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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Ki Tisa

Parshat Ki Tisa

Compiled and Edited by Rubin Kolyakov


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter    Print Version

Parashat Ki Tisa
20th of Adar, 5777 | March 18, 2017

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Benzion Klatzko
The Painting

לחשב מחשבת לעשות בזהב ובכסף ובנחשת

To weave designs, to work with gold, silver and copper (Shemot 31:4)

It was during the 1930s in the small Polish town of Kazimierz that Shaul Goldberg lived with his family. Life was simple, with Shaul working as a cobbler making shoes and working out of the corner of his home. But as time passed, the Goldberg family grew steadily. Having one daughter after another, after several years, the Goldberg family had grown to eight girls and a boy, named Chaim. Yet despite the large family and tight living quarters, the family was content with all that they had.

Walking through Kazimierz one day was a man by the name of Saul Steinberg. Saul was now traveling from one European shtetl to another and documenting what he saw, with the intent of eventually writing a book about life in the shtetls. His travels had now brought him to Kazimierz, whereupon needing some shoe repair, he was directed to Shaul Goldberg.

Upon arriving at the Goldberg residence and handing in his shoes for repair, Saul took a seat in the dining room. And then he began to stare. Hung up all around the house were magnificent paintings. “Who made these?” asked Saul. “My eleven-year-old son, Chaim,” replied Shaul Goldberg. Saul could not believe it. “Your eleven-year-old son drew these? They’re absolutely amazing! I must meet your son!”

Chaim, at the moment, was away painting someone’s house. “He will be here later today,” said Shaul Goldberg. “If you stay around, you may be able to see him.” Sure enough, Saul was so impressed that he decided to stick around.

When Chaim returned later that day, he was warmly met by Saul. “Hi, my name is Saul Steinberg. Chaim, I must say that you are very talented. I have never met a young boy with such skill as you have.” For the next few hours, Chaim went on to show Saul the many works of art he had made over the years, leaving him even more impressed.

“Chaim,” said Saul, “I have an idea. I don’t think you should remain in Kazimierz. You are so talented and you would be able to hone your talent even more if you were brought to the great art schools in Vienna. There you will develop into one of the greatest artists of all time.” While Chaim was flattered, he was hesitant. “I do not think my father will want me to go,” he said. “He will likely wish for me to remain here in Kazimierz.” But Saul saw too much talent in Chaim, which he felt would go to waste were he to stay put. “I will talk to your father,” Saul said.

Approaching Shaul Goldberg, Saul Steinberg explained how he felt. “I can bring your son to the most prestigious of art schools where he could become a world-renowned painter. He has tremendous potential.” At the time, Shaul was unaware of the influences of Haskalah thought and practice, and never considered that sending his son away would perhaps jeopardize his commitment to a Torah life. All he knew was that Saul Steinberg was willing to take his son to learn art and make a comfortable life for himself. And so, he acquiesced, and off Chaim went.

As soon as Saul and Chaim arrived in Vienna, they headed to the local high school for gifted children. Approaching the head of the school, Saul explained how Chaim was uniquely talented and would thrive in such an environment. But after taking one look at Chaim, the administrator had his qualms. Chaim did not look exactly like the gifted type. Yet, once he was put to the test to see what he could paint within just a few minutes, his outstanding talent became apparent. Right there and then, Chaim received a full scholarship to the school, which only helped further perfect his artistic skills.

Meanwhile, Saul took a number of Chaim’s beautiful paintings and traveled to France to meet Marc Chagall, one of the most renowned Jewish artists. Chagall, after looking through the many paintings of young Chaim Goldberg, was awestruck. “Who made these paintings!” he exclaimed. “I must meet him!” After being told that the namesake was none other than an eleven-year-old boy, Chagall was beside himself. On the spot, Chagall purchased dozens of Chaim Goldberg’s paintings, sure that one day he would gain acclaim and make his paintings classic invaluable memorabilia.

Chaim eventually enrolled in a university for top artists, after which he wound up in Siberia during the war where he met his wife. Today, Chaim Goldberg’s paintings are on display in some of the largest and most esteemed exhibits, including the Met, Haggin and Louvre. He is known as the greatest shtetl artist, after many of his paintings which nostalgically recaptured life in the shtetl.

