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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Vayikra

Parshat Vayikra

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Vayikra                                                                                   Print Version
9th of Adar II, 5779 | March 16, 2019

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rebbetzin Chaya Sora Gertzulin 
Life Challenges, Life Lessons

It was the summer of 2015. Along with a friend of mine, I headed to my bungalow colony in the Catskill Mountains to straighten up my house and ready it for the next few months. Yet when I arrived, I was met by a messy sight. Water had collected underneath the porch, which stood on stilts, and caused it to fall.

After tidying up the outside, I proceeded to organize and unclutter the inside. Amidst my cleaning spree, the door had swung open and gotten stuck in position. I tried shutting it close, but, for some reason, I wasn’t being successful. I tried pulling and pulling, but it was all to no avail. At that point, I called my husband and asked if he could lend me a hand. He placed his faith in me, though, encouraging me to try once more. I listened and made another attempt. This time, however, not only did the door not budge, but a flash of light crossed my eyes. I shivered. I reached for the door again, but still, the door wouldn’t move and a flash of light pierced my vision a second time. The third repeated attempt turned my world black.

Fortunately, my friend who had accompanied me to the mountains was able to drive home. I didn’t mention what had happened, not wishing to prompt an emergency visit to the hospital. Yet, for the entire drive home, I remained considerably worried about my eyes. I finally figured that I would go to sleep and wake up in the morning refreshed and renewed with healthy eyes and heathy vision.

The next morning when I awoke, I was met by an uncomforting and unpleasant surprise. As soon as I opened my eyes, a major black streak crossed my vision. I panicked, not knowing what I was seeing. Now I knew I couldn’t delay going to the hospital any longer.

After the doctor examined my eyes, he turned to me and said, “Did you eat anything this morning?” “No,” I replied. “I was so nervous; I didn’t even take a sip of coffee.” “That’s good. You are going into emergency surgery right now.” He went on to give me the name of an expert eye doctor in Manhattan. I didn’t know how to respond or what to make of everything, but I didn’t have time to sit back and delay. “You need to trust me about this,” my doctor said. “You need to get yourself to the city right now. You have a detached retina and need surgery.” And so it happened. I underwent retina surgery and, thank G-d, it went well.

Two weeks later, I headed to the doctor for another check-up. Yet, since my surgery, my perception of space and distance had been thrown off. When I therefore opened the car door one day, the window point went straight into my eye. For a moment, I saw what appeared to be a red circle. I knew that I had done something.

So there I was, in the doctor’s office again. He examined my eye and looked at it this way and that way, but didn’t say anything right away. Finally, he told me, “We have to take more pictures.” I knew that this meant no good. After processing more pictures, the doctor reported back, “You have a macular hole.” I later learned that the recovery from a macular hole is less than pleasant. To properly treat a macular hole, which is a small break in the macula, located in the center of the retina, a gas bubble is inserted behind the eye. The pressure of the bubble closes and repairs the break in the macula. Yet there is one caveat, which makes for a very uncomfortable recovery.

In order for the bubble to continuously apply pressure to the macula, the person’s head must be positioned downwards. Otherwise, if one’s head is up, the bubble rises and the pressure will not achieve anything. For the next four weeks after this second surgery, I needed to do, what doctors call, ‘face down positioning.’ Chin to chest and nose to the floor. That was it. I could not lift my head up for an entire month. If I wanted to eat, I needed to recline on a massage chair and put a small table underneath. At night, I as well wore a special brace to keep my head in position so I wouldn’t move.

As could be imagined, being debilitated like this gave me a lot of time to think. And so, I began wondering just why in fact this had happened to me and what I could learn from it. Everyone experiences challenges in their lives. The Avos and Imahos all underwent difficulties, and it was all for a purpose. I therefore wondered what I could take away from my own experience.

One day, with little for me to do other than relax, I turned on the radio to a Jewish station called JRoot Radio. To my surprise, what came on was something which spoke directly to me. “Do you need yeshuot (recovery)? Do you need refuot (healing)?” “He is talking to me!” I thought to myself. The speaker went on to say, “Write one hundred thank you notes to Hashem every day. Our Sages teach that we are supposed to recite one hundred blessings every day. Yet, you can also count all the blessings Hashem gives you in your life and you ought to be grateful for. If you write down one hundred thank you notes to Hashem, He will send you back much blessing in your life.” It sounded like a wonderful idea.

