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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Sukkot

Parshat Sukkot

Compiled and Edited by Rubin Kolyakov

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"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter    Print Version

Special Sukkot Edition
15th of Tishrei, 5777 | October 17, 2016

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Dovid Kaplan
Today’s Clouds of Glory

According to the opinion of R’ Eliezer in the Talmud (Sukkah 11b), the underlying reason we celebrate the holiday of Sukkot is in commemoration of the Clouds of Glory which surrounded the Jewish people throughout their travels in the desert. Yet, when considering this, the obvious question stands out. The Jews were not only privy to the miracle of the Annanei HaKavod in the desert. They also received the daily provisions of the manna and were supplied refreshing water from the Well of Miriam. Why in fact then do we not commemorate those miracles? Why didn’t Chazal enact a holiday during which we would go swimming for seven days or turn on all the faucets in our house? Or why don’t we have a Yom Tov during which we eat food which incorporates a variety of flavors akin to the manna which tasted like anything you wished?

The truth is that there is very good reason to celebrate the miracle of the Clouds of Glory even in our day and age. And that is because the purpose they served still lives on with us. And that is the concept of hashgacha pratis. The Annanei HaKavod represent that we are completely enclosed and watched over by the hand of G-d. As it relates to the Well of Miraim and the manna, those were miracles only experienced at the time the Jews traversed the desert. They were limited to that generation. But Divine Providence exists quite clearly even today. Without question, Hashem has always been involved and will continue to be involved in the day to day running of the world.

Let me share with you one example.

One day, a man phoned the Rosh Yeshiva of a particular yeshiva in Israel. Explaining that he had seen an ad for the yeshiva in the newspaper and was overly impressed, he asked if he could make a donation. While the Rosh Yeshiva assured the man that they had placed no ad in any newspaper, the man remained undeterred. “I will be down at the yeshiva a bit later today,” he said.

Sure enough, later that day, the man pulled up in front of the yeshiva in his fancy, expensive car. Entering inside, he went on to approach the Rosh Yeshiva. “Rabbi,” he said, “I am so taken aback by your ad. Would you mind if I take a look at the premises?” Gladly complying with his request, the Rosh Yeshiva went on to provide a tour of the building.

After doing so, the man said, “Rabbi, I initially had in mind of giving you $80,000. But I am in fact so impressed with your entire system of operations that I have decided to give you an even $100,000. Taken aback by this stranger’s beneficence, the Rosh Yeshiva gave it one last try. “Just tell me again, what brought you here?” “Don’t you know,” he said, “the ad you have in the newspaper…?” And with that, the man wrote out the check and walked back to his car.

Quite surprised to be the unexpected recipient of such largess, the Rosh Yeshiva called over Moshe, the yeshiva’s head of operations. “Did we submit an ad for any newspaper recently?” Without a moment’s thought, Moshe said, “Not that I am aware of.”

Without any explanation for how such a check ended up in their possession, the yeshiva went on to investigate the matter. And sure enough, the true story was uncovered.

Fifteen years earlier, a religious newspaper had just begun its publication in Israel. Desperately wishing to break into the market, they struggled to meet any significant success. After two weeks and two editions released, they were running out of funds. And so, they turned to various organizations for support to stabilize themselves. Asking even yeshivos if they would be willing to submit an ad into their paper in lieu of a donation, this particular yeshiva consented.

While nothing substantially materialized from the ad, the newspaper wound up in the local barber shop. And for fifteen years it did not move. The newspaper remained sitting in the same barber shop for fifteen years.

And then the day finally arrived. Fifteen years later, in walked a man to get a haircut, grabbing a newspaper as he took a seat. And what did he then see inside? The ad for this yeshiva.

And so, a decade and a half later, the ad the yeshiva submitted came through. Just imagine the likelihood of a newspaper sitting in the same spot for years and a man being motivated to donate thousands of dollars as he sits on a barber’s chair getting a haircut.

