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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Shelach

Parshat Shelach

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Shelach                                                                              Print Version
26th of Sivan, 5778 | June 9, 2018

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Dr. Jack Cohen 
Thank You Cathy

Anyone who had ever met Dave could attest that he possessed a certain presence that filled the room and perfectly matched his calming voice of a radio announcer. But Dave’s story was never so simple, as it all began when he was but a teenager, living in one Southern city in the United States…

As a result of a court-ordered busing law and other city-regulated statutes, Dave found himself in a public school together with students from more affluent suburban areas. It was there that Dave, as a young fifteen-year-old, met Cathy on the first day of school. A relationship slowly but surely progressed, and before long, Dave asked Cathy to marry him. Aside from both their young ages, the bigger issue was clearly in their religious differences. Dave was Jewish; Cathy was Catholic.

While both of Dave’s parents were Jewish, he had little religious background. Whatever Dave in fact knew about Judaism, he learned from Cathy, who despite being a devout Catholic, was insistent that Dave understand more about his own Jewish religion. She would frequently say things to Dave, the likes of, “If there were no Jews around, there would be no civilization.” Without question, Cathy was supportive and encouraging of Dave to connect to his true heritage. Quite an interesting dynamic existed between the two of them.

One year, Cathy asked Dave what he had done to celebrate Sukkot, using the correct Hebrew term for the holiday, as she was familiar with. Dave had no idea what she was referring to, so Cathy further pushed him to speak to his rabbi. Dave of course followed Cathy’s suggestion, though his rabbi did nothing more than point towards the tabernacle which had been built in the synagogue’s social hall. That was all he said. When Dave reported to Cathy about this unusual encounter, Cathy was incredulous. “Doesn’t the rabbi understand that the point of the holiday is to relive the protection the Jewish people experienced in the desert? The sukkah must be outside with nothing hanging above it.” Cathy was pretty knowledge about Jewish religion and observance. She knew more about Sukkot from reading the World Book than Dave’s rabbi knew.

On another occasion, Dave and Cathy visited a career fair in a local shopping mall. It wasn’t before long that Cathy commented, “Dave, your future is not going to be found here.” While she did not specifically say so, Dave understood that her statement had to do with him being Jewish. Here was a Catholic girl prying and prodding him to investigate his Jewish roots. Almost from the first moment they met, Cathy was intent on Dave discovering what it meant to be one of the Chosen People.

After her first semester in college, Cathy spent a semester in Israel as a foreign exchange student, and upon her return, chose archaeology as her major. Concurrently, she urged Dave to fulfill his language requirements by taking Hebrew. Dave agreed to do so, though within just a few days, he realized that he was at a distinct disadvantage. All the other students had at least some type of Hebrew school background, except Dave.

Dave eagerly wanted to drop the course, though upon Cathy’s persistent encouragement, he decided to continue. Fortunately for Dave, in addition to learning how to read Hebrew and understand the basic rules of grammar, he forged a relationship with the Orthodox rabbi, who was the visiting professor for the course. With Dave and Cathy taking their respective courses and working towards their degrees, they made up to get married after graduating. The wedding date was set and the arrangements began.

But it was a mere three months before their marriage that they were hit with a surprise.

Cathy was diagnosed with metastatic cancer. It would require significant medical intervention, which they both were well aware would be necessary. The wedding plans continued and eventually ended, although for the next three years after marriage, life was a nightmare of constant medical treatment and searches for new therapy. As was soon discovered, Cathy’s end was near.

As time passed and Cathy realized the sorrowful reality of her future, she requested that the same rabbi who had been Dave’s professor in college visit her in the hospital and grant her blessings. That was her dying wish. Although she did not reach out to any similar non-Jewish clergy or, on the other hand, indicate that she wished to convert to Judaism, she did insist that she be buried in compliance with Jewish ritual.

Aside from Cathy’s own future, what stood foremost on her mind in the months prior to her passing was Dave’s future as a Jew. Her mind constantly wandered to how Dave would rediscover his roots and return to Judaism. “Your destiny is with your people,” she repeatedly told him. Above all, she instructed Dave to not marry another gentile when she herself left this world. “As soon as you muster the strength,” she told him, “you must go to Jerusalem. The world was created for the Jewish people with Jerusalem as the center.”

And then came the fateful day. Cathy sadly passed away at age 24, leaving Dave with her dying wish of him reconnecting to his heritage and pursuing a life filled with Jewish practice. At that time, Dave had built and sold one business and invested the proceeds in the stock market. He was no less than a millionaire.

Shortly thereafter, Dave committed to his part of Cathy’s last wish and traveled to Israel. Soon after arriving, Dave headed to the Kotel with an expensive camera around his neck. He stepped up to the Kotel and lifted his camera, though a man politely prompted him to lower his arms. “What’s going on?” Dave asked, confused as to what was preventing him from snapping a picture. “It’s Shabbat,” the man replied, “and it is prohibited to take pictures on this holy day.” Dave was intrigued by the newly learned fact, and began conversing with the fellow. It wasn’t long before Dave and his new friend decided to meet together at a coffee shop to discuss more about life and Judaism.

