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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Yitro

Parshat Yitro

Compiled and Edited by Rubin Kolyakov

"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter Parashat Yitro 22nd of Shevat, 5777 | February 18, 2017 Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik Mr. Charlie Harary Re


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter    Print Version

Parashat Yitro
22nd of Shevat, 5777 | February 18, 2017

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Mr. Charlie Harary
Returning Home

כבד את אביך ואת אמך

Honor your father and your mother (Shemot 20:12)

It seemed to be just another Thursday afternoon for the Amtrak train traveling from New York to Baltimore. As one man walked down the aisle slowly and glanced from side to side, no seat seemed to be available. But then, all the way in the corner, he found what he was looking for. One seat was open. Maneuvering his way around and about, the man settled himself down. But then it hit him.

The man realized why in fact this had been the only seat available. The boy sitting in the adjacent seat had an intense worried look on his face and could not stop fidgeting. Something was clearly disturbing him. Wishing to be amiable and perhaps even helpful, the man gently said to the boy, “Is everything alright? Can I help you with something?” The boy stared back at the man. “You wouldn’t understand.” For the next few minutes, the two of them just sat there silently. But then the man spoke up again.

“Are you sure everything is alright? You look awfully unnerved. I’ve been looking at you for some time. Tell me, what is wrong?” But all the boy could do was reiterate himself. “I can tell you, but you will not get it.” “Try me,” the man said.

“I grew up in a small town outside of Baltimore. For the larger part of my youth, I had no friends and spent a lot of time by myself. One day, my parents approached me and said, ‘We have something for you.’ They handed me a wrapped box, which I excitingly opened and looked at with intrigue. It was a computer. I slowly began learning how to use it, and no sooner than later, gained great proficiency at understanding numbers and statistics. At the same time, my favorite baseball team was the Baltimore Orioles. I spent a large amount of time computing the team’s statistics for each game they played and kept it on record.

“This went on for some time, until my cousin one day approached me. ‘What’s going on with you?’ he asked. ‘Well, I got this computer and figured out a way of tracking all the baseball player’s statistics.’ ‘Really?’ he said. ‘People would love having this information at their disposal. You could make a whole business out of it.’ I wasn’t sure what my cousin meant, but he continued to explain. ‘Why don’t we start a website where these statistics can be posted and everyone can view?’ I had no idea how to organize this, but my cousin assured me that he would take care of it all. It sounded good to me.

“The next thing I knew, my cousin called me and said, ‘I have all the paperwork done and we are in business!’ Next week when I returned home, I noticed a check for fifty dollars addressed to my name. It was from someone who had subscribed to the website. I was quite surprised. But then I received another check for $100, then $500, $1,000 and $5,000. I was soon making a total of $20,000 a month as a tenth grader. All of a sudden, I became extremely popular and gained a handful of new friends.

“As my parents heard about my success, they told me, ‘If you keep it up, you can make this into a career.’ While, in truth, they were communicating sound advice, as a young teenager, I thought too much of myself. I was too self-centered and conceited that I disrespectfully dismissed this suggestion and just about any other advice they gave me. ‘I am making more money than they are,’ I thought to myself. I figured that I could take care of myself. And so, I began coming home late and acting out. Eventually, I told my parents, ‘I don’t need you! I can manage all alone! Goodbye!’ And with that, I headed to New York and bought a private, fully furnished loft which was quite expensive.

“I would regularly invite people over and extend invitations to all of my friends from Baltimore to come and visit me. I felt that I had made it big. Everything was going perfect. I was young and rich and no one could stop me.

“Until one day, when my cousin walked into my apartment and sat on the couch. I could tell something was wrong. ‘Do you have any other skills?’ he asked. ‘What do you mean?’ I said. ‘Well, I hate to tell you, but our whole genius idea is over. ESPN, one of the major sports reporting websites, now features all the statistics of every professional athletic team. And it’s all for free. Our business is about to spiral downward.’

