TorahAnytimes Newsletter Naso
Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik
"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter
Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik
Rabbi Avi Kosman
יאר ד' פניו אליך ויחנך
May Hashem illuminate His countenance for you and be gracious to you (Bamidbar 6:25)
For one large, yet poor family living in Israel, it was a struggle to make ends meet. Yet, despite the small one and a half room apartment and other limited amenities, the family remained happy. As time passed, though, and the family members continued growing up, the parents felt that there would be no choice other than to expand their apartment by adding on another room. And so, they proceeded with the project. But it wasn’t too long before they were met with distressing news: they would have to demolish their new room as it was built without licensed permission.
Disheartened at the news and unsure what the future would hold, the parents approached their Rav, Rav Shmuel Feldman, head rabbi of the shul Heichel Meir in Tel Aviv. Rav Feldman told them that he would see what he could do to help. He was in fact related to the mayor of Tel Aviv, Yehoshua Rabinowitz, who would perhaps be able to prevent the demolition.
Returning back to the parents shortly thereafter, Rav Feldman looked disappointed. “I am sorry,” he said, “but although the mayor could legally waive the violation and allow you to keep the room intact, he would rather keep to the city’s regulations and not make any special considerations.” With nothing left to say, the parents returned home sorely distressed.
A week later, Benzion Feldman, son of Rav Shmuel Feldman, was approached by the parents. “Benzion,” they said, “maybe you can help us. We built an extra room in our house because we desperately needed the space. It however is set to be demolished very soon. Your father already tried asking your relative, the mayor, to help us, but it was to no avail. Do you think you could assist us in any way?” After thinking about it for a moment, Benzion replied, “Let me see what I can do.”
A few days passed until it was Shabbos. As was the case, the mayor, Yehoshua Rabinowitz, used to take his dog for a walk every Shabbos morning as droves of religious Jews would make their way to shul. Despite not being religious, Yehoshua Rabinowitz though was a knowledgeable man. He had years before attended the Telz Yeshiva in Lithuania, although he had later come to Israel and given up on Judaism. Notwithstanding, he respected the erudition of young yeshiva students who dedicated their time and efforts to learning Torah. And so, when he saw his young relative, Benzion Feldman, who he knew was taking great strides in his Judaic studies, he perked up.
“Oh, Benzion, how are you doing?” the mayor asked. “I am doing fine,” replied Benzion. “I haven’t seen you in quite a while,” continued the mayor, “is there anything I can help you with?” “As a matter of fact,” began Benzion, “although I do not normally make requests of you, now I have a favor to ask of you. There is a family who has been told that they must demolish a room they added to their apartment.” Hearing the first few words of Benzion, the mayor immediately interjected. “You can stop right there. I already know the story; your father came to me with the same request. I am very sorry, but I cannot help you with regards to this.” Listening to the unequivocal response, young Benzion stood there.
And then Benzion began to plead. “But you must help this family! They don’t have enough room for their family to fit!” Listening to Benzion’s sincere request, the mayor’s heart went out for the family. After thinking for a minute, the mayor capitulated. “Okay, let me see what I can to help the family.” Benzion’s face immediately brightened up. “But,” continued the mayor, “if I choose to do so, I would like to add one condition. Please do a favor for me in return. I haven’t learned Torah in many years and I have been out of touch with Judaism. But, if you could, please learn Torah for an extra fifteen minutes a day in my merit.”
Benzion stood their quietly. “Okay, I agree to do so. But if you are going to make a condition with me, I would like to make a condition with you. I will learn for an extra fifteen minutes a day if you observe Shabbos every week for fifteen minutes.”
Now it was the mayor’s turn to respond. “I would like to keep Shabbos, but I don’t think I will be able to do that! I smoke, and besides I am a very busy person.” “A deal is a deal,” said Benzion. “I will learn for you if you keep Shabbos for fifteen minutes.” Figuring that such a condition would not easily be changed, the mayor came up with an idea. “I’ll tell you what. I’ll wake up at 6:45 am instead of 6:30 as I do every morning, and during that time I am sleeping, I will be keeping Shabbos for fifteen extra minutes.” “I am sorry,” said Benzion, “but you have to be awake while you keep your side of the deal.”
With no other option in mind, the mayor finally relented. “Okay. I will remain awake and not violate Shabbos every week for fifteen minutes if you learn for me for fifteen minutes every day. But on one condition: I want you to learn a special Mesechta (Talmudic Tractate) in my merit. I want you to learn Mesechta Shabbos. If I keep Shabbos, I want you to learn about Shabbos for me.” “You have a deal,” said Benzion. And with that they shook hands.
The extra room that the poor family had added on was never demolished. The mayor fulfilled his commitment and received in return the merit of Mesechta Shabbos being learnt every day for him. And indeed, the next time Mayor Yehoshua Rabinowitz met the Chief Rabbi of Israel of the time, he proudly said, “I want you to know that I observe Shabbos for fifteen minutes every week just like you.”
Every Jew has a connection to Yiddishkeit. For some, it may be more apparent and for others less apparent. But we all deep down have a beautiful neshama which yearns to connect to our Father on some level. In this case, the mayor demonstrated that within the depths of his soul, he valued learning Torah and the observance of Shabbos. And indeed, every little stride taken in Yiddishkeit is greatly endeared by Hashem. Yes, even fifteen minutes.
Rabbi YY Jacobson
One Friday afternoon, following the Vietnam War, an American boy who had served on the front lines called his father living in San Francisco, California. “Dad,” the boy said catching his breath, “I am coming home this Monday. I will see you soon.” As anyone could imagine, the boy’s father was overjoyed to hear the news. The father hadn’t seen his son since the start of the war and was aware that perhaps that would be the last time, but now that would all change. He would finally return home.
