Skip to content


TorahAnytimes Newsletter Shemini

Parshat Shemini

Compiled and Edited by Rubin Kolyakov


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter    Print Version

Parashat Shemini
26th of Nissan, 5777 | April 22, 2017

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Paysach Krohn
The Perfect Name

זה הדבר אשר צוה ד' תעשו

This is the matter that Hashem has commanded you to do (Vayikra 9:6)

For one rabbi teaching in a yeshiva, life was going well both at home and at work. And to the rabbi’s greater delight, his wife was expecting another child. However, as she headed to the obstetrician during her pregnancy for a routine checkup, she was informed of news which would drastically change her life and the life of her entire family. “I have to speak to you and your husband,” said the doctor. Hearing this, the wife already knew that unfortunate news was awaiting them.

“I am very sorry to tell you, but the tests show that your child will have spinal bifida. It is a terrible disease that affects the spine and in the worst-case scenario forces the child to remain in a wheelchair his whole life.” Heartbroken by the news, the rabbi and his wife supported each other during this time of distress. More tests were subsequently performed, but every test was more conclusive than the one before.

Sure enough, when the baby was born, it was noticed right away that it had contracted this debilitating disease. While the bris milah was postponed for the meantime, one of the questions remaining in the back of the parents’ minds was what to name the child. The rabbi remembered hearing in the name of Rav Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky (the Steipler Gaon) that when one has a child who is challenged, the parents should name the child Baruch or Bracha, meaning blessing. The hope would be that Hashem bless the child.

However, the rabbi and his wife had a slight problem. They already had a daughter named Bracha. Phoning his Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky shlita in Philadelphia, the rabbi was told that the child should nevertheless be named Baruch. “I know you are not thrilled to use the name,” Rav Shmuel said, “but that is what the Steipler advised.” And indeed, it was decided that in compliance with the suggestion of the Rosh Yeshiva, they would name the baby Baruch.

A few weeks later, as the father entered shul one Friday afternoon, he took a seat. Opening the first sefer he noticed, he found himself reading through the commentary of Rav Samson Rafael Hirsch on that week’s Parsha, Shelach, which discusses how twelve spies were sent to scout out the Land of Israel. Rav Hirsch there discusses why out of all the twelve spies, we find Moshe Rabbeinu changing the name of Yehoshua and praying that he be saved from the negative scheme of the other spies. Rav Hirsch explains that Moshe wished for Yehoshua to serve as a model and inspiration to everyone else, and therefore especially prayed on his behalf.

Reading this idea from Rav Hirsch, the husband decided that he would ask his wife if they could name the baby Yehoshua. “Our son,” he said, “will be the poster boy for every challenged Jewish child. Every parent will see how we raised this child and how happy he is. He will serve as a role model for other challenged children.” Hearing this idea from her husband, the wife liked what she heard.

Two nights before the bris, the husband received a phone call from his father. “I haven’t mentioned to you yet, but I think you should name the baby after Uncle Bernie. He passed away just a couple of months ago, and no one has yet been named after him. He was a very kind-hearted man who always cared for others. Even though you were never close to him, I think it would be appropriate to name your son after him.” Thinking for a moment, the husband asked, “What was his name?” “Yehoshua Baruch,” replied the father.

And so it was – Yehoshua Baruch. The perfect name.

Yehoshua Baruch is one very happy boy. Making his way around in his wheelchair, without question, he is a role model and source of inspiration to all those he encounters.

Even amidst the most trying of circumstances, Hashem oftentimes shows us a smile. In a subtle manner, He hints that He is there watching over us and has not abandoned us. Nothing that ever happens is coincidental and random; there is rhyme and reason to everything. And when we see that silver lining in the clouds, we are meant to reflect for a moment and remember, “I am never alone in the world. No matter what happens to me, my Father is standing by my side.”

Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein
A Closer Look

A number of years ago, two salesmen were sent by U.S. Shoe Corporation to Africa to see if there would be a market for selling shoes. Arriving in Africa and seeing what opportunities were available, after one week, one of the businessman returned to America. Approaching the President of the company, he said, “We are not going to make any profit in Africa. Few people wear shoes there. Our company would be of no use to them.”