That is what it means to have hashgacha pratis in our day and age. When we sit in our Sukkah and observe our surrounding enclosure, all we must remember is that Hashem does the exact same to us. He closely watches over us every moment of every day and every night. And even fifteen years later, He still watches over us…

Rabbi Chaim Rosenfeld
The Flight of a Lifetime

ושמחת בחגך

And you shall rejoice on your festival... (Devarim 16:14)

Looking to purchase some real estate, David finally found the land of his dreams in Australia for ten thousand dollars. A week later, however, he received a phone call. It was an oil company interested in the land David had purchased. “We will give you ten million dollars for this land,” they said. With his jaw dropping, David immediately agreed. “There is one condition however; you must be here in Australia within twenty-four hours to sign the contract.” Hearing this, David immediately races to the airport.

“I need a ticket to Australia now!” David says to the clerk politely yet anxiously. “I’m sorry sir, but all flights are booked.” “No, no,” says David, “you don’t understand. I need to be in Australia within twenty-four hours. If need be, I will charter my own airline. I don’t care if it costs me thousands of dollars.” “I’m sorry sir, but all our private planes are already taken.”

Now getting more nervous, David asks if he can see the head manager. Taking out fifty thousand dollars, David hands the stack of bills to the manager. “Here, please take it. I just need you to get me on a plane to Australia right now!” Sure enough, David gets on the next plane.

The only catch is that the restroom is where David will spend the next long stretch of several hours. There is simply no other space.

There is also another man on this plane. A multi-millionaire, he has traveled around the world and lived a life of luxury ever since he knew. But with his children negligently spending all the money he has given them, they break off all contact and relationship with their father. And then the man’s wife leaves him. Now depressed and all alone without any family, he decides he needs to get away and buys a first-class ticket to Australia. Being served champagne and all sorts of other delicacies, he comfortably sits back and relaxes.

The stewardess then gets on the PA system with an announcement. “Who is the happiest man on this plane?” Everyone immediately turns their head in the direction of the wealthy man in first-class. “Now let me ask you, who is the saddest man on this plane?” Still standing cramped in the tiny bathroom is David.

Who in reality, however, is the happiest man on this plane? David. Although he is in the bathroom, he is looking at his watch and thinking, “Nine hours to go!” And who is the saddest man on this plane? The man in first-class. Without a relationship with his family and all alone, life is depressing.

What distinguishes David from this other man? Destiny. While the man in first-class may be enjoying a momentary comfortable ride, he knows that he is landing to a life of misery. David, however, although at the moment quarantined in an uncomfortable bathroom, knows that in just a matter of hours he will be ten million dollars richer.

The same is true of life. We are all on a plane. The airplane picked us up in the hospital as a baby and will drop us off after a hundred and twenty years. And while some people may get to sit in first-class, others will ride in business, coach or the cargo. And then there will be those who sit in the bathroom. But it does not make any real difference. What will determine one’s happiness in life is where they are going and what their destination is. And every member of the Jewish people is on their way to Olam Haba, as our Sages teach, “All of Israel has a share in the World to Come” (Sanhedrin 90a).

As we transition from the days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and enter the joyous days of Sukkot, we must wonder why in fact we are so happy. What has changed that engenders such festive rejoicing? The answer is that now, after more than an entire month of repentance and introspection, we finally have realized who we truly are. We finally have come to terms with our purpose in life and where we are heading. We are on a flight, a long flight, but we know that when we land we will be the happiest people around. And if that is so, we have all the reason to smile from ear to ear right now even during our flight.

Mrs. Charlene Aminoff
My Dear Gali

שהחינו וקימנו והגיענו לזמן הזה

Who has kept us alive, sustained us and brought us to this time

Monday, July 26, 2010. 15th of Av, 5770.

It was a beautiful day in Miami Beach, Florida. My parents and in-laws had been coming down to visit us on alternate weekends to spend time with the kids, and this weekend was no exception. Deciding with my husband, Jonathan, that we would take the kids to the beach to go wave running on jet skis, I was assured that my boys would definitely love doing so. After all, it would be a great way of keeping them busy. Yet still too young to join such an excursion was my three-week-old baby girl, Aliza. Having had my mother, father and brother fly down to spend some time with us, my mother agreed to take care of Aliza in the stroller, while the rest of us would head out to the beach.

