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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Pinchas

Parshat Pinchas

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Pinchas                                                                                  Print Version
24th of Tammuz, 5779 | July 27, 2019

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Yoel Gold 
One Mitzvah to the Next

A cousin of mine, Frumy Malachi, once received a knock on her door in the middle of the day. Opening the door, lo and behold, an African American woman stood before her holding a pair of Tallis and Tefillin. Knowing that something was amiss, Frumy asked the woman what the matter was. “I drive for Uber,” she began, “and a man left these in my car. I didn’t drop him off at his house, but rather next to the lake right here, so I don’t know where he lives. I want to return this as I see that it is a religious article. Could you help me return it?”

Frumy immediately agreed to assist in returning the Tallis and Tefillin. She first took a picture of them with her phone and forwarded the image to her family and friends, notifying everyone that they had been lost. Frumy’s husband, Ovadi, proceeded to post the picture on the Lakewood Scoop, a website platform with news and announcements, adding that if anyone lost this pair of Tallis and Tefillin, they should please contact him. On the Tefillin bag itself was inscribed in Hebrew “Nun-Yud Cohen,” evidently referring to someone, but not someone who was known to Frumy or her husband.

An hour later, Frumy received a call from a boy whose last named was Cohen. After confirming that it was rightfully his, the boy headed over to the Malachi home and picked them up. That was almost the end of the story.

The next morning, Ovadi went to daven as he usually did, and a fellow named Mr. Cohen came over to him. “Ovadi, thank you for returning my son’s Tefillin yesterday.” Ovadi knew of Mr. Cohen, but had not put two and two together and considered that the Tefillin belonged to someone in his family. “Oh, no problem,” said Ovadi, “it was my pleasure to return them.”

“Ovadi,” continued Mr. Cohen, “my son is 19 years old right now. You may not remember, but six years ago when he became bar mitzvah, I couldn’t afford to buy him a pair of Tefillin. Ovadi, do you remember, you were the one who gave me the money to buy those Tefillin for my son? You sponsored those Tefillin! It hit me just yesterday when you returned them. First you paid for those Tefillin, and you performed one mitzvah, and then as our Sages teach, ‘Mitzvah go’reres mitzvah,’ when you do one mitzvah, Hashem gives you the opportunity to perform another mitzvah, and you carried out the mitzvah of returning those very same, lost, Tefillin.

The number of houses surrounding my cousin’s home in South Lake Drive in New Jersey are hundreds. For an Uber driver to knock on my cousin’s door, and for my cousin to be the very person who sponsored these Tefillin years ago, is no coincidence.

Rabbi Moshe Bamberger 
No One But You

A poor man once knocked on my door, collecting for a particular tzedakah cause. After hearing a little bit about his need, I welcomed him inside my home. Before I knew it, my children had gathered around him and were talking away. He went on to show us pictures of his family, which eventually lead to me writing out a nice check to him.

Before he left, he said to me, “I want to tell you something. What you did for me was the perfect form of tzedakah. I once went to a rich fellow and asked for tzedakah, and was told, ‘I don’t deal with my own tzedakah. I give it to my rav and he has full discretion to give to whomever he would like.’ After hearing this, I realized that while he was definitely performing the mitzvah of tzedakah, he was losing out on a precious opportunity to teach his children the value and importance of giving tzedakah by outsourcing it and delegating it to someone else.”

There are certain things in life that bring maximum benefit when they are done by you and only you alone. To hand it off and place the burden of responsibility on someone else may be more convenient, but it is less than ideal.

The Chofetz Chaim once hosted a guest in his home, who was hesitant to allow the Chofetz Chaim to wait on him and assist him. He preferred that he take care of himself, and the Chofetz Chaim merely provide him the bare minimum necessitates of lodging.

The next morning, right before davening, the Chofetz Chaim approached his guest and said, “Please give me your Tefillin; I’ll put it on for you.” The guest was taken aback. “What do you mean that you’ll put it on for me? I have to do it myself!” “Well, hachnassas orchim, hosting guests, is the same way. I want to do it myself, and not assign it to you!”

There are things in life that we must do ourselves and not substitute other people in our place. As a Jew, a parent, husband, wife, child, brother, sister, friend, chavrusa, neighbor, boss, employee or member of a shul. We are to look inward to see what can be done; not outward. The answer is to be found right where we are.

Rabbi Duvi Bensoussan 
More than Food

During my yeshiva years, a very close friend of mind, Yedidya, decided to visit the Kotel for a period of forty consecutive days, a practice which is known to be of auspicious nature (segulah). The most difficult time, he explained, to make it to the Kotel was Shabbat, given that he would need to walk quite a distance to be there. What most boys decided to do, including Yedidya, was daven at the Kotel Friday night, then wait around until nightfall and Shabbat had begun, and then pray some more. This way they would be davening on Shabbat too (i.e. Friday night after nightfall), and not need to make the long walk back to the Kotel on Saturday.

Nonetheless, given the long walk back Friday night, by the time Yedidya would make it back to yeshiva, all the food from the meal was gone. As such, Yedidya, along with his group who joined him at the Kotel, would regularly look for meals to eat in the Old City on Friday night. It was always a beautiful sight to see how countless individuals and families were invited out to stranger’s homes for the Friday night meal.

Yedidya, however, was quite shy, and while all his friends often found places to eat, he was out of luck. On one occasion, just about everyone had left and Yedidya, standing off to the side, had not been noticed. Of those who remained was an elderly man with tattered clothing. Yedidya hesitated walking over to the fellow and asking if he could join his meal. He wasn’t even sure if this man had enough food for himself, given the way he looked. 
But even before Yedidya could make a move, the elderly man walked up to Yedidya himself and asked if he was looking for a place to eat. “Please come!” offered the man. “I don’t have a lot in my house, but whatever I do have, I will give you with open arms.” Yedidya happily accepted the offer and followed the man back to his house.