Five years ago, I received a phone call on Hoshanah Rabbah. “Hello, my name is Shalom Goldberg, son of the late Chaim Goldberg. I understand that you own one of my father’s paintings?” “Yes, I do,” I said. “If it is possible, would I be able to stop by and take a look at it? A book is being published about my father, and my wife and I who are driving right now from New York to Florida would like to see what you have.” “That’s fine,” I said to Shalom. “You’re welcome to stop by.”

Sure enough, a little while later, in walked Shalom Goldberg followed by his wife. After speaking to them for some time, I asked if they would like to shake the Lulav and Esrog. Although they hesitated, they eventually agreed to do so. I then asked if they would like to join our Hoshanah Rabbah meal, to which Shalom only acceded after the cajoling of his wife.

Of course, they both enjoyed the sumptuous meal and in hindsight were glad to have stayed around. They then headed to my neighbor’s home who was known to be an art collector, and spent the next few hours marveling in his large assortment of paintings. By then, it was nearing time for Yom Tov, when I heard a knock on my door. It was Shalom and his wife once again. They just wanted to stop by and thank me again before they headed off.

“You know,” I said to them, “tonight is Shemini Atzeres and we are planning to have a Yom Tov meal. My family has prepared a delicious meal and you are welcome to stay.” Although Shalom hesitated to do so, his wife for the second time prevailed upon him to accept the invitation.

It was fabulous. Between the delicious food, divrei Torah, singing and conversation, everyone had a great time. After the meal, I began singing old-time Jewish and Yiddish songs which I thought Shalom may be familiar with. And in fact, he was. From there, we all broke out in a lively dance around the table. The energy and enthusiasm in my home was beyond anything Shalom could ever imagine. “The shtetl is not dead!” Shalom remarked to me. “No, it’s not,” I said, “it just moved to Monsey!”

By the time we all finished, it was 11:30 at night. I had in mind that I would try to convince Shalom and his wife to stay at my house overnight, although I had my doubts that they would accept the offer. I knew they were on their way to Florida, and had not included as part of their itinerary spending a night in Monsey. But I gave it a try.

“Shalom,” I said, “I have an empty room in my house. It’s pretty late now. If you would like, you are more than welcome to stay here.” While Shalom insisted that they get going, I did my best to encourage him to stay. “If you start driving, you’ll have to stop off in a hotel in a short while anyway. Why don’t you just stay here?” Shalom was still apologetic that they really needed to leave, until his wife convinced him otherwise. “Let’s just stay here. We’ll have to stop off somewhere soon, and it would be better just to remain put.” I smiled and nodded.

The next day, I held a minyan for Shacharis in my home. Although I didn’t wake Shalom up to join the davening, as it neared time for Yizkor, my mind began to race. “Maybe,” I thought to myself, “Shalom would like to recite Yizkor for his father, Chaim.” And so, I asked the chazzan to wait just a moment while I went upstairs and asked Shalom. “Shalom,” I said, “we are about to say Yizkor in memory of all those who passed away. Would you like to join and say Yizkor for your father?” Shalom paused for a moment, and then shook his head in acknowledgement. “I actually would. If you wouldn’t mind waiting, I will be down in just a minute.”

A few minutes later, out walked Shalom. After helping him place a Tallis over himself, I left the room glancing back over my shoulder to see how he was doing. When I reentered just a few minutes later, Shalom’s eyes were flooded with tears. “Rabbi,” he said, “I cannot explain it, but I feel that G-d wanted me to be here today and so did my father. He wanted me to experience this wonderful holiday, dancing, singing and praying, and I did just that. I feel that G-d and my father guided me here.” Smiling, I told Shalom to follow me to the stairway.

As we both stood on the balcony overlooking the wind of stairs, I pointed to the picture his father had painted and which hung in my house.

The painting was that of Simchas Torah in Kazimierz. It was a picture of young children and rabbanim gathered together and dancing around the Torah. I could only hear Shalom’s words ringing in my ears: “I feel that G-d and my father guided me here.” How right he was. It was now the day before Simchas Torah, and Shalom was just about reliving that same image his father had painted many years before.

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis a”h
Reaching Beyond

'לתת את תרומת ד

To give the portion of Hashem (Shemot 30:15)

When I initially started the Hineni Movement over forty years ago and looked to return Jews back to their roots, I had no following. I was looking to make use of the Theater at Madison Square Garden, something for which I needed financial aid, but I didn’t know if I could do it. My father and husband however told me, “Go for it and Hashem will help you.”

