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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Mishpatim

Parshat Mishpatim

Compiled and Edited by Rubin Kolyakov

"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter Parashat Mishpatim 29th of Shevat, 5777 | February 25, 2017 Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik Rabbi Fischel Schac


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter    Print Version

Parashat Mishpatim
29th of Shevat, 5777 | February 25, 2017

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Fischel Schachter
The Greatest Success

ישלם שנים

…He will pay double (Shemot 22:6)

As a young boy, Alex Clare had a unique knack for both composing and playing music. Even as a young sixteen-year-old, he performed as the drummer and backing vocalist of a band, where he remarkably excelled. But then something happened which got him thinking.

Sitting one day with his friends, Alex didn’t look too good. “I know I have a whole career ahead of me which includes a lot of money-making,” he remarked, “but suffice it to say, I am just not happy. I am looking for something more, and what I have now is not providing it.”

Alex, although far from Torah observance, appreciated and valued his Jewish heritage. And so, he began to learn more about Shabbos and kashrus and explore the meaning of Torah and mitzvos. It was the beginning of a riveting and life-altering journey, but something which Alex fully accepted and embraced.

At the same time, his career moved along and met tremendous success. At age 22, he signed a contract with Island Records, a Major record label. “But,” he told them, “I am an observant Jew and cannot play on Shabbos or other holidays.” Notwithstanding this condition, the label agreed to work with him. And so, things began to take off. Alex released his debut album – The Lateness of the Hour – which the label expected to be a big hit.
But, as it turned out, despite the tremendous investment spent on the record, it didn’t catch on as anticipated. The music was great, but Alex’s name was not well-known enough to attract a large clientele. Looking to augment Alex’s exposure to fans and the media, the label began making big plans for Alex.

But there was one problem.

In the music and concert world, Friday nights are important nights. But for Alex, they were important for a different reason: Shabbos. But, of course, his insistence on not performing then brought with it less opportunities to spread his name and fame, which his label wasn’t the happiest about. Especially when Alex had to turn down the offer to tour with Adele, a renowned English singer-songwriter, because it would conflict with Pesach, his label was especially disappointed. But, despite this all, Alex was still valued and someone they wished to accommodate.

But then Alex received a message one Saturday, which was also Yom Kippur. The label sounded very excited. Of course, Alex waited to listen to the message until after Shabbos, but when he did hear what it was about, he was quite surprised.

“You’re not going to believe this!” they said. “Live Lounge, a segment on the BBC radio station, told us that they had a cancellation and want you to play live! This will be in front of a national audience and be broadcasted over all of Europe. You will receive national coverage and have thousands of listeners. This is it! This is what we’ve been waiting for. The sales of your record will break through the roof!” Alex listened closely, although he knew that they were forgetting something very important which would nix the entire plan.

“And you won’t believe it! They want you to perform Thursday night! We were so scared it was going to be Friday night, but it’s not. This will be great… talk soon…” As Alex finished listening to the message, he took a seat. He couldn’t believe it for two reasons. For one, this would be the opportunity of a lifetime. It was this concert which would put him on board with other big performers and boost his career farther than he ever imagined. But he also couldn’t believe one other detail. Thursday night was the first night of Sukkos. He couldn’t perform.

Bravely picking up the phone a little while later, Alex called back and related the circumstances. “This is absurd!” the label stammered. “What do you mean you cannot do it? We already put up enough with you. If you cannot agree to perform this time, we will have no choice but to cut your contract!” Knowing that being released of his contract would result in being blacklisted all over and just about end his career, Alex felt as if the world was caving in.

But then he reminded himself of what he had learned the other day on Yom Kippur. He had read about the unwavering commitment of Rav Amnon of Mainz (author of U’Nesaneh Tokef, the liturgical poem recited on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur), who had given up his life rather than renege on his Judaism. Inspiring Alex, he suggested that they look to reschedule to a different night. “I am terribly sorry,” Alex said, “but either we reschedule or I do not perform.” But the label wouldn’t hear of it.