I immediately got to work. I sat down and started making berachosand thanking Hashem. But after a while, I had only rallied up to sixty, and still had ways to go. I had compiled a list, but it did not reach one hundred. But then I started thinking some more. What if I would thank Hashem not only for the common blessings that everyone recognizes, such as the ability to walk and talk, but those blessings which Hashem personally put into my life this past year. “What about,” I murmured to myself, “the fact that my son-in-law passed the CPA exam recently? That’s a beracha! And what about… my daughter-in-law who underwent a difficult pregnancy, and yet now she is home and the baby is home and they are both doing well? And what about my daughter who was living in a crowded apartment with all her kids and moved into a larger and more comfortable apartment?” Slowly but surely, my list grew. And then it hit me.

“Maybe,” I said to myself, “this whole situation with my eyes happened because I haven’t been seeing all the blessings in my life.” By then, my list had surpassed one hundred blessings by quite a few. I then realized that such gratitude creates real joy in one’s life. I had so much to be grateful for and so much to be appreciative and happy about.

Before my second surgery for my macular hole, the anesthesiologist came over with a checklist of questions. “Do you have cardiac problems? Neurological problems? Do you feel tingling in your toes? Do you have kidney problems? Liver problems?” The list continued on for some time. After he finished asking the questions, all of which I answered no to, I turned to him and said, “Doctor, thank you for asking me all these questions. You helped me realize how much I have to be grateful for.” He looked at me with a strange smile. “No one ever said that to me,” he said. But it was absolutely true. After thinking of all the problems I could potentially have, I told myself, “You know what? I think I can handle this eye issue. I am going to be alright.”

The word in Hebrew for being in a state of happiness is בשמחה,which when rearranged, also spells מחשבה, thoughts. In life, even if we do not feel any happiness at the moment, we can think ourselves happy. Realize all the blessings you have in your life and allow yourself to swell up with joy and gratitude. The word שמחה, as well, can be broken down into two words – ש מחה (sh’macha) – which means “that is erased.” Erase all those negative thoughts and feelings you harbor in your mind and heart and replace it with pleasant and positive ones. We all too often focus on the negativity in our lives and overlook all the good that would make us happy and appreciative. That was one of the many lessons I learned from this challenge given to me.

But there was also something which stood out for me. I retrospectively called it ‘The Power of a Tissue.’

Before my second surgery, I visited the doctor for a check-up and asked him a serious and sobering question which was on my mind. “Is there a chance that the surgery will not work and I will not gain back my vision in that eye?” The doctor was quiet for a moment, after which he handed me a tissue and walked out of the room.

I, of course, had my cry for a few minutes, taking in the reality of the situation. The doctor shortly thereafter reentered and prepped me for the surgery. Yet, at that moment, I realized that what the doctor had done touched me so much. Sometimes, just handing over a tissue to someone experiencing pain and strife is all that is needed. We often try to offer soothing words, give advice and subtly suggest how someone should be feeling. Yet, many times, the answer is just a tissue. Nothing further need be said.

While there is much more I learned from this personal trial, one thing is for certain: it happened for a purpose and I definitely walked away a changed and stronger person for the better. And for that, I truly thank Hashem.

Rebbetzin Fayge Loewi 
Eternally Spiritual

The Gemara (Yoma 38a) tells us that Nikanor, who lived during the Second Temple era, decided that he wanted to send something beautiful to adorn the Beis Hamikdash and honor Hashem. And so, he designed and built two magnificent copper doors. Placing them on a boat leaving Egypt and heading to Israel, he got on board and prepared for the long journey up ahead. Yet, to Nikanor’s displeasure, a major storm broke out, causing the ship to precariously rock back and forth. With the passengers endangered and worried about the prospect of the ship capsizing, the sailors approached Nikanor. “We need to get rid of any unnecessary weight on the ship if we ever wish to get out of this alive,” they told Nikanor. “We need to toss your doors overboard.”

Nikanor was beside himself. His handiwork, which he had devoted countless hours of craftsmanship and artistry to, would now need to be discarded in moments. He had pored his heart and soul into those doors and imbued them with love and dedication to Hashem, and now they would be cast to the sea. How could he get rid of them? But, without any other recourse, one of the doors was thrown into the raging waters. The storm, however, continued raving ferociously. The sailors looked to Nikanor once again, indicating that the second door would also have to go. But, this time, Nikanor could not be swayed. “If you throw that door overboard, tie me to it as well.” As these words escaped Nikanor’s mouth, the storm abated and the waters subsided.

The ship continued on to the Land of Israel, with Nikanor weeping over the first door that he had lost. Yet, such mournful tears soon turned into joyful tears. Upon pulling into the dock in Israel, Nikanor looked behind the boat, and what did he see? The very door which had been thrown into the water. It had been floating behind the boat all along and followed its way to Israel. Upon witnessing no less than a miracle, the Sages declared that these doors would be installed into the Beis Hamikdash exactly as they were. No gold would be overlaid; they would remain as copper doors and stand in remembrance of the great dedication and love Nikanor displayed for Hashem.