But then I noticed that my 2-year-old daughter, Gali, had fallen asleep next to the pool. Not wishing to disturb her and wake her up, I asked my housekeeper if she could keep an eye on her while we would be away for a little while. My husband had made reservations at the beach for 2 pm and we figured that we would be back by 3 pm, at which point, my husband needed to be upstairs working on his computer. With my husband involved in the stock market, he could almost always be found attached to his computer between the hours of 3 pm and 4 pm, the final hours of the trading day. We would be gone for around forty-five minutes and return in time for him to get to work.

Arriving at the wave runner’s stand, we soon realized that we had a problem. One of the jet skis was broken. Now needing to wait until other jet skis were made available, after a while, we finally made it out. Yet, upon finishing that round of wave running, my 18-year-old brother wasn’t so ready to leave. “I want to go again! Please, could we go one more time!” he said. While my husband had no problem letting him go alone, that could not be done. For insurance purposes, anyone under the age of 21 needed adult accompaniment. While my husband tried explaining that he had to make it back to his room by 3 pm, he wanted to be nice and allow my brother the opportunity to wave run again. But who would be stuck accompanying him if not Jonathan himself. And so, they took off. But not for long.

Once they had made it all the way out into the water, their jet ski broke down. All that could be heard were their screams for help. But, to be sure, help only arrived quite some time later. By the time they returned to shore, it was 3:30 pm.

At this point, Jonathan realized that it would not be worth heading upstairs for only half an hour. And so, as the saying goes, if you cannot beat them, join them. Deciding that he would stay with us, we all agreed to make our way down to the pool and have lunch.

Walking closer to the pool, as we finally arrived, we were met by yelling and screaming. “Somebody call 911! Somebody call 911!” With my husband having been an experienced medic for Hatzalah for over 20 years, he immediately sprang into action. Turning to the man screaming, he asked, “What’s the matter? I can help you!” It was at that moment that I finally saw what the source of the commotion was. There stood a man holding the dead body of a little girl in the pool. My heart started racing. “She looks so familiar,” I said to myself. And then, all of a sudden, I looked to where my 2-year-old daughter, Gali, was supposed to have been sleeping. She was not there. But my house keeper was asleep right next to her. If I could tell you what gehinnom felt like, I could describe it in vivid detail. All I could think was, “What am I going to do? How am I going to wake up tomorrow and live?”

My husband immediately grabbed Gali and started performing CPR. Yet although he was keeping his cool, he was yelling, “Gali, come back to daddy! Gali, come back to daddy!” As for myself, all I could do was stand there and look at my daughter. Her eyes were open, face was blue and nails, purple. At that moment, one thought raced through my mind. While I hadn’t been religious my whole life, one major connection I always had with Judaism was Tehillim. And in chapter 119, the first verse beginning with the letter kuf says, “And I cried out with all my heart, answer me Hashem; I will keep Your ways.” As I pondered this Pasuk, I realized what I had to do. I would have to give something to Hashem. I would have to offer something big of myself to Hashem if I wished to change the circumstances I was looking at.

There was only one thing I could think of, though: my beautiful hair. Although I was Torah observant, I was not covering my hair completely. I had been wearing my hair down with a bandana, hat or beret, but not fully covering it. The reason was because my beautiful blond hair stood out as my identity. I also always figured that being the wife of a CEO of a hedge fund, I would certainly be unable to walk into a gala dressed in a Carolina Herrara outfit, bedecked in Harry Winston jewelry and yet wearing a sheitel or mitpachat on my head. It just didn’t make sense to me. And so, I kept on pushing it off. Until one day, when that all changed.

