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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Va'eira

Parshat Va'eira

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Va'eira                                                                                        Print Version
28th of Tevet, 5779 | January 5, 2019

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik                                                      

Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein 
Clean Your Windows and Look Inside

Mark was without question a great guy. Very affable, respectable and caring. Unfortunately, though, he struggled with a drinking problem which took its toll on him and his wife, Melissa. It was all too familiar a scene for Mark to return home late at night inebriated and topsy-turvy. Understandably so, Melissa confronted him and demanded that he seek the proper treatment and avoid any further drinking sprees. Mark nodded his head in acknowledgement and agreement.

But it didn’t last long. Mark returned home, time and again, intoxicated. Melissa now approached Mark one last time, but now she had a different message. “Mark, if this happens once more, I am going to have no other choice than forcibly take you to treatment and have you stay there. I love you dearly, but this can happen no more.” Her words resonated with Mark. He absorbed her heartfelt words, and felt different. He was inspired and motivated to, once and for all, put an end to his problem. And with that, both Mark and Melissa went to sleep.

No less than two hours later, Mark awoke, his palms sweaty and heart racing. And all so soon, disregarding his word to Melissa, he snuck out of the house to find a couple of drinks.

A few hours later, he returned home and turned his head from side to side in disbelief. “I can’t believe it! Look what I did!” Needing to now hide any evidence of his escapade, Mark figured he would grab a drink of soda, wash his face and freshen himself up. “This will never happen again!” he promised himself. And so, off went Mark to the refrigerator, grabbing himself a bottle of Coca-Cola and heading upstairs.

But, alas, amid Mark’s drunken stupor, he lost his footing as he moved up the stairs and fell. Gaining composure, he shook himself off and stood up. But he was not left unscathed. The glass bottle had cracked, sending flying shards onto the carpeted floor all over and scratching his face. Mark shuddered to think what would happen now. But then the perfect idea popped into his head. He would tell his wife that he had gotten up in the middle of the night to get a bottle of soda because he was thirsty, and on his way up the stairs, he accidently tripped and the bottle broke, causing remnants to scatter everywhere and leave a few scratches on his face. He had the perfect alibi.

From the stairs, Mark headed to the restroom, where he found a couple of band-aids and washed himself up. And with that, he tiptoed back into bed and fell fast asleep.

6:50 a.m. “Mark! Mark!” Melissa exclaimed, as she abruptly moved him around. “What happened? I told you no more drinking!” Mark, sitting himself up in bed, rubbed his eyes and yawned. “What are you talking about? Last night I went downstairs…” But before Mark could get out another word, Melissa grabbed him by the hand and led him to the bathroom.

“Uh-oh,” he said, as his heart sank and stomach dropped. He had placed the band-aids not on his face, but on the mirror.

While the message of realizing that honesty and integrity is beyond paramount is evident in this anecdote, there is something more to be gleaned. When engaging in introspection and striving to make a change in our lives, it can be tempting to look outward at others and not inward at ourselves. We are inclined to make changes to our ourselves as we appear to others and not on the inside as we are deep-down. We make the same mistake of putting the band-aid on the mirror – on the image we project and portray.

True introspection and real-lasting change, however, removes the mirror and allows us to investigate our deepest selves. We place the focus on who we are truly, deep-down and not on how others relate to us, perceive us or compare to us. We ask ourselves, “What can I can do to upgrade my life? What areas of my life do I wish I was better in?” If we choose to put the band-aid on our own, real self by changing our self-conception and reclaiming our life, we will then see genuine transformation. We will understand ourselves and the world in new ways and find that we do not need to change, control or correct other people to attain success. It is all within us ourselves.

But there is another point to remember, which can be best understood by way of the following.

It was just a day after the young couple had gotten married that they sat down to breakfast together in their new apartment. Looking around at the beautiful interior of their new home, the wife’s gaze soon noticed something strangely bizarre. Turning to her husband, she asked rather startingly, “Why did our neighbors hang up dirty laundry outside? I don’t understand; why are they using detergent that is not cleaning the clothing well?” While the wife wondered why someone would choose to do so, she nonetheless carried on with the rest of her day as if nothing had happened.

