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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Beshalach

Parshat Beshalach

Compiled and Edited by Rubin Kolyakov


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter    Print Version

Parashat Beshalach
15th of Shevat, 5777 | February 11, 2017

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Mrs. Rivka Malka Perlman
From Oregon to Har Sinai

ויהי בשלח פרעה את העם

And it happened when Pharaoh sent out the nation… (Shemot 13:17)

For Sophie who was born and raised as part of a Christian family in Oregon, life was never easy. Told to care for her younger siblings from a very young age, when Sophie turned four, her mother altogether left the family. When that occurred, Sophie single-handedly accepted upon herself even more responsibility. By the time she turned seven, she was doing the entire family’s laundry and caring for all of the other household necessities. But that only covered a small fraction of Sophie’s situation.

Unfortunately, the conditions at home were not the best, to say the least. Not being shown love by her father, Sophie turned to spending as much time as possible in school. School served as Sophie’s safe haven, with her teacher allowing her to arrive early and stay late.

One day, however, Sophie’s brother disclosed the details of the severely unpleasant conditions the children were undergoing. With Sophie’s teacher quickly realizing what exactly was going on, she contacted Child Protective Services. Although a minor investigation was carried out, the fact that Sophie’s father was in the police force only complicated matters. The issue was for the most part overlooked and no improvements were made. And in fact, for the next four years of Sophie’s teenage years, life was fraught with challenges.

Aside from all the turmoil within the house, distress and belittling outside of the house also took place. With her family significantly associated with the local church, Sophie was frequently put down and taunted by its members. Never looking forward to attending church, Sophie would always look to avoid going. But that only carried in its wake harsh consequences.

At this point, Sophie was nineteen. As she was now legally capable of moving in with her uncle, she looked forward to better living conditions. But, in truth, they were not that much better than her father’s home. She was still instructed to oversee her nieces and nephews, wash the dishes and clean the house. After carrying out all these chores, Sophie had little free time to herself. Even her excited plans to attend college were deflated as she was too encumbered with family responsibility.

Continuing to live amid dysfunction and neglect, one day, the tables began to turn. Sophie’s mother returned to Oregon after years of not seeing her family. Reconnecting with her mother, Sophie was met with a surprise she never would have imagined to be true. “I am Jewish,” her mother told her, “and that makes you Jewish.” Not quite sure what it meant to be a Jew, Sophie immediately began researching the matter. She had never before met a Jew and never knew what being Jewish was all about.

It was at that time that I received a message from Sophie. Explaining how she had just discovered she was Jewish, she inquired how she could learn more about her heritage. I encouraged her to connect with someone she could learn Torah with, and arranged for her to study with a woman named Shira, a dedicated kiruv professional in Oregon. Getting together with Shira, Sophie slowly began to learn more about Judaism.

Yet one day, I received a disturbing email from Sophie. She described how her family was averse to her taking strides in Judaism and had been making her life quite miserable. I mentioned that sometimes people are uncomfortable to abrupt changes and take affront, and that she should continue practicing her Judaism quietly while still remaining respectful of her family.

Sophie then wrote back to me, “But I am scared. They are putting pictures of the Holocaust on my bedroom walls. What should I do? Every time I go outside to learn Friday night, my aunt and uncle get upset.” As I read this, I knew that something strange was going on, and told her to call me. After speaking to her briefly, I sensed that her situation was unsafe and that she needed to leave this environment.

Without waiting any longer, I made a number of phone calls in the hope of getting Sophie on a plane out of Oregon. I then asked Sophie if she would be willing to come and stay with me if a plane ticket would be purchased for her. Although I had never personally met her and she had been living in the same place for nineteen years, I knew that now was her time to leave. And she agreed.

She packed her bags and pretended she was going to work as someone drove up to her house, put her suitcases in the car and whisked her away to the airport. She later revealed that she vacillated over and over again as to whether she should in fact leave her home, but after much thought, she picked herself up and left. Showing up at my house with nothing more than just her suitcases, she stepped into a whole new world. She knew deep in her heart that for the time being she could not and would not return home.

During this time, she applied to Jewel, a program in Israel geared for providing girls with an opportunity to learn about their Judaism. After being accepted, she planned on staying at my house for three weeks and then continuing on to Israel. As soon as she arrived at my house, I could tell she was someone very special. She was strong-willed, kind and motivated. Somehow, amidst all the madness and insanity she had experienced, her spirit was preserved. But I knew that one thing she needed was a loving environment. She needed to be surrounded by a warm family who cared about her and could laugh with her. She also needed the opportunity to experience freedom and explore her Judaism. And so, she decided to stay with us a bit longer than planned. And then a bit longer. To say the least, she became a part of our family.

As time progressed and she began learning and growing in her Yiddishkeit, we discovered something quite startling. Although her mother had told her that she was Jewish, examining her ancestry did not bear the same evidence. She in fact was not Jewish. But that did not mean that Sophie was going to give up on her Judaism. She without question possessed a Jewish spark and by now had been meticulously keeping mitzvos and learning Torah for some while.

As of now, Sophie has already visited Israel and gotten to learn about an observant life of Torah and mitzvos. She is now on her way to conversion and entering a new life as a proud observant Jewess.

Sophie, quite literally, experienced her own personal redemption from Egypt. Stuck in a hostile environment, she was beset with challenges again and again. She may never have imagined that she would ever escape from such an intolerable life. But one day, she realized it was time to leave. Not one moment longer was she to remain where she was. With no money and unsure where her next step in life would lead her, she put her past aside and looked toward a brighter future. She has said, “I view my situation as the Jews traveling in the desert. I have not arrived in Israel yet, but one day, I will. Right now, I am undergoing the growth period full of trials and tribulations. I am learning what it means to have freedom and be extricated from my own Egypt.”

