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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Noach

Parshat Noach

Compiled and Edited by Rubin Kolyakov


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter    Print Version

Parashat Noach
4th of Cheshvan, 5777 | November 5, 2016

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi YY Jacobson
Like Grandfather, Like Grandson

כי בצלם אלקים עשה את האדם

For in the image of Hashem, G-d created man (Bereishit 9:6)

Sometime ago, I was invited to speak at a conference of various organizations in America dealing with children at risk and in crisis. After I spoke, I took a seat at a nearby table, only to shortly thereafter be approached by Dr. David Pelcovitz, Professor of Psychology at Yeshiva University and a renowned therapist for decades. “Rabbi Jacobson,” he said, “let me share a first-hand story with you.” Sitting up in my chair, I leaned over in eager curiosity of what Dr. Pelcovitz had to say.

“One day, a fifteen-year-old yeshiva boy from Brooklyn came to see me. He went on to explain how his family was quite renown and successful in the Torah world. Each of his brothers graduated from top yeshivos with honors and his sisters were extraordinary girls with fine husbands. Yet, for the boy personally, he referred to himself as “the black sheep in the family.” He had already been kicked out of a handful of yeshivos and struggled to excel, prompting his father to send him to me for therapy.

I could sense, however, that the boy was very special. From the very moment he stepped into my office, it was clear that he was fully of energy and intelligent. After speaking to him for a few minutes, I said, “I don’t see a real problem here. What I think we should do is ask your family to come to therapy next week. Have your father, mother, siblings, and even your grandparents come here.” While from a professional standpoint, I usually do not jump right away to include the child’s entire family in therapy unless needed, this case was an exception. I had a feeling that bringing in the grandparents would be of help to the boy, to which he consented.

Next week, in walked the boy accompanied by his father, mother, brothers and sisters and bubby and zaidy. My office was quite crowded. After a few minutes, I turned to the father and said, “You suggested that your son come to see me. Perhaps you should speak first and tell us what you believe the issue is.”

The father proceeded to get up and say, “You see, doctor, I am broken-hearted. Look at my children here. Baruch Hashem, my sons have graduated from esteemed yeshivos and gone on to become successful in learning and business. My daughters are wonderful and married superb husbands in their own right. I am tremendously blessed.

“But this son of mine is different. He has unbelievable potential and is very bright, yet he has been wasting his time. He has gone from one yeshiva to another and it hurts for me to see that he is failing and not matching the same standards of excellence his siblings have reached. I did not recommend that he come to therapy for my sake, but for his sake. I want him to dedicate his life to something meaningful and productive, and the way it is going now, that doesn’t seem to be the case.”

After the father finished saying his part, he sat back down. Silence filled the room. On everyone’s mind was who would be the next one to speak. Finally, the grandfather broke the tension. A man well into his years, he said, “I would like to say a few words.” And with that, he began.

“As you all know, I am a very wealthy man with a successful business. But after what I just heard from my son, I don’t know if I should include him in my will.” While I started thinking that maybe this group session should be moved into the lawyer’s office as it seemed to be veering towards discussions of wills and legal considerations, the grandfather turned to his son. “Have you forgotten the story I shared with you when you were a child? Didn’t you tell it to the grandchildren?” It was now the grandfather’s turn to tell his own story to the family, with me included.

“I grew up in Poland as part of a beautiful and large family. All my brothers were learning in yeshiva and excelling at a rapid pace, yet there was one black sheep in the family. And who was that? Me. If the diagnostic terminology had been around in those days, I would have been diagnosed with them all. I couldn’t sit still in school, I couldn’t read and I was out on the streets. My father had tremendous agony from me. I was not a source of nachas to my parents at all.

But one thing I did have was a good sense of intuition and shrewdness. And so, one day in 1938, I picked up a book entitled Mein Kampf and began reading. When I finished the book, I came home and approached my father. “Tatty,” I said, “Germany and Poland share a border. This man is serious. Every Jew is going to be wiped out. We must escape before it is too late.” But all my father could do was look at me and say, “Stop speaking nonsense. You know why you are saying this? It is because you are not in yeshiva. If you would be in yeshiva like your other brothers, you wouldn’t be filling your head with all this rubbish written by some crazy anti-Semite.”

