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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Shoftim

Parshat Shoftim

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter    Print Version

Parashat Shoftim
4th of Elul, 5777 | August 26, 2017

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Dr. Jack Cohen
Saving You, Saving Me

כי ד' אלקיכם ההלך עמכם

For Hashem, your G-d, is the One who goes with you… (Devarim 20:4)

Allow me to share with you the words of a girl who related the following:

I have wanted to tell this story for some time now because I believe many people will learn from it. My parents are fine, religious Jews who raised us, their children, very well. Our home is in Jerusalem, and growing up, we were a dream family. All of my brothers went to the best yeshivot and my sisters went to the best bais yaakovs. But then, one of my brothers, Dovie, started going off the derech. He began associating with questionable friends. He then started staying at home all too often. “Why is Dovie home at 11 o’clock in the morning?” we wondered. “He should be in a classroom in yeshiva!” He started changing the way he dressed and the way he spoke. Eventually his whole conduct was not that of a frum Jewish boy. He changed completely.

My parents tried to reach out to him, and my mother prayed day and night. She went to rabbis, lit extra candles, and went all over Israel to various graves of righteous people to pray for him. My parents also thought long and hard about the effect he would have on the rest of us, his twelve other siblings. It was hard to watch our parents struggle, but we admired them and their decision to love Dovie and keep him in the house. Never did he feel that he didn’t belong.

Time went by as everyone adjusted to the idea that there was an off the derech child in our house. All the neighbors knew it. But any worries we had about how he would effect our shidduchim disappeared. It was not a problem. My older sister got engaged to one of the best yeshiva boys, and after that I got engaged. I’d like to send this as a message of encouragement to families dealing with similar situations. If you have a child in the house who is going off the derech, do not worry that they are going to hurt the marriage prospects of the other children. Families are not necessarily labeled by the actions of one child.

On July 2, 2008, Dovie was walking down Jaffa Road in Jerusalem. He was 18 years old at the time and had dropped out of yeshiva. Suddenly, he saw something very strange. A tractor trailer which was wildly making its way down the street rammed right into a bus stop at full speed. The tractor had been hijacked by an Arab. My brother thought at first that maybe it was an accident, though he saw how the driver kept on going, ramming into a bus and turning it over. It was pandemonium. My brother couldn’t believe his eyes. The driver, though, continued on his rampage. My brother wanted to warn the other cars on the road to quickly move away, but it seemed useless. It looked like a battlefield in war.

Then my brother noticed something which made him stop cold. A few feet away was a woman trapped in her car, surrounded by multiple crushed cars on all four sides. The tractor was making its way right at her, yet she couldn’t get out of the car. My brother noticed the woman lean to the back seat of her car and grab something. It was her baby who had been strapped in the baby seat. Frantically, the woman threw the baby out the window to my brother, who caught it and ran from the area as fast as he could. As my brother darted away, he heard the sound of crushed metal as the tractor made its way towards the car the woman remained in, flattening it like a sardine can.

My brother could not afford to stop running. Breathless and terrified, he finally found a police officer who instructed him to wait in a police car until everything was cleared. He stayed with the baby, holding it tightly. The police located the driver of the tractor, and put an end to his rampage.

It was quite a while until the police returned to find my brother still sitting with the baby. “Where would you like us to drop you off now?” they asked him. My brother, an eighteen-year-old boy who just risked his life to save a baby and witnessed a traumatic event, insisted on being taken home.

The policemen complied with his wishes and returned him home. “Ima,” he announced, “I have a baby!” Holding up the child, he related what had just occurred. The incident was so recent that news of it had not fully circulated around Jerusalem. My mother sent me to the store to buy everything the baby needed, after which we washed him and put him to bed. We couldn’t believe our ears when we later heard of the tragedy on the news.

“We should call the police,” my mother recommended. “The father of the baby must be looking for him!” My father went on to call the police station in Jerusalem and see if any inquiries had been made about a baby, but there were none. Social Services showed up at our house soon after, though they told us to hold on to the baby until the family was found or other arrangements were made. The next day, the identity of the mother was discovered. She was a Jewish Russian immigrant whose husband was not Jewish. The father had returned to Russia after the baby was born, and no other family relatives of the baby remained except for the mother’s elderly mother.

