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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Ki Tetzei

Parshat Ki Tetzei

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Ki Teitzei                                                                             Print Version
14th of Elul, 5778 | August 25, 2018

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Shlomo Farhi 
Honking the Horn

עוּרוּ יְשֵׁנִים מִשְּׁנַתְכֶם וְנִרְדָּמִים הָקִיצוּ מִתַּרְדֵּמַתְכֶם

Awake, sleepers, from your sleep! Arise, slumberers, from your slumber! (Rambam, Hil. Teshuva 3:4)

Shortly after getting married, my wife and I were invited to attend a 4th of July party at the home of my uncle. With a gorgeous condominium on the thirtieth floor overlooking the East River in Long Island, New York, we were sure to have a spectacular view of the fireworks. And it was just that – breathtaking and phenomenal.

As the show wound down, my family slowly got up one by one and began exchanging good-byes, wishing each other well. But then we opened the door to the hallway and were met by just about every other family on the same floor. Everyone too had finished watching the fireworks and were also attempting to make their way down. The elevator was jammed, as was the stairwell. My father and mother, needing to get back home to Deal, New Jersey, decided to wiggle their way through the crowd despite the uncomfortable difficulty. But my wife and I, with no particular sense of urgency to rush home, figured we would head back inside and socialize a little bit more before leaving. We would avoid the hallway jam and enjoy our family’s company for longer.

An hour and a half later, we opened the door once again to the hallway, and lo and behold, the coast was clear. We thanked our family again for opening their home to us, and with that, we headed off. Getting in the car, we began making our way out of Long Island towards Deal, just like my parents.

About half an hour after leaving, as I drove down the highway, I noticed a car that looked quite familiar. I eventually caught up with it, and to my utter surprise saw that it was none other than my father. I was very confused. My parents had left an hour and a half ago, and here we had caught up to them after leaving when we did. Despite it all, I honked my horn, prompting my father to turn towards me and wave back. Nothing more happened, as we both drove to our homes for the night.

The next morning, after I finished davening in shul, I made my way over to my father. “Abba,” I said, “what happened last night?” Looking back at me perturbed, he shrugged his shoulders. “What do you mean?” “Don’t you remember? Last night, as I was driving home, I saw you in the next lane over, and honked my horn as you waved back. But I don’t understand, didn’t you leave so much earlier than us?” My father now looked even more confused. “Well, I’ll tell you. By the time we made it down the packed hallway and out of the building, got into our car and weaved our way through traffic, it was over an hour later.” But my father’s face still had confusion written all over it.

“But what I don’t understand,” continued my father, “is that you waved at me. That was you?” “Yes Abba,” I replied, “that was me. And you even waved back to me…” My father began turning pale. “You won’t believe it,” he said. “What actually happened is that I was so tired that I actually dozed off for a moment, until I heard someone honking at me. I was so startled by the noise that I opened my eyes and woke up. Catching my breath, I turned to my side and courteously waved to the man in the next lane, thanking him for waking me. But I thought I was waving to a stranger. I didn’t think it was you…”

As I heard this, and finally understood what had actually happened, I was shocked myself. All it takes is just a few seconds of falling asleep or not paying attention at the wheel until something scary or worse can happen. I have no idea what could have happened had my father really dozed off and lost control of the car, but I do know what did happen because I honked my horn.

Reflecting upon this incident lends insight into a similar parallel which occurs during this time of year. All of us drive down the highway of life. Yet, as we continue coasting along, we at times doze off and lose focus of what is really important. We lose control of where we need to be heading and slowly begin drifting further and further off course. But then comes the wake-up call. As the Rambam (Hil. Teshuva 3:4) articulates, the Shofar prompts us to awaken from our spiritual sleep, reflect upon our life and search for ways to repent and improve. All we must do is heed the call, and from there, we are on our way to getting back on track and returning home to our Father in Heaven.

