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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Bechukotai

Parshat Bechukotai

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Bechukotai                                                                               Print Version
27th of Iyar, 5779 | June 1, 2019

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein 
Two Acceptances, One Marriage

As I am accustomed, every year before going up to Meron on Lag Ba’Omer, I visit my Rebbe, R’ Gamliel Rabinowitz. Two years ago, he said to me, “Accept something upon yourself, and whatever you need, Hashem will answer you.”

With me that year was my youngest daughter, Hindi. “If you’d like to become a kallah,” R’ Gamliel added, “go up to Meron with your father, accept something upon yourself, write it down, and keep to it very closely. You will see, that next year on Lag Ba’Omer, you will know your chassan.”

What surprised her and my entire family was that R’ Gamliel said that on the very day of Lag Ba’Omer, she will know her who she will marry. And that is exactly what happened. One year later, on Lag Ba’omer, she got engaged.

But Hindi never told her chassan anything about what had transpired with R’ Gamliel and her personal kabbalah.

Until the night of her engagement, she mentioned to her chassan what had happened. “So what did you accept upon yourself?” he asked. Although she had told no one else, she confided in him. “I accepted that five minutes before Shabbos I would be ready.” Her chassan was speechless. “What? What did you say?” he asked, fumbling his words. “I accepted upon myself that five minutes before Shabbos I would be ready.”

“You are not going to believe this,” he said. “Last year, I also went to R’ Gamliel, and he told me, ‘If you want to know who your kallah is on next year’s Lag Ba’omer, accept something upon yourself.’ After I was told this, I wrote down on a piece of paper that from now on, I will make sure that I am ready five minutes before Shabbos.”

They had both accepted to do the same thing without knowing about each other. Lag Ba’omer is an especially auspicious day to take something new on and commit to it. And it really works.

Rabbi Yoel Gold 
I Remember You

For Chana Weinstock, a 23-year-old girl studying abroad in Israel, her stay over Shabbos in Tzefat was not the most pleasant. Having gotten sick and bogged down with a headache, she decided to return back to her normal living quarters in Har Nof and rest up. There she would hopefully recover from her cold and regain her strength.

But then the phone rang. It was one of Chana’s good friends from Chaifa, calling for a favor. “Chana, if you would be able to help me, I am working on a project for my company, and I need a picture of the Temple Mount from a certain angle while standing on Har HaZeitim. I know you have a knack for this, so I was wondering if you would be able to help me get this picture.” After hearing of her friend’s predicament, Chana replied that she would gladly do her best to help, despite being a bit under the weather.

Chana proceeded to get up and ready herself to take the bus. As she finally headed out the door, she spotted where the bus would pick her up and take her to Shar Shechem, where she would board another bus to take her to Har HaZeitim. Upon arriving in Shar Shechem, Chana got off the bus and began walking to where she needed to be next. But now Chana felt a bit lightheaded, with her head spinning and eyes blurred. Not feeling so well, she got on the first blue and white bus that pulled up and took a seat, knowing that her ride would be short until she arrived at Har HaZeitim where she needed. Yet, amid the fatigue Chana was in, it wasn’t long before she fell fast asleep.

Twenty-five minutes later Chana awoke. Looking out the window, she immediately realized that she had gone far beyond her destination. Getting off the bus, she crossed the road and began heading back in the direction she came from. But the streets were just about empty and there was no bus stop in sight. Chana kept on walking and walking until she came across a settlement with houses. And then she realized. She was in East Jerusalem.

Unaware that it was the first night of Ramadan and everyone was home breaking their fast, she was at a loss to explain why just about no one was out in the street. But now, how this ever happened became clearer to Chana. Amid her frenzied state, she had mistakenly gotten on an Arab blue-and-white bus, mistaking it for an Israeli bus due to its colors.

Now stuck in East Jerusalem at night by herself, Chana began to panic. Barely any lights were shining from the shuttered-up houses, all the street lamps were dark, and posters were plastered on the walls highlighting different Palestinian heroes. Nothing more was needed to make Chana conclude that she was in trouble.

Chana immediately took out her phone, hoping that someone could help her get out of there. But that option didn’t last long, as she looked down at her phone and, despondently, saw that it was out of battery. She couldn’t have hoped for a worse scenario to be in. Stranded in East Jerusalem alone with no way of contacting anyone. She didn’t know where to go or what to do.

Chana started mumbling Tehillim, as Jews have done throughout the ages when caught in unfavorable conditions. She pleaded to Hashem that He help her at this time, when quite literally, no one else could help her.

