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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Balak

Parshat Balak

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Balak                                                                             Print Version
17th of Tammuz, 5778 | June 30, 2018

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein 
Who Should You Save?

As one man sped through the streets of New York city on a rainy night, he came across a bus stop at which three people stood. He looked around trying to make out any bus in the near distance, but nothing stood out. And then he looked over at the three people standing amidst the torrential downpour. He immediately paused and blinked a few times, trying to make sure that what he saw was in fact reality.

Standing there was a beautiful and charming girl, accompanied by a man who had once saved his life. Next to them was an elderly lady who was shivering and coughing, clearly on the verge of dying. He then looked to his side and noticed the one empty seat available in his newly purchased two-seater corvette. “What should I do?” he asked himself again and again. “Who should I save?”

He knew that the beautiful girl was his bashert and were he to pass up on this opportunity, he would never get married. Yet, then there was his friend who had saved his life. Would he overlook the kindness he had bestowed upon him and be ungracious? But with all this in mind, there was still the old woman who needed to be transported to the hospital this very minute, and if any more time would be wasted, she would sadly meet her demise.

This was the question which was posed to four hundred applicants vying for one position in a law firm.

Think about it for a minute. Who would you save? Why? Don’t read beyond until you have come up with your answer…

Only one out of the four hundred applicants came up with the right answer. All other three hundred and nighty-nine candidates didn’t. What should you do? This is not merely a riddle, but teaches a profound lesson, and as you will soon see, tells you something about yourself as well.

Get out of the car, hand the keys to the man who saved your life, tell him to drive the old lady to the hospital and you wait for the bus with your bashert.

Now, if you didn’t come to this conclusion, there may be various reasons why. But, quite likely, it is for the same reason all other three hundred and ninety-nine interviewees didn’t either. It is because in your mind, the man sitting in the car remained sitting in the car. “I can only take one of them,” he says to himself. “Who should I take?” But, if you would rewrite the script and think selflessly and outside the box, you would quickly realize that there is a much more effective way of solving your dilemma. If only the man sitting in the driver’s seat would tell himself, “I will get out of the car and get wet myself, but I will make everything else work,” then you’ll see, everything else will indeed work.

That is the difference between that one applicant and everyone else, and perhaps us as well. The man who got the job and the person who will think smart and be smart is the one who looks outside of themselves. The answer is precisely with you, and the answer is precisely without you. That is the key to unlocking many closed doors in life.

Rabbi Benzion Klatzko 
Building a Future

Years ago, when I was in yeshiva in Cleveland, I decided at one point to consider attending a different yeshiva in New York. After researching a few different places, I finally found one which I felt would suit me best. Yet by the time I arrived in the dormitory, every room had pretty much been filled. I was the last boy to make it into the dormitory, and so, I was left all alone without a bed. But the head of the yeshiva kindly walked with me from room to room until we finally reached the last room in the hall. While there was little space available, considering the eight other boys who were already there, we figured that if everyone moved around a little bit, I could just barely squeeze in. And that is what we did.

Understandably so, there was one boy in the room who was not particularly thrilled at the idea of having so many boys all crunched together. Sensing that this boy was a bit bothered, I told myself that I would especially go out of my way to befriend him. I would prove to him that it was worth letting me into the room. And in fact, we spent so much time together that we became very close friends.

Years later, I headed to Israel to learn in yeshiva. While there, I had the special opportunity of speaking to Rav Shach zt”l, one of the preeminent Torah leaders at the time. After briefly talking to him, he said, “Where do you plan to live after you get married?” “I would love to live in Israel,” I said. “If that is the case,” said Rav Shach, “then you should get married.” When I heard this, I was thrilled. Although I was only nineteen years old, I was ready to get married and wished to do so. And so, I now took the next necessary step and called my father.

