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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Bamidbar/Shavuot

Parshat Bamidbar/Shavuot

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Bamidbar/Shavuot                                                                      Print Version
5th of Sivan, 5779 | June 8, 2019

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser 
Never Give Up on a Soul

Years ago, a Jew by the name of Rav Tzadok lived in Europe and made a living as a wagon driver. Known to be a supremely pious Jew, he would mouth words of prayer and Tehillim all day long. Despite his long days of work and driving near and far, he never wavered in his commitment to Yiddishkeit.

Yet, as Rav Tzadok grew older, he began to feel a deep-seated sense of sorrow in his life over one particular aspect that he wished he could do more for: his son. His only son was irreligious and had done away completely with a life of Torah.

With Rav Tzadok’s own, personal dedication to Torah so important, he wondered what he could do to encourage his son to find such fulfillment in his life as well. But Rav Tzadok knew that it would not be simple to do so, as his son in no which way embraced his heritage and ancestry of illustrious Torah Jews.

But as Rav Tzadok’s final days of life neared, he penned a will, and included within it a special request that his son recite the traditional Kaddish prayer after his passing. Nothing more was asked of the son but to say Kaddish in merit of his father’s soul.

Truth be told, after Rav Tzadok passed on, his son began to ruminate over his father’s lifetime. While the son was certainly not following in his father’s ways, and that was not going to change, at the very least, he could pay honorary dues by fulfilling his departing wish. That was the one request he could actually commit to. After all, Rav Tzadok had been a loving and supportive father.

And so, the next day, off went the son to the local shul in earnest intent to recite Kaddish. But he didn’t get too far, as the shul members recognized him immediately and threw him out. “What are you doing here?” they berated him. “You don’t belong here! You are going to defile us! You are going to make us impure!” Without any other choice, the son ashamedly walked out. But he wasn’t ready to give up so easily. Off he went to another shul. But the same scene repeated itself. “Get out of here! You’re not staying here!” they yelled. But that’s not all. This shaming scene unfolded even a third time.

But, despite not being interested in Judaism, the son was not a quitter. He wouldn’t let go of what he said he would do. If he had made a commitment, he would do absolutely everything possible to complete it.

He entered into yet another shul, that of Chassidic Breslov Jews. They welcomed him in, and accepted him non-judgmentally and respectfully. For the next six months, all he did was recite Kaddish. No Shema, no Shemonah Esrei, no Tefillin. Just Kaddish.

One day, a fellow by the name of Rav Yankel approached the son. With love and care, he asked if he would like to put on Tefillin. Rav Yankel’s gentle words, warmth and authenticity were evident, and the son complied.

It wasn’t long before one mitzvah led to another. The son continued putting on Tefillin, reciting Shema and Shemonah Esrei and learning. However, there came a time not too long thereafter, that the government issued a mandate, resulting in all the mikvaos in town forcibly being closed. The foundation of the Jewish home, that of taharas hamishpacha (Family Purity), was put into jeopardy.

With this occurring, Rav Levi Yitzchak Bender approached the son of Rav Tzadok. “You are a gifted man,” he told the son. “You have talented hands. We are in dire need of a mikvah to serve our community. If you could commit to building a secret mikvah that would not be known to anyone but those members of our community, it would be an unbelievable blessing, and Family Purity could continue in our region.”

The son of Rav Tzadok, with his artistic hands and masterful mind, built a mikvah and covered it over so well that a horse and wagon could drive over it, and no one would have known that a mikvah was underneath. To the son’s credit, the practice of taharas hamishpacha resumed in the region. Even the day that the government caught wind that there was a mikvah in the Jewish community, and sent out officials to look throughout the city, they found nothing. Rav Tzadok’s son had done such a brilliant job camouflaging it that they walked right over it and never discovered anything.

This son, the one who was told these very words, “You are going to defile us! You are going to make us impure!” was the very individual who brought purity and holiness to the entire community.

Each and every one of us possess the incredible potential and power to purify, uplift and inspire ourselves and those around. We are capable of igniting ourselves, and with that, diffusing light to others. That fire and passion can become so great that we spread it to others and touch their lives in the most profound of ways. Never, ever give up on a Jewish soul, because you never know where it may go.

Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein 
Seconds, Minutes, Hours

Goals are a supremely important and motivating force in our lives. When we are able to set our focus on something and commit to it, we find within ourselves wellsprings of will and energy that we may have otherwise never discovered. However, there is likewise an aspect of having a goal that can lead to just the opposite. Allow me to explain.

I was one approached by a fourteen-year-old girl who said to me, “Rabbi Wallerstein, I am ready to get married.” Thrown off by the question, I asked if she could elaborate on what she meant. “I am ready to leave school and head out to work.” I was troubled by her train of thought. “Why do you want to get married during your teenage years? You have a lot to learn and a lot to absorb, and at the appropriate time, in years from now, you can get married. Why are you so eager to do so now?” “Rabbi,” she said, “that’s my ultimate goal. Once I have that, I am set. If I don’t get married soon, I may get older and never get married.”

