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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Matot-Maasei

Parshat Matot-Maasei

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Matot-Maasei                                                                            Print Version
2nd of Av, 5779 | August 3, 2019

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Paysach Krohn 
A Walking, Talking Sanctuary

As the legendary story of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza cited in the Gemara (Gittin 55b-56a) goes, after being evicted from the grand party he was mistakenly invited to, Bar Kamtza reported back to the Caesar that the Jews were rebelling. In the interest of substantiating such a claim, Bar Kamtza devised the plan of having a sacrifice be sent to the Beis Hamikdash and see if it would be accepted by the Jews to be offered. The Caesar gave his authorization, though Bar Kamtza schemed to frame the Jews. Discreetly blemishing the calf’s upper lip, or as some say the white of its eye, he then presented it as a sacrifice coming from none other than the Caesar himself.

But there was one problem. Bar Kamtza blemished the animal in a place which deemed the animal unfit and invalid as a sacrifice for Jews, but not for non-Jews. The dilemma thus arose as to whether it should or should not be offered for the sake of peace with the Roman government. With a heavy discussion ensuing among the sages, it was eventually decided not to offer the animal. But such a decision led to a demoralizing effect. Word got back to the Caesar of what had resulted from his offering, infuriating him and setting into motion what would eventually lead to the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash.

While the Gemara details this sad and calamitous episode in Jewish history, one particularly noteworthy point is that which Bar Kamtza did to the animal. He blemished it specifically in the lip, or as others say, the eye. What significance is there to this fact the Gemara shares with us?

It is a simple yet profound lesson. As the Gemara words it, a so-called “flaw in the eyes and lips of a Jew is a blemish” and leaves rippling effects. We must be cognizant of what we allow ourselves to look at and how we view other people. Is everything we see appropriate and do we try our best to have a good eye and judge others favorably? Or do we sometimes say things that are hurtful or insulting? Our eyes and lips can be vehicles for holiness and uplifting other people, or G-d forbid, just the opposite. For us as Jews, these matters are not mere trivialities, but rather bona fide indications of who we are individually and collectively.

During the month of Tammuz 1809, Napoleon surrounded the city of Pressburg, Hungary, with cannons ready to fire any minute. Many Jews stood to lose their lives and remained paralyzed with fear. But at that pivotal moment, the Chasam Sofer, preeminent leader of the city, offered words of wisdom and encouragement. As recorded (Derashos Chasam Sofer, Vol. 2, 8th Day of Tammuz), all Jewish residents of Pressburg gathered together, whereupon the Chasam Sofer remarked:

“Ever since we have become a nation, the gentiles have been shooting devastating arrows at us. Now, Napoleon is before us. If we wish to avoid the piercing strike of his arrows so they not hurt us, we must ensure that foremost our own arrows do not hurt anyone. It is middah k’negged middah, measure for measure. Our words are akin to arrows, as the Pasuk says, “Their tongue is like a drawn arrow, speaking deceit; with his mouth one speaks peace with his fellow, but inside of him he lays ambush” (Yirmiyah 9:7-8). If we are careful not to hurt anyone with our arrows of speech, their arrows of man-made material will not hurt us.”

Our lips are so ever-powerful, as are our eyes. But there is more. The Malbim commenting on latter phrase of the Pasuk, “And they shall make for me a sanctuary, and I shall dwell within them” (Vayikra 25:8) explains that we are to make a Beis Hamikdash within the chambers of our heart. Each of us is a walking, talking sanctuary wherein Hashem resides. In fact, notes the Malbim, our bodies are structured similar to the Mishkan. Our brain parallels the Aron Kodesh (Ark) which housed the Luchos. Our intellectual minds are filled with Torah wisdom and knowledge as was the Aron. Our hearts as well. It is an organ which we cannot exist without, akin to the Lechem HaPanim (twelve Showbreads) which symbolized the life sustaining offering brought before Hashem. Likewise, our stomach which consumes food parallels the Mizbeach, which consumed the sacrifices as they were offered.

