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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Matot-Masay

Parshat Matot-Masay

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Matot-Masay                                                       Print Version
2nd of Av, 5776 | July 14, 2016

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Elchonon Jacobovitz 
Stick With Your Stick

Most of us have experienced the disappointment of working towards something and not seeing it bear fruit. From the youngest of ages, opportunities have presented themselves where we try, yet end up not getting where or what we hoped. We practiced for a ballgame and didn’t perform as we wished; we started a project and ended up no better than we began; we went out on a shidduch and nothing came from it; we sought a business venture and it turned sour. Time and again, we encounter the roller coaster where it seems that “this time it may finally work out,” and then it doesn’t. We seemingly reach the top, only to plummet downwards. It is undeniably frustrating and debilitating.

Days, weeks, months or perhaps years later it tends to be easier to look back at the event and understand how it fit into the broader scheme of things, but what can we do with our mental and emotional frustration when we are in the throes of the moment? What can get us over the hill of the despair and disappointment that likely gnaws at us?

Backpedaling to Parshas Korach, we learn of how our ancestors dealt with such a phenomenon. The Torah tells the story of how Korach rebelled against Moshe Rabbeinu and Aharon, contesting their respective leadership and priestly positions. While Korach and his entourage suffered a terrible end, there still remained those who doubted and complained against Moshe and the terrible turnout of events. To dispel such last remaining grievances, Hashem commanded that the heads of each tribe take their staff and place it in the Tent of Meeting, wherein Hashem would miraculously select the chosen staff. And so, as the Torah relates, Aharon’s staff blossomed flowers and almonds, clearly indicating his primacy over the others.

The Torah concludes this episode by relating, “And Moshe removed all the staffs from before Hashem, and they saw and they took their staffs (Bamidbar 17:24). It is interesting to note that it was the Nesiim who had placed down their staffs who took them back. After Aharon’s staff had blossomed and cleared the air that he was chosen to lead alongside Moshe, the Torah emphasizes that the staffs that had not produced anything were summarily picked up by their rightful owner. But why is that important? If the staffs were no longer needed, then why didn’t someone else simply clean them up and discard them, and if they were going to be needed, why is it necessary for the Torah to tell us that the same leaders who placed them down picked them up? What import does this Pasuk serve?

The answer is crystal clear. Each of the Nesiim believed they were deserving of the high-honored position of Kohen Gadol, and as such, set forth their staffs. But then they discovered that, contrary to such surety, they were in fact not going to be handed such an esteemed job. They had every reason to be dejected and tell themselves, “I thought I was worthy and cut out for this. I tried so hard, but it’s a dud. My staff did not sprout a single flower…” But that is not how they reacted. They rather held their head high up and said, “If my stick does not sprout over here, that doesn’t mean I am a failure. It just means that there is a different place it is supposed to sprout, and so I’ll take back my stick and go find greener pastures elsewhere.” Just because their stick did not sprout in one place didn’t mean that they were to forget their dreams and be convinced that they were worthless.

The story is told of a Little League baseball team which had gone as far to make it to the Finals which were to take place in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Reporters came to catch the game, as did crowds and crowds of families, friends and fans. The game had not gotten further than the first half of the inning before one team scored an outstanding eighteen runs. It would certainly be difficult for the other team to make a comeback after being so down and out 18-0.

During a break in the action, one of the game reporters leaned over the left field fence and turned to the player nearby. “So what do you think about you being down 18-0 so early in the game?” Without batting an eyelash, the young boy turned straight towards the reporter and sincerely replied, “Why should I get down? My team hasn’t even gotten up to bat yet!” The boy had nailed it. As long as you’re still in the game, there is still hope. As long as there is life, there is potential.

You may have wanted something in life so much, and it didn’t turn out for you. Hashem sent you a clear message saying, “I am sorry, but your stick is not sprouting.” But He didn’t say, “It is not going to sprout.” It is not sprouting here and not sprouting now, but why should you be dejected and hopeless? It may not be your season, or perhaps it is just not your game. Or just maybe, it is not your half of the inning yet. But if you are alive and you have a stick, you have assurance from Hashem that you will bear fruit. You are capable and will be successful in whatever you want so greatly and deeply that you will refuse to give in and give up. All because it did not bear fruit here and now, that is not a reason to leave it and forget all about it. Go somewhere else where your stick will sprout, and if it doesn’t work there, then go somewhere else again. Stay strong and stick with your stick until it sticks.