Yet what he thought would be a house ended up being… a hole in the wall. This man lived in an apartment that was one-and-a-half rooms, with mattresses spread out over the floor. The man had eleven children, and there was not much space for anything else. Everywhere he turned were more mattresses, spread out over the entire apartment. He walked up to the table with so many chairs around it, and just a little bit of food placed down. Yedidya wished he could walk out, as he didn’t want to take any food away from the family. He felt bad depriving them of the little they had. But it was too late.

At that moment, Yedidya saw something amazing. The father said, “Children! Come to the table; it’s time to eat!” Immediately, all eleven children made their way to the table and started pulling out a chair for the other child. Moments later, everyone was sitting at their designated places around the table, and the serenity felt in the room was palpable. There was silence. 
The family began to sing Shalom Aleichem¸ then Eishes Chayil¸ and afterwards the father made Kiddush. This family did not have a lot, but they did have something that even people who do have a lot, often lack. Happiness.

They may not have had a lot of food, but Yedidya told me that he will never forget that meal. “That was one of the best and most memorable Shabbat tables I have ever been at. I hardly ate anything. Challah, Baba Ganoush and a little chicken drumstick was all that I had. But the children singing, giggling, sharing and showing love filled me with more than a full meal.” That was a memorable display of hachnassat orchim, inviting guests, which Yedidya would always remember. That environment gave him more than any food could ever do.

Avraham Avinu was the same way. He was able to create an environment that made an indelible impression even on the angels who would never forget him for hundreds of years. Years later when Moshe Rabbeinu ascended Har Sinai to receive the Torah, the angles mistook him as Avraham Avinu. Why did they remember Avraham Avinu? Because that meal in which they were invited into his tent left an everlasting impression on them. 

When it comes to hachnassat orchim, hosting guests, it is not about the food. Of course, a person is happy when they get to eat. But it is much more. It is you. Give of yourself. Give them your warmth, laugh with them and let them walk out of your home feeling great. That experience is worth more than all the food you can give.

Rabbi Ephraim Shapiro 
Inspiring the Next Shoam

Over three years ago, my daughter had just finished mid-terms, and my wife and I decided to take her to a restaurant as a special treat.

We walked into the restaurant, took a seat and situated ourselves. However, as we were about to begin ordering our food, we overheard some commotion coming from nearby. We looked up and noticed that four women were seated, yelling at the waiter. They were complaining about their order and the quality of food served. But it was not some soft complaint, asking for the food to be heated up or the like. They were publicly embarrassing the waiter amidst hurling insults and grievances. It was even uncomfortable to watch.

While I should have walked over to the table as the rabbi of the community and politely asked the women to leave, I froze in my seat. A minute or so later, the young waiter silently walked away from the table, humiliated as can be. He was evidently tearing, but said not a word back to any of the women.

My wife immediately turned to me and said, “Eliyahu, ask the boy for a blessing! You know that if someone if humiliated, he has a special power to give blessings!” She was right, and so, I called over the boy and asked for his name and age. “Shoam,” he replied. “I’m twenty-two.” I went on to explain that I am a rabbi in the community and would like for him to give me and my family a blessing. He looked back at me with upsetting confusion. “Are you making fun of me? You want me to give you, the rabbi, a blessing?” “I’m serious,” I said. “You were just embarrassed, and you have the special ability to give a blessing. Please give me one…”

He went on to give us a blessing, after which I, along with my wife and daughter, responded with a resounding Amen. Shoam then left our table.

Five minutes later, he returned. It was clear that something had happened, as his eyes were full of tears. “Rabbi,” he said, “can I speak to you?” “Sure,” I replied. Shoam then began to detail his life story.

“I am now twenty-two years old. I was raised religious, though at age seven, I began becoming disinterested in learning and Judaism altogether, and slowly began becoming irreligious. I came to America when I was sixteen as an irreligious teenager, and eventually got married to an Argentinian irreligious girl. 
“I am now ready to be chozer b’teshuva (become religious). If someone could reach out to me, like you did, and display that degree of care, asking me for a blessing, I am ready to become religious.”

I went on to partner Shoam with another man in our community, who devoted time to learn with him every day. Project Inspire in fact documented the story of Shoam in one of their previous Tisha B’av events, identifying it as one of the four most life-changing stories in recent times.

Shoam’s wife as well became religious, after which they moved to Israel and had a baby, which led to them eventually moving to North Miami Beach and becoming known as one of the most dedicated families in the community. Today, Shoam is learning with that same chavruta I set him up with.

Where did this all start? When he gave me that beracha. 
Many times I have wondered what would have been if I did not call Shoam over. Where would he be today and where would I be today? That is the power of reaching out to someone. Read this today and walk away dedicated to helping the next Shoam… because there is one waiting for you to come along.

Rabbi Label Lam 
Steal Some Golden Apples

The Chofetz Chaim once related how a vendor was attacked by a group of thieves, who managed to steal all of her apples. In desperation, she cried out for help, whereupon a neighboring vendor asked her what the matter was. “They are stealing all of my apples!” she exclaimed. “Why don’t you steal some apples yourself?” he replied.

Over the course of the day, a person thinks approximately 60,000 thoughts. We would imagine that in order for the Kohen Gadol to qualify entering the Kodesh Hakodashim, the Holy of Holies, on Yom Kippur, he must be thinking 60,000 holy thoughts out of 60,000 thoughts in the course of the day. Those are his golden apples. It is not likely that we can think 60,000 holy thoughts throughout our day; however, so that they do not get lost altogether, it is certainly worthwhile to steal as many golden apples for ourselves as we can.

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