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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Toldot

Parshat Toldot

Compiled and Edited by Rubin Kolyakov


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter    Print Version

Parashat Toldot
3rd of Kislev, 5777 | December 3, 2016

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Fischel Schachter
Worrying about Marriage

אל תירא כי אתך אנכי

“Do not fear, for I am with you” (Bereishit 26:24)

When I was nineteen years old learning in the Yeshiva Torah V’Daas, there was at one point three different boys expected to get married within a short time of each other. However, much to the chagrin of everyone, two of the marriages never came to fruition. In one instance, the kallah dropped the shidduch; in the other case, the boy went for a routine doctor exam only to be told that something suspicious was discovered. That as well caused enough worry to call off the wedding. Now there only remained one more boy scheduled to be married. His name was Shlomi, and he was my chavrusa (study partner).

After hearing how these two other boys experienced such a heartbreaking reality of their future marriages disintegrating, he was extremely worried. “I am certain I will not get married,” he said to me. “The Gemara (Shabbos 106a) says that if one person amidst a group dies, everyone in the group should worry. Here, two boys had their weddings called off. The same is bound to happen to me.” Trying to calm him down, I said, “Shlomi, tell me what you are worried about.” And so, hesitantly, he began.

“The wedding is scheduled to be in Connecticut. What if on the way to the wedding I will get a flat tire?” “That is what you’re worried about?” I exclaimed. “Don’t worry; we’ll drive behind you.” What if you get a flat tire,” he continued to say. “We’ll make sure to have a pickup truck full of tires.” Still burdened with fears of the unexpected, he said, “What if there is a storm? “So we’ll get umbrellas.” “What if they close the highways? What if there is a terrorist attack?” I didn’t know how long the list was going to be, but he continued on. “What if my kallah drops the shidduch?” “Listen Shlomi,” I said interrupting him, “I hate to tell you this, but if your kallah hears what you are worried about, she may have good reason to call off the wedding.” I knew Shlomi was always a sensible boy, but here he was going off the deep end.

Sitting there trying to help Shlomi, I wasn’t getting too far. As we continued to attempt to work matters out, a man walked into the room. Fortunately, he was a mental health professional. Walking over to him, I said, “If you don’t mind helping, Shlomi is really worried about his wedding. I do not know what to do.” “Don’t worry,” the man replied, “it’s completely normal. It is the pre-trauma period before married life. Just tell him to come over to me.”

As Shlomi headed over to the man and began speaking to him, somehow I was privy to sit in on the private session. “Take a piece of paper and fold it in half,” he said to Shlomi. “On one side of the page write the word ‘probability,’ and on the other side write ‘non-probability.’ Now, what are you worried about?” he asked. “I am embarrassed to tell you,” Shlomi shyly muttered. “Don’t be ashamed; just go ahead.”

“Well, I am worried about getting a flat tire. “Okay, Shlomi, what are the chances of getting a flat tire?” “2%” he answered. “Fine,” the man considered. “Let’s say 2%. Now write on the other side of the paper that there is 98% non-probability that you will not get a flat tire.” “Well,” continued Shlomi, “I am also worried about a terrorist attack.” “Okay, how likely is that to happen?” “1%,” answered Shlomi. “So write 99% non-probability on the other side.” With each of the concerns raised, it was always more than a ninety percent non-probability chance.

Concluding the talk with Shlomi, the man said, “Whenever you are worried, look at the paper and calculate what the statistics are.” After this conversation, it seemed that Shlomi felt better. As Shlomi went home that night, however, he began to fret again. What happened? His list of every possible consideration of what could go wrong grew and grew until he had a nice long list. It was close to an encyclopedia.

But that wasn’t it. He started adding up the statistics as follows: 2% chance of a flat tire plus 1% chance of a terrorist attack plus 3% of a storm plus 1% that I may not be well plus 1% that the kallah will not be well. At the end of the count, there was a sum total of close to a three hundred percent chance that he was not getting married. I didn’t know how to help him any longer. But finally, one day while we were in yeshiva, that all changed.

As I was talking to Shlomi about his laundry list of worries, a gentleman entered the room. He was selling raffle tickets for a menorah. It was then that the idea occurred to me. I am going to buy him a raffle ticket. And so I did. I then went to Shlomi and said, “Shlomi, you know what? I bought you a raffle ticket for a menorah.” He looked at me strangely. “What do you mean a raffle ticket for a menorah?” “You should call your future father-in-law,” I told Shlomi,” and tell him that if he plans on buying you a menorah for Chanukah he shouldn’t, because you are going to win this raffle.” “Are you out of your mind?” Shlomi shouted. “I never win these things!” “Look,” I said trying to calm him down. “What are the chances of you winning this menorah? It is the same as all these other worries you have. If you are so sure that these unfortunate incidents are going to happen, how come you are unsure if you are going to win the menorah?” After saying that, Shlomi calmed down a bit. I finally felt that I had done well. And indeed, for the next two weeks, Shlomi was at peace.

