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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Tzav

Parshat Tzav

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Tzav                                                                                        Print Version
16th of Adar II, 5779 | March 23, 2019

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Meyer Bodner 
Opportunities, Not Problems

Our Sages teach in Pirkei Avos, “Greet every person with a pleasant countenance” (Avos 1:15). With this idiom, we are instructed to conduct and carry ourselves in a pleasant and amiable way with others, showing them a smile and conveying our warmth and care. Yet, as Chazal indicate throughout the Talmud, the Hebrew word used to imply inclusion is kol, all or every. In this Mishnah then, there is someone else who is being obliquely referred to. Someone else is meant to receive our warmest greetings and pleasant countenance. Yet who exactly is that?

The answer is simple yet profound: ourselves. The Mishnah is telling us that we are to accept ourselves with love and care. Although this does not excuse us from misbehaving, we must never get too carried away and be too hard on ourselves. We must learn to love and embrace who we are, despite our failures and foibles. No matter what you did, how many mistakes you made, and how many times you promised you were going to change and didn’t, you must still accept yourself. Tell yourself, “I am who I am, and I am very happy with that.” Of course, there is always room to improve, and that must be our constant striving, but before we can appreciate and care for anyone else, we must do so for ourselves.

It all begins with understanding our own internal worth. From there, we can begin to spread and share our love with others, uplifting them and inspiring them. And when that is done, we can literally change lives.

Let me share an example with you.

For one boy, life as a child was never easy. Thrown out of his house as a youngster, no one cared to look after him. He went from one foster home to another, wandering and wallowing in his own misery and loneliness. From ages eight to fourteen, he stayed in countless foster homes, with every one of them eventually asking that he leave, due to his disruptive and troublesome behavior. The shortest amount of time he ever stayed in one home was three days, and he was set on breaking that record.

Finally, after much moving around, he was brought to one foster home, run by an elderly man named Rodney. Upon meeting his “new father,’ the boy quickly realized that this might be the one. Just maybe, this time at this foster home, he would be able to cause such disruption that he would be asked to leave before three days. His hopes only grew when he learned that Rodney had sleep apnea. Here was the perfect situation for the young boy to cause trouble and be asked to leave on the spot. It seemed to be an attainable goal.

Three days, however, turned into three years. Rodney, about whom the boy thought would be a pushover, was the furthest thing from it. He was relentlessly caring about the boy’s well-being and never once contemplated or threatened to kick him out. He recognized that the boy needed a warm and safe environment to develop and mature, and provided him with just that.

At this point, the boy realized that whatever he would do to upset his foster father, he would be going nowhere else. Until he turned old enough to get his driver’s license. “Finally,” he thought, “I will have more freedom and be able to cause a real ruckus.” And so, one day, the boy opened a checking account and wrote out ten checks at ten different stores, each $1,000 each. Of course, all the checks bounced. But that wasn’t it.

Shortly thereafter, the boy sped 86 mph down a 55-mph highway and was pulled over by a police officer. The boy’s license by now had been suspended, he was majorly in debt, and he had been drinking. He had committed every offense he could think of at the moment. After investigating, the officer had no choice but to handcuff the boy and bring him to the police station. “You have one phone call to make,” the police told him.

Who did he call? Rodney, his foster father. Explaining what had happened, he pleaded that Rodney come and bail him out. Without question, the boy had caused Rodney more trouble than he ever needed, and now he was calling from the police station for help. What did Rodney say? “Don’t worry, I will come and help you, but in the morning.”

The following morning, Rodney arrived at the police station and sorted everything out. But although the boy knew he was free from the police, he couldn’t imagine what Rodney would do or say to him. How could he ever be forgiven after all the pain he caused Rodney? The boy was almost certain that he would now be asked to leave the foster home.

Yet, although leaving the foster home had been the boy’s long-awaited wish, now that had changed. He realized that here stood a genuinely caring man who had put up with him for years, and in no way did he wish to leave the care and warmth he had received for so long and reenter a world of cold loneliness.

