7th of Elul, 5778 | August 18, 2018
Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik
Rabbi Fischel Schachter Friday Night Lectures
לשמר את כל דברי התורה הזאת
To observe all the words of the Torah (Devarim 17:19)
A number of years ago, I began receiving phone calls on my house phone day after day. Not assuming it to be of any great significance, I did not answer the calls. One day, though, I finally gave in and picked up. It was a young girl speaking in a British accent. “Rabbi Schachter?” “Yes,” I said. After telling me her name, she explained the reason for her incessant calling. “Baruch Hashem, I am a kallah and expecting to get married soon. But I told myself that I would not walk down to the chuppa before speaking to you.” “Me?” I said surprisingly. “What’s the issue?” Listening to this girl who I had never heard of before, she went on to tell me her story:
“I grew up in London and attended a prominent Jewish day school. I was a diligent student who cared about my studies and work ethic. Unfortunately, however, I got involved with the wrong crowd of girls and was exposed to things no Jewish girl should ever know about. As it turned out, I was asked to leave my school. I was then accepted into a different school. But things didn’t get any better, as by now I had already inculcated the habits and values of the street and was by no means suited to be in a frum school. I was therefore kicked out of that school. But it didn’t end there. I went to another school, and the same story happened again. I was expelled from school after school and was not in the best of predicaments.
“As I was not doing too well at school, my behavior was as well affected at home. And so, to my chagrin, I was kicked out of my own house. Now alone and on the streets, my ill-reputed behavior got me into trouble. I was far from acting as a Jewish girl should and I knew that fully well. But I didn’t improve myself. After getting my own apartment, I stopped keeping Shabbat and for the most part forgot about Judaism. The only thing I used to do was watch your Torah lectures on Friday night. Every Friday night when I would return home, I would sit on the couch and listen to your classes. I didn’t really care for any of the Torah content you mentioned, but I liked your jokes.
“One such Friday night, a friend of mine came over. She was also in a bad situation like I myself was. Angry with Judaism overall, she was particularly frustrated with her father. He would repeatedly tell her about the punishment for sinning and misconduct, and she couldn’t handle it. Sitting with me on the couch, I put on a lecture. And both to my surprise and dismay, the lecture of yours which I picked was about punishment in the Next World.
“After hearing a number of ideas from you about the retribution awaiting a person after life, I said to my friend, “You really should not blame Judaism. It is your father who is threatening you and scaring you unreasonably.” Looking back at me, my friend rebuffed, “Oh, and you are so righteous yourself!” As she said those words, I began thinking about my own behavior and what I was doing with my life. It was then that I found myself yearning for something more meaningful.
“As it so happened, I eventually wound up at Neve, a seminary in Jerusalem aimed at teaching girls basic Torah principles and bringing them closer to Yiddishkeit. I began to better my behavior and improve my attitude towards life and Torah. And before I knew it, I was engaged to a wonderful boy who shared a similar history and background to my own. Not too long thereafter, we got married. We were both committed to keeping Torah and mitzvot and helping other children who were disinterested in Judaism.
“Rabbi,” concluded the girl, “I cannot thank you enough. You saved me. If not for your lectures and particularly that one Friday night with my friend, I do not know where I would be today.”
Three years after speaking to this girl, I attended a dinner in London where I was approached by a young man. “Rabbi, would you be able to talk to my wife?” Unaware who this person was and how I could help, I asked him to get in touch with me after the dinner.
The next morning, as I was rushing out to the airport, the man walked over to me again. “My wife is over there in that car,” he said. “Could you go see her?” Not knowing exactly what to do, he started begging me. “Please Rabbi, she really wants to see you.” I didn’t know what to expect, but I made my way over to the car.
As I continued walking closer, it all of a sudden hit me. “Wait a minute,” I said to the man, “is your wife the kallah who called me a few years ago?” “Yeah, that’s her.” I now had at least some idea of who I was dealing with. But I was in for a surprise when the car door opened.
Out walked a woman modestly dressed and holding a baby. Walking in my direction, she lifted up the toddler towards me as she said, “It all began that Friday night when I listened to your lecture. This baby is thanks to you.” For about five minutes, she, her husband and I stood there crying. I had no words to say. All I could get out after crying for minutes and realizing that I had touched someone’s neshama so far from Yiddishkeit and living thousands of miles away was, “I hope you use your life to help others.” And with that, I turned around and began walking away with a feeling I had never felt before.
Sometimes we think that someone far from Yiddishkeit will never be moved by anything we do or say. But you never know. Perhaps someone you never noticed and never knew existed was inspired by your little kind act or word and went on to change their life. Who would have ever guessed that a non-religious girl undergoing a difficult time and listening to a lecture on Friday night would have come so far? But then again, when it comes to Torah and its penetrating beauty, a person’s dreams are not merely dreams. They can and do in fact come true.
Rabbi Moshe Tuvia Lieff The Cry of a Baby
As a father living in Williamsburg, New York, began readying himself to walk to shul for an all-night learning program on Shavuot, his little 8-year-old son approached him. “Tatty, can I come with you?” Looking back at his son all dressed up, the father smiled. He knew that his son would probably not last learning the entire night, and would likely be better off staying at home. “I think you should stay here for the night,” replied the father. “Maybe next year.” And with that, the father gave his son a hug and a kiss and gently closed the door.
The father proceeded to make his way to shul, around and about the streets of his neighborhood. Finally arriving at the doorstep before the shul, he began to think, “What did I do? My little boy wants to learn Torah tonight. So what if he learns for only a few minutes? Why should I deprive him of this opportunity?” And with that, the father turned around and retraced his steps all the way home.
Opening the door to his house, he saw there standing in front of him his son, dressed in his suit and tie, ready to go. “How did you know I was coming back?” asked the father. “Tatty,” replied the little boy, “I davened to Hashem. I knew you would come back.”