But then the fateful day arrived. As I walked into the yeshiva one morning, Shlomi was not there. And that wasn’t good news because he was known for his punctuality. It was then that I was notified that a phone call awaited me. “It’s Shlomi’s father,” the boys told me. Uneasy and nervous, I slowly approached the payphone hanging on the wall. With shaky hands, I picked up the phone. “Hello?” “Hi, it’s Shlomi’s father. She called. It’s not good; come over to the house.” When I heard those words, my heart sank. His kallah must have broken off the shidduch. As I hung up the phone, all that could be heard amongst the boys standing nearby was, “She called, she called…”

Walking to the house, my knees were shaking and I felt terrible. I opened the door and headed upstairs to Shlomi’s room. The room was dark and I knew that I was in for the worst news. Turning to Shlomi, I quietly asked, “When did she call?” Shlomi said, “I don’t know; about an hour ago.” “What did she say?” As I asked this question, Shlomi immediately picked up his head in bewilderment. “What do you mean ‘What did she say?’ She said that she works as a secretary in a school and she found out that I just won a menorah. Do you know what this means?”

It then hit me. “She called” had nothing to do with breaking the shidduch, but rather Shlomi’s kallah congratulating him on winning the menorah. Yet Shlomi could not deal with the unexpected results of him winning. If he could oddly enough win the lottery, the chances of something wrong occurring for his wedding were that much more real. When I finally understood this, I wasn’t sure if I should cry or laugh. “What do we learn from this?” Shlomi said with a crack in his voice. “What do we learn from this?” I sighed in exasperation. “You know what we learn from this? Next time you don’t ask me for advice.” Yet, despite this incident, it was not long before matters improved.

After discussing the issue with the Mashgiach (dean) of the yeshiva and being reassured that Hashem ultimately runs the world, Shlomi finally came to terms with handling his upcoming marriage. And baruch Hashem, without the flat tires, terrorist attacks and turbulent storms, Shlomi finally happily married.

In life, we tend to worry and worry and worry some more. But sometimes we would be much better off readjusting our perspective and instead of considering everything that could go wrong, placing our trust in Hashem. While we may be led to believe that matters will go awry and the worst is inevitable, those statistics only say so much. When we are informed that we in fact won the menorah, our response should be to say to ourselves, “I know Hashem, You are running the show. You created the world and You determine who wins the lottery.”

Rabbi Efraim Stauber
Imperfect Flowers and Chicken Soup

If you were ever a kallah, you probably have experienced the exciting yet worrisome process of preparing the many arrangements for your wedding. First, you have to select a gown. Sometime later, the question becomes what color and type of flowers you should hold for your pictures. While it may not appear to be a big deal, as any kallah will tell you, if the gown or flowers do not end up being what they envisioned, it can be quite disappointing.

Now let me tell you my story.

For my wedding, my wife clearly mentioned that she wanted red fuchsia flowers. However, due in part to my error, there we stood ready to take pictures and out came the flowers. But they were not red; they were hot pink. The photographer could not believe her eyes. She looked quite nervous and in a state of shock. Yet, fortunately, my wife just simply laughed. Taking a hold of the flowers, we went on to take the pictures as if nothing out of place had occurred.

Whenever my wife tells this story over, her friends though are shocked. “You poor thing! How did you survive?” My wife’s response, however, is always, “I was getting married. I wasn’t about to ruin my wedding because of flowers.”

In truth, we often get lost in the details. The wedding has to be the perfect picture. We focus on all the minor nuances, including the flowers, and overlook that which is really important, namely that we are getting married.

Now, what does this have to do with Judaism?

Part and parcel of Shabbos are the many laws which it includes. With the actions prohibited on Shabbos derived from the work performed in the building of the Mishkan (Tabernacle), we in turn refrain from engaging in any creative activity. But why must that be so? What are these restrictions meant to accomplish?

In truth, these laws are meant to help us focus on the wedding instead of the flowers. By nature, we are comfort seekers. We enjoy when things go well and are pleasurable. However, in the words of Rav Noach Weinberg zt”l, our choices in life come down to a decision between comfort and meaning. That which is most meaningful often entails forgoing what appears to be comfortable. Yet in truth, by choosing the more meaningful option, we become happier and deeper people.