Rabbi Chanan Gordon 
Look Forward, Look Backward

Life is about perspective. It is nearly axiomatic to anyone who has lived in this world. In countless areas of life, we encounter something which can be seen in not one, but two ways. This not only applies to specific incidents which we encounter on a day-to-day basis, but something much bigger and broader: life itself.

Now here’s a little exercise that will show you just about how different of an image perspective can give you. Read the following poem, and reflect upon its meaning and import:

Today was the absolute worst day ever 
And don’t try to convince me that 
There’s something good in every day 
Because, when you take a closer look, 
This world is a pretty evil place. 
Even if 
Some goodness does shine through once in a while 
Satisfaction and happiness don’t last. 
And it’s not true that 
It’s all in the mind and heart 
True happiness can be attained 
Only if one’s surroundings are good 
It’s not true that good exists 
I’m sure you can agree that 
The reality 
My attitude 
It’s all beyond my control 
And you’ll never in a million years hear me say 
Today was a very good day

Now, after reading this, how do you feel? What image does it paint in your mind? Someone who feels lousy, helpless and unhappy.

But now let’s change the way you feel. Read the same exact poem from bottom to top replacing the first stanza with, “Today was a very good day.”

How do you feel now? Quite likely, positive, cheerful and empowered. And why is that? Because you changed the way you saw things. Perspective holds the extraordinary power to alter our thoughts and feelings in a very concrete way.

Now, this same phenomenon can be applied to the past year. Travel back to last Rosh Hashanah and envision yourself exactly where you were. What were your thoughts, feelings and wishes for the new year? What were your deepest prayers, yearnings and dreams focused on? Now continue moving along through the whole past year, month by month – through the High Holidays, then on to the winter season and through Chanukah, Purim, Pesach, Sefiras Ha’Omer, Shavuos, summer vacation, Tisha B’av, and finally to the beginning of a new year. Think about your visions and aspirations you thought about on Rosh Hashanah and how you wished for them to unfold throughout the course of the then upcoming year.

After you have traveled forward throughout your year, travel backwards. Read the poem of your past year from bottom to top, from end to beginning – start of a new year, Tisha B’av, summer vacation, Shavuos, Sefiras Ha’Omer, Pesach, Purim, Chanukah, winter, High Holidays.

Now, consider your current perspective a year later. Last Rosh Hashanah, you may have wished to study five minutes every night before you went to sleep. That was your dream moving forward from the beginning of 5778. Now, at the end of 5778, how did that turn out? Or alternatively, you may have been hopeful about landing a new job, having your shidduch lead to marriage, moving to a different community, or countless other wishes and prayers. Now, in hindsight a year later, is your perspective about anything you thought about last Rosh Hashanah different?

You may have wished to learn five minutes a night, but now you realize you could have done even more and learned ten minutes; you appreciate that you didn’t earn the job you so wanted because an even greater opportunity presented itself just months later; that shidduch didn’t work out and you ended up finding someone even more fitting for you or will soon; you didn’t end up moving to a different community and are happier because of it.

Look back now, from the end of your year, and determine what your perspective is about everything you wished for at the beginning. This is not merely an entertaining activity, but allows you to improve and enhance your perspective moving into the new and next year. Many of your prayers and hopes for the upcoming year may not materialize as you hope, but just remember, look back at your past year. The same was true. Last year you so deeply wanted something, but it did or didn’t work out, and there is a good reason for that. And so now, remain calm and reassured, Hashem knows your past and knows your future. He will take care of you. He knows what you want and what is best for you. Sometimes they match and sometimes they don’t. But always remember, He is looking after your best interests. All you must do to see that is sometimes change your perspective. It does wonders and lends you a window of insight you may have never seen out of before.

Rabbi Dovid Rosman 
Win the Day

The Gemara (Berachos 60b), in discussing the several blessings recited upon waking up in the morning and performing various activities, states that the very first blessing recited is that of Elokai Neshama. We acknowledge and thank Hashem for returning our pristine neshama to us after we deposited it in His care as we slept overnight.

