:9)

When Cory Carbon, a young irreligious boy living in Florida, was in twelve grade, his graduating class planned the very exciting trip to Rome. Anticipating an exhilarating experience including breathtaking sights and adventures, Cory looked forward to having a wonderful time.

It was finally when they arrived in Rome and were one day being driven around that the bus driver, who as well served as the students’ tour guide, announced over the loud speaker, “Are any students in this class Jewish?” Almost viscerally, Cory’s hand went up. “Please get off the bus,” said the bus driver over the loud speaker. Unsure why he would be asked to leave, Cory began wondering what he had done to warrant such specialized treatment.

Respectfully following instructions, Cory walked off the bus. Second-guessing if he should have ever raised his hand in the first place, Cory was soon surprisingly approached by the bus driver. “What is your name?” gently probed the driver. “Cory.” And with that, the bus driver began to explain. “Let me tell you why I told you to get off the bus. We have reached the Arch of Titus. Built as a source of pride to the Romans, the images of Jewish artifacts engraved upon the Arch were fashioned to denigrate and shame your people.

“You should know,” continued the driver, “that in 1948, when the Jewish people resettled Israel, a number of Jews traveled to Rome and walked under the Archway holding candles. Triumphantly showing that the nation of Israel had persevered the toughest of conditions, the throng of Jews broke out joyously singing, ‘Am Yisrael Chai!’” Prodding Cory to walk through the Archway and himself repeat those eternal words, the bus driver reassured him that the bus would wait. And so, Cory walked through the Arch of Titus a bit awkwardly, yet also jubilantly.

Next year…

Cory decided he would sign up for a student trip to Israel. Researching the matter, he came across a group trip called Akiva. An organization which I myself am a part of and help run, numerous applications were sent in from students vying for the positions. That year, included among the many applicants was Cory. Unfortunately, however, Cory’s application slipped through the cracks and was never examined.

Two weeks before the trip, there were a few more openings available. Asking my secretary to look through all the names of those who had applied and see who we had accepted, it was discovered that we had in fact overlooked Cory Carbon. He had an unopened application. Looking through his background information, I could immediately tell that he was a special boy. Tremendously moved by what he had to say about himself, I called him on the spot. And he picked up right away.

Introducing myself as Rabbi Klatzko from the Akiva trip, I could tell that at the moment he was somewhere where there was much surrounding noise. After speaking to him at length, I said, “Even though it is only two weeks before the trip, I hope you don’t have any other plans and have a valid passport. You are going to Israel!” Profusely thanking me, as I hung up, I could tell that he was very appreciative and that he would have a great time.

Little did I know what was going on at the other end of the line and the underlying reason for the raucous background noise. Cory belonged to a fraternity and was at the time attending an event. It was amid the hustle and bustle of this party that he received my phone call. Caught off guard and a bit embarrassed by the uniform the fraternity group was wearing – brass skirts and flowered lays – he stepped outside for a moment by himself.

And then he heard the great news he was tremendously anticipating. Without thinking twice, he broke out dancing. He could only wonder how the upcoming trip to Israel would teach him about his Jewish heritage and enhance his appreciation of Judaism.

Catching sight of Cory dancing was another boy. Approaching Cory, the boy introduced himself and mentioned that he was also Jewish. Happy to hear that a fellow Jew was in the area, Cory grabbed him by the hand and continued dancing and chanting, “Am Yisrael Chai!” The scene almost mirrored Cory’s experience in Rome where he had also celebrated his Jewish identity.

When Cory later arrived in Israel and visited the Kotel, he was emotionally energized. Looking at the Wall which represents the solidarity of the Jewish people and forever has been and will be a source of hope and dreams, Cory stood there in awe. Proceeding to pour his heart out to Hashem, as Cory finished off his prayers, he came up with a great idea.

Turning on his phone, he called his mother. “I know how you have always told me that you wish you could pray at the Western Wall,” Cory said to his mother. “Now, you have five whole minutes to do so.” Picking up his cellphone against the Kotel, his mother offered her sincerest prayers to Hashem. After five minutes, his mother was sobbing. But Cory did not stop there.

Calling his grandmother, Cory did the same as he did for his mother. Holding up the phone opposite the Kotel for five consecutive minutes, his grandmother went on to pray for the first time in many years.

Never should we underestimate the effect even a small dose of exposure to spirituality can accomplish. Its impact can be endless and travel long distances. For Cory, his upward spiritual climb began when he started to recognize the beauty of Yiddishkeit and make the decision to take one step forward. All it takes is the earnestness and excitement to realize the meaning of Torah and Judaism and yearn to grow more and learn more. Once that is so, the places such love and yearning can take us are far beyond our furthest dreams. It brings us closer to Hashem, along with our families and friends all across the globe.

Rabbi Dr. Akiva Tatz
Integrated Individuality

Rav Eliyahu Dessler speaks of a particular level of order in the word, which he calls, “Order for the sake of unity of function.” Consider, for example, an electronic radio or motor vehicle. Within the item, the various parts are disposed in such a way that it functions. Each component needs to be exactly where it needs to be. A car needs the rubber in its tires and the glass in its windows. If you would invert their roles and use glass for the tires and rubber for the windows, you would be in trouble.

In this level of order, integration is not only important, but vital. Imagine driving a huge, four-wheel car in the middle of nowhere. What would happen if a little screw falls out from your engine and gets buried in the desert sand? You would suddenly realize that this little screw meant your life. While it was in place doing what it should be, you didn’t notice it. The tiny piece of metal is worth less than the smallest coin. But now you appreciate how the whole engine needs it, and without it, you will remain stranded in the desert.