“When I heard this, my heart sank. The money which had been coming my way faster than I could count now began to dwindle even quicker. And there was nothing I could do. I was forced to sell my couches, electronic appliances and finally, my apartment. I was pretty much both financially broke and emotionally broken. I tried getting a job at a local fast-food restaurant, but because I didn’t know how to accept orders from any higher authority, I was soon asked to leave. I then started playing music in the corner of a subway station, but that didn’t get me too far either. So, there I was, all alone with no money, no friends and no home. Gloomy and depressed, I wandered off by myself to a park and took a seat on a bench, staring down at the floor.

“And then I thought to myself. ‘What about my parents?’ Taking out a pen and paper, I wrote the following letter to my mother and father:

“Mom and dad, I know I caused you a lot of distress growing up and you probably never want to see me; but I am down and out and have nowhere to turn. I am going to get on the train leaving Amtrak next Thursday and make my way down to Baltimore. But let me just mention one thing. As you may know, right next to the train station, there is a large tree. If you want me home, put one white flag on the tree. If you don’t want me home, just leave the tree empty. I will then continue along on the train to Washington D.C. and see if I can start a new life there. Love, your son.”

“And with that, I got a hold of an envelope and sent off the letter to my parents.” “So, what did they do?” the man seated next to the boy telling this story asked. “I am on the train right now,” replied the boy. Now, it was the man who was fidgeting and nervous.

As the train neared closer and closer to the train station, the boy could not bear to keep his eyes open. “I can’t look,” he repeated again and again. But the man, who was now nearly as tense as the boy, reassured him. “Don’t worry; I’ll look for you.” Picking his head up over the boy, the man peered out the window and squinted as best as he could. And then he fell back into his seat. After a moment of silence and with tears in his eyes, the man said, “There’s no white flag.” The boy, whose heart was by now racing, mustered the courage to look outside the window. And there he saw that the tree did not have one white flag. The entire tree was draped in white.

And then he saw two older people, who stood near the tree with tears streaming down their faces, anticipatingly awaiting someone. And that someone was none other than him, their beloved son.

While we may at times make mistakes in life, we can never forget that our Father in Heaven always awaits our return. Each and every day, he longs for us to recognize who we are and who we can become. For us, as His children, the tree is always draped in white. Hashem is always waiting, waiting and waiting our return home…

Dr. Zev Ballen
The Race Car Driver

והודעת להם את הדרך ילכו בה

And you shall make known to them the path in which they should go (Shemot 18:20)

Generally speaking, Formula 500 Race Car drivers travel around the racetrack anywhere up to 145 mph. Yet what happens during the unfortunate event of an oil slip? The car immediately goes into a tailspin. Now just imagine that the car is moving in the direction of a wall. As can be expected, the driver is potentially away from meeting a sorrowful end. When moving that fast, chances are that the driver does not have the reflexes and strategies to avoid a head-on collision. Quite likely, he will not make it out alive.

Psychologists in fact have studied this phenomenon of the race car driver. Simulating the scenario of a driver moving at extremely high velocities, it was discovered that when a person faces sudden death, they tend to look straight ahead and face the direction of their course of travel. When that is done, however, the chances of survival are slim because, in principle, where the focus goes, the energy flows. Precisely because they keep their focus in the direction of their travel and look straight ahead at what will happen in just moments, their ability to react and mitigate the adverse effects of the crash are impaired.

What psychologists thus did was simulate drivers to do something which requires a paradigm shift in perspective and goes against one’s natural tendencies. Having them look away from the wall they were about to crash into, the results proved to be positive. Those who turned away were actually found to have higher survival rates than those who didn’t. By not directly focusing on what was imminently about to occur, they were able to gain a moment’s composure and avoid fatal injury.