But realizing that she ought to make some personal effort in getting herself out of the situation, she decided that she would look for the house that looked the least Arabic. She would look for a house that had lights on the outside and grass in front nicely taken care of. If she ever wished to give herself a chance of making it out safely, she needed to do something.

Spotting one particular house with no Palestinian pictures hanging or the like, she began heading in its direction. She told herself that she would pretend to be a Pro-Palestinian, UCLA student from California who believed in social justice and was in the process of writing a report on the Palestinian life and working for their cause. That would be her best shot at presenting herself in a neutral way and perhaps earning the pity and succor of someone.

Knocking on the door, Chana’s heart fluttered as she awaited a response. And then the door opened. Standing before her was a 19-year-old Palestinian girl wearing a hijab. “Chana?” the Palestinian girl called out. Caught off guard, Chana looked back at the girl in confusion, having expected to present herself as a stranger from a college campus. But before Chana could further process the situation, the girl grabbed hold of Chana and pulled her inside, giving her a gigantic hug. Chana just about froze in shock as to what was happening. The girl then pulled out a card off the shelf and said in Arabic-Hebrew, “Yesh li et ha’michtav – I have the card.”

Suddenly, Chana remembered…

Six months earlier, she had been running a program in Israel for Aish HaTorah in the King Solomon hotel. With a large number of staff on-site, Chana would certainly meet difficulty reaching everyone and attending to their needs and requests. Chana therefore decided that she would go the extra mile in extending herself to connect with the many staff members, from the highest to lowest. And so, she bought herself a notepad and slowly made her way around the hotel, writing down each of the staff member’s names, shift hours and position and interests. It was Chana’s best way of connecting to everyone she would have otherwise overlooked.

After tallying up the names of everyone there, Chana’s list reached fifty staff members. Everyone’s name was noted, whether Jewish or non-Jewish, with a short description about them which would assist Chana in relating personally to them. 
It was the last day of the program that Chana noticed a Pakistani girl positioned in front of the coffee station. It was clear to Chana that she was manning the coffee and tea area and even clearer to her that she had missed introducing herself to this girl.

Approaching her, Chana softly began, “I haven’t seen you around; I’m so sorry I missed you. What is your name?” The Pakistani girl looked back at Chana, touched that a stranger was taking interest in her. She introduced herself and began explaining her plans for the future. “I’m on my way to medical school and wish to become a doctor, but at the moment I am in need of a job and money. And so, I found this position here at the King Solomon hotel for the meantime.”

For the rest of the day, as the many guests and staff began turning out to leave, Chana was busy writing thank you cards to the many staff who had joined her in coordinating such a beautiful program. With little extra money to give tips to the hard working and dedicated staff, she decided that it would be nice to personally thank each of them with a card.

Of all the thank you cards Chana prepared, the one for the Pakistani girl was the last, given that Chana had only met her some hours ago for just a brief period. But, notwithstanding the short introduction and conversation, Chana wrote her a beautiful thank you note extending her deep appreciation for her help. 
Chana now stared at the same Pakistani girl she had crossed paths with months before. Except only now, it was in her home in East Jerusalem. Those words, “Yesh li et ha’michtav – I have the card,” rang in Chana’s ears.

“Chana!” the girl exclaimed again. “What a surprise! I’m so happy to see you!” Extending her hand to the nearby shelf, she grabbed a hold of a card. “I still have what you gave me the last time I saw you!” Chana could not have been more shocked by the turn of events and what she was witnessing. It was the very last thing she could have ever expected.

“Chana, come here,” the girl excitedly motioned. Chana was led to the girl’s dining room, where her entire family was sitting down at the table, breaking their fast of Ramadan. Surprisingly or not, they all recognized Chana and Chana recognized them. They had as well met Chana before, and now assumed that she had come to visit them all. “It’s so nice to see you, Chana,” they all chimed in. Playing along with the scenario that she had intended to “visit them”, Chana graciously smiled and extended warm greetings to all those around the table.

But Chana had no intention to stay around much longer. After a few moments of catching up, she asked if there was a bus available which would take her back home. But, unanimously, she was told that there wasn’t. “But I’ll drive you to the bus stop at Shimon HaTzaddik, if you’d like,” offered the girl’s uncle. 
Getting into the car, they made their way over to the security checkpoint. The Israeli officer looked into the car, noting the peculiar sight of a clearly Jewish girl along with an Arab man and woman. “Ha’kol b’seder (is everything alright)?” he asked. “Yes,” Chana replied. “These are my friends.” And with that, they kindly dropped Chana off and sent her on her way.

