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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Vayakhel

Parshat Vayakhel

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Vayakhel                                                                                Print Version
25th of Adar, 5779 | March 2, 2019

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Avi Wiesenfeld 
A Man of Principle

Undergoing a rigorous program which eventually led to the top two candidates receiving reputable positions as top-paid judges, tireless hours of studying and apprenticeship were expended by a select group of university students. Included amongst them was a religious Jew. Over time, numerous students had been weeded out of the program in the face of their counterpart colleagues, and by now only six students remained, this Jewish man included.

With the final interview just days away, the pressure could be felt. Preparing for what would become a life-changing meeting, this religious Jew readied himself as best as he could. He was set on impressing the interviewers and making a good argument as to why he would best fit the role of an honorable judge.

However, he faced one dilemma: should he wear his yarmulke to the interview or not? Unsure if wearing a head covering would be to his betterment or detriment, he wavered in his decision. Going back and forth in his mind as to what he should do, he remained unsure.

Finally, the fateful day arrived. Putting himself together, he entered inside the building where his interview was to be held. Remembering his inner debate as to whether he should go through with wearing a yarmulke or not, he began removing it from his head and putting it back on several times. “Yarmulke on, yarmulke off, yarmulke on, yarmulke off…” were the words racing through his mind. Already anxious about the interview, the fact that he was uncertain what to do with his yarmulke only added to the uneasiness.

But then he finally decided. He was going to wear it and not be deterred by the potential consequences. Going through with the interview, by its conclusion, he felt he had done very well. And indeed, he had. But the interviewers had one thing to tell him.

“We have looked through your credentials and previous work, and see a stunning resume. We don’t see any reason not to accept you for the position. However, there is one issue which we noticed that particularly caught our attention.

“We have cameras located all throughout our building for security purposes. We observed that as you were walking inside on your way towards the interview, you frequently took off and put on your head covering. We then realized that as a religious Jew, you were most likely wavering back and forth as to whether you should or should not wear your head covering.

“But that, sir, is the problem. As a judge, one of the most important qualities is principle. Whether you decided to wear your head covering or not is not of concern to us as much as your lack of deliberation and confidence in who you are as a person. You must be someone who strictly adheres to what you believe to be true and unwaveringly stick to it. As a judge, when you realize what is just and pronounce a decision, you must be sure of yourself. There is no room for doubts or questions. We are very sorry sir, but on this account, we cannot accept you.”

One of the most important qualities we can ingrain within ourselves is being confident and comfortable with who we are as a person. Oftentimes, we question if people will respect and appreciate how we present ourselves, our value system and our self-worth. But then sometimes we learn that, indeed, others would have found much merit in us keeping true to our inner selves. We need not vacillate when it comes to standing firm and dedicated to our life principles.

Rabbi Noach Orlowek 
The Truth

More than once, I have been interrogated by the police at the airport when wishing to cross borders. I though stick to one hard-and-fast rule: never lie. Literally.

On one occasion, the police sent me to the immigration offices. I told them, “I am here to recruit boys, and I am coming from the Middle East.” To a non-Jew, that sounds like military talk. I proceeded to take out some papers and envelops I had from my yeshiva, Torah Ohr in Jerusalem, and explain that I was planning on interviewing boys for the school.

“The school is in New York?” the police officer asked. I had seen him catch a glance of the brochure for a moment, and knew that if in any way I would answer in the affirmative, he would catch me lying and that would be the end of it. “No,” I said, “it’s in Jerusalem.” Thankfully, I was spared any further questioning. That is one of the most important points to keep in mind: tell the truth when at an airport.

But that was not the only experience I ever had when flying.

On one trip to Johannesburg, South Africa, I was asked by the TSA agent, “Is that your bag?” “No,” I said. “Did you pack it?” “No,” I replied again. The man didn’t know what to do with himself.

Fortunately, Hashem had pity on me and Rebbetzin Auerbach, whose husband works at Ohr Somayach in Jerusalem, was also at the airport. I was taking a bag for her daughter who had just gotten married. I told the officer, “She packed the bag.”

Scurrying over to Rebbetzin Auerbach, he asked her, “Did you pack the bag?” “No, I didn’t; she did.” The kallah had packed it. Talking the matter over with the kallah, the bag was finally taken cleared. One bag down, one bag to go.

“Is this your bag?” he asked. “No,” I said again. He tried further. “Where did you pack it?” “At my children’s in-laws, Mrs. Ehringsting.” “Do you have a number?” Luckily, the person with me had a phone number, which I gave to him. But I didn’t know how successful I would be this time.

Getting on the phone, a girl picked up. “Dina, how are you?” called out the TSA agent.

The girl who picked up the phone, Dina Ehringsting, was this security guard’s cousin. Both of the bags I was carrying were cleared.

While one might be inclined to sometimes tell a small, innocent “white lie,” we are always much better off being straightforward and honest. Distorting or hiding the truth may oftentimes seem that it will get us further, yet the truth is quite the opposite. It will likely put us further back in the line or worse. And in fact, sometimes the truth will happily reunite two cousins who have not spoken for a while.

Rebbetzin Frumah Altusky 
The Catskills

For many Jewish families, the Catskills Mountains serve as a resort for the summer months. With many wonderful sites to visit and spend time in, bungalow colonies are packed with parents and children for months.

Years ago, Al lived with his wife, Lilly, and their children in Manhattan. Working as a taxi driver, Al enthusiastically drove up and down the busy streets of Manhattan day after day. While some may have found such a job tedious and tiring, Al immensely enjoyed helping people to and from their destinations. It was, in fact, his dream job. But one day that all changed.