I was then told that there is a gentleman by the name of Joe Wall who would pick up the tab and give me a blank check. “Do you know him?” I asked the person telling me this. “No, I don’t.” “Who will then introduce me to him?” I asked. “I don’t know,” came the reply. “Well, how will I ever get an appointment with him?” “I don’t know,” was the answer again.

Telling this to my parents and husband, they nevertheless encouraged me. “Here is a door of opportunity; give it a try.” Eventually obtaining Joe Wall’s phone number, I figured that I would call him. I was certain, though, that I would only get as far as the secretary or housekeeper. I would then be told that they could not get me through to him and that would be the end of my hopes.

But Joe Wall answered the phone.

“Mr. Wall, I would like to see you; I have something urgent to discuss.” “Come over!” he enthusiastically said. As I heard this reply, I couldn’t believe my ears. Just getting in touch with him was beyond my expectation.

Telling him that we must spiritually awaken the Jewish people and prevent assimilation, I explained how he could help. “I would like to use Madison Square Garden as the forum for people to be given a Torah education. I don’t, however, want to charge for others to come and learn. It would therefore be very helpful if you could financially help this cause.”

Looking back at me, Joe shouted for his wife, Robbie, to come over.

“Listen to this story,” he said. After making me repeat my story, his wife had something to say. “Joe, if you don’t go and give her a blank check, I will go to the safe, take out my jewelry and give it to her.”

Nothing should ever hold us back from reaching out and striving to achieve that which appears to be unattainable. Who would have expected a simple phone call to carry such magnanimous repercussions? But then again, when Hashem sees our sincere efforts, nothing is impossible.

Rabbi Hanoch Teller
A Perfect Job

כי מצאת חן בעיני

For you have found favor in My eyes (Shemot 33:17)

Yosel Chapnick, a close friend of mine, once had a non-Jewish painter enter his apartment to begin a paint job. As they together began taking the pictures off the wall, the painter noticed that one of the pictures was a blow up of the Bobover Rebbe. “Is this your rabbi?” asked the painter. “No, he’s not,” answered Yosel. “Why isn’t he your rabbi?” the painter asked again. “He’s just isn’t my rabbi.” “But why isn’t he your rabbi?” came the question again. “He just isn’t. C’mon, let’s get on with the job.” Yet the man was looking for an answer. “But why isn’t he your rabbi?” “Can we please move on with the job!” Yosel politely said. “There are so many rabbis with beards and peyos.”

“He’s my rabbi,” said the painter. Opening his wallet, he took out a photograph of the Bobover Rebbe. “I’ll tell you what happened. One morning while I was painting the Rebbe’s house, he came over to me and said, ‘Did you have breakfast?’ I replied that I hadn’t. The Rebbe proceeded to sit me down, give me food and wait on me. ‘I want to tell you something,’ the Rebbe said.

“I was thinking to myself,” the painter continued, “that I knew exactly what he was going to say. I had heard it a million times. ‘I pay you good money; I want a perfect job.’ But he didn’t say that. He told me, ‘We once had the Beis Hamikdash and a world of perfection. Everything was the way it was supposed to be. But ever since it was destroyed, we have never had that world of perfection. I therefore cannot ask you to do a perfect job, but I would like you to try your hardest.’

“Let me tell you something,” the painter now said as he held the picture of the Bobover Rebbe. “The Rebbe gave me the names of hundreds of other people to work for, but no one else ever offered me breakfast. They all said to me, ‘I’m paying you good money; I want a perfect job.’ But I say to them, ‘You want a perfect job? There’s no Temple. How can you want a perfect job?’”

No one in this world is perfect nor is supposed to be perfect. But that itself is the greatest perfection. We are all to be embraced and cared for exactly the way we are. And when such an attitude is adopted, we are on our way to rebuilding the true world of perfection – a world with the Beis Hamikdash.

A Short Message From
Mrs. Joanne Dove

Mrs. Sara Yocheved Rigler once commented, “What you have is what you need, and what you need is what you have.” This not only refers to material possessions, though, but to our daily challenges as well. All the ups and downs we experience are precisely intended for us to grow into stronger and better people. How though can we adopt such a life attitude? Through realizing that everything we undergo is sent to us by Hashem. The parking spot which was taken by someone else and the grocery list we forgot at home are opportunities which put our character to the test. All that we must do is maintain our focus and recognize that if we do our best, we can and will pass the test.

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