Hearing of the unpromising future for their product of shoes in Africa, the President took the man’s word for it. Yet the second salesman did not return so quickly. One week went by, then two weeks, and finally three weeks. One month later, he sent an email to the President of U.S. Shoe saying, “Immediately, I need 10,000 pairs of shoes. We must as well build dozens of chain stores of our shoes across Africa. You are not going to believe it! Nobody in Africa has shoes. What an opportunity!”

Two people can look at the same picture – the people in Africa have no shoes – yet they see a completely different picture. One person responds, “If nobody has shoes, to whom are we going to sell our product?” Yet the other man says, “Nobody has shoes! What an opportunity!”

And indeed, U.S. Shoe was the first company to sign a contract and become the biggest exporter of shoes to the country. That is what taking a closer look in life accomplishes. With one look, little or no action is taken, and there appears to be no market to break into. But then comes the second, deeper look, and you say, “Here’s a wonderful opportunity!”

It is the second look in life which will change the lives of our families, friends and communities. And yes, even the world.

Rabbi Moshe Tuvia Lieff
Who Won the Superbowl?

As a student learning in the yeshiva of Brisk under Rav Dovid Soloveitchik once made his way to the Kosel, his eye caught attention of a man fervently shaking next to the wall. The boy was particularly intrigued by the man’s passion, although he appeared to have little connection to Judaism. The man must be ardently praying for something very important, figured the boy. Watching him take out a piece of paper, scribble something on it and place it into the wall, the boy stood there captivated. The man then walked away from the Kosel and began making his way toward the bus station.

Within minutes, however, the paper the man had placed in the Wall fell out. As the yeshiva bachur who was still standing in the area noticed this happen, he walked over to where the paper lay on the ground. Looking a bit closer, he saw that the man had written, “Dear G-d, I am in Israel cut off from my support system. But I would like to know who won the Superbowl.”

As the yeshiva bachur read these heartfelt words of the man, he phoned a friend in America who was up to date with the latest news. And indeed, he received the information he was looking for. The Seattle Seahawks had won the game.

Excited that he had gotten word of the final score, the yeshiva bachur knew where he needed to now go. Racing over to the bus stop, he was happy to see that the man was still around. Introducing himself to the man, not before long, they were friendly talking with one another. And then came the question that was on the man’s mind front and center.

“Would you happen to know who won the Superbowl?” “I actually do,” said the yeshiva bachur; “the Seattle Seahawks.” “Oh, thank you so much!” What the gentleman had been longing to hear, he finally did. His prayers for the Seahawks to win had been answered.

But before the yeshiva bachur put behind himself this incident, he had one more stop to make: his Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Dovid Soloveichik. Relaying what had transpired between this man and himself, Rav Dovid listened closely. And then he began to cry. Explaining the reason for his reaction, he said, “How often do we daven like that? This man’s tefillos (prayers) were answered within minutes because he expressed himself from the depths of his heart.”

While we may sometimes feel that we should only unload our major troubles and issues before Hashem and deal with seemingly petty matters ourselves, that is not necessarily true. Hashem is our beloved Father in Heaven with Whom we are to feel an indescribable personal closeness and connection. For every need, request and problem we have, Hashem is there at our side. If something is important to us and we genuinely call out to Him, we need not be surprised when we receive a response. And sometimes, the response can be as fast as a paper falling out of a wall.

Rebbetzin Tzipora Harris
A Redeeming Vision

As the Jewish people were readying to leave Egypt, the Jewish women were not preparing food or provisions for the long trek. They were instead gathering musical instruments together. Chazal explain that this was done because the women were firmly confident that they would experience salvation and have reason to celebrate. While they may not have known how their redemption would exactly come about, they were convinced that Hashem would save them.