As Rodney and the boy arrived home, the two of them sat down. The boy knew what was coming. He would certainly be told to pack his bags. But then Rodney spoke up. “Son, I don’t consider you a problem; I consider you an opportunity. It is just a matter of what you want to do with your life. You have the opportunity to be someone great and someone special. I am here for you. It is up to you.”

For this boy, that day and that conversation was a changing point in his life. He began changing and improving his behavior and working out his issues. And it all began because someone cared about him, believed in him and smiled at him when no one else would.

When someone is treated with dignity and care no matter what they do, there is no limit to what they can achieve. They may seem the furthest away from any change of heart, but in truth, they are closer than anyone imagined. They are an opportunity, not a problem. In our own personal lives as well, we must view our troubles and trials as opportunities for change, growth and improvement. We are all beautiful people with unlimited potential, and deserve to be respected and praised for who we are.

And above all else, always remember to greet yourself with a smile and believe in your potential. Because indeed, with that little smile you give yourself, you hold the key to taking a world of problems and viewing them as a world of opportunities.

Rabbi Doniel Frank 
Searching Deep

As the Megillah (Esther 1:12) relates, upon Achashveirosh’s request for Queen Vashti to present herself at his lavish feast, she refused. But such a response only enraged Achashveirosh and caused his anger to burn within. It was not long before he was advised to kill her, to which he acceded to go through with. 
But the Gemara (Megillah 12b) lends further insight into the story behind the story. Vashti, aside from rejecting the request to attend the party, sent the following message to Achashveirosh, “You stable boy, my father (Belshazzar) drank wine the amount that a thousand people drink and didn’t get drunk, whereas you became foolish from your wine.”

It is interesting to note that the Gemara explains Achashveirosh’s anger in an additional way aside from the simple reading of the Megillah. Why wouldn’t Vashti’s refusal to come to the party be enough of a reason to anger Achashveirosh though? Why does the Gemara feel compelled to search for a different reason? 
After people let off steam, they typically calm down.

Achashveirosh, however, continued to boil even afterwards. This is why the Gemara assumes, explains the Vilna Gaon, that something else was bothering Achashveirosh. Other than the fact that Vashti did not appear, there must have been a personal insult that Achashveirosh was too embarrassed to acknowledge. That was, as the Gemara explains, the inadequacy which he felt relative to Belshazzar. Such rage stewed within Achashveirosh and frustrated him.

Purim’s overall theme is to live a profound life where we look to find the root and source of everything. Underneath our rage there is usually a lot of pain. But sometimes it is hard to admit to what is really bothering us. We therefore cry about the more obvious pain, leaving the real issue unresolved. Now this is an important concept, but why is it taught to us in the Megillah?

Purim’s teaches us to search and dig deep in every area of our life. If we are familiar with Purim as it relates to world events, and how the hidden hand of Hashem drives all of human history, the same extends to other areas of life as well, including our own behavior. We are meant to go deep, beneath our personal mask and discover the true issues and motivations that drive our own decisions and reactions.

On Purim, we are prompted to think about what truly makes us tick deep down. What goes on within our internal self when we face challenges or setbacks? These are the questions that will lead to greater self-awareness and allow us to be more attuned to ourselves. It is a golden opportunity over Purim to reach deep into ourselves and discover who we really are.

Rabbi Shlomo Farhi 
The Missing Money

For many years, my father was a principal in a Jewish day school. A devoted mechanech who looked after the well-being and success of every individual, he saw the development and growth of countless students over the years. Yet, I will never forget one story he related years ago and continues to remain with me to this very day.

On one occasion, a boy decided to bring all the money he had received for his birthday to school. Despite his mother’s advice not to do so, the young boy entered the classroom one morning with $80. Yet, quite quickly, he learned that the words of his mother were wise indeed. Within just a few hours, all the birthday money was gone, and the boy was in tears.

As soon as my father got wind of what had occurred, he knew what he needed to do. He proceeded to call each boy out from the classroom separately and inquire if they perhaps had found the money, knew where it was or accidentally took it and forgot to return it. One by one, the boys filed out of the classroom and into my father’s office for a brief questionnaire.