Looking back at my father, I said, “Perhaps you are right that I should be sitting in yeshiva, but crazy I am not. I am clever and savvy, and I can tell you that this man is serious and will act on his convictions. We have to flee before it is too late.” But my father wouldn’t hear from it. Chastising me and saying that what I was saying was illogical, I just stood there. Yet I knew what I had to do. If my family was not going to run away, that didn’t mean I wouldn’t. And so, I painfully told my father, “I am sorry, but I will have to run away alone.” And that’s exactly what I did. Saying goodbye to my father and mother, I left Poland and crossed the ocean. But, as you all know, I was the only survivor of my entire family.

And then the grandfather pointed to his grandson under discussion. “The only reason our family exists today is because of a boy like me and him. I was different and not capable of what my other brothers were capable of, yet I still went on to become very successful. And that boy of yours is exactly like his grandfather.” And then the grandfather made his point. “So, I nicely tell you, please don’t denigrate your son. Don’t put him down and make him feel worthless. The whole reason we are all here now studying Torah and attaining success in our respective endeavors is because of a boy like him.”

After hearing this story from Dr. Pelcovitz, I was profoundly moved. But I just had one question. “Doctor,” I said, “what is the end of the story? You cannot leave me stranded. What happened to the boy? “You should know,” said Dr. Pelcovitz, “that the boy was hired by his grandfather to run his own business. And today, he is the one in charge and all of his brothers work for him. He helps support each and every one of them.”

Sometimes, we look at someone – a child, a friend, a student – and only see blackness. We see a black sheep who has little potential and will seemingly amount to nothing special. But then we look again and realize that we have made a terrible mistake. Within every child lies a world of promising greatness. It is precisely those individuals who we at times expect the least from who go on to produce the most and make us the proudest. Every child is precious. All we have to do is look closely and see their hidden beauty awaiting to shine.

Rebbetzin Chana Silver
The Exquisite Mezuzah

Generally speaking, I have a lot of company at my house each Shabbos. With my husband teaching boys at a yeshiva, quite frequently, they come over. On one such occasion, I noticed a boy standing in the middle of my house staring at the most exquisite mezuzah I have. Walking over to him, I said, “I see you are staring at my mezuzah! Let me to tell you the story of how I got it.” And then I began.

“I am very involved in arranging shidduchim and advising people throughout their process of seeking a husband or wife. After arranging one marriage, the couple decided to thank me and buy me a beautiful mezuzah. They chose a beautiful piece of parchment and gorgeous cover. I placed it in the center of my house, so that every time I walk by it, I would think of them.” Continuing to detail the history of this mezuzah, after a few minutes I finished.

After the boy quietly listened to everything I had to say, he very politely said, “Oh, Rebbetzin, that is so interesting. Thank you for filling me in with the details. Really, though, I was just standing here trying to figure out how the mezuzah is affixed to the wall. I don’t see any screws.”

While such differences in perspective may reflect the differences in thought process between men and women, there is more to be learned from here. Oftentimes we look at something or judge someone and assume that we understand the whole picture. But then we are told that we were sorely mistaken and in fact the truth is quite to the contrary. While we may have assumed that he or she was deeply pondering a detailed chain of events, as a matter of fact, one simple matter was being pondered: where are the screws?

Rabbi Ephraim Shapiro
The Roots of Responsibility

'ויעש נח ככל אשר צוהו ד

And Noach did according to everything that Hashem commanded him (Bereishit 7:5)

We all can appreciate the importance and value of responsibility. Whether as a parent, spouse, sibling, or friend, caring after the needs and burdens of others stands as one of the most important endeavors and attitudes we can embrace. Yet, when it comes to being a member of the Jewish people, even as large and diverse as our nation is, achrayos (responsibility) takes on profound and expansive meaning.

The very word achrayos (אחריות), in fact, teaches us just exactly what true responsibility is all about.