That day was July 26, 2010. As I stood watching my husband perform CPR on my little daughter, I grabbed my blue pashmina shawl and started screaming and sobbing, “Shehechiyanu, v’kiyimanu, v’higianu laz’man hazeh!” And with that, I began to wrap my long, thick hair. It took me minutes to wrap everything. I was screaming, sobbing and wrapping over and over again. All that I could imagine was how all the jewelry, money and luxuries I owned would not matter at all if I would wake up tomorrow and not have Gali. At that moment, all my priorities in life drastically shifted.

By the time I finished wrapping all my hair, I looked over at my husband. He recognized what I had done and knew that I had just accepted upon myself a lifelong vow, regardless of Gali’s outcome. I was going to be covering my hair for the rest of my life. As for Jonathan, he too realized that now or never was the time to turn to Hashem. And so, he began storming the heavens. Shaking and begging Hashem to revive our dear daughter, I could tell that he was having an intensely emotional conversation with G-d. He had noticed me wrapping my hair, and he knew that he too needed to do something if we wished Gali to stay with us.

By the time I finished saying my Shehechiyanu and tucked the last strand of hair into my shawl, my husband finished his short tefillah to Hashem. And then, at that very moment, he started screaming, “I got her pulse! I got her pulse!” To this day, that is my favorite sentence he has ever said in his life. More than “I love you” or “Will you marry me?” those four words, “I got her pulse!” were the best words he ever said.

The stretcher was waiting, and so we quickly loaded Gali into the ambulance and headed off for the hospital. Jonathan stayed in the ambulance with Gali, while I followed behind with police escort. By the time I entered inside the hospital, I was met by my tough CEO husband crying uncontrollably. Fearing the worst, I began screaming. I knew that if he was crying, I should be too. But then, he picked up his hands from his face, and he was smiling. And so, I started dancing. Jonathan was smiling, so I was dancing. And so, there I was dancing in the middle of the hospital.

When the doctor shortly thereafter came out and told Jonathan that he had saved Gali’s life, he cried ten years’ worth. We had been married for ten years at the time, and not once did he shed a tear. He made it all up on that one day.

The doctors had carefully reviewed the entire event on a DVD. Since the building we were staying at was privately owned and numerous celebrities lived there, the entire building was under surveillance. As a result, using the camera which captured the entire incident, the doctors were able to replay the episode from beginning to end and look to see if there had been any trauma. Did Gali bang her head? How long was she underwater for?

My daughter, Gali, was clinically dead for 3 minutes and 10 seconds. A little 2-year-old weighing 22 pounds remained underwater without taking a breath for 3 minutes and 10 seconds. Considering her situation, we went on to transfer her to the Miami Children’s Hospital in Coral Gabels, a special hospital for drowning victims. As we did so, my husband flew down some of the most prominent neurologists. And after 8 hours of tests, worldwide Tehillim and every member of my family accepting upon themselves one area of tznius to improve in, we waited for the neurologist to tell us news of our daughter.

At this point, we knew that Gali was alive, but knew nothing about her neurological state. My husband had flown in one of the top neurologists in the country from Boston, Dr. Keith Meyer. Finally, the doors opened, and out walked Dr. Meyer, joined by his entourage.

“Mr. and Mrs. Aminoff,” he said, “we are doctors and we practice medicine. And the basis for medicine is science.” Right there and then, Dr. Meyer started crying. “But your daughter, Avigail Chanah, is not science. And she is not medicine. She is a miracle.”

Lighting up the wall with all of the CAT scans and MRI tests that had been taken, he said to us, “3 minutes and 10 seconds of your daughter being clinically dead, and not a trace of brain damage.” The wall was then lit up with x-rays from her lungs. It was not in any way noticeable that she was underwater for even 10 seconds. Her lungs were perfectly clear.

Then her blood work was put on display. “Not one trace of abnormal blood gas results in your daughter’s body. We cannot make sense of this,” Dr. Meyer said.

As I remained sitting there with my huge, blue shawl on my head, I pointed upward towards it. “I think I know what it is,” I said. Stopping for a moment, my husband and I turned to Dr. Meyer and said, “Are you Jewish?” “I actually am,” he said. Continuing to question him, I asked, “Do you believe in G-d?” Dr. Meyer looked at the other doctors, and together they all nodded. “I guess we do now.”