“But Dad,” added the boy, “I have just one thing to share with you. In my platoon, there is another boy who I befriended and became very close to. We accompanied each other through the thicket of battle, and stood by each other’s side throughout it all. Unfortunately, he stepped on a mine and lost both of his legs and an arm. He was left immobile and unable to continue fighting. As of now, he has no family and nobody who can take him in. I would therefore like to bring him home. I will be able to take care of him and provide him with the love and nurturing care he would otherwise have received from his own family. He needs the warmth of a home. And trust me Daddy, his personality is extraordinary. You will love him.”
After the father carefully listened to his son’s request, he thought for a moment. And then he said, “I understand what you are saying, but our home is not really made for such a boy. He served the country, and the government will take responsibility for him. They will find a home for him where all his needs will be taken care of. You of course can visit him, but our house is not a place for him to live.” The son remained silent for a moment, after which he reiterated, “Daddy, I promise that you and mom will fall in love with him.”
But the father wouldn’t hear of it. “My son, I’ll be honest with. If you bring this boy home, we will act nicely to him and treat him with respect. But deep down, he is not going to feel like our son. We are going to resent having to deal with him and care for all his needs. He is going to be a burden and take away from our serenity. Let’s not start that relationship. I would suggest that you find another home for him.”
Upon hearing his father’s decision, the son politely said that he understood and bid him goodbye.
Sunday night. The phone rang in the house of the father and mother. It was the police. “Sir, a young soldier who just returned from Vietnam took his life the other day. His body is currently residing in the morgue. They need someone to identify him. It seems that he is family.”
Without delay, the father rushed to the morgue. As soon as he arrived, the police admitted him into the room where the body was held, and removed the sheet covering the boy. And then the father saw.
There laid his son – missing an arm and both his legs.
And then the father realized. His son’s “best friend” was not his best friend; it was his own very son. The “boy” his son wished to bring home was none other than himself.
Our Sages teach, “Do not judge a person until you arrive in his place.” Yet the Sfas Emes adds just a few more words, “And to his place you will never arrive.” We will never be able to understand the full scope of another person’s world and what they are experiencing. But what we can do is be ready to accept the person for who they are. Love is not about loving our version of our child, spouse or friend; it is about loving them exactly the way they are. And when we do so, we can begin to hope that we will all develop into wholesome and beloved individuals. We will be proud to lead lives in our own unique way and flourish as beautiful children of Hashem exactly the way He created us.
Rabbi Dovid Orlofsky
As I was once speaking to someone who attends the same shul as I do, he told me that he once heard a particularly moving speech from Rav Simcha Kook z”l, Rav of Rechovot. Rav Kook mentioned how he had heard the Ponovezher Rav relate the following personal story:
During my years spent in Europe, I was hired to learn with a certain boy who was very weak in his learning. As I began studying with him, I could see that he was struggling to make any significant progress, and I felt that my time was not being used most judiciously. I then made up my mind that the next day I would tell him that I would no longer learn with him.
Later that evening, as I stood in the Ezrat Nashim (women’s section), I heard someone crying. Looking down, I saw that it was this very boy I would learn this. He was holding onto the Aron Kodesh and crying, “Hashem, I want to learn your Torah!” When I heard this, I said to myself, “If he has such conviction and resolve to learn despite his weaknesses, I am going to stick with him.”
“Let me tell you about this boy,” concluded the Ponovezher Rav. “He went onto become one of the most respected Torah giants of history whose insights we study to this very day.”
As Rav Kook related this incident which he had directly heard from the Ponovezher Rav, he continued to relate what he did immediately following the speech:
“Eagerly curious to find out the name of this boy, I followed the Ponovezher Rav all the way to his house. But he refused to tell me his name. But I was persistent. Walking up to his door, as he was about to close it, I stuck my foot inside. “Rebbe,” I said, “I will not let this door close until you tell me who that boy was.” Hesitantly, he told me his name. And I can vouch that he grew up to become a venerable Torah sage whose revered words we study to this very day.
“And then there I was,” said my friend to me in Shul. Rav Kook did not reveal who this boy was, but I was also especially intrigued to discover his name. And so, I literally and figuratively followed in Rav Kook’s footsteps. Walking behind him all the way to his house, I continuously asked him, “Rebbe what was the name of this boy?” But he likewise refused to divulge who this illustrious sage was. And so, I did the same as Rav Kook himself had done. I stuck my foot in the door and said, “I will not leave until you tell me who it is.” “I am sorry,” said Rav Kook, “but the Ponovezher Rav told it only to me and I cannot tell you.” “No,” I adamantly said, “the same way he told you, you tell me.”
He finally agreed to tell me.
Now it was my turn. And so, I asked the man who this mysterious figure was. Fortunately, I got away without sticking my foot in any door. It was Rav Elchanan Wasserman hy”d, famed student of the Chofetz Chaim and author of numerous works whose words echo to this day in every beit midrash around the world.
Sometimes we convince ourselves, “I cannot learn.” But we mustn’t ever feel that way. Each and every one of us holds the potential to rise to the occasion and become the greatest we can become. Torah has the power of propelling us to the loftiest of heights and opening new doors which we never knew existed. And when that occurs, we no longer need to place our foot in the door, because this time, it stays wide open.
A Short Message From
I once heard a beautiful and profound line, “A siddur that is falling apart belongs to someone who isn’t.” A siddur which is worn out and has clearly been used countless times belongs to the individual who isn’t falling apart in life, but rather constantly places his trust in Hashem and is firmly confident that He will help him throughout all of life’s vicissitudes. Such a siddur stained with tears and wear and tear is testimony to a person which has deep-seated bitachon that His Father in Heaven will hear his prayers.
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