Dave spent the next two weeks in Jerusalem. After his trip came to a close, he left a little wiser about Jewish observance and decided he would commit himself to further explore what it meant to be a Jew. His new friend from Israel connected him with Chezky Paneth from New York, who agreed to take Dave under his wing and spend some quality time with him.

Now with Dave back in the states, he arranged to spend Shabbos with Mr. Paneth. After the Friday night davening, Dave happily followed Mr. Paneth back to his home, though Dave’s pocket jingled with the sound of coins. Mr. Paneth happened to hear the noise emanating from behind, and began teaching Dave some laws of Shabbos, which would go on to form a basic body of Jewish knowledge for him. Three years later, Dave was ready to marry a young observant widow with two small children. And in fact, they married and began building their new home together, founded upon Torah ideals and religious observance.

But then Dave’s business enterprise took a hard hit. Without Dave’s knowledge, he was defrauded a fortune by a stock broker. Upon consulting with the city’s top law firm and reviewing the evidence, the lawyer informed Dave that he stood to recover millions of dollars in damage under statues from the brokerage firm due to false misrepresentation in stock sales.

The only catch was that the broker was Jewish, and Dave knew that he would surely face criminal prosecution and end up in jail for fraud. Dave struggled with the harsh reality, that despite the fact that he was wronged, he would be involved in having another Jew go to jail for what could be quite a while. He wished to serve as a role model for his new family, and wondered if he could actually be alright financially even without recouping the lost finances. And indeed, Dave walked away from millions. He still remained well-off and part of an large business corporation, but it was without question a difficult decision to make as he did.

A few years later, Dave decided that he wished to move to Israel and learn full-time for a period. With the encouragement and support of his wife and family, he did exactly that. As a junior partner in a very lucrative construction business, however, the senior partners did not condone Dave’s move to Israel. Dave though knew that he could not deny himself that chance to immerse himself in Torah learning. It was an opportunity he never had before and something that would easily be lost were he not to take advantage of. And so, he left his lucrative business and took off to Israel.

Over the past thirty years, Dave has raised millions of dollars and helped support Jewish day schools, yeshivos and provided scholarships in both Israel and America. All done out of love for the Jewish people, he has helped bring thousands of jobs to Israeli companies looking to expand to American markets.

Cathy would surely be proud and surprised that Dave took up her dying wish of finding his destiny with the Jewish people. And she surely got her wish, as Dave rediscovered his way back and has ever since then helped countless Jews live comfortable lives and become closer to their families, communities and ultimately, Hashem.

Mr. Charlie Harary 
Passing the Test

As I was walking around the University of Columbia one Friday morning, a man approached me and “bageled” me. “Bageling” is a term used to describe someone who tries to impress you with how much they know about religion. “How are you doing?” he asked. “Good,” I said.” “Are you going to leave class early today?” Unsure what he was driving at, I innocently answered, “No, I don’t think so.” “Well, it’s sundown tonight.” Still unclear what he meant to say, I responded, “Well, isn’t it sundown every night?” “No, I mean it’s Shabbat tonight.” I finally figured out what he meant. We then started talking and it was from there that a wonderful friendship began.

Now, this man is truly phenomenal. Growing up in Cleveland, after he finished college, he went to China and became the first ever American to earn a Chinese law degree in Chinese. He was brilliant. In fact, when Bill Clinton became president and went to China for a conference to discuss America’s foreign relations with China, this man was used as a paradigm example.

After receiving his law degree in China, he returned to America. Getting a job in the number-one law firm in the country, he was doing quite well. As time progressed, he got involved with the FIDF (Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces), an organization established in 1981 aimed at providing educational, social and recreational programs for those who defend the Jewish homeland. Still working as a lawyer, he was once selected to make a presentation on behalf of the FIDF in Israel.

Returning from his trip, he soon received a phone call. He was told that they would like to honor him with an award for his dedication as part of the FIDF. Agreeing to do so, he flew back to Israel. Arriving one day at the site where the presentation was supposed to be held, he was instead put into a car and driven to a café in the middle of nowhere. Sitting down at a table with three other men, directly opposite him was a commander from the IDF. “We want to find out more about your background. We would like you to join the Israeli Defense Forces.”

It was not too much later that he decided to quit his job in the top law firm and head to Israel. Entering the army, he was faced with basic training. It was tough, but he did very well. He passed the first course and second course with flying colors. Now he needed to pass the third advanced course if he wished to make it as a high-level officer. The challenge was to use the given coordinate points to arrive at a certain location within a specific amount of time. If he would pass this course, he would attain his goal and move onto becoming a prestigious member of the army.

