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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Bereishit

Parshat Bereishit

Compiled and Edited by Rubin Kolyakov


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter    Print Version

Parashat Bereishit
27th of Tishrei, 5777 | October 29, 2016

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Mrs. Jackie Biton
Barbie and Spike

אי הבל אחיך

Where is Hevel your brother? (Bereishit 4:9)

A number of years ago, I was hired to work for NCSY. Running various programs when I lived in Seattle, San Diego, and then later when I moved to New York, I became involved with their JSU (Jewish Student Union) program. JSU clubs include high school teaching curricula, which had me teaching kids the basics of Judaism in a public high school. When I was single, I had been teaching at the LaGuardia High School in New York, yet my experiences only expanded and varied after I got married.

At one of the schools I taught, I was given a nice group of twenty-two students who were intrigued and engaged in learning. However, within the class, there were two particular girls who stood out. And that was because they were literally arch enemies. While one of the girls was more ambivalent towards the other and did not openly express any feelings of aversion, the other one was intensely hostile and antagonistic. She only wished the very worst for the other girl.

Now, while I usually think and relate to my students by their names and as they are, with these two girls, I mentally gave them two names. One I named Barbie, and the other, Spike. Barbie was the classic Barbie doll. She was an adorable girl with long and lovely blond hair and led the cheerleading squad. Yet, what really caught everyone’s attention when looking at her was her clothing. From head to toe she wore pink. Pink boots, a pink poodle skirt, a pink scarf, huge pink hoop earrings and pink lipstick. But, even with all her pink, she was very sweet and considerate.

And then there was Spike. Spike was Barbie’s total antithesis. She was akin to a Gothic Queen. She was also charming and beautiful, yet she wore black from head to toe. She had black hair, black eyeliner and lipstick, a black leather coat even in mid-summer and a black skirt. I called her Spike because every day without fail she wore a giant necklace with huge spikes.

If Barbie as much as breathed, Spike became enraged. It was a little bit ridiculous. One day, I decided to give a class about the power of speech and words. I had been talking about working on ways to foster harmony and peace between people and the importance of overextending ourselves to create such feelings of love and care. After the class came to a close, Barbie approached me.

“Mrs. Biton,” she said, “Can I ask you something?” “Sure,” I said, “what is it?” “I don’t want to speak lashon hara, but there is a girl in the class who not only does not like me; she hates me.” “Oy vey,” I said, “that’s terrible.” I of course knew she was referring to Spike. “I don’t know what to do, but I need tactical advice. I just want to have shalom.” Listening to Barbie broach the subject, I knew what I had to do.

“Are you ready to do something pretty hard?” “Yes,” she said, “anything for the sake of shalom.” “Chazal tell us,” I continued, “that if we overlook the hurt done to us by another person and go out of our way to treat them with kindness and compassion, we will merit tremendous blessing in our life.” “So what can I do?” asked Barbie. As I stood there and quickly began thinking what Barbie could practically do to make up with Spike, it suddenly occurred to me.

“Do you by any chance know what kind of food she likes? “Well,” said Barbie, “it is really funny that you ask that, because just two days ago in the cafeteria, I overheard a conversation between her and a few other girls. I was standing just a few people behind her, and she said that her favorite all-time food is homemade chocolate chip cookies.”

“So are you prepared to make homemade chocolate chip cookies?” I asked. “I never baked before,” Barbie said, “and my mother is also a health guru.” “Okay, but I think you are capable of baking really good cookies.”

Barbie returned home that night and searched high and low for the best chocolate chip cookie recipe. Finally, after three hours, she found it. As it turned out, it was Nestle’s Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe. Heading out to the supermarket, she purchased butter, vanilla, eggs, sugar and chocolate chips. And then she got to work. Without question, she made absolutely fantastic cookies on her very first try. For the rest of that year, all I heard about was how proud she was to have baked the perfect cookies.

Barbie didn’t bake just a few cookies though. She baked four dozen cookies. Aside from this, she went out and purchased a huge platter and a decorative ribbon. Of course, the platter and ribbons were pink with purple polka dots.

