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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Ki Tavo

Parshat Ki Tavo

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Ki Tavo                                                                                        Print Version
21st of Elul, 5779 | September 21, 2019

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Paysach Krohn
A Change of Plans

It was the day of Purim, on a Sunday morning, and I had been asked to be the mohel to circumcise twin boys. As you can imagine, given it to be Purim, the shul was brimming with enthusiasm and excitement.

Now, as per halacha, the older boy would be the one to be circumcised first. The second child would be kept in a different room, thereby halachically rendering the requisite bris milah blessings said before the first child unfit to apply to the second child, and allow for the same blessings to be recited for the second child. Optimally, this is to be done.

Yet, aside from this, the two grandfathers of the twins wanted to be the sandek for each of the babies. One grandfather, Yaakov, wished to be the sandek for the older twin, as he would be named after his family, while the other grandfather, Shalom, wanted to be the sandek for the younger twin, as he in turn would be named after his family.

As this had all been sorted out, after davening was completed, I headed to the back to check on the babies and reminded the parents to ensure that the older baby would be sent in first, as required by halacha.

Sure enough, as the shul teemed with people in every corner, we were ready to start. Yaakov, who planned on being the sandek, stood with beaming joy across his face. The baby was ushered to the center of the shul and placed on the lap of his grandfather. But as I opened up his diaper, I was dismayed to see that it was the wrong baby. It was the younger boy.

I immediately turned to the father and signaled that this was the wrong baby. Now, my first inclination was to take back the baby and bring out the older one in its place. But as the rabbi of the shul rightfully noted, this would be passing up on the opportunity to perform the mitzvah on hand, which is halachically problematic. Since this baby was set in place and ready to have the mitzvah of bris milah performed, he would need to be circumcised first.

The problem was that Yaakov as the grandfather had planned to be the sandek for the older boy, as he was supposed to be named after his family. The dilemma we were now in would certainly affect this, and Yaakov was certainly distraught. Yaakov, however, while frustrated, said nothing. But the father of the twins lost it.

He began yelling and screaming at his wife, who stood at the other end of the shul, why she had sent in the wrong baby. Everyone immediately went silent. Amidst a room full of celebratory aura, combined from the feelings of Purim and the bris, silence took hold. Suddenly, immense tension could palpably be felt in every corner.

Looking to deescalate the tension and ease the discomfort felt by everyone in shul, I said aloud for everyone to hear, “Look, it had to happen this way! It’s Purim, when everything is naha’poch hu (turned inside out, upside down)!” Audible laughs broke out throughout the shul, and the tension dissipated.

As it turned out, we went on to perform the bris on the younger boy first, followed by the older boy. While it was not how things were planned, it worked out at the end.

To this day, I thank Hashem for putting those words in my mouth. At that moment, I had no idea what to say, until these words popped into my mind.

When I brought Mishloach Manos to Rav Dovid Cohen shlita later that day, I relayed to him what had occurred earlier at the bris, and he told me, “Hashem wanted to show the grandfathers that you don’t need to only be the sandek for the baby that is named after your side of the family. He wanted to remind them that it is important to love both children equally.”

In our lives, many things can happen which are exactly the opposite of what we anticipated and hoped. We planned on one thing and it never happens. At that point, the choice we are faced with is how we will react. Will we yell and scream, and perhaps even blame someone else for our predicament? Or, will we say that everything has been turned on its head, but what is done is done, and we ought to make the best of it?

When our lives do not go as scripted, are we resilient and bounce back? That is the question. If we can adopt such a life attitude, it will serve us well throughout the many ups and down brought our way.

Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein
Measure for Measure

Over the years of being a Rebbe for close to four decades, I have been approached by many of my students who have unfortunately encountered very challenging times, particularly as it relates to having children. Many of them have come to me after a miscarriage, stillbirth, birth of a down syndrome or autistic child, or a child born with heart problems.

Whenever I am asked by these parents for some chizuk (support and encouragement), I am reminded of the words of Rav Chaim Vital zt”l who says something so important to remember.
Many great gedolim have been noted to stand up when a down syndrome child enters a room. This is because the Zohar says that when a person goes up to Heaven and has sins needing to be remedied, he is offered the choice of going to Gehinnom (purgatory) or returning back to this world reincarnated to rectify his sins.

The problem with this choice is that while a person may come back to this world to remove a few sins, he may end up committing many more sins, and lose out even more. It is thus a risk and a gamble if a person returns to this world.

However, there are some especially holy souls which are guaranteed by Hashem that they will not become sullied with more sin by returning to this world. For these souls, Hashem ensures that they are incapable of performing any more sins. In this sense, a child who is born down syndrome or autistic whose setbacks preclude being accountable in many circumstances for his decisions, is capable of entering and exiting this world with the same purity all the way through.

The same is true of a child who is miscarried or a stillborn. The very short time it was in existence as a fetus or alive for just a short period, enables its soul to receive its tikkun (spiritual rectification) and at the same time, remain pure and free of sin.