Rabbi Fischel Schachter 
A Lifetime Opportunity

There is a man in my shul who we will call Chaim. Baruch Hashem, he is a quite wealthy and philanthropic. A week doesn’t go by without people coming over to him and asking for tzedakahfor the many causes and needs that countless individuals and families have. Now the way it works with Chaim is as follows. He gives everyone $20 without exception. Every Monday and Thursday, a long line forms with people eagerly awaiting their twenty dollars. As you might be expecting, many collectors will often try pushing him for more than twenty. But let me reassure you that it does not work. I know Chaim very well and twenty dollars is twenty dollars.

The only exception made is if someone comes with a story that tears at your heartstrings and really hurts to hear. At that point, after Chaim has been visibly moved, he will hand the man twenty dollars and ask him for his address, which will likely lead to a larger check being made and sent his way.

One morning, as I sat down in shul, I noticed a man come over to Chaim and begin detailing a terribly sad story, the likes of which most certainly make your eyes water. The man looked as sincere as could be, and I could tell that it really hit Chaim hard. I felt some slight consolation for the man as I knew that Chaim would end up giving him a lot.

As accustomed, Chaim took out twenty dollars and handed it to the gentleman, adding in the key words, “Please leave me your address.” Chaim continued speaking to him, asking some more details in relation to his plight and taking the folded paper with the man’s address. But then, suddenly, the man’s phone rang and he picked up. “Yankel,” he said, “I am in the middle with someone now… Yeah, don’t worry about it… I’ll take care of it… Okay…” The man then hung up the phone and gave a look at Chaim, thanking him for his help. He then walked away.

Now there is one other tidbit of information about Chaim you should know. He has two piles in front of him. One pile of addresses goes into Chaim’s pocket, whereas the other stays on the table which the janitor eventually scoops up into the trash can. And let me tell you what I saw with my own eyes. The minute the man picked up his phone, his address went from the pile that was meant for Chaim’s pocket into the pile that was then meant for the trash. That was it.

And then I thought about it. Does this person know what he just lost? Maybe twenty-five percent, fifty percent or even one hundred percent of every last penny he needed. All of it could have been given to him by Chaim, but now it was all gone. And why? Because he picked up the phone.

Let’s pause for a moment. Who is Chaim? He is Hashem’s manager. Hashem granted Chaim a wealth of money, a large portion of which to distribute to those in need. And when such behavior is displayed in front of him, the request is ripped up right before the needy man’s eyes.

We all speak to the King Himself. And we may never know when that moment we have been waiting for has arrived. It is the moment our tefillah is going to be answered. That real, sincere tefillah for that job opportunity, that shidduch you so deeply want, that child you can’t wait to cuddle in your arms, and… you lose it. You spoke in the middle of your conversation with Hashem, and you just blew a lifetime opportunity. The subsequent pain you feel would be so immense, and we should feel that way. If it could happen with Chaim, it could happen with Hashem.

Rav Chaim Volozhiner writes that every tefillah emanating from each individual throughout the world is unique and unlike any other uttered anywhere. Prayer is each of our soul’s inner essence crying out to Hashem. And in fact, continues Rav Chaim Volozhiner, if you would examine every tefillah from the beginning of creation until the end, no two Shemoneh Esrei prayers would be exactly identical. And that is because, aside from there being differences from person to person, we as our own person are never alike. We are not only different when we are ten, twenty, thirty and forty, but even from morning to afternoon we are different people. Life changes and people change. And we never know if Hashem has been waiting for years for our tefillah, and we can blow it in a moment not only for ourselves, but for others by going over to them and talking in the middle of davening.

Tefillah is a goldmine we cannot afford to undervalue. Many of us have likely encountered the mindless Shemoneh Esrei which unfortunately looks something like, “Baruch Atah – oh no, I parked on the wrong side of the street – v’Elokei avoseinu – my wife is going to be so unhappy we got another ticket – Elokei Avraham, Yitzchak… – oh phew, it’s Labor Day…” We do our best, but we can always strive to do better.

The Kuzari clues us into a fascinating insight. When you daven as part of a minyan, Hashem does something extraordinary for the entire minyan. He combines each of our individual prayers to form a complete perfect prayer. He takes Yaakov’s perfect recital in Shemonah Esrei of Atah Chonen, Shimon’s perfect recital of Refa’einu and Shimon’s perfect Bareich Aleinu and so on, until a perfect tefillah is formed, and then accepts it. Hashem then takes those perfect words and forms a crown for Himself. Even, if therefore, not all of your own individual prayers are full of concentration and focus, Hashem still nestles your one, two, three or more perfect words within the collective tefillah and treats you as if you have recited yourself a perfect prayer. It is an unbelievable opportunity which would be so pitiful to lose out on. Such is the power of praying with a minyan. It leverages our own personal davening and earns us a sure ticket for our prayers to be heard.