“Mrs. Aminoff,” said Dr. Meyer, “I am going to be honest with you. Until today, I don’t know what I believed. But I promise you that I can go home tonight and tell my wife and kids that there must be a G-d because of your Gali. We are practical people who use statistics and proofs. But this is clearly the working of G-d.”

As I heard those words, all I could think of was that perhaps this nightmare occurred for this one doctor in Coral Gables to turn his life around and become a baal teshuva. I would never know, but without question, that was a most reasonable consideration. Yet, clearly, there was much more that Hashem had in mind for me and my family.

The doctors then gave me and my husband a few minutes to regroup. I knew that now would be the best time to inform Jonathan of the few changes I had committed to. But I didn’t know how to break it to him. I was almost waiting for someone to make an introduction, but that was not going to happen. And so, I mustered the courage myself to broach the subject. “Jonathan,” I said, “there are a few things I need to tell you.” “No, no, me first,” he said. “No, trust me,” I said to him, “you want me to go first.” “Okay, what is it?”

“Well,” I began, “first of all, I will not be wearing bathing suits anymore. Second of all, I will no longer be able to shake any of your business partners’ hands because I am shomer negia. Thirdly, all my designer gowns and clothes that have slits will have to be closed. Additionally, the movie theater which you just finished building in our basement is not going to be plugged into cable. And lastly, I am going to cover my hair.”

He thought for a moment and just stood there. I could only imagine what was running through his head. “How am I going to tell the guys?” But now it was his turn. “Honey, when you reached over for your shawl, I realized right away what you were about to do. To be honest, I was so happy with your decision because I knew that there was no way I would be able to get Gali back on my own. And in fact, you actually encouraged and inspired me to offer a little sacrifice of my own. As I saw you wrapping your shawl, I turned to Hashem and said, “Hashem, I have given You 20 years of work in Hatzalah. Now I am cashing in all those merits. If You give me back my daughter, I promise You 20 more years in Hatzalah.

“At the moment I finished with my promise for Hatzalah and you finished with your Shehechiyanu, I felt Gali’s pulse. So honey, I am going to be in Hatzalah until I am 58 years old.”

After this little discussion between me and my husband, the doctors returned and told us, “You can now take your miracle daughter home. No follow-ups are needed.” And there we were. She had fallen into the pool on Monday, was released from the hospital Tuesday night, and Wednesday morning, she was back in the pool. I myself did not look once at the pool for another two weeks, but Gali was back in action without undue delay.

The next day, the building hosted a little party for us, partially in recognition of the amazing survival of Gali and partially in the hope that we would not sue them. At the party, we met the man who had saved and held Gali’s body while in the pool. His name was Richard Marianski. Walking over to us, he said, “Do you know that your daughter is a miracle?” “Yeah,” we said, “we know she is a miracle. “No,” he reiterated, “she is really, really a miracle. You don’t understand. I live in this building two months out of the year. Yet when I live here, I never have time to go swimming. But on Monday, I happened to go swimming because I had an appointment later in the day and it was a beautiful day out. I figured that I would go for a quick swim. But that is only half the story.

“You see, I was doing laps in the deep end and your daughter, Gali, had fallen into the pool all the way on the other diagonal side of the pool, in the shallow end. After I finished my laps, I began thinking that I would climb out of the pool using the ladder in the deep end, next to where I was. But I couldn’t do so, as just a bit earlier, I had pulled a tendon in my knee. It would have been too difficult for me to use the ladder and climb out of the pool. I therefore decided to use the steps in the shallow end. But I didn’t swim straight from one end of the pool to the other end. Instead, I chose to swim diagonally across the pool from one side to the other. And there I saw, underneath the water, a little ball lying at the bottom of the shallow end. That was your daughter, Gali.”

As Richard relayed this information, I couldn’t believe my ears. I could just imagine what would have been if Richard woke up that morning and his knee wasn’t hurting him. There was no way he would have swum to the shallow end. He would have simply climbed out of the pool in the deep end, grabbed his towel and left. And there was no one else in the pool at the time.