The difficulty with this Gemara is the fact that, as a rule in the laws of blessings, every blessing must begin with the word Baruch, wherein we recognize Hashem as the source of blessing, or immediately follow a previous blessing which began with the conventional Baruch Atah opening. In this case of Elokai Neshama, it begins with no opening Baruch and doesn’t appear to dovetail any preceding blessing.

In fact, though, the early commentaries, most notably the Tosafos Ha’Rosh and Meiri citing the Raavad, note that Elokai Neshama does indeed follow a previous blessing. And what is that preceding blessing? It’s the one you said hours before when you went to sleep – HaMapil. The blessing before we go to sleep is the preceding blessing to the one we first recite in the morning.

This, in reality, can be deduced based upon the Gemara’s wording and textual flow. The Gemara (ibid.) begins by saying that before retiring for the night, one should recite Shema and HaMapil. Immediately juxtaposed to that is the following statement relating to when a person awakens in the morning and is meant to recite Elokai Neshama. The unspoken implication is that the two blessings are interrelated, and HaMapil leads into its subsequent counterpart of Elokai Neshama.

But there is something even more noteworthy. In response to a terrible plague that broke out during the days of Dovid Hamelech and killed one hundred people daily, it was enacted that one hundred blessings be recited daily to counteract its ravaging effects. Even after the plague subsided, the practice of reciting one hundred blessings continued, even to this very day. In discussing the practical aspect of the one hundred blessings, the Mishna Berura (Orach Chaim 46:14), authored by the Chofetz Chaim, writes, “Every day we recite more than one hundred blessings. How is this so? At night when going to sleep, we recite HaMapil, and in the morning…”

Ostensibly, the comment of the Mishna Berura is problematic. If we begin the count of the one hundred blessings at nighttime, then the first blessings to be recited should be those said at Maariv during the evening prayers, and not HaMapil. On the other hand, if the count begins from the morning, those blessings recited then upon awakening should lead the list, and once again, not HaMapil.

What we are left with is a fascinating insight into when our day actually begins, and not when we may have thought it does for so many years. Our day begins not when we wake up, but when we go to sleep. It may seem strange, but it is very true. That is why the blessing of HaMapil is the preceding blessing to Elokai Neshama, which is first recited in the morning; why the Gemara juxtaposes the recital of these two blessings; and also why the Mishna Berura starts the count of the one hundred blessings from HaMapil. They all point to the same underlying theme. Our morning starts not when we get out of bed, but when we get into bed.

Chazal’s eternal words teach us that being successful during our day does not begin with waking up and declaring, “Today is going to be a good day! I will do this and that…” It is already too late then to start focusing our thoughts, planning our schedule and implementing our goals. It must begin earlier, when we go to sleep and think, “What time would I like to get up? What would I like to accomplish tomorrow? How can I accomplish what I would like?” As we wind down and ready ourselves for sleep, we ought to take a moment to reflect upon our previous day and self-introspect, and begin right away thinking about the next day because that is when it begins.

Such a paradigm shift in our mental attitude and focus can do wonders. We are building ourselves with schedule and structure, planning and implementing, thought process and action. We know where we are going the moment we place our feet on the floor the next morning and know what we want to accomplish. We don’t wake up in a haze because we planned what time we need to go to sleep in order to feel rested and function properly. And if for some reason we are tired, our goals and motivation for the day overwhelm any fatigue. It may seem so simple, but the dividends such a change in perspective can have is extraordinary.

And so, before you recite Shema and HaMapil and close your eyes to drift off into sleep, remember Elokei Neshama. Remember that tomorrow begins tonight, and your great plans for a bright, sunny day start when the gleaming evening stars are out. You win the morning, you win the day. Always make the decision to run the day and not let the day run you. Because if you do, you will never just be someone who dreams of success; you will be getting up every morning and making it happen.

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