After hearing this, I explained to her the following. Marriage is not a goal. If that is the way you view it, you will be sorely unhappy as soon as you walk back from your chuppa. You have accomplished your goal, so now what? Where do you go from there? Marriage is rather a means to other goals, including having children and building a Jewish family and Torah future. It is an ingredient, but by no means a goal.

What though occurs if you adopt the attitude that it is a goal? You may be fourteen years old, and you realize that you cannot get married for a number of years. Those gap years then become a barrier and get in your way of your goal. They are blocking you from achieving your desired finish line. If you could, you would rush through those years as fast as you can to avoid the pain of waiting to get married. After all, the sooner you reach your goal, the more successful and happier you will be? But that is far from right.

Hashem created our life in such a way where we experience small increments of time, which aggregate to form larger increments. Seconds turn into minutes, which turn into hours, which turn into days, then weeks, then months, then years.

There are micro and macro segments of time to our life. Every moment of our lives is counted and calculated into the larger framework of our time on this earth. If we fail to appreciate this, we will be exchanging unbelievable opportunities for fulfillment of a “goal.” When that goal will happen, it will happen, but don’t sit around until it does and fritter away the time in between. Of course, if you are taking necessary steps towards that goal, then you are engaging in a meaningful process and living in the present with your sights to the future. Yet, if your focus is anything less than that, you will likely squander and surrender your present time to the future attainment of your goal, and miss out on the here-and-now of your life.

The count of Sefiras Ha’Omer, which culminates with Shavuos, teaching us this profound lesson. Every day counts. We don’t merely end Pesach and wait around until arriving at Shavuos.

We left Egypt and had our eyes set on an extraordinary goal, that of receiving the Torah. It would be simple to forget about the interim days and merely wait until Shavuos arrives, and then observe it. However, we do just the opposite. We count the days in between, and call attention to the time before our goal manifests itself. And that is because Sefiras Ha’Omer is a step towards Shavuos, and we want to recognize and value every minute, day and week.

At the end of our lives, Hashem will show us all that we accomplished. But how we will view it? It will not be merely the bookends of our lives. We were born here and passed away there. We will review our every second, minute, hour, day, week, month and year. Every increment counts and is accounted for. If we learned for one hour, said Tehillim for ten minutes and gave tzedakah in one second, that will all be to our credit. If, however, we only set our eyes on a goal of ours and overlook the time in between, we are minimizing the power of the moment and the present.

Every second in our life is a microcosm of Sefiras Ha’Omer. Count your seconds and make them meaningful. Pull yourself into a quite space and think, “What is my goal this moment?” We must live our lives for every moment, because that is where our truest goals will find fulfillment.

Rabbi Fischel Schachter 
Sing Your Scroll of Gratitude

A few years ago, I was standing in shul as a young man walked up to the bima with the help of a walker. Before I knew it, however, he was honored with g’lila, and began rolling the Torah in preparation for returning it to the Ark. While this is a time-honored practice which is done every week after the Torah is read from, this scene was special. The young man had tears in his eyes, and everyone was singing and clapping enthusiastically. I had never seen so many people so excited about g’lila, until I approached the man afterwards and he told me the following.

“A few years ago, I was in a car with my friends, until one moment, when everything went blurry. The next thing I knew, I was in a hospital laying down on a bed. I was later told that the driver had swerved to avoid a deer, and instead hit a tree. My eyes were bandaged shut and casts covered most of my body. I could not move at all, nor could I speak. Almost every bone in my body had been broken or fractured and chances of my recovery were questionable.

I was at an extreme low point, until I recalled a conversation I had with one of my teachers years before. I had asked him how a person can deal with the various challenges in life that set him back. My teacher responded that a man had just come to him yesterday with the same question. He had told the man that by focusing on the good in his life and thanking Hashem for it, he would be able to appreciate what he does have, and build the determination to overcome the negative feelings over that which he didn’t have.

‘But there’s nothing good in my life!’ the man said. ‘Then dig deeper,’ encouraged my teacher. ‘My health, finances and marriage are not good! I have problems with my children. I don’t see anything good!’ ‘Dig deeper,” my teacher pressed. He thought for longer, and then said, ‘There is one thing. I have a good chavrusa (study partner). He is a lifelong friend of mine and we learn extremely well together.’

“As I lay in the hospital bed reminiscing this incident I remembered from years before, I began thinking about what I could personally be grateful for. Almost every bone in my body was broken, but I was able to move one shoulder. I began moving my shoulder slightly, and while doing so, concentrated on thanking Hashem that I was able to do so.

“Over the course of weeks, I became capable of moving other parts of my body and the doctors removed the bandages from my eyes. I underwent multiple surgeries, but with each one, I made up a song of gratitude with a tune that I would sing to Hashem. My shoulder was the first body part I could move, but I made my way from there.

