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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Pinchas

Parshat Pinchas

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes"   Print Version Newsletter     

Parashat Pinchas 
24th of Tammuz, 5778 | July 7, 2018

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rebbetzin Miriam Yerushalmi 
Continuing Your Work

I still remember the day vividly. My books which had taken hours upon hours of tireless effort to put together finally arrived at my house. With pages full of vibrant captions and colors, these books were to be used to educate and imbue children with proper Torah values and ideals. But, at the moment, I was in a quandary. Thousands of dollars’ worth of books along with audiobooks of mine needed to be carried inside. Thankfully, one sweet boy offered to help me transport everything. But as the time arrived for us to begin, he told me that he needed to take care of something else for fifteen minutes, after which we could get started. In the meantime, I headed inside and began unpacking a few items of my own.

Fifteen minutes later, I heard a knock at the door. It was the boy and he didn’t look or sound too good. “What happened?” I asked. “Well,” he hesitated, “your car was broken into and all the merchandise is gone.” As soon as he said that, my heart fluttered. Running out to my car, I scanned it from front to back and saw that it was true. $12,000 worth of books and CDs had been stolen. I was heartbroken.

Without anything more to do, I headed back into my house. Flanked on one side by my bookshelf, I turned towards it and spotted one of the many Jewish books I owned: Igros Kodesh, a classic work authored by Rav Shneur Zalman of Liadi. Considering my current state of mind and situation, I was in dire need of some guidance and inspiration. I took hold of the book and began perusing through the different pages. And no sooner than later, I came across a line which stood out to me black and white: “You must continue your sacred work. You have been successful in the past, and you have been drafted into the elite core and cannot stop.” While these phrases emphasized the notion of recognizing the supreme importance of Torah, mitzvosand serving G-d, I wondered what it personally meant for me.

I remained sitting and thinking for hours on end, deep into the night and early morning. I kept on staring at the sentence over and over again, “You have been successful in the past…” What had I done in the past that I should draw inspiration from to continue in the present? I struggled to pinpoint anything. And then it hit me.

Let me take you back sixteen years earlier.

I was running a children’s museum in Israel for which I borrowed over $10,000 to produce books and cassettes. As months progressed, the finances became overwhelming, and I struggled to come up with the necessary funds to pay back the loan. My deepest wish was to continue running the museum with all its wonderful programs. Children were learning more about their Yiddishkeit, enjoying an educative after-school program, helping to pack and distribute food to the poor, receiving assistance with homework, and given the opportunity to participate in Shabbatons. It was a beautiful place and framework for children, parents and their families to be excited and proud about their Jewish heritage and life overall.

But I had gotten to a point that financial difficulties were putting an untold strain on all the programs. I did my utmost to bring in a substantial source of revenue, but I didn’t get too far. I knew it would break my heart and so many others to see the disintegration of such a beautiful tapestry of programs, but the decision needed to be made. The museum needed to close down. And it did.

The only remnant of it all was one small room which remained. There, I kept one artifact: a miniature Beis Hamikdash. It was something I had put together over the span of eight months and was crafted out of wood and overlaid with nuggets of gold and spray-paint. It was a real masterpiece, and had just recently been finished when I closed down the museum programs.

Not wishing to entirely give up everything I had been doing, I decided I would take this miniature Beis Hamikdash and run smaller programs at various venues. I would give a little demonstration and talk about the Beis Hamikdash, intending to inspire and educate children about its history and everlasting importance. To my great excitement, my plan took off. I brought it to one school and gave the class, which was immensely appreciated and enjoyed. I still nostalgically thought back to the glorious days when I had numerous programs concurrently running and a much larger audience, but I came to terms with the fact that G-d wished for me to educate our youth in a different way.

After one of my demonstrations, I brought my miniature Beis Hamikdash along with a number of other handmade crafts to the next site I planned on giving the class. Tisha B’av was a few days away, after which my upcoming performance was planned on the following Monday. And then the unthinkable happened.