If we would all understand that we are a walking Aron, Lechem HaPanim and Mizbeach, just imagine how different our lives would be. We would be changed people and lead more elevated lives. With our minds, eyes, and lips, we would be more cognizant of what we thought, what we saw and what we said; with our hearts, we would be more compassionate and sensitive towards others; and with our stomachs, we would adopt higher levels of kashrus and be more scrupulous in food-related laws and practices. We would ultimately make ourselves into holier human beings who house Hashem’s presence within our very own body and soul. It is through this that we will merit the rebuilding of the Third Beis Hamikdash, for we will have proven that we are doing no less than leading lives filled with G-d’s presence embedded within every part and parcel of our lives.

Dr. Jack Cohen 
Should I Adjust?

The question is often wondered in dating, “Should I settle?” A boy and a girl meet, see something in each other that they find pleasant and attracting, but something else that holds them back. Often, the concern of marrying someone who has come from a less religious background or who grew up a baal teshuva is prominent. An individual feels that they only wish to marry someone “frum from birth,” and a boy or girl who was raised with different religious standards and values growing up, irrespective of where they are now, is grounds to reject them and move along.

While marrying someone on your religious standing is supremely important and should not be compromised, what is important to call attention to is the past versus present. What counts most is their degree of religious dedication now, not before. Moreover, focusing on the boy or girls’ family of origin, someone whose parents grew up irreligious and went on to raise their family to be frum is an attribute, not a flaw.

Consider the following story. It will be enlightening as it relates to the above concern.

It was the 1980s and Sarah, who had been raised in Paris, decided that she wished to begin dating men who had interest in spending several years learning Torah after getting married. After expressing to her family her readiness to begin dating, they began keeping an eye out for men they believed would be good prospective matches.

One evening, Sarah’s uncle brought back some good news. “Sarah, I was just in shul and was introduced to a young man named Joe who I think you would appreciate a date with.” Sarah, trusting her uncle’s judgment, agreed to the date without looking too much into it. She figured that it was just one date, and it would be worth it.

There Sarah sat, waiting in the hotel in Paris for Joe, her date, to show up. A couple minutes later, in walked a young man, dressed in jeans and a plaid shirt, who walked straight up to Sarah. “Can I help you?” Sarah asked him. “Are you Sarah Levy?” Sarah was offset. How did this man know her name? “I’m Joe,” he said proudly. Sarah paused and took a long breath. “Perhaps you mean a different Sarah Levy?” she said aloud. “I am here for a date, but the man I was supposed to meet is religious.” Joe immediately reached into his back pocket, exclaiming, “Oh, I’m so sorry!” all the while. He pulled out a yarmulke and stuffed it onto his head.

Sarah could not wrap her head around what her uncle was thinking. Sarah was certainly looking for someone religious, and for that matter, someone who even planned on devoting years to learning once married. From what she could observe of Joe, he seemed to be far from that.

“I’m going to be an architect in six months,” began Joe. “I’ll be graduating from the University of Paris soon, and will be well on my way.” From there, a lengthy conversation ensued between Joe and Sarah about life. Perfect dating conversations, but all the wrong answers for Sarah. Finally, after an hour, Sarah got up and said that she needed to leave. But then Joe threw down the gauntlet.

“You’ve told me for the past hour that you want a husband who will dedicate himself to Torah learning full-time. What if I became that guy?” Sarah couldn’t believe such a proposal. It seemed to her akin to the chances of finding an Eskimo on Miami beach. And with that, Joe and Sarah parted on friendly terms.

Sarah returned home and explained to her parents how Joe had been way off the mark for her. What did everyone have in mind? Thirty days later, Sarah received a phone call from her uncle.

“Sarah, you won’t believe the news I was just told. Joe’s father called me and said that with six months left to go until completing architecture school, Joe dropped out and decided to fly to Israel to learn in yeshiva. He would like another date with you.” 
Now Sarah began to think a bit harder about her earlier decision to reject Joe. Was he really serious about learning full-time in yeshiva? Was that the type of life he really wanted? With these questions in mind, Sarah acquiesced to another date.