For an entire week, Dovie did not leave the baby’s side. He would feed him, play with him and try to make him laugh. Dovie became very attached to the little boy. At the end of the week, Social Services returned and reported that the grandmother was ready to take the baby. Yet, my brother stood there protesting, wishing he could take care of him longer. My brother, though, turned the baby over to the care of the grandmother.

But, rather quickly, the grandmother realized that it wasn’t all too easy to care for such a young child. It had been many years since she raised a toddler. Social Services were once again contacted and informed that it would be in the baby’s best interest to find a new home with parents, where he could be raised in a healthy, caring and wholesome environment.

As soon as Dovie heard that the baby was up for adoption, he jumped at the opportunity. “Can I adopt the baby?” he asked. “Dovie,” he was told, “that is very sweet, but we cannot let a relatively young and unmarried boy like you adopt a baby.” “I’ll get married,” Dovie said, “and I’ll provide him with a good home.” “That’s not possible,” Social Services said, “because the baby needs a home right now.” But my brother wouldn’t give up. “My mother can help take care of him until then!” After asking my mother if such an arrangement could be made, my mother said, “Dovie, don’t think it is going to be easy to raise a child. You cannot wake up at two in the afternoon and go to sleep at four in the morning. And I don’t think your friends are good role models. Raising a child is not like raising a dog. He is a real child and needs real attention and guidance.”

Dovie told my mother, “Mommy, I will go back to yeshiva and get up every morning and pray. I will learn Torah and make myself into an upstanding mentch as long as we are willing to adopt this baby. I need to do this. I will not let him be abandoned.” For the next two years, he raised the baby as a real son.

Dovie slowly began wearing respectful clothing as he used to and made his teachers proud. And every evening after learning, he would come home to the little boy. He began teaching him Modeh Ani, how to wash his hands and many other practices.
When Dovie turned twenty, he began shidduchim. But it wasn’t easy, as every time he went out and mentioned that he had a son, the girl would be shocked. Many of the girls were moved by the courageous story, but were uninterested in marring a boy who came with a two-year-old child. Not many girls were willing to become a mother to a two-year-old child, and some didn’t seem to be a good match for the baby.

Finally, though, the one in a million eishet chayil came into his life. She was a wonderful and deep girl who thought the baby was the best thing about my brother. She fell in love with him and with the baby, and with that, they got married.

After this all unfolded, my brother realized that the baby was the means which brought him back to Hashem and Judaism. And despite being worried that as a twenty-year-old boy with an adopted baby he would never find a shidduch, he found the perfect wife.

In life, there is hope for everyone. It is five years since my brother first met the baby and two and a half years since he got married, and he now has a growing family along with the little adopted boy. Dovie’s family looks like any other religious family, but they know the true story behind it all.

Every year we celebrate the miracle which occurred. But, in truth, it is a double miracle. “Everyone thinks I saved this child,” Dovie has said, “but, in truth, I know deep down inside that this child saved me.”

Dr. Dovid Lieberman
A Golden Life

I remember once standing next to my kids at a Shabbaton and waiting to observe their reaction after they each received a cookie. As I soon realized, my youngest son had received a slightly smaller cookie than my older daughter. Wishing to capitalize on the moment to teach my son a lesson, I kneeled down next to him and gently said, “It says in Pirkei Avos, ‘Who is wealthy? He who is happy with his lot.’” My son looked at his cookie, looked at me, and then said in all seriousness, “But I don’t have a lot; I have a little.” Slight misunderstanding.

What is the striking distinction between the Torah definition and world definition of wealth, happiness, strength and wisdom? The world at large tends to believe that a person will be happy or wealthy if they compare themselves to someone else and outmatch them. Yet the Torah teaches otherwise. True wealth or happiness is not attained through comparing ourselves to others, but rather comparing ourselves to ourselves. We are meant to look inwards and explore our own potential and capabilities. If we can alter our perspective from viewing our successes and abilities in relation to others, and instead in relation to ourselves, we are on our way to achieving a true and genuine sense of life satisfaction. And that is because we are not competing with the rest of the world and always uneasily on edge to outdo someone else. We are perfectly happy with progressing at our own pace in our own way at our own time.