The same concept applies both in the realm of emunah and mitzvah observance. Through realizing that we ought to place our faith in Hashem instead of single-handedly placing our entire trust in our own successes and capabilities, we discover the keys to life. Moreover, as articulated by Dovid Hamelech, we are to be “Sur mei’rah v’aseh tov – Turn away from bad and do good.” Underscored in this Pasuk is an approach and attitude we are meant to embrace in life. Through focusing and busying ourselves with good deeds, we learn how to lead a positive life full of goodness. And, in truth, that is how we most effectively turn away from bad. The overabundance of good steers us away from the bad. By immersing ourselves in good, we redirect ourselves away from that which we ought to avoid and miss “colliding into the wall.” And that, just like the race car driver, is what will ensure us a happy and healthy life.

Mrs. Malkey Wallerstein
Can You Help Me?

Q: What is the best way for a woman to approach her husband in asking for help around the house and with the kids?

A: That is a very important question, but let us take a step back. Although it may be the responsibility of a wife to take care of the home and children, that does not preclude the husband from helping her. The story is told of a man who came to the Steipler Gaon with a complaint. “Every Friday afternoon I come home and see the house in complete disarray! I cannot deal with it anymore! What should I do?” The Steipler looked back at the man and said, “Pick up a broom!” There is no excuse for a man not giving his wife a hand around the house.

Now, there may be husbands who do not like doing housework and will say, “I was not brought up to clean the house!” But, when that is the case, I always turn to Rebbetzin Zahava Braunstein’s famous line, “Eat tuna fish and have a maid.” It is very important that the house run well and that is a woman’s obligation. But what happens if the husband does not want to help? Then “cut corners.” If managing everything yourself is overwhelming, don’t bake or cook as much and use paper plates. And if you are a mother raising sons, make sure you train them and educate them well to help around the house.

When your husband does help around the house, though, try not to be overly critical. If whenever he gives you a hand, you tell him, “No, you are not doing it right! You need to hold it like this and that…” he will be discouraged. At first, let him do it his way, and eventually over time he will find a way to make it work to your satisfaction.

Rav Shlomo Wolbe writes in his choveret to kallahs that it is important for a girl to understand where a boy is coming from. For many boys, throughout a significant portion of their youth, they grow up in dormitories. Oftentimes, they leave home early and remain living in the precincts of a yeshiva. That being so, he doesn’t necessarily gain the full experience and exposure of living in a regular home. If he leaves his socks on the floor or doesn’t make his bed, having the Mashgiach walk around once in a while and remind him to clean his room will not make him a different person.

It is important to keep this in mind. If soon after you get married, you find his socks on the floor, don’t think he is treating you like a slave. He is simply treating his house like a dormitory. That doesn’t excuse him for being a slob, but does explain why there is little reason to believe he doesn’t care about you when he leaves a mess over.

So what can you do in such a situation? How can you politely and nicely convince your husband to be conscientious of your feelings and needs and offer to help? Sit down with him and say, “Listen, for me to run the house, I could use a hand with A, B and C. I know you are tired, but if we do this together, it will go 1-2-3.” And then together, for example, wash and put away the dishes. If he says, “Washing the dishes is not for me, but I can go grocery shopping for you,” then let him do that. It is important that you let him do what is comfortable for him. If he then goes grocery shopping, that will free you up so you can wash the dishes. Try asking him what he would be comfortable helping you with and let him take care of that.

In short, although it may be primarily the wife who runs the house and takes care of the kids, a husband should most certainly help his wife. And one good way of enabling this to happen is finding out what he would like to do most and taking him up on his offer.

A Short Message From
Rabbi Gil Freiman

I once went on a tour observing the process of excavating and polishing diamonds. Interestingly, the diamond begins as a black and dirty rock pulled out of the ground. It is only after refining and polishing that it shines with beauty. I then realized that just as you must look at the drab rock and see its potential to become a diamond, so too with every person. You must look closely and perceive their potential, and then you will certainly see something special.

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