And so, the contract was cut, leaving Alex in a trying and difficult predicament. On top of everything, he still had to repay the musicians he had hired to perform with him. Yet, he had no idea how he would ever do so. Aside from this, he had no means of paying his monthly rent.

Approaching his rabbi (Rabbi Dovid Tugendhaft of Nishmas Yisroel in London) for some guidance, Alex broke down. “Everything was going great until just recently. I was becoming more Torah observant and my career was going well. I was even able to work around performing on Shabbos. But, all of a sudden, this opportunity to perform in England came up and left me now penniless.” Looking empathetically at Alex, the rabbi reassured him. “You remind me of Avraham Avinu. He was waiting and waiting for ninety-nine years to have a child, and then he was asked to sacrifice him. He was asked to give up his most precious and beloved son. You too, at your moment of greatness, gave up everything. But, somewhere hidden in this story, there is blessing to be found.”

Alex went on to move to Jerusalem and study in a yeshiva where he could grow in his knowledge and breadth of Torah. By now, Alex had come to terms with his situation. He in no way regretted making the decision to refrain from playing on Shabbos and holidays and bearing the subsequent consequences. Now, life was different, yet meaningful. He had finally found that purpose he had been searching after for many years.

But then the unexpected happened.

One day, Alex received a call from Microsoft. Although Alex had been blacklisted and out of contact with anyone for months, Microsoft had finally tracked him down. They wanted to use his first hit “Too Close” as the soundtrack for an ad launching the new version of Internet Explorer 9. “Could we do so?” they asked. Sure enough, Alex agreed.

The next thing Alex knew, the song was literally all over the world. It was being played on television worldwide and picking up enormous traction. It became the number one hit in Germany, number four on the UK Singles Chart, number seven in the US and received 45 million views on YouTube. And his debut album, which had previously flopped, now sold over six million copies.

And that is the story of Alex Clare.

It is much easier said than done, but here was someone who was not only ready to give up everything for Shabbos and Yiddishkeit, but actually did. And without question, Hashem handsomely paid him back. The renown he was ready to give up forever came back to him. But this time, it was even greater than before. He was not merely spreading his own name; he was spreading Hashem’s name in the profoundest of ways and making a grand Kiddush Hashem.

Rabbi Meyer Bodner
From Tefillin to Religion

ויאמרו כל אשר דבר ד' נעשה ונשמע

And they said, “Everything that Hashem has spoken we will do and we will hear” (Shemot 24:7)

For Jack, life growing up in the Bronx brought with it the full range of exposure and experiences. After attending public school and joining a gang as a youngster, Jack continued on to college with his vision set on making a life for himself. Soon thereafter, he met his wife and moved to Ra’anana, Israel. While neither he nor his wife was observant, Jack’s familial history included his religious grandparents. And so, when he one day found himself standing in a pork restaurant after being asked by his wife to grab some dinner, his mind began to wander.

Remembering how his grandfather had given up his life during the Holocaust rather than publicly eat pork, he stopped in his tracks. He couldn’t bring himself to purchase the very food his grandfather sacrificed his life to avoid eating. And with that, he returned home empty-handed.

As days went by, Jack’s mind periodically drifted back to the scene of standing in the restaurant and refraining from buying non-kosher food. It was around this time that Jack heard about an Arachim weekend seminar which was soon to take place, where inspirational and educational talks about basic Judaism would be given. Asking his wife if she would like to attend, to his delight, she complied. After spending a few days listening to the various speakers and presentations, Jack was significantly inspired.