And so, the fateful day arrived and he received his coordinates. As he stepped foot into his jeep and maneuvered around, he finally saw a house in a distance. He knew that there laid his destination. But just as he was inching closer, the tire of his jeep popped out and the car spun out of control. Being caught off guard, he began yelling at the other men to get themselves together and quickly put on another tire. Finally doing so, he ran to the door of the house. But it was locked. Posted on the door was a note, “You failed.” Devastated to no ends, he returned to his barracks.

Depressingly sitting down in his barracks, the door opened. It was his commander. “Look,” he said, “It happens. We will give you another chance tomorrow.” As morning arrived, he was prepared. Receiving his coordinates, he double checked the tires and began to drive off. As time passed, everything was going well. They had five minutes left and the destination was in sight.

Parking the car, he hopped out and began to run. Making a quick turn around a sand dune, however, one of the other men fell to the ground and let out a shriek. He had twisted his ankle. Yelling back at the men, “Pick him up! Pick him up!” the other men finally decided to carry him for the final stretch as he looked from a distance. Placing him on their shoulders, they ran to the house. As the man approached the door in a panic, he let out a sigh. It was locked. Hanging on the door, again, was a note, “You failed.” Beside himself and totally hopeless, he headed back to his barracks once again.

Sitting down with his head hanging low, the door opened. It was his commander. “Don’t get too down on yourself. It happens. We’ll give you one more chance tomorrow. But this is it. If anything goes wrong, tomorrow night you will be packing your bags.”

Lying down on his bed frustrated, he wondered who he could blame. “Maybe the Israeli army doesn’t want me to get to this level. Maybe they don’t want me to rise up in the ranks. And on top of everything, I quit my job as a lawyer. What a foolish mistake!” But then his mind began to wander. Reminiscing of the first time he was asked to join the army, he remembered the three men he was sitting with. It then hit him. “Those three men all went on to becoming prominent officers. I haven’t seen them in a while, but I think they were participating with me in this challenge. They were there. And come to think of it, they knew my name. How did they know my name?”

He then began to connect the dots. “Wait a second. Maybe, after all, they are not against me. Perhaps they are on my side. They are manipulating all these circumstances for my benefit. They are pushing for me. They want me to succeed.” But there was still one question which stumped him. “Why would they be failing me?” Musing over the issue, he finally realized. “Maybe they are not testing me if I can get to the destination on time. Maybe they are testing something else. They are challenging me to see how I react when a soldier falls down and I am faced with a pressured situation.”

Now, fully prepared for tomorrow’s challenge, he donned his uniform bright and early. Waiting by the door and ready to go at 5am, he was eventually told it was time to go. Told this time to manage two jeeps, he set off. Everything was going well. A few minutes before reaching the destination, though, he received a call. “The second jeep is under fire.” Knowing what to do, he quickly turned around and did everything necessary to ensure the safety of the other jeep. He made sure all the men were secure and alright. Only after properly handling the makeshift attack from the enemy did he make his way towards his destination.

Slowly walking up to the door five minutes late, he placed his hand on the knob. It was unlocked. Opening the door, sitting down at the desk in front of him was his commander with a smile. “Good job,” he said, “you passed.”

The moment that changed this man’s career was when he realized that the wall in front of him was in fact not a wall. It was rather his road to success. Once he understood that the army believed in him and was working with him and not against him, his entire perspective changed. All the challenges and impediments we experience throughout life are there for us to successfully arrive at our ultimate destination. But from start to finish, Hashem believes in each of us. And when we as well believe in our own potential and eventually achieve our purpose in life, Hashem will look down at us with a smile and say, “My dear children, you finally arrived. You passed the test.”

A Short Message From 
Rabbi Efraim Twerski

As we arise in the morning, we recite the well-known words, “Modeh ani le’fanecha Melech…- I gratefully thank you, living and eternal King…” It is interesting to observe that we refer to Hashem with the description of “King” in Modeh Ani. Wouldn’t it be more appropriate that we start out our day calling Hashem “Our Father”?

As we are familiar, these two types of relationships – that of a King and His subjects and a Father and His children – characterize how we relate to Hashem and how He relates to us. But what differentiates the two most concretely is the fact that they are initiated in opposite ways. The former relationship of a King and his subjects is one which is incumbent upon us. We are the ones to declare Hashem our King and accept upon ourselves the yoke of Heaven. We cannot, in this sense, declare Hashem our Father and take advantage of that rite of passage because we know He will love us unconditionally. We must recognize our obligations and responsibilities and act accordingly with honor and dedication. It is only once we conduct ourselves as such that Hashem in turn compassionately treats us as a Father does his children.

We thus refer to Hashem as “King” as we awaken in the morning, for we wish to emphasize that the day up ahead is not to be taken for granted, but ought to be valued and maximized to the fullest. It is a precious gift which we mustn’t waste, but must rather appreciate and endear as an opportunity to further fulfill our true purpose in the world.

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