Sophie’s entire life has turned around. She is now speaking to other girls who themselves have gone through challenging times. Serving as a source of strength for them, she can relate to those who have similarly experienced trying times. As for Sophie herself, her mere presence is an inspiration aside from her dedication to Yiddishkeit. Her journey is no less of a journey from Egypt to Har Sinai. Undergoing difficult family conditions in Oregon, her travels through life have eventually brought her to today where plans to enter a rich life of Torah and mitzvos.

Rabbi Binyomin Ginsberg
Reaching the President

וד' הלך לפניהם יומם... ולילה...

And Hashem went before them by day… and by night… (Shemot 13:21)

In 2012, I was invited by one of the Jewish community schools in Tucson, Arizona to speak to their students. One of the families there had several children in the school and wished to receive some guidance as to how they could best provide an authentic Jewish education for their children.

When I arrived in the school one morning, I was approached by the principal who asked if I could address the students. He suggested that with Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur approaching, it would be beneficial for the students to hear about the importance of davening. I agreed.

I later entered the auditorium with my mind set on very straightforwardly talking about the concept of tefillah. But, as I soon discovered, I would have to slightly modify my initial plan and choose a different method of engaging the children. So I decided on the following. “I am a little frustrated,” I told the kids. “There is a gentleman who has been in jail for more than twenty-five years. His name is Jonathan Pollard. Yet there is one person who can wake up in the morning and set him free. And that is the President of the United States. So let me tell you what I am going to do. I will call the White House and ask the President to release him.”

I took out my cell phone, put it on speaker and began dialing the number of the White House. I only got as far as the operator. “Good morning, White House, how can we help you?” “I would like to speak to President Obama,” I said. “He is not available,” said the operator. “When will he be available?” I prodded. “He is not available for private calls.” “I am here,” I continued to say, “with close to two hundred of his relatives. I need no more than thirty seconds of the President’s precious time. Can you please let me know when I can call back?” “He will not be available,” it repeated. By now, I realized that I was not making progress, so I figured I would go a step further. “Can I please speak to your supervisor?” I asked. Surprisingly, I was let through to the supervisor.

“Hello, sir, what can I help you with?” “I would like to speak to the President,” I asked. “He is not available now.” “Can I give you a message to relay to him?” “Well,” she said, “I don’t have access to the President.” “Where are you now?” I asked. “In the White House.” When she said this, I was left a bit confused. “You cannot just go to the Oval Office and let him know I would like thirty seconds of his time?” “Sir,” she replied, “I have worked under nine presidents, and not once have I ever seen any of them.” At this point, I knew I needed to pitch a good reason for getting through to him.

“I have a very important message I need to tell him,” I said.” “We have a fax line,” the lady replied, “and you can write out your comments and fax them in.” “Okay,” I said, “and then the President will get it?” “No,” came the reply again. “The way it works is that we record a tally of all the comments we receive, and if we accumulate at least five thousand comments about a particular matter, somebody slips a piece of paper to the President and informs him that there were so many comments about such-and-such an issue.” As I heard this, I knew I wasn’t going to get too far in my goal of reaching the President.

I then turned towards the room full of students and said, “Look at this! We could not get even thirty seconds with the President. We couldn’t even give him a piece of paper. There is no communication between us and our leader. But happens between us and Hashem? We have the amazing gift of tefillah. We have the opportunity twenty-four hours a day plus three special times throughout the day to directly talk to Hashem without ever getting a busy signal. Where else can you find that type of relationship where someone is always available and ready to listen? How fortunate we are.”

Rabbi Motti Miller
The Chip to Success

ואתם תחרישון

… And you shall be silent (Shemot 14:14)

Some time ago, a high-priced speaker was asked to speak to the executives of Intel Corporation. Intel, having arguably made the largest number of microchips for computers for many decades, includes some of the biggest executives in the world. The speaker was to address them about a variety of important topics pertinent to the growth and success of their corporation.

While the presentation given by the speaker went well, at the conclusion of the address, the speaker was taken aback by one detail which stood out. Opening the question to the executives, he said, “I have to ask you all something. Throughout my entire presentation, none of you once looked at your phones to text, email or anything of the like. Your entire focus was on me from start to finish. How can that be? Every chip in every phone around the world is made by you. More than anyone, I would assume that all of you would be glued to your phones and inseparable from them. They are so much a part of your lives. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.”

As silence overtook the room, one executive got up. “Sir, let me explain something to you. When we are trained in Intel, we concentrate on certain areas of strength. There are many different aspects that go into attaining success and producing the highest quality and top cutting-edge product. But, as we are taught, the strength of this company is focus. Whatever task we put our minds to, we focus one hundred percent. That is the attitude and mentality we are taught to work with, and the reason we meet so much success. Our ethic is focus, focus, focus.

“You’ve probably never experienced this before. Most of the time you speak, you likely see people distracted by their phones. But, if that would be our work ethic, our company would not be where it is today. So now, sir, I hope you understand.”

A Short Message From
Mrs. Fayge Loewi

My mother a”h once related a beautiful mashal. Imagine a large room full of people, yet it is freezing cold inside. With no heat available, everyone stands around shivering. One man, seeking to warm himself up, puts on his fur coat. Yet another man, also looking to relieve himself of discomfort, prepares a fire in the fireplace. What is the difference between these two people? The former warms himself, while the latter warms himself along with everyone else. In life overall, we are often given opportunities where we can focus on our own needs and help ourselves. Yet then again, those very same opportunities can be turned around to help others. Instead of merely thinking of ourselves, within the very same act, we bring light and warmth to so many others.

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