It is not coincidental that studies indicate that Olympic silver medalists are in fact unhappier than bronze medalists. It is because they feel so close to having earned the gold medal that they find it difficult to appreciate what they in fact did achieve. The bronze medalist, on the other hand, is happy that he at least made it into the winning tier. Precisely because he does not compare himself to someone else, he is able to feel content and proud of his achievement.

Attaining a true life of happiness and wealth is not something we need to wait for; it is ready and available at this very moment. All it takes is a slight shift in perspective, and from there on in, you will be living a golden life.

Rabbi Dovid Heber
The Great American Eclipse

As millions of people showed excitement and anticipation over the most recent phenomenon of the solar eclipse, we can only wonder what as Jews we are meant to learn from it. What insight are we to glean from a rare occurrence such as this? The last total solar eclipse anywhere in the continental Unites States was 38 years ago, in 1979, though it was only visible in the northwest corner of America. The last coast to coast eclipse was even longer ago, 99 years to be exact, in 1918. Yet precisely because it happens infrequently, we are led to reflect upon a simple yet profound idea.

In the words of the Chovos HaLevavos (Shaar Cheshbon HaNefesh, 3:23):

Even though it is common for people, even great people, to be amazed by matters which are unusual, such as a solar eclipse or lunar eclipse… and not be amazed by [more commonplace occurrences such as] the sunset, sunrise, falling of rain, blowing of the wind or flowing of a river, do not be like them. Rather contemplate all the creations of G-d, whether you are accustomed to them or not… and let it be as if you never saw them before and you are like a blind person just opening his eyes and seeing these wonders…

For a Jew, viewing a spectacular sight is meant to evoke more than simple amazement at that particular sight. It is meant to implant within him a deep-seated appreciation for even the everyday, usual occurrences. When observing an eclipse and marveling in its remarkable appearance, we are enjoined to think about the daily rising and setting of the sun, the nightly appearance of the crescent moon and the often underappreciated torrential downpour of rain. From the greatness and grandeur of such uncommon events, we learn to appreciate the magnificence and beauty of that which we are so accustomed to.

Although the next total solar eclipse in the East Coast of the United States will be in 2024, and the next total eclipse from coast to coast will be in 2045, as Jews, we need not wait to marvel in the miracles of creation. Today, tonight and right now, we have the opportunity to take a look at a breathtaking sight and appreciate the amazing beauty of G-d’s world.

A Short Message From
Rebbetzin Miriam Krohn

As Yaakov Avinu takes leave from the house of his father-in-law, Lavan, and heads back to Israel, he turns to Hashem and remarks, “I have been diminished by all the chassadim (kindnesses) and by all the emes (truth) that You have done for Your servant…” (Bereishis 32:11). Commenting on the word emes, the Ramban references the theory in Hebrew grammar and linguistics which calls for a two-letter root in a word. The root of emes would be the first two letters, aleph and mem, forming the same root which comprises the word emuna, faith. Emuna, as reflected in this verse, refers to the notion that one recognizes something to be consistent, reliable and eternal. Belief in Hashem thus means that we realize how Hashem always has our best interests in mind. He knows what we need, what we can cope with, what we want and what we should receive.

This grammatical root similarly lends insight into other words in the Torah. Hashem says of Moshe Rabbeinu, “In My entire house, he [Moshe] is ne’eman” (Bamidbar 12:7). As above, this means that Moshe was reliable and constant. He was the pillar of support and strength upon which the Jewish people could consistently rely for guidance and instruction. He was always there when the nation needed him. When we as well wish a young couple that they should merit to build a bayis ne’eman b’yisrael, we mean to bless them that they should build an everlasting home. It should be a home which can endure, a home which will make a difference, and a home which will be filled with children who will continue as a link in the chain of Am Yisrael. Lastly, these letters of aleph and mem form the word eim, stemming from the word for mother, ima. A mother is always there for her children. She is the constant and perpetual figure in the home who raises and guides her children. Just within these two letters, there lies endless amounts of wisdom and insight.

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