The plan was for Barbie to present the gift to Spike the next day. And so, as scheduled, the next day fifteen minutes after I began teaching and was writing something on the board, all of a sudden, I heard the slight opening of the door. Glancing over in that direction, I caught sight of Barbie with all her pinkness. There she was with the pink platter and pink ribbons and sparkles. “Should I give it?” she quietly whispered. Nonchalantly nodding, I continued on with what I was doing as if nothing was happening.

And then Barbie walked in the classroom, and ever so casually placed the beautiful arrangement of cookies on Spike’s desk and ran to her seat.

Out of all the students in the class at the time, every single one of them sat there bewildered. They could not imagine Barbie and Spike interacting with one another, especially in this way. And so, there laid the platter of cookies before Spike. Spike looked at the cookies and then took hold of the note nicely attached which read:

“Dear Spike, I don’t know what I ever did to hurt you or offend you so much, but I just want to say that I am sorry, and I hope that one day you and I can be friends. I really love you. Love, Barbie.”

The next thing I knew, Spike ripped open the wrapping paper and took a bite of one of the cookies. Within moments, she got up and walked straight over to Barbie. In front of the entire class, she said to Barbie with tears streaming down her face, “First of all, those are the best cookies ever! Second of all, that was downright the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me in my life!” Barbie just looked at her with a smile. “Can I give you a hug?” asked Spike. By this point, the entire class was beside themselves. They could not imagine that what they were seeing was actually real and not a dream. One of the girls even shouted out, “Mrs. Biton! Mrs. Biton! I think the Messiah has come!” I couldn’t agree with her more.

Barbie just continued to stand there without saying anything to Spike. But then, looking at Spike, she said, “I’ll give you a hug, but only if you take off your necklace.” And so, there was Spike removing her necklace which she had worn every single day and never took off. Yet now for Barbie, that would have to change. Placing it down next to her, Barbie and Spike went on to hug each other for what seemed to be eternity. In my entire class, there was not a dry eye. We were all moved by the love expressed between these girls who been the greatest of adversaries. In a moment of mutual love, their hearts which had been so distant from one another joined together. And sure enough, it brought all of us to tears.

To this day, Barbie is married with a growing family. And every other Shabbos, Spike can be found at Barbie’s table. The two girls who could barely talk to one another peacefully now share hours of quality time together. And it all began because Barbie wished to face the uncomfortable challenge of seeking resolution and reunion. But without question, it was well worth it, and has paid and continues to pay wonderful dividends to this very day.

While we may at times vent with anger and frustration at our brother, sister, family or friend, that which we ought to strive for is peace and harmony. It may be difficult and uncomfortable and we may even be in the right, but ultimately, the benefit of reaching reconciliation is well worth it for all parties. It ensures communal peace, familial peace and surely, peace among all of Klal Yisrael. There is nothing more important than that.

Rabbi Eytan Feiner
Learning from Our Leaders

On one occasion after I spent some time with Rav Chaim Kanievsky shlita, I drove his son-in-law to Bat Yam. Amidst our conversation, I mentioned what Rabbi Paysach Krohn had mentioned in his eulogy of Rebbetzin Batsheva Kanievsky a”h. Rav Chaim was asked by his children during the shiva what the greatest quality of his Rebbetzin was. While one would suppose it to be her tefillah (prayer) as she arose very early for Shacharis and diligently prayed Mincha and Maariv, or her scrupulousness to avoid speaking lashon hara, or her unbelievable modesty, Rav Chaim said none of the above.

He answered that the number one positive trait of his Rebbetzin was savlanut, patience. She was able to just sit and listen to people from all walks of life pour their hearts out for hours on end.

I then proceeded to ask his son-in-law what he believed the greatest character trait of Rav Chaim to be. While one would have correctly said the fact that he carries the weight of the Torah world on his shoulders, his son-in-law offered a different answer. “It is zerizus (alacrity),” he said. “He always looks for the earliest opportunity to fulfill a mitzvah. He wishes to daven Shacharis as early as possible in the morning, Mincha in the early afternoon and Maariv at the first opportunity available. When it comes to choosing a Lulav and Esrog, as well, he does so right away in the morning. He displays an unbelievable degree of zerizus.”