“Rav Shach said I should get married,” I told my father over the phone. “Alright,” he said, “we will talk about it.” It was now right before Sukkos, and I was in fact planning to fly from Israel to New York, spend the night there, and then continue on with a connecting flight to Cleveland. As such, I needed to find a place in New York to stay overnight. When I finally landed, I decided to stop by the hat store and purchase a new hat bearing in mind that I planned to hopefully soon become a chassan. After doing so, I made my way over to the house of my old roommate and close friend.

Just moments after knocking on the door, his mother opened up. “Benzion! How are you? You’re back from Eretz Yisrael?” “Yeah.” I said. “And actually, I am back for shidduchim.” My friend’s mother then looked at me and said, “Don’t you know we have our daughter in mind for you? Do you want to go out with her now?” And so, there I was, still standing outside the door with my luggage in hand after having just sat on the plane for ten hours. But that wouldn’t deter me. “Sure,” I said.

Without a minute’s delay, on went my friend’s mother to call her daughter who had just begun twelfth grade and was doing her homework. “Shani, Benzion is back from Eretz Yisrael! Would you like to go out with him now?” “Give me five minutes,” she said. And that was it. We didn’t officially go out, but rather went to their Pesach kitchen and sat down to talk. After forty-five minutes, it was a done deal. Calling my father right afterwards, I said, “Guess what, I’m engaged!” “Guess what,” replied my father, “no you’re not.” My mother picked up on the third line. “Listen Benzion,” she said, “we trust your judgement, but you cannot get engaged until we meet the girl.”

Continuing on home to Cleveland the next day, I remained at home for Sukkos, after which I flew back to New York for my last Shabbos in America before heading back to yeshiva in Israel. The entire plane ride back to Israel, I was in limbo thinking, “Am I engaged? I think I’m engaged.” Meanwhile, my parents wanted to meet Shani. Calling her a couple of weeks later, they told her that there was a wedding in Cleveland and a bus was driving there. “Could you get on the bus and come to us for Shabbos?” my parents asked her.

Just imagine. A seventeen-year-old spending an entire Shabbos at the mercy of her potential mother- and father-in-law who can look at her with a magnifying glass for twenty-four hours. And on top of it all, I am not there. Yet, she was brave and bold and nevertheless went to Cleveland.

Thankfully, my parents really liked her. “Benzion,” they said, “you can get engaged.” However, being that Shani’s own parents had said that she could not get married until graduating high school, I was advised by my rabbi in yeshiva to keep our engagement quiet and not tell anyone. I could only imagine being engaged and not allowed to tell anyone. I was in Israel and she was in Boro Park and neither of us could say a word. As the days passed by, I could take it no longer.

One day, while I was in a pizza store in Yerushalayim, in walked another yeshiva boy. Walking over to his table, I said, “Hi, my name is Benzion Klatzko. I don’t know you and you don’t know me, but I just have to tell someone that I am a chassan! I am engaged to this girl, but I cannot tell anyone. You are the first person to know.” “Mazel tov!” said the boy. “That’s wonderful.” Little did I know that this boy’s cousin was a classmate of my kallah. That’s one way of leaking a secret.

The next thing I knew, I heard that rumors had started circulating around my kallah’s school that she was the first kallah in 12th grade. “Are you a kallah?” they kept on pressing her. My wife was a great girl and hadn’t said anything to anyone, and so, she just played along. “Are you a kallah?” she would jokingly reply to the other girls. But then matters started becoming heated. “I’m not a kallah!” Shani would say. “Yes you are!” the other girls would yell. When word had spread pretty much to everyone, we were told, “You can now officially announce your engagement.” And so, we did.

After telling my friends that I was a chassan, they danced with me in Eretz Yisrael, while my kallah remained in New York. My parents then called me. “We don’t want to fly you all the way back from Israel, but we would still like to make a little vort for you here. We will have your future in-laws come to Cleveland and on a Motzei Shabbos, you can propose to Shani over a loudspeaker. You will be here from a distance.” When I heard this plan, it sounded like a strange idea, but what else was there to do? So, I complied.

