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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Korach

Parshat Korach

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter   Print Version 

Parashat Korach
30th of Sivan, 5777 | June 24, 2017

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik            

Rabbi Yisroel Jungreis
Little Efforts, Large Results

וישמע משה ויפל על פניו

And Moshe heard and fell on his face (Bamidbar 16:4)

Some time ago a man approached me asking if I could help his daughter get into a certain graduate program. Although, at the moment, I had no idea how I could be of use, I replied that I would look into it and see what I could do. In retrospect, little did I know that my small efforts would be of tremendous help.

A month later, I was honored to speak at the banquet for my son’s school, during which I talked about the importance of being grateful as parents to the teachers of our children. One day the following week, after I concluded davening the afternoon Mincha prayers, a man walked over to me. “I just wanted to tell you, Rabbi Jungreis, that I really enjoyed your speech at the dinner the other week.” Thanking the gentleman I had never met before for his kind and complimentary remark, I was pleased to learn just exactly who he was.

He was none other than the dean of the graduate program the girl was trying to get into.

“If you could help me,” I excitedly told him, “I know a girl who has been trying to get into your school. Do you think you can do something for her?” My enthusiasm, unfortunately, was short-lived. “It’s impossible,” he said. “We receive thousands of applications and only accept a handful of students. However, if you would like, I can give you the phone number of one of the other head administrators, who may be able to figure something out for you. You never know, but you can try.”

Without hesitation, I politely asked if he could relay that information. I then began jotting down the name and number of the head administrator, only to pause in the middle and catch my breath. I knew who it was. She was a friend of my sister. Very happy to hear this, I immediately put in a call.

“This is Rabbi Jungreis,” I began, “you may remember me from many years ago. I am calling because there is a student of mine who has applied to your program and is really hoping to be accepted. Is there anything you can do to help her along in this process?” I hoped that I would meet greater success this time around with this administrator, and I was right.

“Rabbi Jungreis, I should tell you that we have received countless applications and the waitlist is already very long. However, the fact that you tell me this girl studies Torah and you are calling on her behalf, I am led to believe that she may be someone special we should consider for our program. We will plan on giving her an interview.” As I was told this, I wasn’t sure if I was hearing everything correctly, but indeed I was.

Emailing back the girl, I informed her of the progress I made and congratulated her on the upcoming interview she was soon to receive. She was of course thrilled and appreciative of all the effort I expended on her behalf. But one month and then two months and then three went by and she still never heard back from the school.

Until, one Monday night, when she attended my class and approached me. “Rabbi Jungreis,” she said, “guess what? I was accepted into the graduate program!” “And what do you have to say about all this?” I asked her. It was an entire two words. “Baruch Hashem,” she said. And she was right. That said it all.

Looking back at this incident, I remind myself of three important life lessons. For one, a person must never give up davening and placing his or her trust in Hashem that matters will work out and one’s dreams will come true. The circumstances may seem bleak and nil, yet there is nothing which is too hopeless or far off for Hashem to intervene.

Secondly, never stop studying Torah. As the head administrator rightfully recognized, the merit and value of Torah study is unparalleled. It not only bespeaks of our character and commitment to growth, but connects us to our life source of Hashem and spirituality.

And last, but not least, as Hillel teaches (Avos 1:14), we must always remind ourselves, “If not now, when?” When we are given the opportunity to extend ourselves and help another, we mustn’t push it off. We oftentimes doubt just how much we can accomplish with very little. If we have an idea or project we would like to accomplish, now is the best time to begin. If we haven’t spoken to our grandmother in a few days, now is the time to make plans to do so. Life offers us many opportunities, yet we must grab them before they pass and do not return. Seize the moment and make the most of it.

But that is not all. Sometimes, our efforts do more than help another get into a graduate program. They actually save someone’s life.

One friend of mine is known to be an extremely warm and congenial man. Going out of his way to be friendly to everyone he encounters, he makes a special effort to welcome guests and newcomers to the synagogue he attends. And in fact, on one occasion, his efforts did more than evoke a happy response in kind.

One Shabbos, as he took note of a man sitting in the back of the shul, he figured that he would go over and wish him a ‘Good Shabbos.’ The man was known to be reserved and not talk to many people, and it would certainly be a nice gesture to approach him and see how he was doing.