Shabbos, in this regard, takes us a step further. It is a day when we pay attention to the bigger picture in life. If we cannot eat the chicken soup exactly as we want it and it is now Shabbos and too late to make any adjustments to its temperature or composition, we are perfectly fine with that. Shabbos is a growing process, wherein we transcend to a plateau of greater life meaning and purposefulness. We focus on the fact that Hashem created the world, we are Jews and that our connection to Hashem is what is truly important in life.

When such an attitude is embraced, we can laugh at the imperfect chicken soup and flowers. We are much deeper than that. The little, intricate details of Shabbos are meant for us to focus on these ideas, and realize that when something is not as perfect as we wish, we are undisturbed. It doesn’t faze us because we have a genuine connection to Hashem, to ourselves and to what it means to be a Jew. And ultimately, that is more important than anything else.

Rabbi Yigal Haimoff
A Hearing Aid for Whom?

ורבקה שמעת בדבר יצחק

And Rivkah was listening as Yitzchak spoke… (Bereishit 27:5)

A man struggling with his shalom bayit once approached his Rav for advice. After hearing of the numerous issues which were troubling the couple, the Rav said to the husband, “Just do as I say and you will see improvements in your marriage.” And with that, he went on to suggest that the husband go to the store and surprise his wife by buying her a gift. Agreeing to the idea, the man proceeded to walk to the store as per the instructions received.

As he continued walking, he began thinking what gift his wife would appreciate most. Finally, it occurred to him. “We are having a communication problem,” he said to himself. “When we speak, we do not understand each other. Maybe it is because my wife is having a hearing issue. I think it would be nice if I purchase her a hearing aid.” Liking his own idea, he soon located the nearest store carrying such amenities and walked inside.

Approaching the owner, he mentioned that he was looking to buy a hearing aid. Assuming that the man wished to make the purchase for himself, the owner asked if he could have a look at the man’s ear to determine what kind of hearing aid would best suit him. “No, no,” said the man, “it is not for me; it is for my wife.” Puzzled, the owner looked at the man. “If that is the case, I think it would be best if your wife comes in herself. I need to take a look at her own ear.”

“I cannot do that,” replied the husband. “You see, I want to buy my wife a hearing aid as a surprise present.” Seeing that the husband had set his mind on what he wished to do, the owner came up with a different idea.

“Okay,” said the owner, “I’ll tell you what we can do. When you go home, stand a distance away from your wife and call her name out. If she hears you and responds, then you know her hearing is fine. If, however, she doesn’t respond, then walk a little bit closer and call her name out again. Keep on doing this until she answers you, and then tell me how many feet away you were from her. This will help me gauge how good her hearing is and accordingly provide you with a suitable hearing aid.”

Complying with the owner’s orders, the husband returned home intent on going through with the plan. Quietly entering through the front door, the husband tiptoed to the living room, from where he spotted his wife standing in the kitchen. “Malka! How are you?” he called out. Silence. “Malka! How are you?” he called out again. No response. She must not have heard him. And so, he took a few steps closer.

“Malka!” Yet again, no answer. “Something must be wrong,” thought the husband. “This is really unlike my wife.” Taking a number of steps further, he now stood just a few feet away from his wife. “Malka!” Nothing. By now, the husband figured that something serious had happened to his wife. Walking all the way up to her, he leaned over and said loudly into her ear, “Malka! How are you?”

Malka turned around. Facing her husband, she said, “Are you deaf? I already answered you four times!”

Sometimes we think that the problem we are facing is someone else’s fault and doing. “I am not the one to blame!” we say to ourselves. But then, sometimes rather quickly, we realize that just the opposite was the case. No one is perfect, including ourselves. But that is fine, because we are not meant to be perfect. What is asked of us, though, is the honest assessment of ourselves and others. When we do so, we will soon see that others appreciate us for exactly who we are and the way we are. And without question, that is a life attitude which is music to all our ears.

A Short Message From
Mrs. Tzippy Reifer

The Gemara (Kiddushin 30b) tells us that Hashem says, “בראתי יצר הרע ובראתי לו תורה תבלין - I have created the evil inclination, and I have created the Torah as its spice.” The Torah serves as the antidote to overcoming out internal struggles with the yetzer hara. I once heard the Seret-Vizhnitzer Rebbe’s daughter ask why in fact the Gemara describes the Torah as a “spice”? Isn’t Torah a main dish? The answer, she explained, is that we and our children are the main dish. Every generation needs to be spiced differently, and the Torah has the right spices for every generation. All we must do is find the right way to utilize the spice – i.e. Torah – and present it to everyone in the most spiritually delicious and nutritious way.

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