It was Tisha B’av and I decided to walk into the room where I had stored my Beis Hamikdash. Yet as I opened the door, I was in for my worst surprise. My miniature Beis Hamikdash was destroyed. Something had happened, and there it remained soaking wet. The beauty with which it once shined was gone. Tears began flowing down my eyes as I looked on in untold distress. I quickly realized that it was not coincidentally Tisha B’av. Although my little structure was a far cry from the authentic Beis Hamikdash, I found it hard to pull myself together. I sensed what it felt like to see the work of your hands crumble and break.

Aside from my own loss, I knew I faced an additional problem. I was slated to carry out a presentation in a few days, but now that would have to change. Suffice it to say, though, it worked out. We organized a mini soup kitchen, which went fine. But I still carried that destruction of my miniature Beis Hamikdash in my heart.

Around that time, I left Israel for Crown Heights and moved into an apartment on Eastern Parkway. Little did I know what Hashem had in mind for me, but quite quickly I would learn. Within days, I noticed that directly across the street was a large building. I wasn’t exactly sure what it was, although I kept on curiously wondering. And then I figured out. It was a children’s museum. That was the last thing I ever would have imagined being there. Yet what was I supposed to do now? Was this some sort of indication that I was meant to work there? I didn’t know.

The next day, a close friend of mine called me. “I never knew that you ran a children’s museum in Israel! I am going to be running a program in the museum right next to where you live, on Eastern Parkway. Why don’t you come join me and help?” I couldn’t believe my ears. I knew Hashem worked quickly, but this was extremely quick.

I attended a meeting a few days later regarding what I could do in the museum. I was familiar with the fact that my friend was a dancer, and wondered if she would be interested in conducting a Jewish dance class. Presenting the idea to her and a few other board members, they liked what they heard and accepted the proposal. And so we began. Thankfully, it was something which was well-liked and embraced by the community.

I continued periodically flying to Israel and monitoring the programs which they had been trying to revive on and off. Overall, from all my work, things were progressing slowly.

And then the night arrived when thousands of dollars’ worth of merchandise was stolen, and I opened my book of Igros Kodesh, only to read the words, “You must continue your sacred work. You have been successful in the past, and you have been drafted into the elite core and cannot stop.” After having all of these past incidents flash through my mind, I realized what was meant by my successful past. I had accomplished so much with the children’s museum, only for it to heartbreakingly close down. And now too, thousands of dollars were gone and I was heartbroken. How would I move on and from where would I draw the resilience and fortitude to do so?

The answer was imbedded in those words. And indeed, I would heed the wise advice and not stop. I would not give up and give in, but rather move forward, despite the hardship I faced, and do even more than I had been. How would everything work out? Just as Hashem had helped me before, I remained confident that He would help and guide me again. And so, as the early morning dawn cast aside the darkness of the night, there I sat, poised with elation and happiness. I knew, confidently and comfortably, that much goodness was awaiting me in the future.

Rabbi Meyer Bodner 
Opportunities, Not Problems

Our Sages teach in Pirkei Avos, “Greet every person with a pleasant countenance” (Avos 1:15). With this idiom, we are instructed to conduct and carry ourselves in a pleasant and amiable way with others, showing them a smile and conveying our warmth and care. Yet, as Chazal indicate throughout the Talmud, the Hebrew word used to imply inclusion is kol, all or every. In this Mishnah then, there is someone else who is being obliquely referred to. Someone else is meant to receive our warmest greetings and pleasant countenance. Yet who exactly is that?

The answer is simple yet profound: ourselves. The Mishnah is telling us that we are to accept ourselves with love and care. Although this does not excuse us from misbehaving, we must never get too carried away and be too hard on ourselves. We must learn to love and embrace who we are, despite our failures and foibles. No matter what you did, how many mistakes you made, and how many times you promised you were going to change and didn’t, you must still accept yourself. Tell yourself, “I am who I am, and I am very happy with that.” Of course, there is always room to improve, and that must be our constant striving, but before we can appreciate and care for anyone else, we must do so for ourselves.

It all begins with understanding our own internal worth. From there, we can begin to spread and share our love with others, uplifting them and inspiring them. And when that is done, we can literally change lives.

Let me share an example with you.

For one boy, life as a child was never easy. Thrown out of his house as a youngster, no one cared to look after him. He went from one foster home to another, wandering and wallowing in his own misery and loneliness. From ages eight to fourteen, he stayed in countless foster homes, with every one of them eventually asking that he leave, due to his disruptive and troublesome behavior. The shortest amount of time he ever stayed in one home was three days, and he was set on breaking that record.