Walking over to the fellow, he wished him a ‘Good Shabbos’ and inquired as to how everything was going. The fellow, who remained seated, extended his left hand as if to shake, though my friend was visibly caught off guard by the unusual manner of greeting. “Is everything alright with your right hand?” my friend asked. “Well,” replied the gentleman, “I don’t think it’s a big deal, but I accidently cut it the other day and it has started to feel and look a little bit abnormal. But, I’m pretty sure it’s nothing, and it will go away within a few days.”

My friend, apprehensive that it was something more serious than a mere cut, called over another man in the shul who was a doctor. “What do you think about this hand?” he asked, prompting the man to extend it and allow the doctor to examine it. Without much hesitation, the doctor had his concerns. “I think you should go to the hospital now. I don’t like the way it looks.” Not wishing to brush aside the doctor’s advice and orders, the man left shul and headed for the hospital.

After arriving at the hospital and being attended to, the doctors rather quickly returned with the report. “Sir, you are a lucky man. If you would not have come in to the hospital today, you may have been endangering your life. Somehow, you got blood poisoning and your hand got infected. This could have progressed further and gotten more dangerous. But now, we can take care of it, and you will be fine.”

As my friend later reminded me, we can never know the far-reaching ramifications of simply greeting another person. It may not happen every week that wishing someone ‘Good Shabbos’ will save their life, but seeing it happen even once is more than enough. My friend was certainly glad that he approached that other gentlemen, and the gentleman will certainly be forever grateful for that one small gesture.

Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller
Simple Perfection

Simplicity in today’s world does not always sound too positive. If you would be asked to describe a person and respond, “He is simple,” it may not be the answer the other party is looking for. Yet, in Hebrew, the word for “simple” is “Tam,” as you may recall the “simple son” being named in the Haggadah read on Pesach. “Tam,” however, also means “perfect.” It refers to that which is pure and unadulterated. A simple person would then be one whose thought, deed and speech are on the same page. He is “Tam,” simple, perfect and wholesome.

Now let me tell you reverse, what a Tam does not look like.

On my home phone I have an answering machine. While I prefer having the caller be told in a kind way that no one is available and you’ve reached the “Hellers!” my children as teenagers did not. They preferred something entertaining and witty. And so, we had a cold war going on at home. I would erase their message and not talk about it and they would erase my message and not talk about it.

Once, however, after they left a particularly long-winded message which lasted two whole minutes and I erased, I got busy with something else. And, of course, when that happened, the little recorder in the telephone recorded what was going on in the house.

If you would have called my home during that time, you would have heard, “It costs money! Maybe if you worked, you would feel different!”

While no one is “perfect” in the colloquial sense of the word, the Jewish view of “perfection” is slightly different than we may have assumed and something we all can attain. A Tam is someone who does not speak one way to others and a different way to his family or friends behind closed doors. He or she is simply real and genuine inside and outside. That is something we ought to all strive for and look to master. And that, indeed, is true perfection.

Mrs. Joanne Dove
Minor Stresses, Major Crises

It was Friday afternoon, minutes before I was about to light the Shabbos candles. My husband was away in Israel, leaving me with a handful of young and energetic children. With all the children dressed except for one, I figured that I would dress him after I lit the candles, whereupon we would walk down the street and drop off the food I had cooked for the hundred-plus people who would be joining a communal Shabbos meal. But as I began lighting the candles, I heard a scream. I remained calm, although I froze, unsure what to make of it at the moment.

A few seconds later, I began to hear a real cry. Finishing off with lighting my candles, I headed upstairs to see what the source of commotion and distress was. And to my unanticipated surprise, my little angelic two-year-old son had tried to pull his shirt off above his head as opposed to unbuttoning it, which he was unsure how to do. Yet, as he quickly learned, that wasn’t the greatest idea, as in doing so, he managed to dislocate his shoulder and leave himself in uncomfortable pain.

I remained relaxed, knowing that there were plenty of doctors in the neighborhood which we could go to and ask for help. Yet, as matters worked out, the best thing my son could do for the meantime was take some medicine and try to relax. Only after Shabbos would we be able to visit a doctor who could slip the shoulder back into the socket.