But what happens, says the Zohar, if the crown cannot be complete because one person decided to whisper to his friend, “You want to hear something interesting?” Imagine the crown cannot be completed and the perfect prayer is lacking because of those few words. What has just been destroyed? It is akin to finally being secluded with your beloved kallah in the yichud room and yelling out into the hallway, “Yankel…? Make sure the steak is well-done…!” Every Shemonah Esrei, says the Zohar, is a yichud, a private, intimate meeting between us and Hashem. Who would want to ruin such a pristine and sublime moment on a few words?

And so, each and every day, we have the unbelievable opportunity to have our tefillos ushered into Hashem’s private quarters, where our address is left and we can be certain that a generous response will be received in return. Our perfect prayers can have a perfect effect if we so only choose to imbue our shuls with the decorum and respect they so deserve. And when we do so, we will be building our own shuls into edifices of holiness which house the Divine Presence, and clearly be telling Hashem that we are meritorious and ready for the final rebuilding of the Third Beis Hamikdash, may it be speedily in our days.

Rebbetzin Chana Silver 
Delayed, But Saved

It was Thursday morning, August 9, 2001, and I had just finished teaching one of my Torah classes. Heading home for a short while, I planned on giving another class later that afternoon at Aish HaTorah in the Old City. But then I realized that I needed to buy a few things for Shabbos. Grabbing my purse and keys, I figured that I would run to the supermarket in Geula, a neighborhood in the center of Jerusalem, and do a few errands. But then the phone rang.

While I would just about never pick up my house phone when I was ready to walk out the door, this time I decided to do so. Instead of calling back later, for some reason, I answered the phone.

It was a woman who wanted to provide me with some background information regarding two boys involved in shidduchim. And so, considering my dabbled involvement in working with boys and girls looking to get married, I began listening to what she had to say. This was quite atypical of me. Aside from picking up the phone when poised to run out of the house, I continued to engage in conversation. I do not know what convinced me to stay on the line when I knew I had a busy day ahead of me and was pressed for time, but I did.

When I finally finished talking, little time was left until I needed to be in Jerusalem for my class. My initial plan had been to go shopping in Geula, stop by a pizza store in the Old City and then head on to teaching. But now, I needed to make one slight adjustment. I would run in and out of the supermarket in Geula and grab some pizza there and then go teach my class. No time was left to go to the other pizzeria in the Old City. I would instead grab a bite in Geula.

But then I heard the news.

As I later came to realize, this impromptu decision where I would eat lunch was not so trivial after all. Had I gone to pizza store in the Old City where I initially planned, I would have found myself where I would least have wished to be: The Sbarro Restaurant. At a time when sadly more than a dozen lives were taken amid an Arab bombing, I would have been there. The tears shed for those lost lives would have increased by the loss of one more life. At that exact place and exact time, I would have been standing there. But Hashem guided my footsteps elsewhere. He had been watching me and moving me along exactly where and when I needed.

Within a happening world where much goes on, we must always recognize that daily delays and hindrances are never coincidental. Most of the time we will never learn why they happened; but sometimes, indeed, we will. And when that is the case, we may be able to look back at the countless frustrating and inexplicable experiences throughout our life and realize that there was rhyme and reason to every one of them.

A Short Message From 
Rabbi Label Lam

For one Hollywood mogul who wanted to impress Groucho Marx with his magnificent new mansion, he decided to take him on a grand tour. They moved from room to room, yet all the while Groucho remained eminently unimpressed. Desperate to elicit the type of response he was seeking, the mogul moved to the back of the house and threw open the bay doors where just a few feet away was the beach leading to the Pacific Ocean. “Even if you don’t like my house,” the mogul declared, “we know that the three most important features in real estate are location, location, location. Look at where I find myself? Right next to the Pacific Ocean.” Groucho gave a tap on his cigar and responded in his typical sardonic tone, “Well, take away the ocean, and what have you got?” But, as we all know, the ocean isn’t going anywhere. The same is true with us. Dovid Hamelech declares, “Va’ani kirvas Elokim li tov – But as for me, G-d’s closeness is my good” (Tehillim 73:28). When we are close to Hashem, we have everything. Location, location, location.

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