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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Tazria

Parshat Tazria

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Tazria                                                                                        Print Version
1st of Nissan, 5779 | April 6, 2019

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Malcolm Herman 
Launching Our Emunah

For one Rav living in Eastern Europe, his daily routine consisted of him serving as a judge for the local Jewish court, returning home for supper for an hour and then heading off to shul to be available for answering questions. On one occasion, though, as his wife prepared fish for supper, she wished to cool it off before he returned home. Stepping outside, she placed a plate of fish just next to the back door.

As it turned out, the rabbi was not the only hungry one that day. Helping himself to the delicious smelling fish was the neighborhood cat. When the Rebbetzin returned only a few minutes later and noticed what had happened, she began to panic. “What is my husband going to eat? He needs his supper!” Hearing the cries of the Rebbetzin from the front of the house was Yankel. Concerned that something had happened, Yankel knocked on the door and stood waiting. When the Rebbetzin opened the door, Yankel reassured her that she had nothing to worry about. He would go to the shul and gently relay the news to the Rebbe. In this way, he would not enter the house unprepared for a surprise.

Entering the shul, as soon as Yankel caught sight of the Rebbe, he walked over to him. Noticing that he was being approached during the time he usually headed home for supper, the Rebbe asked Yankel if he could return later. “Rebbe, I have a very important question.” “Is it life-threatening?” “It is much more important than that,” said Yankel. “I am having doubts in emunah. I can’t be left for even an hour with such doubts!” Hearing that Yankel was bothered by something of such great import, the Rebbe listened carefully.

“I have been learning the Haggadah,” Yankel began, “and I came across the passage of Chad Gadya. But I don’t understand; something doesn’t make sense. As it appears from the story, the goat did nothing wrong. But if so, following the sequence of the passage, the cat who ate the goat was therefore wrong, the dog was right, the stick was wrong, the fire was right, the water was wrong, the ox was right, the slaughterer was wrong and the angel of death was right. But if that is true, it must be that Hashem was wrong. How can that be?”

Listening to Yankel’s concern, the Rebbe explained, “Yankel, you have to start the other way. Hashem was right, the angel of death was wrong, the slaughterer was right, the ox was wrong, the water was right, the fire was wrong, the stick was right, the dog was wrong, the cat was right…”

“Rebbe!” immediately interrupted Yankel, “if the cat was right, you have no supper.”

The Slonimer Rebbe (Sefer Nesivos Shalom) writes that the month of Nissan is the month which launches our emunah for the whole year. It is the crucible in which we solidify and anchor our faith. Even though we may sometimes drift off course and struggle throughout the coming months, Pesach night is the time when we calibrate and get into sync. Questions and doubts only begin when our emunah is not firmly grounded and starts off on the wrong foot. When that is the case, its entire trajectory will be skewed. But if our emunah starts off from the right position and is firmly grounded, it will carry us throughout the entire year and keep us heading exactly where we need to be.

Rabbi Dovid Kaplan 
Keep Smiling

As a little girl, Chana’s favorite hobby was looking at wedding albums. She loved to peruse the exciting pictures of every chassan and kallah who looked so happy on their wedding day. Her own dream in life, as expected, was to have a wedding album of her own. And eventually, the momentous day arrived. 
Exactly as Chana imagined, the wedding was beautiful. And of course, the photographer was there taking pictures.

Three days after the wedding, Chana received a phone call. It was the photographer. “Chana,” the photographer said, “I need to tell you something. This has never happened to us before and I am very sorry to tell you this, but something happened to our cameras. None of the pictures came out from your wedding.” 
As Chana heard this heartbreaking news, she was absolutely devastated. Taking a seat, the reality set in that her lifelong dream had come to an end. And then she started to cry. As her chassanrealized what had occurred, he began thinking what he could possibly say or do to put her at ease. “Please Hashem,” he whispered, “put the right words in my mouth to tell my wife.”

“Listen,” he said, “I understand that you are terribly upset. I know why you so deeply wanted to have a wedding album. Years from now you wanted to be able to look at it and see yourself smiling on your wedding day. But let me just tell you one thing: if you ever want to see yourself smiling, all you will have to do is look into the mirror. Because until you are one hundred and twenty, I am going to keep you smiling.”

