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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Vayeitzei

Parshat Vayeitzei

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Vayeitzei                                                                                   Print Version
9th of Kislev, 5779 | November 17, 2018                                                Spanish Edition

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Fischel Schachter 
Remember Me?

It was just days after the great Rav Yaakov Galinsky had gotten married that he was called upon by the Chazon Ish. “I need you to take care of something very important,” the Chazon Ish urged. Hundreds of children from Teheran had been forcibly locked into Israeli kibbutzim and anticipated to be acculturated and secularized in line with an irreligious lifestyle. Only after due arbitration was it agreed that already Orthodox, religious children would be allowed to be released into stable religious homes and avoid steeping themselves in a future that stood antithetical to their values. But there was one hindrance.

Agency officials in charge of overseeing the Teheran children refused to allow any religious children to be released except for those who had been documented as ‘religious.’ A detailed, authoritative list had been compiled in Europe and would serve as proof for which children would be allowed to leave. But it wasn’t in the hands of the religious leaders, unfortunately, but rather with those who had placed the children into kibbutzim. It was thus far from simple to obtain the list and begin any process as hoped for.

But the Chazon Ish’s instructions to Rav Galinsky were clear. “Go and ask for the list,” he said. It was a far-fetched request, though Rav Galinsky went along with it.

Stealthily making his way to the army base, he was met by a number of soldiers who abruptly and accusingly stopped him. “Do you belong here?” they asked. It appeared as if Rav Galinsky was trying to secretly obtain something, which he in fact was. But Rav Galinsky only shrugged when asked what he was up to. Presuming that he was looking for someone who spoke Yiddish, the officials summoned one of their executive officers who could interrogate Rav Galinsky in Yiddish.

As soon as Rav Galinsky caught sight of the officer, he sprung into an outburst. “Chulit!” he exclaimed, a clear reference to the officer’s name. The officer was offset, his eyebrows burrowing in confusion and seriousness. “How do you know who I am?” inquired the officer. “Allow me to remind you,” began Rav Galinsky.

“Years ago, I was arrested while living in Russia. Every day, they used to feed me only a morsel of food and beat me. It was a terrible and terrifying situation. With me was a list of all the Jewish children who were later brought to Teheran. I was forced to relinquish that list with all the names.

“A few days later, I was told that I would be sent to Siberia, though my frail condition was concerning to the officers. It didn’t appear as if I could even make it there alive. They decided to thus give me a bowl of plain noodles, which I could have devoured within minutes.

“But then, I heard a heartbreaking outcry coming from nearby. It was you, Chulit. You had just been brought to those terrible living quarters and knew it would soon be your turn to be sent to Siberia. You cried about your ominous future and begged for just a morsel of food. Hearing you cry broke my heart, and I decided that I would share half of my noodles with you, which you so graciously accepted.”

Chulit, now a reputable soldier, looked at Rav Galinsky. It all came back to him, and he indeed remembered. “Remember…?” whispered Rav Galinsky. “I gave you the noodles… I saved your life… Please give me the list of those Jewish names back.” 
And sure enough, Rav Galinsky was given the list.

There will be times in life where matters not only look dismal but are dismal. Life is challenging and crushing. Yet all the while, that very situation may be paving an unknown road that will later turn out to be our ticket to where we want and need to get. In hindsight, it is no less than our source of blessing and life. It is a most depressing and dejected moment, yet all the while, it is in the process of becoming our most promising and positive moment.

Rabbi YY Jacobson 
Your Last Words

Since 1979, Benjamin Zander, originally from Buckinghamshire, England, has been the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic. As a world-renowned composer of Classical music and speaker on leadership, he has used music to inspire others and add a touch of joy and harmony to thousands of people’s lives. In his June 2008 TED Talk, he relayed the following incisive and enlightening thoughts:

“Now, I had an amazing experience. I was 45 years old, I'd been conducting for 20 years, and I suddenly had a realization. The conductor of an orchestra doesn't make a sound. My picture appears on the front of a CD, but the conductor doesn't make a sound. He depends, for his power, on his ability to make other people powerful. And that changed everything for me. It was totally life-changing. People in my orchestra said, "Ben, what happened?" That's what happened. I realized my job was to awaken possibility in other people. And of course, I wanted to know whether I was doing that. How do you find out?

“You look at their eyes. If their eyes are shining, you know you're doing it. If their eyes are not shining, you get to ask a question. And this is the question: who am I being that my players' eyes are not shining? We can do that with our children, too. Who am I being, that my children's eyes are not shining? That's a totally different world.

“And you know, I have a definition of success. For me, it's very simple. It's not about wealth and fame and power. It's about how many shining eyes I have around me.”

But Benjamin Zadner had one more idea to share:

“So now, I have one last thought, which is that it really makes a difference what we say – the words that come out of our mouth. I learned this from a woman who survived Auschwitz, one of the rare survivors. She went to Auschwitz when she was 15 years old. Her brother was eight, and the parents were lost. ‘We were in the train going to Auschwitz,’ she related, ‘and I looked down and saw my brother's shoes were missing. I said, 'Why are you so foolish? Can't you keep your things together for goodness' sake!'” It was the way an elder sister might speak to a younger brother. Unfortunately, it was the last thing she ever said to him, because she never saw him again. He did not survive.

When she came out of Auschwitz, she made a vow. She told me this. She said, "I walked out of Auschwitz into life and I made a vow. And the vow was, ‘I will never say anything that couldn't stand as the last thing I ever say.’" Now, can we do that? No. And we'll make ourselves wrong and others wrong. But it is a possibility to live into.”

