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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Yom Kippur

Parshat Yom Kippur

Compiled and Edited by Rubin Kolyakov

Rosh Hashanah

"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter    Print Version

Special Yom Kippur Edition
10th of Tishrei, 5777 | October 12, 2016

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Yissocher Frand
At Your Service

אז תקרא וד' יענה תשוע ויאמר הנני

“Then you will call out and Hashem will answer; you will cry out and He will say ‘Here I am’” (Yeshaya 58:9, Haftorah for Shacharit)

While we may many times wonder how we can have our tefillot answered, on the day of Yom Kippur, we are revealed the secret. The Navi Yeshaya tells us in the Haftorah reading, “אז תקרא וד' יענה תשוע ויאמר הנני – Then you will call out and Hashem will answer; you will cry out and He will say ‘Here I am’” (Yeshaya 58:9).

There are fourteen places in Tanach that the expression “Hineni – Here I am” is used. Thirteen out of the fourteen places are contextually the same with the servant responding to the master, “Here I am; at your service.” Avraham responded to Hashem after he was commanded to bind Yitzchak to the Altar, “Here I am;” Moshe Rabbeinu, as well, used this expression when he encountered Hashem at the Burning Bush. The one exception to the word Hineni expressing the Jewish people’s readiness to serve G-d is in this Pasuk from Yeshaya. This time, the Jews call out to their Master, the Ribono Shel Olam, and He is the One to respond “Hineni – Here I am.”

How did we get the Ribono Shel Olam to respond? What is special about this situation that causes the roles to be reversed?

The Gemara (Yevamot 63a) tells us what this Pasuk is referring to:

והמקרב את קרוביו... עליו הכתוב אומר אז תקרא וד' יענה תשוע ויאמר הנני
One who brings his relatives near, upon him the verse says, “Then you will call out and Hashem will answer; you will cry out and He will say ‘Here I am.’”

What do we have to do to have our prayers answered? What is this Pasuk telling us to do to shake the heavens? Finish Shas in one year? Recite Sefer Tehillim every day? Give millions of dollars to tzedakah? No.

Bring your relatives close. Just be nice to your sister-in-law.

Why is this the secret formula?

The Maharal clues us into the underlying reason: “The Ribono Shel Olam’s relationship with Klal Yisrael is that of a relative.” We are Hashem’s family. And when we act kindly to our family, Hashem says, “I will deal with you measure for measure. If you treat your family nicely, I will treat you nicely.”

Our own family oftentimes presents the greatest of challenges. This is especially true of siblings. Yet, consider for a moment which people we are most closely related to. With whom do we share the most similar and identical DNA? It is not our children or our parents, but our siblings. If you have ever thought of it, the longest-lasting relationship is that of siblings. Our siblings can live with us for sixty, seventy or even eighty years. It is the longest relationship, yet sometimes the most difficult.

Treating our family as they deserve to be treated is the key to having Hashem, our dearest Father in Heaven, say to us, “When you call out, I am at Your service.”

As we enter the holiest day of Yom Kippur and look to make amends and ask forgiveness from our family and friends, we ought to take a moment and ponder how we treat them. Do we show them our appreciation, give them our undivided attention, treat them respectfully and considerately, and love them unconditionally? That is the question we must ask ourselves. If we wish to have our tefillot answered, this is where we need to begin.

Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein
Meet Faiga

הטה אלקי אזנך ושמע פקח עיניך וראה

Incline Your ear, my G-d, and listen; open Your eyes and see…

Four years after opening Ohr Naava, a woman’s Torah center in Brooklyn, I began looking into opening a high school for girls. And indeed, we went on to create Bnot Chaya. Aimed at providing girls who had undergone difficult times throughout their years of childhood and young adolescence, it was hoped that such an environment would enable them to thrive spiritually, emotionally and physically.

The first year the school opened, I partnered with the Jewish Board of Family and Child’s Services located on Coney Island Avenue in New York. Granting me a free floor in their building and ensuring me that they would provide free therapists, I was quite thrilled to know that we would have a building to place the students and run the school. However, there was one very significant catch. They only permitted there to be fifteen students in the school.