The same applies to the human body, or strictly speaking, the Jewish people. Each part is not merely nice to have; it is not akin to having one more book in a library. Each part is so critical that the others are meaningless without it. And everything and everyone else is also meaningless without them. When each piece is doing what it should, it remains unnoticed. However, when it falls out of place, then you suddenly realize its importance.

Let’s take this idea a bit deeper. The highest level of order in the world is structured this way. Whether it be cells in the human body, integrated units in a team or a marriage or letters in a Sefer Torah, every little detail makes the greatest of differences. If one letter in a Sefer Torah is invalid, you don’t have most of a Sefer Torah; you have nothing. Its validity is completely dependent upon one little letter. It is remarkable.

But this is not fanaticism. In the formation of a child, if one gene is slightly out of place, will you say that on average, you have billions of other genes, so why be worried? Certainly not. Your radio is not working because one wire is cracked. But isn’t 99% of the radio perfectly functional? Why should one tiny, meaningless wire defect an entire radio?

The reason is because when dealing with this level of integration, every fragmented nuance is essential to the totality of its functioning. A Sefer Torah is an organically alive entity. Every letter is critical. And if it is missing even a tiny bit, it is not alive. We are not being any more obsessive than we are about our genetics or one small wire in our radio.

In Kabbalistic terminology, were you to examine each part individually, you would discover that the whole is contained within each part. This is so because, from one perspective, the whole needs that one part.

In truth, the physical world reflects this reality. Any one cell in the human body contains the genes for the entire body. Were you to take a cell from the bottom of your toes and examine its genetic makeup, you would not find genes for toes. You would find genes for the entire body. Any cell of your body is capable of creating an exact copy of your whole body. The same is true of a tree. Even one sliver of bark can regenerate an exact clone of the whole tree.

The same is true in the creation of a child. When genes fuse to produce a child, one cell is formed with one genetic code. It then divides into two, four, eight, sixteen, thirty-two, sixty-four etc. But each one of those cells contains the same genetic material as every other cell.

But then, suddenly, a number of cells begin forming a head, and others, a foot. Scientists remain unclear how this occurs. How do the cells in one place know to become toes and the cells in another place know to become a head? This is one of the mysteries yet to be addressed in science. Yet in Jewish thought, the reasoning is clear. The genes for the formation of the entire child is contained within each individual part of the child.

Applying this to a psychological level, as human beings, we have an innate energy that thrills at being individuals and at the same time thrills at losing individuality in a group relationship. On the one hand, people like to exist as independent entities. In conventional psychological terminology, they call it the “lone ranger syndrome.” For example, let’s say you play a team sport. For many, the greatest fantasy is the scene where there are ten seconds remaining in the match and you are losing. However, all of a sudden, you get hold of the ball and in a dazzling display of brilliance, you beat the opposing team and score the winning goal. It is an amazing fantasy.

At the same time, we as human beings also revel in losing ourselves to a totality. If you have ever experienced the surreal feeling of being a part of a group that is functioning perfectly, you know that at one and the same time, you have lost yourself completely in the mass movement of the group and yet possess a remarkable sense of individuality.

Consider a battalion of thousands of soldiers marching for hours on end in perfect precision. It is a magical and hypnotic experience. You can continue moving forwards endlessly because suddenly you swell to the proportion of thousands of people and become incredibly energized.

Such is the paradoxical nature of the human condition. We possess both the thrill of individualism and the thrill of functioning as part of a larger proportion than ourselves. The underlying reason for such dichotomy is that the human being is designed exactly the same way the world is designed. Hashem has created us to coexist as both apart and separately unto ourselves, and yet at the very same moment, part of a collective unit which subsumes its members in complete integration.

While this concept affects many facets of life, one particularly important application relates to viewing the Jewish people as one inseparable, cohesive unit. Every Jew is absolutely vital to our entire nation. Each and every person has something important to offer and indispensably contributes to the totality of Klal Yisrael. In this respect, the Jewish people’s wholesomeness is contingent on each and every Jew. Especially as we move into the holiday of Sukkot and come together as one nation, we ought to realize that only when we unite together as “one man with one heart” will we be able to achieve our goals and attain perfection.

A Short Message From
Rebbetzin Ivy Kalazan

Can you remember some of your most memorable moments over the last five years of your life? What were some of the times you felt tremendous joy and pleasure? Quite likely, you will not answer, “March 23, 2012; the steak dinner I ate.” The deeply pleasurable experiences that stay with us are not merely those physical moments that tingle our taste buds and senses. They are rather experiences that touch our inner selves.

Along these lines, it is interesting to note that the word in Hebrew for physicality or material is chomer. Examined closely, within the word chomer lies the word chor, meaning hole or empty space. This is because the natural state of earthy material is akin to a hole. After you are done filling it, it reverts to being an empty hole once again. You need not even do anything active for this to happen. You ate breakfast and remain sitting in the same chair. Five hours later, your stomach reminds you that you are hungry. This is true of all earthly needs. It is similar to a hole which undergoes a cycle of being empty, full, empty, full. Yet that is the very point. That which most meaningfully and significantly touches our inner dimension are experiences which transcend physical and ephemeral limitations. They are what bring us to true fulfillment, meaning and joy.

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