Yet the next morning, again at the breakfast table, she looked out and saw once again, her neighbor’s dirty laundry hanging up. Still perturbed, she asked her husband for an explanation. But he had nothing to offer.

This scenario carried on for considerable time. Until one morning, as the wife sat down to the table, she gasped. “Oh wow! Look, look, the laundry is clean! Who showed the neighbor how to clean the clothing properly?” The husband glanced at his wife, a small smile forming at the corners of his mouth. “Would you like to know a little secret?” The wife’s eyebrows raised in curiosity. “This morning, I woke up and cleaned the windows.” The wife grew completely silent. “What do you mean?” “It was never the clothing that was dirty; it was our windows. Now that I’ve cleaned them, you can see our neighbor’s clothing as they really are – perfectly clean.”

To put it in once sentence, how we look at others is a direct reflection of ourselves. If our outlook is filled with dirt and negativity, it tells us something about our own seeing, thinking and feeling. In order to have an honest and clear look at anything, we must first and foremost clean our own lenses. If and when we do, we will oftentimes realize that the problem lies not with others, but with ourselves. In many instances, the “dirt” we see is not a reflection of their problems and failures, but of our own. Considering this, the solution is rather straightforward. If we clean our own windows, we will see the world with greater clarity and honesty.

As with Mark and the newlywed wife, the key is to self-reflect and introspect. Above all, look how you can fix yourself on the inside. Look inward for resolving the problem, and not outward where your attention is focused on other people’s perceptions and perspectives. And secondly, whenever you endeavor on this mission, remember to clean and cleanse your heart and mind beforehand. Otherwise, everything you look at, including yourself, will look like dirty laundry.

This two-fold process for growth and self-improvement is both simple and profound. Clean your windows and look inside. They are simple key ingredients which can be sure to bear phenomenal results and leave us profoundly changed as deeper and more developed individuals.

Mr. Charlie Harary 
Take Nothing for Granted

Early on in my career, I was given several pieces of advice that have stayed with me to this very day. They were business tidbits that successful business people and companies always live by, and factually work. They are the keys to tried and true success.

But what I have also learned throughout my entrepreneurial career is that many of these business tips also apply to life as a Jew. We tend to divide our lives at work from our lives at home. Yet, in fact, tremendously insightful nuggets of wisdom exist within the business world, which if applied to our lives at home with our families and communities, offer us paths to success.

Of the many secrets and strategies I learned, here is one that stands above all else: Successful business people and companies never take anything for granted. You can never sit in a meeting and say, “Well, they were our customers last year, so of course they will be our customers this year.” Or, “We practiced real estate this way for the past year; we can continue using the same strategies for the next twenty years.” Having this attitude is a recipe for disaster, for you can expect that the world will change even overnight and life will look different. What was is not what will be. It is absolutely true that businesses discuss the implications of life with self-driving cars and convertible homes. If these considerations were overlooked and the status quo was taken for granted, by the time they would finish constructing a building, its design would be obsolete.

The key fundamental distinction between successful businesses and unsuccessful ones is this very point. Nothing is taken for granted. You cannot rest on your laurels and allow life to happen to you.

Applying this principle to our personal lives with our families, we are clued into a potential life-altering perspective. We should not take anything for granted. This is true for all of us, no matter what age or stage we are up to in life. If we are grandparents, we cannot expect our grandchildren to appreciate the vibrancy and richness of Jewish tradition of old, but must rather teach and tell them of it. If we are parents, we cannot expect our children to be devotedly religious just because we are. We must actively instill and inculcate them with Jewish values and ideals, and model and nurture a vibrant Torah life for them and with them. And as children, we must make considerable personal strides to ensure that our love and connection to Judaism remains alive and meaningful, regardless of our upbringing.

It is the line to hang up on your wall, pen in your notebook and repeat to yourself again and again. Take nothing for granted. Why, though, is this so important? Why is it the key to successful companies and Jewish life? It is because with this attitude, we step up to become the business people of our families and the marketers of Yiddishkeit to all those we come in contact. Our grandchildren and children may be attending a Jewish school, yet we do not assume that we can simply sit back and relax. “They are learning everything they need in school; why would they need my help? What more could I offer them?” That is regressing to an attitude of expectations and assumptions. And assumptions lead to disappointments.