Aside from the wondrous Divine intervention and protection which went into assuring Chana’s safety and survival, what likewise stands out in this series of events is Chana’s kindhearted character and considerate attitude. She was someone who stayed present and wrote down everyone’s name, job and interests and tried to connect with them all in a genuine and real way. It was that extra mile she went which made an ever-lasting impression on other people and touched them in a way that when help was needed, it was ready right behind the door and in the envelope.

Rabbi Shlomo Farhi 
Learning from the Flowers

We are all so busy in life, with many things to take care of on a daily basis. Yet, as we will all readily admit, we can never get so overly subsumed in the hustle and bustle of life that we forget about what really matters to us. Take a moment and think to yourself, what are some of the best ways you can show someone that you really love them?

The Torah describes the epic moment of Maamad Har Sinai, when Hashem transmitted the Luchos and the entirety of Torah to the Jewish people. The earth became uniformly silent and deeply still, as the Jews witnessed an overwhelming sight of booming thunder and lightning, raging fire and billowing smoke which surrounded Mount Sinai. It was amid this magnificent scene that Hashem Himself set forth the eternal mission to the Jewish people to become partners with Him in Creation and perpetuate His will in the world. It was an unbelievable moment wherein the greatest mission of all history was handed down from Heaven to earth.

Amidst this impressive scene, we are taught a very peculiar idea. The Midrash relates that Mount Sinai sprouted grass and flowers. And to this very today, florists will tell you that they are inundated with orders from the Jewish communities during the days preceding Shavuos as we buy flowers to fill our homes to commemorate this phenomenon. Yet it is quite strange. Why would this be something which Hashem wished to draw our attention to? With everything going on at Har Sinai, no one would be to blame were the flowers to go unnoticed. Why then did Hashem make a point of having Har Sinai full of beautiful flowers?

As seen in the Torah, there is another famous mountain in Jewish history other than Har Sinai. Har HaMoriah serves as the holy site whereupon the Akeidas Yitchak took place, and upon which the two structures of the Beis Hamikdash stood and where the Third will soon be rebuilt. It is a mountain of extreme holiness and sanctity.

You may ask, though, what is the etymology of Har HaMoriah? Why in fact is it named such? The Gemara (Shabbos 89a) relates the Har Sinai is called such as it engendered the sinah, hatred, of the other nations of the world, for upon that mountain we assumed the role of the Chosen Nation of G-d and forever became the bearers and representatives of G-d’s sanctified Name. But what about Har HaMoriah?

The Zohar (Parshas Bo, 156) explains that Mount Moriah is called such because of the Mor, or myrrh, known to be a pleasant-smelling fragrance, which grows there. In recognition of such myrrh, the mountain assumed such a name.

But the obvious question begs. Why would such an important and esteemed site be called after something which appears to be so relatively insignificant or inconsequential? Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to call the mountain after something which indicates dedication, sacrifice or commitment? That would seem to be much more befitting considering its stature.

In truth, however, the name Har HaMoriah perfectly fits the mountain. And that is because what communicates devotion and love most aptly are those things which often go unnoticed because they seem so small and underrated. The flowers you buy your spouse, the little note you leave under their pillow and the small act of cleaning the dishes without being asked. Those gestures are what develop and deepen the most special of relationships. Those small thoughts which convey care and concern speak far louder than grandiose acts which overwhelm all those in sight.

Hashem therefore named Har HaMoriah as such, after the myrrh, precisely because it appears as so minor and unimportant. Hashem means to convey that in Yiddishkeit and by His standards, what matters most is not necessarily quantity and volume, but quality and heart. The small things which are done go the longest ways. The extra effort you push yourself to daven with a minyan, the extra thought put in as to how you can adhere to the details of a mitzvah, and the extra care you take to endear and enhance Torah and Yiddishkeit for others mean the world. 
Those small gestures, which are generally underappreciated or not even appreciated by anyone, mean everything to Hashem.

And that is exactly why Hashem made a point of having flowers adorn Har Sinai. Yes, in the larger scheme of the Giving of the Torah, beautiful flowers are unimportant, but that is precisely the message. What appears to matter so little, matters so much. That is what Hashem values and what He wishes for us to value as well.

Our relationship with Hashem and with our spouses, children, family and friends works all in the same way. The small expressions of love are the greatest expressions of love. Do something small and you are doing something big. On the most momentous day in the history of the world, this is one secret Hashem shared with us. Remember it for the rest of your life, and you can rest assured that all your relationships will always be blossoming as beautiful as ever.

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