We would be wise to learn from our leaders and implement these two ever-important traits of patience and alacrity in our endeavors.

Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein
Meeting Milton Petrie

בראשית ברא אלקים את השמים ואת הארץ

In the beginning of G-d’s creating the heavens and the earth (Bereishit 1:1)

When my father was a young man, he served in the 112th Airborne division in the United States army during the Korean War. Despite being drafted against his choice, he was tough-spirited and serious about anything he put his mind to. Particularly important to him was davening. Growing up as a young boy, I always used to sit next to him during davening. While my friends would go outside and play games, I remained inside sitting quietly next to my father. In hindsight, it was something which certainly instilled within me the value and importance of davening.

Aside from this, my father owned a plastic shopping bag company. Now developed into a Wallerstein family business, many department stores which carry bags today are stocked by my family’s business. Years ago, my father’s biggest customer was Milton Petrie, a Jewish American-born retailer, investor and philanthropist. Owning a large chain of Petrie stores, which operated over 1,700 discounted women’s clothing stores, he invested and made millions of dollars. By the time of his passing, he was worth $1.5 billion dollars, even though he had donated enormous sums of charity to various organizations.

At one point, Milton Petrie asked my father if he could meet with him regarding his plastic bag company. Setting a time and date to meet at the Lou G Siegel restaurant in New York, my father and my mother, who served as my father’s secretary, planned accordingly. It was not too often that someone would get an opportunity to sit one-on-one with Milton Petrie.

Arriving at the restaurant, my father began talking about his exact business in exporting and importing bags. A little while into the meeting, my father turned to Mr. Petrie and said, “Please excuse me; I have to go out for a couple of minutes.” Covertly motioning to my mother to continue talking to Mr. Petrie, my father slowly walked away from the table.

Making his way towards the front of the restaurant, my father walked out of the building and began walking two blocks to the nearest shul to daven Mincha followed by Maariv.

Twenty-five minutes later, my father returned to Lou G Siegel and took a seat. Mr. Petrie, not naïve in any way, could only wonder where my father had disappeared to. “Mr. Wallerstein,” he said, “to go to the men’s room takes a couple of minutes. Where have you been for the last twenty-five minutes?” Not hesitating, my father looked at Milton Petrie and said, “I am really sorry; you are the chairman of the board of one of the biggest companies in America, but I had to spend some time with the chairman of the board of the world.”

Petrie was confused. “You know the chairmen of the board of world?” “Well, as a religious Jew,” my father said, “three times a day we have an appointment with the chairman of the world, and I cannot miss that appointment. I am really sorry. I wanted to make this appointment with you earlier, but it didn’t work out
that way.”

Petrie looked back at my father. “Mr. Wallerstein, until I die or this company closes, you have our business. I never met a man who talks to the chairman of the board of the world.”

And true to Milton Petrie’s word, we received his business for years. Mr. Petrie had never met a man who walked out on him like that before. My father could have been walking out on millions of dollars and forgoing a once-in-a-lifetime chance to strike a deal with the chairman of the board of Petrie. But he realized that however much Petrie was worth, it didn’t compare to the chairman of the board of the world. And indeed, Milton Petrie himself understood and appreciated that quite well.

We can never forget that when we stand in front of Hashem, we are standing in front of the chairman of the board of the world. That is something which is worth more than all the money we are ever offered.

A Short Message From
Rav Moshe Meir Weiss

Interestingly, the word Bereishis is an anagram of the words Bris Eish, a covenant of fire. The Torah is compared in this sense to fire. Why is that so? Simplistically, it is because the Torah illuminates the way for us and teaches us how to lead our lives. It serves as a source of light and guides us in every aspect of life. A further reason is because of its warmth. Just as fire provides warmth and makes one feel comfortable, a Jew is supposed to be the same. We are meant to be warm people who make others feel comfortable and cared for.

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