As we went about interviewing various girls and seeing who would best fit the school, we eventually enrolled fourteen girls. With just one spot remaining, the principal, Rabbi Ezra Max and myself decided that we would go about selecting the last girl who would be admitted into the school. And so, we set a date for three girls to come for interviews.

When the day we scheduled to meet the girls arrived, we all sat together in an office, waiting for the first girl to walk in. Her name was Faiga. As she entered inside together with her parents, we were all surprised by what we saw. Quite surprised. She pretty much wobbled in, took a seat and her head hit the desk. She was out cold. She had just spent three days in the mountains with a bunch of kids partying and was, as it seemed to be, incoherent. Knowing that we couldn’t run an interview with Faiga’s head on the table, I turned to her parents and said, “Would you be able to wake your daughter up? This is an interview for high school.” Shaking Faiga, after a few moments, she came to her senses.

“Faiga!” I called out, “why do you want to come to my school?” “Looking back at me with starry eyes, she said, “Uh? I don’t know…” And then there was a boom. Her head hit the table again. She was not with it. At all. Under these circumstances, I knew that we could not accept her. Looking at Rabbi Ezra Max, I tried getting across that by judging the way she was now, there was no way we could let her into the school.

I wanted to be polite and not immediately dismiss Faiga from the interview, so I continued asking her parents some very basic questions. After we finished speaking, I told them that we would get back to them soon with our decision. I knew that there were another two girls waiting, and I assumed that they would be better candidates.

The parents then stood up and literally picked Faiga up from her chair. Helping her towards the door, I remained silent. And then I very nonchalantly asked them one last question. “By the way, how are your other kids doing?” Although we ideally wished to accept Faiga, she didn’t seem to be doing too well at the moment. As soon as I said that, Faige’s father, a tall, respectable man, turned around and said, “Rabbi Wallerstein, Faiga is our only child. We had her late in life. She is all that we have.”

As he said those words, I sunk into my chair.

And then, without a second thought, I said to Faiga’s parents, “You don’t have to wait until tomorrow. She is accepted right now.”

While even Rabbi Ezra Max was surprised by my hasty decision, I was not in any way doubtful that this was the right move. I then realized quite clearly what it means to take a second look at someone. The first look at Faiga showed someone who would not get too far in life. “What did I need her for?” I thought. But the second look yielded a completely different picture. She was an only child, and she represented the future of her family. If she didn’t make it, who would? I then knew that we had to take her. We would work with her, and she would become not only a source of nachat (pride) to herself, but to her parents and family as well.

Looking back at her parents once again, I said, “Just try to clean Faiga up. Let her sleep for two weeks and then be ready for when school starts.” As Faiga’s parents genuinely thanked me, I knew I had made the right decision. And let me tell you, today, Faiga is one of the funniest kids I have ever met. With a pleasant and vibrant personality, she is healthy, growing and thriving.

In life, it is essential to take that second look and give others that second chance. It is what we ask of Hashem to do for us, and what we ought to do when looking at our fellow Jews. The people who make changes in others are those who see beyond the external facade of a person and peer into who they are deep down. And for Faiga, deep within her laid a beautiful neshama. All that needed to be done was peel away the outside layer and let her beauty shine. And today, that beauty is a wonderful role model and source of inspiration to us all.

Rabbi Avi Wiesenfeld
Turning Zeros into Millions

אדם יסודו מעפר

Man’s origin is from dust (Repetition of Mussaf)

At the privileged occasion of hearing Rabbi David Lau, current Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel, deliver a talk in one of the yeshivot I teach at in Jerusalem, he related the following story:

“When I was a young boy sitting in school with all my friends, unruly behavior broke out amongst us. Considering that I was one of the students involved in the disruptive behavior, I was summoned by the teacher to the front of the class. Placing me next to the whiteboard, my teacher had an important life lesson to teach me.