The vort was set to take place at 8 o’clock at night in Cleveland on Motzei Shabbos. The only problem was that eight o’clock at night in Cleveland would be 3 am in Israel. And that would mean I would need to be awake enough with a clear head to make a proposal at that time of night. Worried that I would be fast asleep and miss the opportunity, my parents said that they would call me when they were ready. Yet, even that wouldn’t solve the problem entirely. Considering that there were no cordless phones in those days, I needed to remain near the phone to make sure I would hear it. So, there I was asleep on the cold floor next to the phone waiting to receive a call at 3 am.

3 am. The phone rang. Although I picked up, I was in a total daze. “Hello?” I said. “Okay,” answered my parents. “We are all here; you can propose.” Now, even though I had all of Shabbos to think about what I should say, I did not give it a moment’s thought. I therefore spontaneously came up with probably the last thing you ever want to say when proposing. “Shani, are you there?” I asked. “Yeah,” she said. “Okay, here’s my proposal. Last chance to back out!” This was over the loudspeaker. Shani let out a gasp, but kept her cool. “Oh, no thank you,” she said. “Okay, so will you marry me?” “Yes!” came the reply. And that was it. I heard loud Mazel Tov’s being exchanged at the vort as I went back to sleep on the floor. And that is the story of how I became engaged.

While this was all certainly a very interesting chapter in my life, what stands out when thinking about it is how it all began. And that was with my roommate. The roommate who I sensed was a bit uncomfortable at the full and packed room was the very boy I went out of my way to be polite and respect. And it was that same boy who in turn acted nicely to me and found a friend in me. It was from there that I met his family and the building of my own future and family began. As it relates to us all, while our motivation and purpose of being friendly and kind ought not to be what we gain from it, in truth, the kindness and care we extend to others not only makes us into greater people, but paves the way for future doors to open and for Hashem to Divinely orchestrate from on High what would be so hard for us to manage alone. When we do our best, Hashem will help us achieve our greatest wishes and aspirations.

A Short Message From 
Rabbi Daniel Glatstein

As we are well aware, one of the greatest tests of our generation is that of shemiras einayim, being wary of that which we look at. Arguably so, there has never been so potent a challenge in this area as there is today. Yet with such difficulty, there exists tremendous reward and opportunity as well.

The Gemara (Yoma 86a) relates that R’ Yishmael taught how the degree of teshuva (repentance) for each sin is commensurate to its level of severity. For violation of a positive commandment, teshuva erases the sin immediately. For violation of a negative commandment, teshuva along with the passing of Yom Kippur is required. If the negative prohibition is one which incurs kares, spiritual excision, then teshuva, the passing of Yom Kippur and afflictions are all needed. And lastly, if the sin involves a chillul Hashem (desecration of G-d’s name), it requires all of the above and the day of death to expiate the sin.

What is clear is that certain sins require specific modes and methods of repentance to wipe it away. However, there is a trick and technique, mentioned by the Darchei Teshuva (a student of the Ri Mi’Pano), which lets us in on a secret as to how we can achieve repentance for all sins, even the severest, in one moment.

Even though the Gemara says that for the most severe sin of chillul Hashem, the day of death is needed to attain full repentance, there is a different way of looking at it. Elsewhere, the Gemara (Nedarim 64b) states that there are four people – a pauper, a leper, a blind person and one who has no children – who are considered as if they are dead. If therefore, a naturally blind person is like he is dead, then one who can see but makes himself unable to see and thus makes himself “blind” would also be rendered as if he is dead.

What thus follows, says the Darchei Teshuva, is that if one closes their eyes and controls their gaze when facing a temptation, they are rendering themselves into a blind person and making themselves dead, which atones for all of one’s sins. As difficult as the challenge is and as powerful as the temptation is, it is an opportunity of a lifetime, for right then and there, one is capable of wiping away even the most severe sins and earning themselves the World to Come.

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