This time, Joe showed up with a blue shirt and slacks. Joe began explaining how his learning had been going extremely well, and he felt his soul had opened up to a new life he had never explored. At the end of this second date, Joe was ready to go on a third. But Sarah was not as eager. After briefly mulling it over, she said those oft-heard words, “Joe, I think you’re a really great guy, but not for me.” And that was it. Joe and Sarah bid each other farewell and permanently parted ways.

Over the next few days, Sarah continuing wondering if she had given up an outstanding opportunity to date Joe. He was progressing in such a nice way with his learning and was a real gentleman… But, as much as Sarah talked to herself, she couldn’t see herself marrying Joe. He had just become more religious and Sarah idealized marrying someone who had always been religious. Joe didn’t fit the mold, in Sarah’s mind. Months went by, during which Joe moved to learn at the yeshiva of Ohr Somayach in Monsey, while Sarah continued on with her daily schooling and routines.

Years later, Sarah was 29 years old, and Joe was no longer Joe, but Yosef, and after learning in yeshiva for many years and diligently applying himself, he was offered a teaching position to one hundred students in a yeshiva in Israel. Yosef, by this time, had gotten married and had a few children.

Years continued, and Sarah was now 37 years old, when word came back from Israel that there had been a terrorist attack. To her dismay, Yosef’s wife and three children had been killed. 
Sometime after shiva, Yosef returned home to France to visit his family. Word reached Sarah, and the offer once again arose. Would she like to go out with Yosef? At this point, Sarah did not want to lose another opportunity. A date was set.

Sarah sat waiting, in the same hotel as years before, for Yosef to walk in. The front doors opened, and in walked a man with a Hamburg, a distinguishable hat reserved for reputable Rabbinic leaders and authorities, and a long black coat. Sarah was in shock.

Yosef took a seat and looked at Sarah. “Sarah, how are you? Seventeen years… it’s been a long time…” Sarah looked back at Yosef with a soft face. “I’m so sorry to hear about your wife…”

“Let me tell you something,” said Yosef. “Every day, my wife would go to the Kotel to daven for you, because if not for you, she never would have married me. She prayed that you would also get married and equally find happiness.” Sarah started to cry. “You and your wife looked at me so sincerely, 
compassionately and lovingly, and I didn’t do the same to you. I had to have it one way and I couldn’t see beyond that.” 
Yosef and Sarah wound up getting engaged and married. On the day of their wedding, Yosef provided Sarah with a special souvenir. “Please include this in our photo album,” he said. It was the first yarmulke he had ever worn, and had pulled out of his pocket on their first date ever.

In dating and marriage, it is wise to reframe the question of “Should I settle?” to “Should I adjust?” Should I adjust my expectations, my idealization, my visions? The answer is yes. Look at the person for who they are, and don’t be quick to write them off. It is not about having expectations for the other person to adjust, but for you to adjust. Remember, you can never change someone else, especially your spouse. But look at them where they are today, and ask yourself: Can I adjust my perspective to be something different? The answer to that question should lead you to some profound answers and realizations.

A Short Message From 
Rabbi Label Lam

For one Hollywood mogul who wanted to impress Groucho Marx with his magnificent new mansion, he decided to take him on a grand tour. They moved from room to room, yet all the while Groucho remained eminently unimpressed. Desperate to elicit the type of response he was seeking, the mogul moved to the back of the house and threw open the bay doors where just a few feet away was the beach leading to the Pacific Ocean. “Even if you don’t like my house,” the mogul declared, “we know that the three most important features in real estate are location, location, location. Look at where I find myself? Right next to the Pacific Ocean.” Groucho gave a tap on his cigar and responded in his typical sardonic tone, “Well, take away the ocean, and what have you got?” But, as we all know, the ocean isn’t going anywhere. The same is true with us. Dovid Hamelech declares, “Va’ani kirvas Elokim li tov – But as for me, G-d’s closeness is my good” (Tehillim 73:28). When we are close to Hashem, we have everything. Location, location, location.

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