“Who is your father?” asked my teacher. “Isn’t he a prominent rabbi in Israel?” “Yes,” I softly replied. “Okay, that’s a zero.” As he said this, he drew a zero on the board. “And who was your grandfather? Wasn’t he the Chief Rabbi of a Jewish community in Europe? That’s another zero.” This continued to go on for some time considering my long ancestry of illustrious rabbis and Torah leaders. By the time my teacher was finished listing off my entire family, the whiteboard was practically full of zeros. But then came the lesson.

“I want to tell you something,” concluded my teacher. “All of this is wonderful. It is absolutely beautiful to have a father, grandfather and great-grandfather who are well-respected and accomplished. But if you yourself do not do anything about it, all that will remain are zeros. If you make something of your life, however, then you will be adding a one to the very beginning of all those zeroes. And when you take many zeros and add a one before them, you have something astronomically valuable and precious.”

Besides wisely capitalizing on a moment of misbehavior to hone in on the latent potential within a child instead of berating him, this teacher taught Rabbi Lau an even greater lesson. What type of life we wish to lead and what accomplishments we can attain all depend on ourselves. While our background and family may provide a model from which we can draw inspiration and look to aspire, what ultimately determines if that number one will be placed at the beginning or end of the number line is none other than ourselves.

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis a”h
Reading Your Messages

וחתום לחיים טובים כל בני בריתך

And seal all the children of Your covenant for a good life

It was not unusual that on any given day when I checked my email, I would find dozens of questions, comments and requests from people from all around the world. While the emails varied from person to person, generally, across the large spectrum of the Jewish world, many questions about life issues found their way to my desk. However, I was surprised to receive an email from a Jew in Thailand some time ago telling me about his story.

He went on to relate how he had grown up as an assimilated Jew with just about no exposure to Judaism. Eventually, he married a gentile woman and became very wealthy. But then, one day, that all changed. He lost his money and got divorced. Now all alone and without a support system, he felt that he needed something more in his life. He needed meaning and a purpose for which to live. And so, he decided to travel to Thailand to study about Buddhism.

After finally making it there, he walked into a second-hand bookstore. Making his way to the front desk, he said to the clerk, “Would you happen to have a book about Buddhism in English?” Within a few minutes, the clerk returned with a book in hand. It wasn’t exactly the book he had in mind, but it surely was a book meant for him.

As the man picked up the book, his eyes gazed at the title: “Life is a Test” by Esther Jungreis. Confused, as he had asked for a book on Buddhism, he opened the front cover. And there he saw the following words inscribed:

The Jewish people need you. G-d will show you the way home.
-Esther Jungreis

With tears in his eyes, he stood there looking at the message. It didn’t take long for those words to touch his heart and awaken him to the beautiful life of Torah he would soon find. In all honesty, I have no idea how this book found its way to Thailand and never did I imagine that what I had written for someone else would so profoundly change the life of a fellow Jew. But clearly, Hashem was guiding this book into the hands of this man.

We may not always realize, but Hashem never lets us go. Just imagine the chances of this happening. A Jewish man travels to Thailand, walks into a second-hand bookstore expecting to find a book on Buddhism and is given a book about Judaism directing him to return home to his roots. But that is how much G-d cares for each and every one of us. He sends us messages and reminders aimed at leading us down the right path so we can once again find where we belong. And just sometimes, He inscribes and seals a message especially for us. It is a message for life, for Torah and for eternity.

Rabbi Yisroel Majeski
Stairway to Heaven

Living happily together and enjoying a wonderful marriage was Mr. and Mrs. Schwartz. However, there was one problem. Anxiously yearning to be blessed with children, for twelve years, they waited. While all they could imagine was one day cuddling their newborn baby, that dream would have to be pushed off for some time. Until one day when they were approached by the rav of their shul, Rabbi Zakon. Mentioning that he was taking a trip to Israel, he added that if they would like, he could insert a special note into the Kotel on their behalf.

Figuring such a decision to be a good idea, Mr. and Mrs. Schwartz drafted a short note beseeching Hashem to grant them a child, and sent it off with Rabbi Zakon.

And true to his word, when Rabbi Zakon reached the Kotel, he put in the Schwartz’s note.