Unfortunately, Al developed ulcers. Going for a checkup with his doctor after three occurrences of his ulcer bursting, he was told news he never wished to hear. “Al,” said the doctor, “you are not going to survive another incident like this. You need to take it easy. I am sorry, but I don’t think you will be able to drive a taxi any longer.”

Taking aback by the news, Al was not going to comply with the doctor’s wishes without putting up a fight. “Doctor, there is no other way it can heal? I need to drive a taxi for a living!” “You need to take some time off,” repeated the doctor. “You will need to find another way to make a living if you wish to stay healthy.” With little hope of convincing the doctor of another option, Al returned home.

Al and his family knew very little about Judaism. Nevertheless, Al made sure that his family observed Yom Kippur and ate matzahon Pesach. But even so, the family maintained little connection to a life of Torah. One day, though, as Lilly was relaxing and reading the Jewish Press, she found the panacea to Al’s health issue. “Al,” she said, “I know what we are going to do. We are going to the Catskills for the summer!” “The Catskills?” Al blurted out. “What’s over there?” “There is an advertisement here,” Lilly continued, “which mentions that there is an opening for a position in a store. You could run the store over the summer and take it easy. The Catskills is the perfect place to relax. It is a wonderful idea. What do you say?” Looking back at his wife, Al figured that he had little choice to decline the offer considering that his doctor had said that driving a taxi was out of the question for now. “Okay, sounds like a nice idea,” Al said.

After making the necessary arrangements to secure a job in the store, the family began making plans for their upcoming vacation. As the summer months soon arrived, Al, his wife and children, along with two family relatives, Aunt Jenny and Uncle Eddy, headed to the Catskills. Upon arriving there, the family found the accommodations quite comfortable. And without any delay, Al began to work in the store.

It was not too long before Al realized that those who frequented the store and in fact the entire vicinity were religious Jews. He had never before experienced such a scene of Jews walking all around. Neither was he accustomed to wearing a yarmulke, and so, he instead wore a hat. Otherwise, Al kept on doing business as usual. But then came Shabbos. Not having any special meaning to Al, Saturday was just another day. Nothing changed and the store remained open.

Al continued to work the next week as his family enjoyed the new environment. The family felt a bit uncomfortable, though, as they clearly stood out as different from the rest of the community. Nevertheless, life moved along. After two weeks of business, however, Al began to think of an idea. “Lilly,” he said, “what do you think if I close the store on Saturday. After all, for the past two weeks, I only made a small amount of money. It is not that worth it. And besides, I feel better not working on Saturday among religious Jews.” Hearing her husband’s words, Lilly agreed.

After closing the store, life took on a different shape. The family became more consciously aware of Shabbos and the fact that they were surrounded by Jews who identified with a rich and beautiful heritage. It was greatly inspirational to Al and his family. One day, Al turned to Lilly and said, “Look, we are living among Jewish men and women. Maybe you should consider buying some clothing which is more in vogue with Jewish apparel. After all, you go outside amongst other women who wear skirts.” “Al,” Lilly replied, “I think you have a good point.” “And also,” added Al, “while you are at it, would you be able to pick up for Eddy and me a couple of yarmulkes?” “Sure,” replied Lilly. And with that, Lilly and Aunt Jenny left to go shopping.

After returning home with the new purchases, Lilly and Jenny began to wear skirts and Al and Eddy began to wear yarmulkes. At this point, the family was observing Shabbos and wearing modest clothing and head coverings. The entire family had taken great strides in their Yiddishkeit and were rightfully proud of each other. And in fact, the next Shabbos, they were invited out for all three Shabbos meals.

Becoming more interested and connected to Judaism, the summer was nearing its close. After having worked for a few months and relaxing and more significantly learning of his Jewish roots, Al turned to his wife. “Lilly, I have another idea. We have gone so far. We have begun to keep Shabbos, dress according to Jewish tradition and become more knowledge of Judaism. The only thing that I have been thinking about is the kids. They are in public school right now and it is not the best environment. They know little of their own heritage besides what they have been exposed to here. What do you say about putting them in Jewish schools? I looked into it, and there is a Jewish day school right here in the Catskills just up the block.”

Hearing her husband’s sincerity, Lilly knew that life was going to drastically change not only for them from this point forward, but also for their children. But she was ready for that, and so was the rest of her family. Pulling the children out of public school, Lilly and Al placed them in Jewish schools in the Catskills.

For fifteen years, Al continued to live with his family in the Catskills. He married off his children to nice Jewish boys and girls and enjoyed true Yiddishe nachas. And throughout all this time, incredibly, the ulcer was quiet.

We can never be certain where life will lead us. A distressing situation may lead to a new, brighter future which we otherwise may never have experienced. In this situation, Al’s uncomforting health brought him back to his Jewish roots. He may never have dreamed that he was about to embark on a journey that would forever change and shape not only his own life, but the life of his wife and children. But then again, nothing is ever impossible. With a genuine resolve to grow closer to Hashem and our true selves, not even the skies are the limit.

A Short Message From 
Dr. Tamar Pearlman

In life, it is very important that we not only keep our ears open to what others are actually telling us, but what they are whispering to us. Many times, there is a covert, hidden message embedded within the words we are being told. Our child may complain that he has a stomach ache from the food he ate and we may resultantly ask why he ate that food. But that is hearing the cry, but missing the whisper. If we would listen closely and think carefully, we may be able to detect that underlying his discomfort are nerves about a test or a big game he has tomorrow. We must always listen not only with our ears, but with our hearts.

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