As I assumed, Friday night wasn’t too peaceful. My son didn’t sleep much, which of course meant that I didn’t sleep much either. But I remained positive and poised, confident that everything would work out and he would recover. Aside from this, I knew that it wouldn’t help me to panic, as I was planning to host fourteen students for the Shabbos day meal, and I would only be able to put everything together if I was in the right frame of mind.

And so, there I stood the next morning, looking on at the set table, nicely arranged for our incoming guests. I still remained a bit worried about my little son, although he seemed to be feeling decent. Everything, thankfully, seemed to be under control. At least I thought so.

Within minutes, I overheard the commotion of two children yelling and playing, which was followed by a loud noise which sounded like something had fallen over and spilled. This time I really froze still in my place, almost wishing not to find out what had occurred. Slowly, I inched my way out of the kitchen, praying that everyone was alright. And then I saw.

A tub of paint had been knocked over and it was making its way down my carpeted stairs, staining them all along the way. I then flashbacked to the week before when I had painted, yet forgotten to take that tub and place it outside where it belonged. And now I was looking at my beautiful carpets all covered in paint. Yet, if this wasn’t enough, just twenty minutes later, a handful of students were expected to be at my door. All I could think about was how I was going to manage cleaning up the mess.

I remained silent, as I counted to three hundred and inhaled and exhaled deep breaths. Baruch Hashem, I didn’t lose myself and break down nervously and helplessly.

In looking back at this incident years later, I have often wondered, what was it that kept the calm? Where did I muster the inner resolve and resilience to avoid losing my temper and peace of mind?

Over the years, I have discovered that at a time when one could justifiably feel angry or frustrated, the mere presence of other people makes it easier to set aside the irritability and act calmly. We do not wish to lose our self-composure in the face of others, and we are thus led to monitor our emotional outbursts and impulsive reactions.

Yet, what if we are not surrounded by anyone else, and we simply find ourselves beset with a minor stress or major crisis? What tactic will help us hurdle the challenge and come out not only relaxed and stable, but resilient and stronger?

I once heard Rabbi Lawrence Kelemen make an interesting observation, which lends insight into finding our inner calm and tranquility. When a child is born, with its very first breath, it comes in touch with its neshama, its G-dly spirit, which was blown into its body. Every breath of air is reflective of the gift of life breathed into the child. Breathing thus serves as a trigger and reminder that contained within us is a G-dly spirit.

When we therefore face a stressful situation, it is not coincidental that taking deep breaths and maintaining an inner calm and equilibrium helps. Aside from the physiological benefits, it serves to remind us of our breath of life and G-dly spirit we have. In turn, we are led to recognize that Hashem has granted us the tools to control our inner emotions and thought processes. Never are we placed in a predicament or given a challenge we cannot overcome or where we lack the inner strength to regulate our actions and reactions. The key is to take a moment to pause and reflect upon this thought, ingraining within ourselves that we can handle the distress we are facing, and positively put ourselves together and pull through. That is a major key to facing both minor and major difficult situations.

As it turned out, after returning from the hospital later that Saturday night, I found a few young men scrubbing my carpets in earnest attempt to clean up the paint. Thankfully, I felt quite fine. I told myself that either our carpets will be left with a paint stain or our insurance will replace them, something though which I didn’t anticipate. But, Hashem had His plan in mind, and sure enough, I later received a call from our insurance company, reassuring us that they would cover the cost to replace the carpets.

As I look back at this seeming overwhelming and tense situation, I consider it to have been an opportunity for significant growth. Not only was I able to choose new carpets and my child’s arm was healed, but I escaped without blowing a fuse. And that, arguably so, is the greatest inner triumph. Hashem offered me a test, and I proved to myself that I could deal with such strain and stress and come out a stronger person. And that is a lesson I still remember to this very day.

A Short Message From
Rebbetzin Adina Weinberger

The Gemara (Berachos 17a) tells us that when the Sages used to depart from one another, they would remark, “Olamecha tire’eh b’chayecha – You shall see your world in your lifetime.” Rav Shimon Schwab explains that the word olamecha, your world, relates to the world he’elamcha, meaning hidden or concealed. The farewell wish of the Sages was thus a blessing that they should merit seeing the actualization and fulfillment of their potential. Their greatness laying dormant within should be realized and continuously nurtured and developed.

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