As the days went by for Rabbi Zakon in Israel, he began to fall in love with the land. And sure enough, he decided after serving for many years in the rabbinate to send in his resignation and permanently move to Israel. And that was exactly what he did.

Ten years later, Rabbi Zakon found himself visiting abroad in the states. Retuning back to his hometown, he figured that it would be nice to pay a home visit to the Schwartz couple. After all, he hadn’t seen them in a decade, and it would be nice to see how they were doing and catch up.

Walking up to the front door of their home, he was met by a household of noises and screams. Knocking on the door, the knob turned and door opened. And there stood Mrs. Schwartz. Peering inside the house, Rabbi Zakon soon caught sight of the source of pandemonium. Children were running all over the house. The Schwartz house was buzzing with noise of lively and energetic children.

Rabbi Zakon then looked at Mrs. Schwartz. “Are you by any chance running a gan (daycare)?” Smiling and looking back at Rabbi Zakon, Mrs. Schwartz said, “Yes I am; it is called ‘Gan Schwartz.’ Baruch Hashem, since you left, we now have triplets, two sets of twins and I am expecting quadruplets.”

While Rabbi Zakon was certainly elated to hear of such wonderful news, there was one question which stuck out in his mind. “Where’s your husband?” “Oh,” said Mrs. Schwartz, “he is in Israel at the moment.” Surprised that she would let her husband leave to Israel given their family circumstances, Rabbi Zakon stood there incredulously. “You really let you husband leave and go to Israel?” “Yeah,” replied Mrs. Schwartz, “he is in Yerushalayim. He actually went to the Kotel to pull out that note you put in years ago.”

While we may smile and laugh when contemplating this, we mustn’t ever doubt the power of reaching out in prayer to Hashem.

The Navi relates that Chanah remained childless, in contrast to her co-wife Peninah, for 19 years (Shmuel I 1:4-5; see Yalkut Shimoni). Struggling to cope with her situation, as she would ascend to the Mishkan in Shiloh with her husband, Elkanah, she would bitterly cry her eyes out. It was then that Elkanah said, “Chanah… why is your heart broken? Am I not better to you than ten children?” Attempting to relieve Chanah from her intense angst and sadness, Elkanah’s words only went so far. As the next verses tell us, “Chanah arose… and prayed to Hashem, weeping continuously” (ibid., v. 9-10).

Oddly so, this appears to be the first time the Navi makes note of Chanah praying herself to Hashem for a child. What though prompted Chanah only after nineteen years to daven herself? Why did she not do so for all those years prior?

The Malbim notes that the answer lies in the previous verse. “Elkanah said to her… am I not better than ten children?” (ibid., v.8) At this point, Elkanah had given up hope that Chanah would ever bear a child, and consequently, tried to console Chanah and emphasize his love for her. Yet that was specifically what signaled Chanah to turn to her siddur and begin pouring her heart out to Hashem. Until this point, Chanah had been relying on Elkanah, a righteous man, to pray that she have a child. Yet now that he seemingly gave up hope as evidenced by his words to Chanah that he is as good as ten children, Chanah knew what she needed to do. If Elkanah does not believe that his prayers will be answered, Chanah said to herself, then they will not. I must therefore daven myself. And sure enough, as the Pasuk relates, “And Chanah arose… and prayed to Hashem.”

The most important prerequisite to having our prayers answered is believing that Hashem is actually listening to them. If we do not believe that our words have any impact, we are missing the most fundamental ingredient for our tefillot. That was why Chanah, after nineteen years, took matters into her own hands. Once she realized that Elkanah had stopped believing that she would be blessed with a child, she herself began to daven.

And indeed, it was with this very last tefillah which Chanah uttered that she was blessed with a child. She didn’t give up hope at a time when all odds seemed against her and her fate appeared to be sealed. But the truth was that Hashem was only waiting for that one last heartfelt cry from Chanah. And sure enough, it pierced through the heavens.

As we reach the auspicious hours of Yom Kippur and immerse ourselves in prayer for hours on end, we must remember that Hashem listens very closely to every word we utter. The Gates of Heaven are open wide for our tefillot to ascend directly to our Father.