Powerful words that ought to ring and resonate in our ears. “I will never say anything that couldn’t stand as the last thing I ever say.”

How different would our interactions and conversations be if they all were measured by this meter? How many people do we meet all so casually, at the store, on the street, or on our way to and from school that we may never see again in our lives? And what if just at that moment, we have the choice to say something that will indeed be our last word to them? What would it be?

With our children as well, when we arrive home and meet a house of disarray and we are in dismay, what if those words we utter then would be our last to them? How would we react? That is the question of all questions.

More than anything, it is our silence and other times our carefully chosen words which can awaken possibility and potential in other people and allow their eyes to shine brighter than ever. The baton is in our hands.

Rabbi Bentzion Shafier 
Where Is It From?

We are all familiar with the prohibition, as delineated in Parshas Kedoshim (Vayikra 19:18), of taking revenge. Simply understood, we are led to assume that the prohibition is aimed at fostering humanitarian peace and well-being. Taking revenge and engaging in both small and big belligerent accosts will certainly result in unrest and conflict. In order to curtail such interpersonal strife along with engendering introspective, personal growth, the Torah imposes such a restriction.

Yet, while this is certainly true, the Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzvah 241) offers an alternate outlook, which in turn directs our attention to a different Jewish principle. Revenge, explains the Chinuch, essentially imputes power to man. By acting upon the wrong that was done to you and “returning the favor,” you demonstrate that you believe that another person can harm you. He hurt you in some way and you wish to hurt him back.

But such a perspective is completely misaligned from the Torah’s standpoint. In the Torah’s view, there is no human being who can harm, or for that matter, help you. It is all the decision and doing of Hashem. If pain was not destined to come your way, then nobody could touch you. And vice-versa, if pain was destined to come to you, then there is nothing that could have been done to prevent that. That pain would have been inflicted either by this individual, from whom you now wish to take revenge, or someone or something else. That hurt would have come your way. Period.

In essence then, by taking revenge, a person shows that they do not believe that the pain, shame or embarrassment they experienced was destined to come to them from Hashem, but rather was the sole doing of the person. That person had the choice to hurt me, and because he did, I want to get back at him. Whether or not to take revenge then cuts to the core of our emunah (belief) system.

The proper understanding, as made clear from this insight of the Chinuch as well as the Chovos HaLevavos, is that everything is decreed by Hashem, and no human being can harm or help another. Man may dream and scheme, but if the other person is not deserving of any such pain or aid as determined by Hashem, no one can make it happen. It is as if a bubble protects him.

Consider the following analogy.

A speaker is handed a microphone, which is connected to a loudspeaker, from which everyone will be able to loudly and clearly hear all that is said. In the middle of the speech, amidst a rambling of sorts, the speaker begins hurling words of insult and profanity at one of the listeners in the audience. The person, upon which such distasteful words are aimed at, gets up in a fury and kicks the loudspeaker, immediately causing it to break. 

Now, ask yourself, do the actions of this person make sense? The answer is no. And the reason is simple. If he has a problem with something being said, he ought to take his issue up with the speaker, not the loudspeaker. It is the speaker who is the stating such hurtful words, not the loudspeaker.

The same is true of all that happens to us in life. Hashem is the “speaker” and people are the “loudspeakers.” Whatever we experience in life is because Hashem wants it to happen. If someone therefore insults us, while he made the wrong decision to be the loudspeaker to cause such pain, it is ultimately from Hashem, and not him. If I didn’t deserve that hurt or embarrassment, I would not have had it. Such is the key and trick to reacting to a harsh insult in the right way.

Such an attitude and perspective is life-changing in many ways. Whenever we are hurt, whether it be physically, mentally or emotionally, we are to realize that it is Hashem who decreed that such discomfort come our way, for some reason. No one can change our destiny and future but the doing of our own actions and Hashem’s dealings with us in response. It is an amazing and astounding insight to carry with us everywhere we go.

A Short Message From 
Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein

One of the key components of Yaakov Avinu’s dream in this week’s Parsha is the ascent and descent of angels from heaven to earth on a ladder. Yet the obvious question begs. Why allude to the angels traveling up and down specifically on a ladder? Why not allude to their travel along a road or up and down steps?

Hashem chose ladder for a very specific purpose. Whenever traveling along a road, a person looks downwards toward the road as they move along. The same is with steps. When descending a stairwell, a person looks down at the steps to monitor their movement. When it comes to a ladder, however, whether you go up or down, you are always looking up. Hashem thus meant to emphasize to Yaakov Avinu, that despite the many travails and tragedies he will undergo, he will always be looking up. He will be able to handle it and he will make it through. And that is because, as the Torah itself attests, “Hashem was standing over him” (Bereishis 28:13). At the top of the ladder stood none other than Hashem, supporting and shouldering Yaakov Avinu.

In the world we live today, unfortunately, there is a lot of pain. Boys and girls have difficulty getting married; once married, there are challenges with infertility; once there are children, there is heartache when, for those who choose, they sadly leave the fold of Yiddishkeit. Then there are illnesses, addictions, and emotional distresses that affect Jewish communities worldwide. At no point in life is there no potential for trauma or tragedy.

But what we must remember throughout it all is that when a ladder is placed against a wall, the part of the ladder that rests on the wall is the top. And Hashem told Yaakov Avinu before he went into his dark and deep exile, “I am at the top of the ladder. You are going to go up and you are going to go down, but you need to know that the whole ladder is leaning on Me. Whichever way you are moving, whether up or down, just keep your head up. Because I am right above you, supporting you and protecting you.”

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