That little boy was Shimshon Pincus. The same R’ Shimshon Pincus who went on to inspire thousands of Jews and spread Torah to the far corners of the world knew as a little boy that his Father in Heaven truly listened to his prayers.
The Gemara (Berachot 34b) relates that when R’ Yochanan ben Zakkai’s son was deathly ill, his situation only continued to deteriorate until a new student, R’ Chanina ben Dosa,
arrived. Hearing about the condition of the boy, R’ Chanina placed his head between his knees in fervent prayer to Hashem. And, to everyone’s great relief, the boy recovered.
When the good news was announced, everyone was thrilled, except for one person: the wife of R’ Yochanan. “What is going on?” she asked her husband. “You, the Rosh Yeshiva, should have been able to save our son? Why were your prayers unable to help him, while the prayers of R’ Chanina ben Dosa were?” “There is a good reason for that,” said R’ Yochanan. “I am like a nobleman before the king, while R’ Chanina ben Dosa is like a servant before his master.”
A nobleman, explains the Maharal, holds a very prestigious position. He shares a wonderful relationship with the king and enters and exits the palace on a regular basis. Yet, he only conducts himself as per the king’s explicit instructions. He only arrives when told and leaves when told.
The servant, on the other hand, holds a significantly different place in the king’s retinue. He may be only a servant, but his position grants him far more access to the king than many other higher officials. Stationed inside the palace, he whistles while he cleans the windows and enjoys the king’s beautiful tapestries. Aside from that, he is privileged to entering the king’s private quarters and hearing royal confidential meetings on a daily basis.
If one were asked, who knows the king better? Who shares a closer, more personal relationship with the king? The answer would be the servant. He may not enjoy so esteemed a position, but he has something which the nobleman does not: access to the king’s innermost chambers whenever he wishes. And that is beside the fact that the king feeds him, shelters him and takes care of all his needs.
Yet how did the simple servant earn so great a position? What warranted him to enjoy the comforts of the royal palace?
The answer is simple: his complete dependence on the king. He is a servant who needs his master and cannot perform his duties without him. And commensurate with the servant’s dependence on the king is the king’s urgency of response to the servant.
When R’ Chanina ben Dosa prayed, he placed his head between his knees and cried. He cried amid a fetal positon and called out like a baby calls out for its mother. And when he did that, showing his complete dependence on Hashem like a servant to his master, his call was immediately answered.
Imagine a mother who, after a lengthy pregnancy and difficult birth, cuddles her healthy baby. Ordered by the doctors to remain off her feet, she places her baby at a distance away and resorts to complete and total bedrest. The Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey circus could be marching around her bed, yet she hears nothing.
But then, every three or four hours, a soft and pristine wail is heard. It is the cry of her baby. And what happens? Out jumps the mother from her bed and off she races to her child.
What happened? Why all of a sudden does the mother push back the bed covers and attend to the wailing cry of her baby? Because, as Dovid Hamelech states, “K’gmul alai imo, k’gmul alai nafshi - Like a child at his mother's side, like the child is my soul” (Tehillim 131:2). The child is completely dependent on its mother, and the mother knows that without her, the baby’s life could be endangered.
When we turn to Hashem in prayer, it is to be with that same emotional stir as a baby for its mother and a servant to his master. “Im k’avadim einenu lecha teluyot – If you [Hashem] view us like servants, our eyes are turned to You.” Those are the words we recite as part of the Rosh Hashanah davening. We have nothing without Hakadosh Baruch Hu. We cannot walk, talk, see, digest our food or earn a dollar without Him.
As we begin the days of Elul, our tefillot are meant to take on this added degree of focus. We have nothing without our Father in Heaven. It is all for One and One for all. All that we have is from Him, and He most certainly will provide all that we need.
And when we do this, Hashem will, like a loving parent for its child, come to our side and heed our call. He will see us standing in front of Him dressed in our suits and dresses and ask us, “How did you know I was coming back?” But now, we have an answer. “Tatty, I davened to You. I knew you would come back.”
And that little boy or girl is none other than you.
Rebbetzin Esther Baila Schwartz My Colleague
As two street cleaners arose early one morning to clean the streets, a very luxurious limousine drove by. Looking up, one of the cleaners just barely caught a glimpse of the distinguished personage sitting in the front seat. “Look at that,” said the cleaner, “I just saw my colleague drive by!” Staring back at his friend bewildered, the other cleaner said, “Colleague? What do you mean?” “Yeah,” said the cleaner, “I even know where he is going. He is on his way to the bank. He is the CEO of the bank and I clean there on Fridays. He is my colleague.”
The Zohar teaches, “Kudsha B’rich Hu, Yisrael V’Oraita Chad Hu” – “G-d, the Jewish people and the Torah are one.” While Hashem and the Torah’s pristine greatness may be far beyond our deepest understanding, we are nevertheless intrinsically bound together. We are a part of Hashem and His Torah and He and His Torah are a part of us. We are not simply “another person.” We are “colleagues” with the world’s greatest CEO and company.
A Short Message From Rebbetzin Chana Silver
Rav Eliyah Lopian zt”l interestingly observes that the resources we have in life which are plentiful are the very same resources we direly need in order to survive. For example, air to breathe and water to drink. Air is free and available for everyone to breathe. Water, as well, is necessary for a person to survive. And as we know it, the world is largely made up of water. The same is true, notes Rav Lopian, when it comes to emunah, belief in Hashem. Belief in G-d, which is so vital to our lives, is so plentiful. Simply looking out into our world and studying its breathtaking depth and intricacies leaves one awestruck. There are plenty of indications in our world which point to a Creator; all that we must do is open our eyes and take a look.
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