Freedom is not merely determined by changing geographical location. It is rather seeing beyond what is in front of you and unrestrainedly pursuing your life’s purpose. In the process of liberating us, Hashem clearly demonstrated who He was, who we were and who He was to us. In Egypt, we learned that He is all-powerful and that we are an exalted nation with an incredible mission to accomplish. We then finally learned that He is not a distant Creator who pays no attention us, but to the contrary, He is our loving Father who always has our best interests in mind and will take us wherever in life we need to go.

Although we may be unaware of the place Hashem wishes to lead us, we must nevertheless stay confident that it is for our best. And in order for us to reach our potential, we must often set aside our own personal idealistic plans and reasonably accept Hashem’s overarching plans for us.

For one forty-seven-year-old accomplished lawyer who considered marrying a man she had been seeing for quite a while, questions of uncertainty began to set in. She remained unsure if she could commit to marrying someone who, unlike herself, was without a degree. But he told her, “If you have a wish list for your prospective husband, I probably will not make it. If you are willing to put your list aside, however, I will do everything I can to make you happy.”

At that moment, she had the choice to decide what she would do with her future life. Would she put aside her idealistic agenda? Deciding that she would, she went on to happily marry the man.

It is our choice to sideline our personal visions and expectations and be open to accepting Hashem’s bigger plan for us in life. While matters may seem obscured and clouded, if we only choose to follow in the ways of our Jewish ancestors who determinedly knew that Hashem was paving their way of redemption, we too will experience a personal redemption in our own lives.

Rabbi Dovid Kaplan
Explosive Blessings

As the meal ended at the banquet of one kiruv organization and dessert was served, platters full of watermelon came out. Seated at this elegant banquet was a man who had taken significant strides in Judaism. After noticing the refreshing watermelon placed before him, he took one slice and recited the blessing, “Baruch atah Hashem Elokeinu Melech ha’olam she’hakol nihiye bidvaro.”

Sitting just next to him was one of the outreach rabbis. Realizing that the man had erred and made the blessing of she’hakol on the watermelon instead of the correct beracha of ha’adama, the rabbi politely informed him that although it is wonderful to make blessings, he had made a mistake. “I make she’hakol,” the man insisted. “And why is that so?” inquired the rabbi. “I’ll tell you why,” replied the man.

During the 1973 war in Israel, I was positioned in the Golan Heights with my platoon. As Syrian tanks surrounded us, we knew it was the end. We were hopeless. Looking to say some prayer, we all fell silent. None of us knew anything about Judaism. There was one soldier, however, who did know one thing: how to make the blessing of she’hakol. And so, he said aloud, “Baruch atah Hashem Elokeinu Melech ha’olam she’hakol nihiye bidvaro,” as did the rest of us after him. Just then, someone released a shot and blew up a Syrian tank. All we heard was “Baruch atah Hashem… she’hakol nihiye bidvaro” BOOM and down went the tank.

“Rabbi, if it’s good enough for Syrian tanks, it’s good enough for watermelon.”

Such is the power of a bracha. It truly is like an explosion as it reverberates in Heaven and brings down to the world an abundant flow of blessing.

A Short Message From
Mrs. Toba Schiffren

I once hosted a guest in my home who taught me such a beautiful practice that I have ever since been doing. Over the course of time, as many people do, she receives a number of letters from various organizations asking for tzedakah and financial support. Yet, despite not being able to help every cause, she still picks up each letter, and says a short tefillah to Hashem that He send that individual or family whatever they need.

This idea has been life-changing for my family and me. Situated next to my door is a stack of letters. Whenever anyone in my family has a few moments – even as they are walking out the door – they pick up a letter, give a beracha to the person in need and recite a few lines of Tehillim. The letter is then moved to an adjacent pile where all the letters which have already been looked at are placed.

This is something which takes just a few moments, yet lasts for eternity. With the smallest amount of care and concern, we can do no less than help our brothers and sisters around the world and bring comfort and relief to those in need.

Picture of newsletter
100% free

Subscribe to our Weekly Newsletter

Timely Torah insights, stories, and anecdotes from your favorite TorahAnytime speakers, delivered straight to your inbox every week.

Your email is safe with us. We don't spam.