When we later arrived back home in New York, we immediately began planning a huge seudat hoda’ah (meal of thanks) as per one of the vows I made. Sponsoring a meal for many guests, we wanted to additionally hold a private gathering for rabbanim in our home to recall the miracle we experienced. Inviting local rabbis and some others from Israel, we hosted them together at our house. Telling us that we had been the recipients of an enormous, open miracle, they suggested that we accept upon ourselves something uniquely special as a sign of hoda’ah for Gali’s survival. And so, we went on to create Gali’s Couture Wigs, a sheitel company based out of Great Neck, New York.

Behind the Scenes

Of the many behind-the-scene miracles which occurred and were clearly orchestrated by Hashem in saving Gali’s life, let me share with you one which stands out most prominently.

When Gali was born, she was diagnosed with a terrible case of sleep apnea. While I had been told over and over by her ENT doctor that she needed to have her tonsils removed, being her worried mother, I did not want to see my 2-year-old daughter under anesthesia. And so, I kept on pushing it off to a later date.

Shortly before we left to vacation in Miami, the doctor said to me, “Mrs. Aminoff, the tonsils need to go.” “Please,” I said, “we are about to leave on a vacation for 8 weeks.” “I am sorry,” repeated the doctor, “but you have to do it now. I am not going to allow you to push it off any longer. Your daughter needs to grow and needs to eat.” Telling him that we would take care of it immediately after we returned from Miami, the doctor conceded. “But we are booking the date right now,” he said. That was fine with me. As long as it wouldn’t need to be done right now.

After vacationing in Miami and returning to New York, sure enough, we had her tonsils removed. But then, shortly after her surgery, her ENT doctor came racing out of the operation room with his face palely white. He knew what had happened to Gali just the other month. “Mr. and Mrs. Aminoff,” he said, “her tonsils saved her life.” “What are you talking about?” I said. “If you would have listened to me and taken out her tonsils earlier, there is no way she would have survived drowning. Clearly, though, Hashem made you delay removing her tonsils so they could remain in her body.” He then went on to explain exactly what he meant.

“You see, your daughter’s tonsils were in such poor condition and so significantly damaged that they trained her body to function on very low levels of oxygen. It was almost like a mountain climber who must use oxygen when climbing to high altitudes because the air is so thin. Your daughter was basically breathing like a mountain climber. If she would have had her tonsils removed, within 24 hours, she would have reverted back to normal breathing like every other child. Yet under such conditions, there is no way she would have survived being underwater for 3 minutes and 10 seconds. And so, Mr. and Mrs. Aminoff, that is why I say Hashem had you postpone her surgery. Her tonsils saved her life.”

Having experienced such a riveting journey, my husband and I realized that Hashem had been sending us countless wake-up calls throughout our life, yet we hadn’t picked them up. But now, we finally had. And without question, it was a wake-up call which would change the course of our lives forever. Baruch Hashem.


Rabbi Aron Lankry
Time to Celebrate

תורת ד' תמימה משיבת נפש

The Torah of Hashem is perfect, restoring the soul (Tehillim 19:8)

To many of us, Simchat Torah is one of the most exciting holidays. With dancing and singing continuing late into the night and throughout the next day, it is a spectacular sight to see and revel in.

Yet something striking stands out when pondering the real reason behind Simchat Torah. Just six months ago, we celebrated a Yom Tov of seeming similar nature: Shavuot. Reliving the magnanimous day we received the Torah, we accepted and embraced our beautiful Torah heritage. As such, it seems odd that we would have a day at the end of Sukkot relating to the celebration over the Torah. Wouldn’t it be more appropriate for Simchat Torah to be observed during Shavuot, the time of the Giving of the Torah?

I once came across a beautiful parable in explanation.