Both in marriage and in life in general, one of the most important things we can do is show that we care. While life most certainly carries with it ups and downs, being there for another with love and affection makes all the difference. It can soothe our spouse, cheer up our friend and keep us and everyone around us smiling for the rest of our life.

Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein 
The Beautiful Tattoo

For a number of years, I was privileged to teach 8th grade boys in the Crown Heights Yeshiva in Mill Basin, New York. With the student body primarily comprised of non-religious boys, emphasis was put on imbuing them with a genuine appreciation of Torah and Yiddishkeit. As it so happened, during one of my years teaching, one of the 7th grade students, Howey, was asked to leave the school due to his repeated disruptive behavior. The school ideally wished they could avoid doing so, though they felt it was necessary.

Years later, I was invited to the wedding of his older brother, who had been my student while in 8th grade. Despite it not being a fully religious wedding, I nevertheless decided to go for a short while and pay regards to my former student.

As I entered inside the wedding hall, I found my table number and headed over to take a seat. To my surprise, Howey was sitting at the table. I could sense that even now, years after he was thrown out of school, he was considerably upset at the administration’s decision. Sitting next to him was his girlfriend as well, who was clearly not Jewish. I quietly took a seat and minded my own business, not wishing to intrude and offset him.

Howey, however, completely ignored me and the few other rabbis seated at the table, subtly conveying his annoyance and aggravation at his former rabbis, school and religious Jews. 
When the time for the first dance began, I knew what to expect. A mechitzah would be put up, and the first song would be hava nagila where the rabbis would have the opportunity to dance with the chassan, after which they would leave. I planned on joining the dancing, although I had someone in mind whom I wished to greet beforehand.

Approaching Howey, I extended my hand and let out a smile. “Howey, shalom aleichem! How are you?” Howey, caught off guard, looked at me startled. “Listen,” I said, “it’s the hava nagiladance. I didn’t throw you out of school, and in fact you were never in my class. Please don’t be angry at me. Come, let’s dance!”

Howey turned aside to his girlfriend for her approval. “Do you think I should dance with the rabbi?” “Sure,” she happily replied, “go ahead. Just don’t leave me here for too long.”

Howey joined us, with me and his brother dancing alongside. A short while later, I was left dancing with just Howey himself. I knew that now was the time for me to say something. Pulling him close, I gave him a big kiss on his right cheek and whispered into his ear, “Howey, I apologize for what happened to you in yeshiva, but I just want you to know that I love you and you are a very special boy.” As I said this to him, I could tell he was moved. But I wasn’t finished.

Pulling him close again, I gave him a kiss on his left cheek and whispered into his ear, “But you need to know something else. You really cannot stay with that girl.” I then finished dancing with him and headed back to my seat. Slowly gathering my things together, I proceeded to leave the wedding hall.

Howey continued to trail behind me and walk outside too. He wanted to tell me something. “You know Rabbi Wallerstein,” he began, “I am a Buddhist. I traveled to the Himalayas and met this girlfriend of mine who is a Buddhist.” I know understood why his head was completely shaved and he had huge tattoos of a Buddha on both his arms. I listened to what Howey had to say, after which I made the following offer.

“You know, Howey, Buddhism is an interesting religion. I do not know much about it, but maybe you would like to come to my Tuesday night class and tell us about it.” Howey was taken aback, yet oddly interested. “You really would let me do that?” “Sure,” I said, “I am very open. You never know; maybe I’ll become a Buddhist. I don’t know if I like that zero haircut, but you can tell us all about Buddhism.” Howey was extremely excited to hear this, as was his girlfriend. “That would be amazing!” she cried out. “Can I come too?” “Let’s start with Howey,” I said, “and we’ll see what happens.”

The next Tuesday night, there was Howey standing in front of my class, lecturing all about Buddhism. After he spoke for quite some time, I got up and offered my own input. I first wanted to break the ice, so I began making light of Buddha. “Look Howey, “I said, “there is one thing which is bothering me. How can Buddha be g-d? He is extremely overweight and he hasn’t lost one pound in two thousand years. If he’s a g-d, he should be able to figure out a way to lose some weight!” I then continued with a more serious rebuttal of the many ideas he mentioned, which put my class back on track.