“Within a few months, I had made unbelievable progress, so much so, that the doctor who checked on me thought he had mixed up my medical file with someone else. He couldn’t believe that given my extent of injuries, I had recuperated in such a short amount of time. But I knew that my mental and emotional state had contributed to my physical recovery, and it blossomed out of my singing and saying thank you to Hashem.

“Now you understand,” said the young man to me in shul, “why my g’lila brought tears to my eyes, and why the entire congregation celebrated. I used my very own shoulders to roll the Torah, and that was the ultimate testament to how far I had come, with the help of G-d.”

In life, it is not easy to find things to be grateful for, and oftentimes we must dig deep to discover something. But when we do, we can document it and continue to search for more and more blessings in our life, until we have completed a scroll of thank you’s to Hashem. And when we roll that scroll together, full of our gratitude, and lift it up to revel in all that we have in our lives, there is nothing sweeter than that.

Rabbi Ari Bensoussan 
I Love to Learn

Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel zt”l, the late and esteemed Rosh Yeshiva of Mir Yerushalyim, was a man of extraordinary strength and perseverance. For the last 28 years of his life, he lived with the degenerative disease of Parkinson’s. But for Rav Nosson Tzvi, it may have been a debilitating illness, but it was not demoralizing. It robbed him of his ability to control his muscles, but he was in full control of his life. And his life’s accomplishments speak right to that.

After Rav Nosson Tzvi passed away, a man from Jerusalem came to visit the family and lend them his comfort. This Jew, though, had something in common with Rav Nosson Tzvi that many others did not. He also suffered from Parkinson’s disease. 
“Your father,” the man began, “will force me to endure a very strong judgment before the Heavenly Court after I pass away.

Before I developed Parkinson’s,” he explained,” I was known as the ‘Masmid of Beis Yisroel,’ a neighborhood in Jerusalem. I would learn day and night, as much as I could. However, ever since I have gotten sick, it has become extremely difficult for me to concentrate, even slightly, on my learning. I am bedridden and on medication, and my mind is often numbed.

“But I just want you to know, that your father, Rav Nosson Tzvi, had Parkinson’s much worse than I do, and he still never stopped learning. Every day, he walked to the Yeshiva and davened, despite the enormous effort and energy he needed to exert. People would beg him to take medication to alleviate the pain, but he would always tell people, ‘My body is my problem; my brain belongs to the Jewish people. I need to be clear-headed to offer guidance and encouragement to my fellow Jews. I cannot take that away from them.’ And so, your father would sit on the couch and throb in discomfort, as throngs of people would line up to see him.

On one occasion, a student of your father, said, “Rebbe, I cannot bare to see you like this. Why is Hashem doing this to you?” Rav Nosson Tzvi replied, “You know, I love learning Torah so much that before I got sick, I couldn’t ever think of how Hashem will give me reward for learning. I personally enjoyed it too much. But now that it is so difficult for me to concentrate and learn, and I do it nonetheless, I know that I will receive reward…” 
For all of us, the privilege to learn Torah, for even a few minutes, is an opportunity not worth giving up for anything else. And if it comes with any among of difficulty and struggle, then how much greater our reward will be…

Rabbi YY Jacobson 
Smile Back

While Sarah would oftentimes pick her son, Dovid, up from school, on one particular day, he decided to walk home. It was a short walk, just a couple blocks, and Dovid as a nine-year-old boy was certainly capable of independently doing so.

But this day was not like every other day, because today, it was pouring rain. The sky soon began to roar with thunder, as lightning pierced through the clouds. Sarah couldn’t contain her worries and soon enough, jumped into her car and sped off to find Dovid and give him a lift home. But as she turned the corner, lo and behold, she noticed Dovid. He had already left school and begun to walk home himself, in the heavy rain. But, to Sarah’s surprise, he walked so ever slowly, a skip in his step and a smile glued to his face. He was celebrating and literally dancing in the rain.

Suddenly, though, a booming sound of thunder echoed from the sky as Sarah jumped out of her seat. Lightning soon followed, creating a picturesque scene of dark clouds and striking light zipping in between. Sarah glanced turned over at her nine-year-old Dovid, who could do nothing more than smile and continue walking. Sarah was confused, and yet again, when lighting struck for the second time, she noticed Dovid looking up to sky with a beaming smile.

Rolling down the window, Sarah yelled out, “Dovid, I can take you home!” But Dovid didn’t like that idea. “Mommy, please, I want to walk home myself!” Sarah couldn’t understand. “Why are you smiling, Dovid?” “Mommy, don’t you see, G-d keeps on taking pictures of me! Every time He takes a picture, as the lightning flash goes off, I smile!”

If you smile as you read this, hold that smile. That is a Jewish emotion. That is a Jewish attitude. The world is smiling at me, people are smiling at me, Hashem is smiling at me. It’s our job to smile back.

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