Rabbi Chaim Rosenfeld
The Night Outing

3 am. Boris lays in his bed fast asleep, a gentle breeze caressing his cheeks. Bzzz… bzzz. It’s his phone. “Hello?” “Boris, you awake?” “Michael, it’s 3 am. Why are you calling?” “Boris, is your dad sleeping?” “Yeah, why do you want to know?” “Let’s go out. Grab your dad’s new car and we’ll go for a ride.” “Are you serious? I can’t do that!” “Don’t worry; we’ll bring the car back at 6 am and your father will have it in the driveway ready for work.” “Really? Okay, let’s do it.”

Still a little nervous, Boris jumps out of bed, quickly changes and quietly walks downstairs. Looking all around to make sure mom and dad are sleeping, he grabs his father’s keys, and closes the door.

Opening the car door of his father’s new Lexus, he turns the key into the ignition and races over to Michael’s house. Comfortably settled in, it is now 3:30 am. Boris and Michael are having the time of their lives. Speeding around the empty streets, they enjoy the gorgeous view of the city.

5 am. Looking at the time, Boris figures he should start heading back now so he can arrive at home by 6. Turning around, he starts zooming down the street. On the other side of the street, another two boys are driving. Having the same idea, they took out one of their father’s cars in the middle of the night too. Yet they are recklessly racing down the street towards the same intersection.

Boom! Boris, thrown off-kilter, looks around. And then he realizes what happened. A car just nicked his bumper. With his heart fluttering, he doesn’t know what to do. Getting out of the car, he looks on in devastation at the smash at the back of the car. Petrified simply thinking about his father’s reaction when he finds out what happened, he starts trembling. “Michael, I’m in big trouble.” “Boris, don’t worry about it. Just go park it in the driveway and your father will never know. Just put it there and go back to sleep.” “I don’t know about that,” says Boris. “Are you sure? Maybe I should tell him.” “Trust me,” reassures Michael.

Following the advice, Boris pulls into the driveway ever so slowly and positions the car exactly the way he found it. Getting out and looking once again at the smash, he cringes. Slowly walking inside the house, he gently returns the keys to the hook, tiptoes upstairs and curls into bed. And then he says Shema like he never said before.

7 am. Sure enough, Boris hears his father walking down the stairs. Listening closely, he hears the door open and close. So far so good. Then he hears the car engine start. Maybe, he wonders, his father will never find out. But then he hears the door reopen. Silence.

Boris is trembling. “Boris!” “What dad?” he calls down from upstairs under the covers. “You won’t believe it; my car is smashed. When did this happen?” Still trembling, Boris walks over to the railing near the stairs. “Dad, I don’t know.” “How is it possible that my car was smashed in the driveway? It doesn’t make sense. Did you take it out?” “No way,” replies Boris. “I am in my pajamas and in bed. Maybe a bird came flying by really fast and dented it.” Looking back on at his son, the father says, “You really think so? Find out for me.” And with that, the father walks further into the house.

Boris heads back to his room shaking. Slowly getting dressed, he imagines what it will be like if he tells his father the truth. Knowing that he will not be able to hide what really occurred for that long, he makes his way downstairs and approaches his father. “Dad,” says Boris, “I have something to tell you.” “What is it, son? Did you figure out what happened?” “Yeah, I did,” says Boris. “Did you do it?” “Well,” hesitates Boris, “um…” “Did you take my car last night?” asks his father.

After quite a while of hemming and hawing, Boris finally says, “Dad, I will tell you the truth. I took your car last night and smashed it.”

Is the father upset or happy? Let’s first examine the alternative story.

7 am. Dad walks upstairs. “Boris, I can’t believe what happened! My car is smashed.” Rolling over in bed, Boris says as he takes a yawn, “Yeah dad, I took your car out last night at 3 am, drove it around and smashed it. I was trying to cover it up, but I guess you caught me. Here are the keys, by the way. Have a good day. See you after work.”

Now let’s ask the same question. Is the father upset or happy? The father approached Boris and he told the truth right away. I took your car, smashed it, and here are the keys. End of story.