Years ago, there lived a king who had a fabulous daughter. A girl of refined character and spectacular beauty, the king grew worried that she would be taken advantage of and marry someone who would not fully appreciate her. Musing over the best method of finding her a husband, the king finally came up with an idea. He would hang up signs announcing that his daughter was looking for a husband, yet had one condition: the man who would marry her could not see her before the wedding.

Following through with his idea, the king went about posting signs in every town announcing his daughter’s availability for marriage, albeit with the one condition. While the talk of the town turned to who would step forward and grab this opportunity, within days, rumor had it that something was amiss. Why else would the king remain so adamant that his daughter not be seen before getting married if nothing was wrong with her? She must have some sort of problem that the king is hiding, everyone thought. And so, no one took the offer.

All except one. One boy stepped forward. Ready to marry the king’s daughter, he put on his best suit, and headed straight to the palace. Knocking on the large, ornate door, he was greeted by one of the guards. “I am here to marry the king’s daughter.” Without further delay, he was ushered into the king’s private quarters, at which point he reiterated, “I love you, your highness. I love your country and everything that you stand for. With your permission, I would like to receive your daughter’s hand in marriage.”

Hearing the boy’s enthusiasm and sincerity, the king could tell that he would most perfectly suit his daughter. And so, the date was set in three months’ time for the grand wedding to take place.

Three months later… the long-awaited day finally arrived. Leading the boy down to the wedding canopy, for the first time he saw his bride. And to his utter astonishment, she was absolutely beautiful. Her appearance was breathtaking.

After concluding the ceremony, the bride and groom were finally allowed a few moments to speak to one another and enjoy each other’s company. As the boy began to engage his bride in conversation, he noticed that she was quite intelligent. And not only that, but she could speak seven languages and read and write poetry. Quite quickly, all of his original worries disappeared.

As the weeks went by, the boy’s love only continued to increase for his wife. She was much smarter, beautiful and benevolent than he could ever have imagined. And so, he approached the king with a request. “Your majesty, it is now my turn. I would like to celebrate. Six months ago when we got married, you celebrated the marriage of your daughter. But now, after getting to know how special she is for the past number of months, I would like to have my own special party celebrating my beautiful marriage.”

And true to his word, an exquisite, lavish celebration was held in the king’s palace.

The same scenario plays itself out on Simchat Torah. As we received the Torah on Shavuot, we readily exclaimed, “Naaseh v’nishmah – We will do and we will hear.” We expressed our readiness to embrace the Torah and enter into an eternal covenant with it and Hashem. But at the time, we perhaps did not fully appreciate its beauty and vastness. Only Hashem, the One Who granted us this gift in marriage, knew what beauty it truly possessed. It is only after spending six months delving into its wisdom and seeing its brilliance that we have arrived at a genuine appreciation of its profundity and depth of meaning.

And now, at this time of Sukkot, we are finally ready. Turning to our Father, the King, we say, “It is our turn to celebrate. We have spent months with the Torah at our side, gleaning from its pearls of wisdom and insights, and now we know what beauty it has to offer. With Your permission, we would like to celebrate…”

That is what Simchat Torah offers us. A day to bask in the beauty of our marriage to the Torah. And without question, its beauty is something worth dancing for late into the night.

Rabbi Mordechai Becher
Marvelous Potential

הרחב פיך ואמלאהו ההוא בדברי תורה כתיב

The verse, “…Open your mouth wide and I will fill it” (Tehillim 81:11) refers to Torah study (Berachot 50a)

I once gave a lecture about Harry Potter symbolizing a Jewish boy with incredible potential. Living with his aunt and uncle who themselves do not possess such unique capabilities, Harry does not realize what lays within himself. It is only upon receiving an invitation from Hogwarts that he studies magic and develops into the person he is destined to become.

Unbeknown to me was a man in Denver whose son had been thrown out of a Jewish day school and wanted to go to public school. While his parents wished for him to try another Jewish day school, their son was adamantly opposed to the idea.

This boy was also a Harry Potter fanatic.