After seeing half the boys in the class and coming up empty-handed, in walked a boy with something bulging in his back pocket. As it seemed, it was a wallet. “You probably know,” said my father to the boy, “that one of your classmates is missing money. It is his birthday money which he brought to school. Have you seen it around?” “I haven’t” replied the boy. “Okay,” swallowed my father. “Is there a chance you took it and planned on returning it, but forgot to? He really feels terrible and it would be a tremendous mitzvah to help him.”

At this point, my father could tell that he was not getting anywhere. So he tailored his questioning to be just a bit more direct. “I can see that you have a big wallet in your back pocket.” “Yeah!” enthused the boy. “Well, how much money do you have in it?” “$79.50!” proudly exclaimed the boy. “I had $80, but I bought a soda for 50 cents.” At this point, it was more or less clear to my father that he was dealing with the boy who had taken the money. “Is there a possibility that this money belongs to the other boy in the class?” The boy continued to hem and haw, denying that the money belonged to anyone else besides him. Nothing seemed to be working.

“It’s a shame that it’s not that money because the boy came to me crying about this birthday money he had been looking forward to receiving an entire year.” Silence filled the office for just a moment, until the boy spoke up, “Oh yeah! This money… I was thinking about another wallet… I wanted to give it back to him, but I got really thirsty and needed to buy a soda…” After a brief period of rationalizing, the boy finally reached into his back pocket and handed over the wallet.

My father proceeded to walk the boy into the classroom and allow him to sit back down in his seat. And then my father did what differentiates a good educator from an excellent educator. 
He called the next boy in the class to his office and asked all the same questions he had asked the other boys. And so he did with the next student and the next student, until everyone in the class had been spoken to.

Why did my father do so? He realized that were he to stop his interrogation after any one particular student in the class, it would be made quite obvious who the thief was. And in the interest of discovering who the responsible boy was, my father was not ready to embarrass anyone. The boy would be privately reprimanded and told of the hurt and harm he caused a fellow classmate, but the larger picture would not be overlooked. My father was pursuing justice and that which was right, but he understood that it could not be done at the expense of embarrassing a student. Pursuing justice must also be carried out with justice.

When faced with situations in which we feel warranted and justified to guide, reprimand and educate our children and students, we can never get carried away. We must carefully weigh our words, actions and reactions and only then make a sound decision as how to proceed. Every situation must be examined individually, but all in all, preserving justice and dignity are to be our guiding lights along the way.

A Short Message From 
Rabbi Daniel Coren

As has been the long-standing custom, individuals and families dress up in costumes and masks on Purim. While typical costumes consist of Mordechai, Esther and the like, there are those who have the practice of dressing up as Achashveirosh, Haman, Vashti or some other type of villain. What is the reason behind this?

One of the many reasons for the custom of dressing up is based upon the Gemara (Megillah 12a) which relates that the Jews were spared from destruction in the times of Purim for their external actions did not reflect their internal thoughts and feelings. They bowed to Haman, who had made himself into a figure of idolatry, simply out of fear. In light of that, Hashem lightened the retribution and performed a miracle on their part. 
Similarly, we wear costumes and masks to highlight the same notion. Even though we may externally do actions unbefitting us, deep within us, we all have a pristine neshama which only wishes to do what is right and listen to Hashem.

But there is more to add. The Talmud Yerushalmi (end of Mesechta Berachos) states that the difference between Avraham Avinu and Dovid Hamelech is that the former was able to channel his yetzer hara (evil inclination) towards the good and make it akin to his yetzer tov (good inclination). Dovid Hamelech, in contrast, out of fear that his yetzer hara would overwhelm him, completely suppressed all physical pleasure and drives, thereby ridding himself of it.

On Purim, we take the approach of Avraham Avinu and direct our physical, mundane lives towards serving Hashem. We eat, drink and rejoice – all physical acts – against the backdrop of tremendous closeness with Hashem. Purim is a time of “V’nahapoch hu,” of turning things their opposite way. We turn physical acts into spiritual experiences and elevate ourselves to higher and higher plateaus.

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