As Jack drove home with his wife and two children, it wasn’t too long before his wife noticed something unusual. Jack was wearing a head covering. “You know, Jack, there are no rabbis here now. You can take that thing off your head.” “Yeah, I know,” he muttered back. After a few minutes of silence, his wife asked again, “Is something wrong? Do you want to tell me something?” “I am becoming religious,” he said. Jack’s wife was understandably surprised. “What about me?” “You can become observant also,” he insisted. “And what about us?” chimed in the kids. “You can also become religious. And come to think of it, now that I am becoming observant, I would like to stop off at my parents’ house. My father has my tefillin which I haven’t worn since my bar mitzvah.” “That’s a good idea,” replied his wife. “I’ll tell your father to talk you out of this idea.”

As soon as Jack’s father opened the door, there he saw his son standing along with his distressed wife. “You got to talk your son out of this,” was all Jack’s wife had to say. “Dad, do you still have the tefillin I wore for my bar mitzvah?” “Sure, I do,” he said. A few minutes later, Jack’s father returned with the tefillin in his hands and tears in his eyes. Clearly, there was something special to this pair of tefillin, about which Jack’s father went on to explain for the first time:

“During the Holocaust, a friend of mine was selected for death. There was no escape for him. As he was being taken to meet his end, he threw something to me. I thought it was a loaf of bread in a bag, but it wasn’t. It was a pair of tefillin. And so, from then on, I decided to put the tefillin on every morning.

“One morning, however, that all changed. As I was wearing my tefillin, a Gestapo officer caught me. ‘You’re going to get it!’ he fumingly yelled. I was then taken and positioned to be hanged in front of throngs of men and women. With a noose around my neck, I was asked, ‘What’s your last wish?’ Catching my voice, I said, ‘I would like to put tefillin on for the last time.’ ‘That’s a good idea,’ the officer exclaimed. ‘Now you will experience your last moments of life wearing your tefillin.’

“And so, the noose was wrapped around my neck as I wore my tefillin on my arm and head. As I looked upon the countless Jews whose teary eyes gazed at me, I exclaimed aloud, ‘Am Yisroel Chai! I am fortunate to be a Jew!’ ‘Yeah, you really think so?’ the officer angrily mocked. ‘I’m not going to let you hang; I am going to give you an even more painful death.’ He proceeded to demand that I remove the noose from around my neck and lift two boulders in my hands while he would whip me with twenty-five lashes. Then he would shoot me. After twenty-five lashes, though, I unconsciously fell to the floor.

“Thinking that I was dead, the officers threw me onto a pile of other bodies. And then they walked away. But, although I looked dead, I wasn’t. And so, later that night, I crawled with as much strength as I could to the closest bunker where they hid me for a short while until we were all liberated.”

“This, my son,” said Jack’s father with tears, “is that pair of tefillin. They have been waiting here for you.” And with that, Jack’s father took a look at his daughter-in-law and asked, “Should I not give these tefillin to my son? They are what gave me life. Without them, I would not be here today.”

But that is not the end of the story. Jack’s father did not stop there.

“You know what?” he said looking at Jack. “I also want to start putting tefillin on just like you and become religious.” “Religious?” piped up Jack’s mother to her husband. “What about me?” “You too will become religious,” he said. “We’re all going to become religious.”

“And so, it was,” concluded Rabbi Yosef Wallis, today’s CEO and director of Arachim. “I am Jack. And indeed, my wife and I, my parents and even my brothers and sisters all went on to become religious.”

We can never know what will spur an individual to return to Hashem. Sometimes it can be an awe-inspiring speech, other times a life changing experience and occasionally, even a pair of tefillin.

A Short Message From
Rabbi Reuven Epstein

One Purim night, as my wife and I neared the house of the great Rav Elyashiv zt”l, we decided to stop by and see if we could receive a beracha. We knocked on the door and a woman opened up. “Is the Rav available?” we asked. “He lives two doors down,” she said. Realizing our mistake, we thanked her and were just about to walk away when she stopped us. “Since you knocked on my door, you have become my guests; you have to come inside!” For the next hour and a half, she extended her warmest hospitality to us. Just imagine. This woman looked at us and said, “You are my opportunity to do chesed; how can I let you leave without offering you something!” What a beautiful outlook on life.

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