The answer is that the father is very happy in the first story. He is not thrilled that his car was smashed, but that can be taken care of. His insurance will cover the cost and a little paint job will make it like new. However, when the father sees his son going back and forth and struggling to admit to his wrongdoing, he experiences the greatest feeling. Seeing his son upset about his mistake, the father realizes that his son really cares and feels bad. He knows, says the father to himself, that we have a genuine relationship and that his misconduct puts a strain on that relationship.

But what happens in the second scenario? When Boris says, “Dad, I took your car. I smashed it, but it’s no big deal. Here are the keys…” how does the father feel? He told the truth right away, but it is heartbreaking because Boris clearly doesn’t care and is only apathetic. There is no relationship between the father and Boris.

Our relationship with Hashem works the same way. As we enter the holiest day of Yom Kippur, we look to make amends and return home to our own Father in Heaven. All that Hashem looks and asks from us is to show that we care and value our relationship with Him. And it begins by genuinely admitting our mistakes and flaws. When we do so, without question, Hashem will surely smile down upon us and open up His arms in a warm embrace around us. Welcome home, my dear child.

Rabbi Moshe Tuvia Lieff
The Most Potent Prayer

Oftentimes, we wonder if our tefillot actually accomplish anything. As far as we can see, our request was not granted and we are in no better place than before we poured our hearts out to Hashem. But, in truth, much more underlies the focus of tefillah than simply having our requests fulfilled.

Dovid Hamelech writes, “עזרי מעם ד' עשה שמים וארץ” – “My salvation is with Hashem, Creator of heaven and earth” (Tehillim 121:2). Most interesting is the expression Dovid Hamelech employs here. Considering that in Hebrew, the word “עם” literally means “with,” it would seem to have been more appropriate for Dovid to say, “My salvation is from Hashem.” Why then does Dovid Hamelech express himself otherwise?

But that is the very point. The true salvation to our troubles is when we are with Hashem. When we connect with our Father and recognize that He with us at every point of our lives, whether we are up or down, we have achieved the ultimate goal of tefillah. No prayer ever goes to waste, for in its wake, our relationship with Hashem deepens and develops.

All that we yearn for and desire – health, shidduchim, parnassah, shalom bayit – are all catalysts for us to connect with Hashem. That is the true meaning of “My salvation is with Hashem.” It is when we become one with our prayer and realize that we have our beloved Father at our side that we begin to live with Him. Picking up a sefer Tehillim and pouring our hearts out to Him is the greatest achievement of prayer. It is at that point that we are living with Hakadosh Baruch Hu in the most intimate of ways.

And indeed, this is how we actually make our prayers most effective. By placing our complete dependence on Hashem, we prove ourselves most fitting to receive that which we yearn for.

Imagine the scenario of an individual in dire straits collecting tzedakah. Hard-pressed for money, he travels from town to town, hoping to procure a few dollars here and there. While he may not feel despondent if each person only hands over a few coins, that is because he relies on multiple individuals and organizations for assistance.

But what would happen were he to come to one man, and one man only, and plead his pitiful case. “You are the only person who can help me!” he cries. “With you, I live, and without you, I die; with you, I succeed and without you, I fail.” When such dependence is thrust upon the benefactor, his heart goes out for the poor man’s cause. He will then not simply offer him a few dollars, but a considerable sum. And that is because he became the one and only provider for this needy man.

The same is true of tefillah. The most potent form of prayer is achieved when we express our complete dependence on Hakadosh Baruch Hu. When we turn to our Father in Heaven and say, “It is all in Your hands; there is no one else who can help me but You,” our prayers take on an entirely new depth of meaning. When we open our Siddurim and Tehillim and cry out to the Ribono Shel Olam, telling Him that everything is on the line, He will most certainly respond in kind. And that is because if He doesn’t help us, no one else will. And when a person is told that he is the only one who can help, it is not merely a few dollars which he hands over, but a generous sum.

That is how we ought to approach tefillah: complete dependency on our Father. It is the key to building the greatest relationship with Hashem and having our prayers shake the heavens.

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