From that night on, Howey and I started talking to one another about Buddhism and Judaism. The next Tuesday night, lo and behold, Howey showed up to the class again, and so he did the next Tuesday night and the next Tuesday night. Three months later, he was no longer in touch with his Buddhist girlfriend. It was at that point that I suggested he leave America and go to Israel. “Let’s go to Israel together and find a yeshiva that is suited for you.”

Howey agreed to make the trip and enter a yeshiva. After spending some time in one place, he relocated and wound up in a different yeshiva, where he fell in love with Chassidus and changed his entire life around.

Two years later, he had made tremendous progress in his growth and devotion to Yiddishkeit, and wore the part with a long beard and peyos. He then gave me a call. “Rebbe,” he said, “I need to come back to America.” Strongly suggesting that he stay in Israel as it provided him with the best and healthiest framework for continual growth in Judaism, I got the message across, although sensed he was still concerned about something. “Here in Israel I will never find a shidduch. I have a Buddha on one arm, another Buddha on the other, and plenty of other tattoos on my back and chest. Who is going to marry me in Israel? Maybe in America I will find someone who would be willing to put up with me.” Hearing Howey’s worries, I compromised. “Just give it a couple more months. If by then you don’t find a shidduch, you can come back to America.”

A month later, I was back on the phone with Howey, who was now known as Chaim Simcha. “Rebbe, you won’t believe it! One of my teachers set me up with someone and she seems to be a good match.” But Howey was still very worried about something. “She comes from a regular family, though, and I have no idea how I am going to explain the story behind all my tattoos.” In the past, Howey could be seen walking down the streets of Israel on the hottest day with a long-sleeve turtle neck, just so he could hide all the tattoos. They were literally all over his body. “As soon as I tell her about them, she is going to run…”

“Look,” I said to Howey, “you have come so far in Yiddishkeit. Don’t say anything until you’ve gone out a few times, and if things are going well and she really likes you, maybe she will then understand and it will not be as bad as you think.” 
A little while later, I got a call from Howey. He had gone out five times and everything was going very well. “Rebbe,” he nervously said to me, “what am I going to do now? I like her and she likes me, but I know that if I tell her about the tattoos she will jump out of the car that very minute.” “Howey,” I gently yet firmly said, “Hashem runs the world. You have to do what you have to do.” He was understandably anxious about the situation, but there was no other option. He needed to tell her the truth.

At the end of the next date, as Howey pulled up in front of Kfar Chabad, he turned to her and said, “I have to tell you something.” As soon as Howey said that, the girl’s mind began to imagine one thing: marriage. “I think he is going to propose now,” she thought to herself. “I need to tell you this,” continued Howey, “but please don’t react right away.” By now, the girl was almost certain that Howey was going to propose, so much so that she was nearly sticking out her finger, waiting for a ring to be slipped onto it. “Don’t worry about it,” she said, trying to allay his fears. “Just say what you have to say.”

“There is something about me which is a little different.” “What do you mean?” she asked. “Well…wait a minute.” Howey proceeded to pull his arm out of his jacket sleeve. And then she saw his tattoos. “Wait,” Howey interjected, “that’s not the only one I have. I have another one on my other shoulder and more on my chest and my back.” The girl sat there silently, taking everything in.

“I understand and accept the fact if you do not want to see me again. This was my past and it has left its consequences.” Howey continued rambling on and on, until the girl interrupted him. “Okay, I heard everything you have to say. Now let me tell you what I have to say.

“I only see one tattoo, and that is the tattoo on your soul. You are so spiritual. I see that you have G-d’s name of Y-K-V-K tattooed on your soul and that is the only tattoo I see. Don’t you worry about anything else.”

Howey let out a sigh of relief. “By the way,” he said, “will you marry me?”

Today Chaim Simcha lives with his beautiful family in Bnei Brak. 
Here was someone who saw past this boy’s outer appearance. She saw beyond the external tattoos and discerned the one true and beautiful tattoo of spirituality and G-dliness. The same is true of us all. Embedded deep within each and every Jew lies a pristine neshama full of purity and potential. All we must do is learn to see beyond the outer facade and perceive the real person which lies beneath. And when we do so, we will unquestionably find a world of inner beauty awaiting to shine.

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