You may turn around when your child is past high school and wonder why they know little about European Jewry and the Holocaust. They know little about basic life skills or your family’s history. The list is endless. The question we must ask daily is, “If I were the only one responsible for transmitting Jewish tradition and life to my children, what would I do? How different would my Shabbos table look? How different would I talk and teach my children?” Perhaps you would set aside special time from your hobbies and activities to devote to your children’s education and community development.

This equally applies to our personal lives. Every step we take is not to be taken for granted. We made the effort to wake up early enough to daven before we headed off to work, and we ought to pat ourselves on the back. Even if we have done it for years or decades, it doesn’t mean it was granted that we would do it today. Compliment yourself and feel positive. The same is true in the reverse. Just because we prayed today doesn’t mean we will pray tomorrow. Perhaps an unforeseen event will arise, and we will be derailed. Take nothing for granted.

The economy fluctuates, innovations originate, ideas shift and the world changes. Nothing in this world stands still, and we must recognize our personal responsibility as bearers of the Jewish future and take matters into our own hands. Look at life similar to the perspective of businesses. Yes, we are growing as individuals, our children are attending schools and our communities are burgeoning. But status quo by definition means an unaltered condition. And we all know that life conditions alter.

The solution is to always be thinking and rethinking of how we and others are doing. You learned something once; do not take for granted that you will remember it. Your child looks happy; do not take for granted that he or she is actually happy. Make sure it is true. Your student raised their hand to answer a question; do not take it for granted. You have no idea how much courage it took for them to make that move. Your friend helped carry your luggage up to your hotel room; do not take it for granted. Look them in the eye and heartfully say, “Thank you.” Your husband or wife feels the support they need; check in with them to verify that such is the case.

It is so powerful a motto and the true ticket to success. Take nothing for granted. That is how we will achieve personal, familial and communal growth and greatness.

Dr. Zev Ballen 
The Race Car Driver

Generally speaking, Formula 500 Race Car drivers travel around the racetrack anywhere up to 145 mph. Yet what happens during the unfortunate event of an oil slip? The car immediately goes into a tailspin. Now just imagine that the car is moving in the direction of a wall. As can be expected, the driver is potentially away from meeting a sorrowful end. When moving that fast, chances are that the driver does not have the reflexes and strategies to avoid a head-on collision. Quite likely, he will not make it out alive.

Psychologists in fact have studied this phenomenon of the race car driver. Simulating the scenario of a driver moving at extremely high velocities, it was discovered that when a person faces sudden death, they tend to look straight ahead and face the direction of their course of travel. When that is done, however, the chances of survival are slim because, in principle, where the focus goes, the energy flows. Precisely because they keep their focus in the direction of their travel and look straight ahead at what will happen in just moments, their ability to react and mitigate the adverse effects of the crash are impaired.

What psychologists thus did was simulate drivers to do something which requires a paradigm shift in perspective and goes against one’s natural tendencies. Having them look away from the wall they were about to crash into, the results proved to be positive. Those who turned away were actually found to have higher survival rates than those who didn’t. By not directly focusing on what was imminently about to occur, they were able to gain a moment’s composure and avoid fatal injury.

The same concept applies both in the realm of emunah and mitzvah observance. As it relates to emunah, through realizing that we ought to look towards Hashem and away from ourselves and place our faith in Him instead of single-handedly placing our entire trust in our own successes and capabilities, we will discover the keys to life. And with our performance of mitzvos, we are taught the correct approach from Dovid Hamelech, who writes, “Sur mei’rah v’aseh tov – Turn away from bad and do good” (Tehillim 34:15). With these words, Dovid Hamelech tells us that through focusing and busying ourselves with good deeds, we will be led to live a positive life full of goodness. The overabundance of good will protect us from harm and from “colliding into the wall” by redirecting us away from that which we ought to avoid. And that, just like the race car driver, is what will ensure us a happy and healthy life.

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