Finally, after much moving around, he was brought to one foster home, run by an elderly man named Rodney. Upon meeting his “new father,’ the boy quickly realized that this might be the one. Just maybe, this time at this foster home, he would be able to cause such disruption that he would be asked to leave before three days. His hopes only grew when he learned that Rodney had sleep apnea. Here was the perfect situation for the young boy to cause trouble and be asked to leave on the spot. It seemed to be an attainable goal.

Three days, however, turned into three years. Rodney, about whom the boy thought would be a pushover, was the furthest thing from it. He was relentlessly caring about the boy’s well-being and never once contemplated or threatened to kick him out. He recognized that the boy needed a warm and safe environment to develop and mature, and provided him with just that.

At this point, the boy realized that whatever he would do to upset his foster father, he would be going nowhere else. Until he turned old enough to get his driver’s license. “Finally,” he thought, “I will have more freedom and be able to cause a real ruckus.” And so, one day, the boy opened a checking account and wrote out ten checks at ten different stores, each $1,000 each. Of course, all the checks bounced. But that wasn’t it.

Shortly thereafter, the boy sped 86 mph down a 55-mph highway and was pulled over by a police officer. The boy’s license by now had been suspended, he was majorly in debt, and he had been drinking. He had committed every offense he could think of at the moment. After investigating, the officer had no choice but to handcuff the boy and bring him to the police station. “You have one phone call to make,” the police told him.

Who did he call? Rodney, his foster father. Explaining what had happened, he pleaded that Rodney come and bail him out. Without question, the boy had caused Rodney more trouble than he ever needed, and now he was calling from the police station for help. What did Rodney say? “Don’t worry, I will come and help you, but in the morning.”

The following morning, Rodney arrived at the police station and sorted everything out. But although the boy knew he was free from the police, he couldn’t imagine what Rodney would do or say to him. How could he ever be forgiven after all the pain he caused Rodney? The boy was almost certain that he would now be asked to leave the foster home.

Yet, although leaving the foster home had been the boy’s long-awaited wish, now that had changed. He realized that here stood a genuinely caring man who had put up with him for years, and in no way did he wish to leave the care and warmth he had received for so long and reenter a world of cold loneliness.

As Rodney and the boy arrived home, the two of them sat down. The boy knew what was coming. He would certainly be told to pack his bags. But then Rodney spoke up. “Son, I don’t consider you a problem; I consider you an opportunity. It is just a matter of what you want to do with your life. You have the opportunity to be someone great and someone special. I am here for you. It is up to you.”

For this boy, that day and that conversation was a changing point in his life. He began changing and improving his behavior and working out his issues. And it all began because someone cared about him, believed in him and smiled at him when no one else would.

When someone is treated with dignity and care no matter what they do, there is no limit to what they can achieve. They may seem the furthest away from any change of heart, but in truth, they are closer than anyone imagined. They are an opportunity, not a problem. In our own personal lives as well, we must view our troubles and trials as opportunities for change, growth and improvement. We are all beautiful people with unlimited potential, and deserve to be respected and praised for who we are.

And above all else, always remember to greet yourself with a smile and believe in your potential. Because indeed, with that little smile you give yourself, you hold the key to taking a world of problems and viewing them as a world of opportunities.

A Short Message From 
Rabbi Daniel Staum

On one occasion, when the late Rav Elya Meir Bloch z”l stood waiting in Chicago at a train station, he noticed two trains positioned close to one another on adjacent tracks. One planned on traveling to San Francisco, while the other was heading to New York. Turning to his students, he asked, “How far apart are these two trains from one another?” His students, not hesitating to reply, answered, “About ten feet.” “The truth,” replied Rav Elya, “is that they are thousands of miles apart. Although right now they look close to each other, they are about to pull away and travel thousands of miles in opposite directions. In essence then, they are thousands of miles apart.” The same is true in life. One of the biggest determining factors of our success is our point of direction. If we are yearning and striving to grow, then even if we are currently far from where we would like to be, we are on the road to success. And as long as we always keep the final destination point in the forefront of our minds, we can rest assured that we will one day arrive.

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