א - Aleph stands for ani, I. Taking responsibility begins when we realize that if we ourselves do not do something, but rather rely on someone or something else, it will not get done. We must feel a personal obligation and ambition to help. Whenever we have the opportunity to help a fellow Jew, we have to spring into action and start working.
ח - In conjunction with the previous letter, aleph, the letter ches joins to form the word ach, brother. Every Jew is to be viewed and treated as a brother.
ר - Continuing with the next letter, the combination of aleph, ches and reish spell the word אחר (acher), other. Even those who we feel are distant from us, and are “others,” are in truth our own family. We are to look after them and embrace them with love and care.
י -The next word formed is acharai (אחרי), after me. We are meant to follow the lead and provide support to those who are looking after the welfare of Klal Yisrael. By following in their footsteps, we provide greater good to the entire nation.
ו - Adding a vav, we arrive at the word acharav. Similar to the above word acharai, the underlying message here is one of following in the work of others. Through joining people and organizations who are involved in serving Klal Yisrael, we further the quantity and quality of assistance others receive and benefit countless people.
ת - With respect to the word achrayos, the first letter – aleph – and the last letter – tav – span the entire Hebrew alphabet. Responsibility means to care after each and every Jew and under all circumstances from beginning to end.

Let me share with you one example of someone who epitomized the virtue of achrayos.

The year was 1955 in Boro Park, New York. Chaim Schwartz who had survived the flames of the Holocaust had made his way over to America, yet without his family. His wife and children had unfortunately not made it out. While Mr. Schwartz was understandably heartbroken, every day one fellow Jew would warmly greet him and extend a hearty “Shalom aleichem!” Giving Mr. Schwartz encouragement and support, life moved on slowly but with the prospective hope of rebuilding a new future.

One day, the man said to Mr. Schwartz, “I am giving you a beracha that you should remarry and have a daughter, and I will dance at the wedding. You have a long life ahead of you. Don’t give up!” Although Mr. Schwartz had his doubts about how significantly life could improve given his present situation, the words of this man nevertheless rang in his ears.

And sure enough, as the man had said, Mr. Schwartz went on to remarry. And indeed, he had a daughter.

When the daughter was ten years old, the world experienced the loss of one of the greatest Torah leaders of the time, Rav Aharon Kotler zt”l. Why that meant anything to Mr. Schwartz and his family was because the “man” who had uplifted the spirits of Mr. Schwartz and provided him with hope and determination was none other than Rav Aharon Kotler.

Ten years later, Mr. Schwartz’s daughter met a wonderful boy who she planned on marrying. And so, the wedding date was set as the families prepared for the exciting and momentous day to arrive.

As the wedding celebrations and dancing began, shortly thereafter in walked Rav Shneur Kotler zt”l, son of Rav Aharon. He was already an older man at the time, yet that did not deter him from grabbing hold of the father and chassan and energetically dancing full of joy and enthusiasm.

While the father was certainly thrilled to have the great Rav Shneur at the wedding, he could only wonder why in fact he had made the extra effort to attend. “Rebbe,” Mr. Schwartz said, “it’s so nice that you came. Thank you so much. If you don’t mind me asking, though, why did you go out of your way to be here?”

“I am here for a very good reason,” replied Rav Shneur. “When my father was on his deathbed ten years ago, he called me over and said, ‘There is a man named Chaim Schwartz who lives in Boro Park and has a daughter who is now ten years old. I want you to watch over this man and his family. After he came to America, I promised him that he would get married, have a daughter and I would dance at her wedding. Yet, clearly, I will be unable to attend the wedding. And so, I would like you to go in my stead.”

With Rav Shneur looking ever so gently at the father, he said, “That is why I am here. I am here wishing you and your family a Mazel Tov along with the blessings of my father.”

That is achrayos. That is what it means to personally look after a fellow Jew and view him as your brother who you care for under all circumstances. Just imagine what Rav Aharon Kotler had on his mind during his last moments in this world: a fellow Jew.

We all can lead lives where we show the same responsibility and compassion for every member of Klal Yisrael. It all begins with looking beyond ourselves and peering into the heart of another Jew and saying, “He is my brother and I am here to help.”

A Short Message From
Rabbi Paysach Krohn

What in fact is the etymology of the word “shidduch”? The Ran in his commentary to Meseches Shabbos (5b in dapei HaRif), cites the verse in Shoftim (3:11), “ותשקט הארץ ארבעים שנה” – “And the land was quiet for forty years.” Targum Yonasan ben Uziel renders the word ותשקט as “ושדוכת,” a word similar to שידוכים (shidduchim). The Ran explains that the word shidduchim relates to the word ותשקט, peace and tranquility, for that is what a woman finds after she gets married. She experiences serenity and contentment with her husband and enjoys a blissful marriage.

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