Such is but one example of how a person’s devotion to something can leave an eternal impact and imprint upon it. These doors of Nikanor, which had absorbed his love for Hashem, earned their respected place in the holiest of sites.

Consider other examples. There are two mountains in our history which are both known as holy sites: Har Hamoriah and Har SinaiHar Hamoriah, where the Akeidas Yitzchak took place, later become the Har Habayis, the mountain upon which the Beis Hamikdash was built. Har Sinai, as is known, is the mountain upon which the Torah was given. Yet, there is something different about these two mountains.

After Hashem gave the Torah on Har Sinai and departed from it, the mountain reverted into what it was before. Today, Har Sinaipossesses no inherent holiness. No one is barred from ascending it, despite the unbelievable holiness which once permeated the area. In contrast, Har Hamoriah, upon which the Beis Hamikdash once stood, continues to remain holy to this very day. Why, though, is there any such halachic distinction between the two mountains? What happened uniquely to Har Hamoriah that it remains forever holy?

The answer is simple: mesirus nefesh (self-sacrifice). The devotion Avraham Avinu showed Hashem when taking his beloved son, Yitzchak, and binding him as an offering on Har Hamoriah forever left its imprint upon it. The mountain absorbed this unparalleled dedication of Avraham and become an actual symbol and representation of it. And it is this show of love, which was so precious in the eyes of Hashem, that remains with the mountain to this very day.

Torah literature is replete with instances which drive this point home. What we do uplifts our surroundings, both spiritually and in a concrete sense as well.

After years of crying and begging Hashem for a child, finally, Hashem answered the prayers of Chana and granted her a son, who went on to become the great prophet Shmuel. Yet, before he was born, Chana promised Hashem, “If I have a child, I will dedicate him to Your service.” And sure enough, when Shmuel grew old enough, she readied him to be brought to the Mishkan. Yet, before doing so, we are told how she fashioned for Shmuel a little coat. In those days, Rashi explains, little children did not wear coats, which served as a mark of stature. Yet, out of her great love and joy for the birth of her little son, Chana fashioned him a coat which he would wear while living a life devoted to Hashem.

When Shmuel reached old age, he is described as an “elderly man… garbed in a cloak” (Shmuel I 28:14) Chazal (see Rashi ibid.) tell us that the coat alluded to in this verse is the very same coat Shmuel’s mother, Chana, made for him when he was born. The same coat he wore as a child accompanied him all throughout his life and grew with him. And it was that same coat which he would be buried in.

Just imagine what this means. So much love of Hashem and Shmuel was pored into this coat that it actually took on those qualities of love and dedication and lasted forever. When Shmuel put on that little coat, he became imbued and infused with the love of his mother and the love of Hashem. And for all of Shmuel’s life, he felt that warmth and love and in turned guided Klal Yisrael.

Our actions, when imbued with love and devotion, take on everlasting qualities. They affect inanimate objects and people alike and take something otherwise mundane and elevate it to a spiritual and eternal level of existence.

In our own lives and in our own homes today, we too can attain this. Our Sages teach that in the absence of the Beis Hamikdash, which served to atone for one’s sins, our table achieves the same. Through inviting guests and offering food and comfort to others in need, our very dining and living room tables become vehicles of service to Hashem and become infused with sanctity.

Take a look around at the walls and chairs of a shul, classroom or your home and just imagine how much holiness, Torah study, chesedberachosmitzvos and growth these objects will bear testimony to in the World to Come. Think about the people in your community. Think about the cars which are driven to visit sick people, the pots and pans used to prepare food for those in need, the tables which are set for guests, the front doors which are opened to welcome visitors, the guest rooms which are organized for friends and family, and the clothes which parents lovingly put out for their children to wear when they go to school. All of these concrete objects are infused with endless amounts of chesed, Torah and tzedakah, and do no less than spiritualize our physical and mundane world.

And what about Noach’s Ark? Chazal (Yalkut Shimoni, Esther 1056) relate that the same wood which was used to construct the teivah and spare Noach and his family from the Flood continued to save Jews thousands of years later. During the miracle of Purim, the gallows upon which Haman and his sons were hanged were fashioned from the very same wood used to construct the teivahof Noach.

Such is the power of our deeds and efforts and dedication to holiness. If we are able to positively effect objects which have no intellect and no feelings or emotions, how much more so can we positively effect people who do have feelings. The impact we can have on others is immeasurable. Our thoughts and actions filter out into the atmosphere and leave an eternal, spiritual imprint on literally everything and everyone around.

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