One day, as he sat in the car with his distraught father, the father put on my lecture discussing Harry Potter. Hearing how Harry could have been a boy who failed to develop his unbelievable potential, the boy began thinking. By the time they finished the tape, the boy said to his father, “If I don’t go to a Jewish school, am I like Harry Potter not developing his magic?” “Yeah, I guess,” said his father.

And then came those magical words.

“You know what? I want to be like Harry Potter. I think I am going to try a Jewish school.”

We would be wise to never suppress our tremendous inner potential. Reaching greatness starts with one little wish of determination and then before we know it, we are far beyond our wildest expectations. As we dance around the Torah and revel in our connection to it, we are given the opportunity to reach beyond ourselves and ascend to extraordinary heights. And the good news is that this time it is not a fantasy.

Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein
A Breath of Life

כי הם חיינו וארך ימינו

For they [Torah and mitzvot] are our life and the length of our days…

Living in Los Angeles today is one of the most sought-after personal trainers for professional sport athletes. Known to have coached many of the biggest superstars in football and basketball, he has a standing reputation as someone who makes champions. Charging thousands of dollars per lesson and coaching only a few clients per year, only those athletes possessing the will and ambition to make it to the top seek him out.

A while ago, this personal trainer was approached by a college football player straight out of school. He had set his sights on entering the NFL and becoming the best of athletes. In order to prove that he had what it took to make it to the top, the boy was told to meet the trainer at Malibu beach one morning in his bathing suit. Although curious as to why such instructions were given, the boy did not question the trainer. He was not the best coach around for no reason, after all.

Arriving at the beach as told, the boy met the trainer. “Are you ready?” asked the guru. “Yes, sir,” replied the boy. “What would you like me to do? You want me to sprint as quickly as I can?” “No,” said the trainer. “Just come with me into the water.” Complying with the instructions, the boy followed the trainer.

Moving further and further into the water, the guru kept on walking. By now, the water had reached near their necks. As the boy began wondering what exactly the trainer had in mind, he was told to stop moving. They were now situated quite far out into the water. The trainer then turned to the boy and said, “Okay, now I want you to put your head underwater and hold your breath for as long as you can.”

Listening to the trainer, the boy lowered his body and head underwater and began holding his breath. 5 seconds, 10 seconds, 15 seconds, 20 seconds… 30…40… 45… Suddenly and unexpectedly, the trainer placed his hands on the boy’s head. Unsure what was going on, the boy tried lifting his head up, but he couldn’t move. The guru was firmly holding him down.

Having not breathed for quite a while, the boy started thrashing and convulsing in a disturbed attempt to take a breath. But the trainer was too strong and well-positioned for any of the boy’s efforts to accomplish anything. By now, the boy was nearly about to faint. With his face purple and having been under water well beyond what he could handle, he was on the verge of drowning and conking out. But then he felt a release of pressure. The trainer had let go.

Pushing up with his last ounce of strength, the boy gasped for air like never before. Spending several seconds regaining his composure, the boy then looked at the trainer with a stare of disbelief. “Are you out of your mind? What are you trying to do to me? I couldn’t breathe!”

“Lesson over,” said the trainer.

Standing there dumbstruck, the boy wondered if this trainer was insane. “What do you mean?” he asked. Staring back at the boy, the trainer said, “When you want to win as much as you just wanted to breathe, then you will become a champion. Until then, it’s a waste of time. Only when your desire to win means life or death for you, will you become one of my students and develop into a superstar. But until then, I have nothing to teach you.” And with that, the trainer walked away.

The same is true of Yiddishkeit. While life is not always about becoming a champion and most people would strongly object to this trainer’s extreme methods, he did hone in on one true life principle as it relates to Torah. When the center of your world is Hashem and His Torah, you will be able to achieve the greatness the Torah has in store for you. Only when you need Torah as much as you need to breathe, when you feel the need to connect to Hashem as much you need a fresh breath of air, will you develop into that person you aspire to become and rise to the highest of heights. It most certainly takes hard work, but no one attains greatness easily. Those that push upwards and reach the pinnacle of greatness are those who feel that without this breathe of air, they will not survive. The choice is yours. How much do you want to breathe?

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