But, adds Rav Chaim Vital, while it is very true that the child born under such circumstances experiences its tikkun, what about the parents of the down syndrome child, the autistic child, or the parents of a miscarriage or stillborn? Why is it fair that they have to go through unbearable agony and suffering of losing a child or experience the challenges of raising a child that struggles? Why is it fair that they are being used a tool to help another soul achieve its rectification and perfection and be prepared to enter Gan Eden?

Rav Chaim Vital explains that Hashem runs the world measure for measure. Everything is calculated to the tee and considered by Hashem. When the parents of such a child pass away and leave this world themselves, they will enter Gan Eden straightaway without being judged by Hashem. The soul which was born to those parents comes out and says, “If these parents suffered for me that I should go to Gan Eden, measure for measure, they should go to Gan Eden with me. And Hashem complies.”

Who wants this and who asks for this? Nobody. But, at the very end, Hashem does not give a person a challenge and withhold repaying them for their suffering. Everything is done middah k’neged middah, measure for measure.

Rabbi Aron Lankry
The Judge in Our Dining Room

Dip the apple in the honey, make a beracha loud and clear, shanah tova u’metukah, have a happy, sweet new year…

We are all familiar with the long-standing tradition of taking a variety of different fruits and vegetables and reciting various prayers portending a blessed and prosperous year to come. Yet what exactly is the meaning and depth behind this practice? What do we mean to accomplish by taking these special foods and saying an accompanying prayer?

There stood David amid the hustle and bustle of Manhattan, his suit straightened out and attaché case in hand, having just finished a day’s work. Slowly making his way to the nearest corner, as he reached the red light, another gentleman appeared at his side. He as well carried himself with an air of class and professionalism, accentuated by his designer suit and briefcase. “Hi,” David casually called out, “my name is David, what’s your name?” The gentleman looked back at David, letting out a pleasant smile. “It’s Jeff. Pleasure to meet you David.” Having now grabbed the attention of a friendly stranger, David proceeded to make conversation. “Where are you heading?” “Oh, I’m on my way to my apartment a couple blocks down.” David was too. “So am I. Would you mind if I join you for the walk?” Jeff let out a small smile again, the red light just having turned green. “Sure, c’mon, let’s make the light,” he motioned.

David and Jeff continued making their way down the sidewalk, flanked by the city’s skyline and high-rises left and right. Between some chit-chat about business, politics and life in the city, conversation was smooth and upbeat between the two of them. When David reached his apartment, situated just a few hundred feet before Jeff’s, he looked Jeff in the eye and extended his hand. “Jeff, it’s been a real pleasure. You know, if you have a few minutes, why don’t you come up to my place and we’ll have a few drinks.” With some time to spare and having also enjoyed the company, Jeff happily complied.

Once inside, David wasted no time in bringing out some liquor set aside for special occasions. “By the way Jeff,” David piped up as he slowly poured a glass, “what was your last name again?” “Feder,” came the reply. “Jeff Feder.” David continued filling up two glasses as Jeff patiently looked on with a smile.

Ring! Ring! “Excuse me Jeff,” David interrupted, putting down the glasses, “I’m expecting an important call. I’ll be right back in a minute.” David quickly headed into the kitchen, intent on returning to his guest as soon as possible.

“Hello?” “David, this is your attorney, Mark.” “Oh, hi Mark. How are you?” “I’m doing fine. I just wanted to remind you that you need to be in court tomorrow before ten o’clock. Make sure you’re not late.” “You got it Mark; before ten o’clock. I’ll be there.” “Oh, and one more thing. I found out who the judge is. His name is Jeff Feder. See you tomorrow.” Click.

David kept the phone to his ear for a few seconds, the dial tone still sounding. “Jeff Feder? Are you kidding? He’s in my living room right now!” David, slightly jittery and tense, could not believe it. “What should I do?” he thought to himself. “Well I know what I should not do. I shouldn’t march into the living room and say, ‘Jeff, take care of me! You’re my judge tomorrow!’ That would be the worst thing to do. He’ll probably jump out the window and run for his life, figuring that this was some type of set up. I better play it safe. You know, be classy and casual.”

Straightening himself out, David sauntered back into the living room as if nothing had happened. Walking towards Jeff, David picked up his glass, looked straight at Jeff and said, “Jeff! I would like to propose a toast. We should both have a sweet, new year!” Jeff, following along, raised his glass as he exclaimed, “Amen to that!” Next, David raised his glass once again. “Here’s another toast. All of our enemies should disappear!” “I’ll drink to that one David,” Jeff said, as he raised his glass and took another sip.

David and Jeff shared a couple more toasts, mentioning how they should both meet much success, enjoy a fabulous year and be on top and not bottom. To each toast, Jeff lifted his glass and gave his hearty affirmation.

After finishing several toasts and enjoying each other’s company for some time, David led Jeff to the door. “It’s been a pleasure Jeff. We’ll have to cross paths sometime soon and get together again.” And with that, Jeff went on his merry way.

Five minutes to ten the following day, David stood in the courtroom all ready. Looking at the judge from a distance, David noticed how he was calmly leafing through his paperwork. And then he paused. David figured that he must have realized just exactly who was standing before him. But no special eye contact or smiling gestures were made. The judge, who David recognized to be Jeff, heard out the case from beginning to end.

But guess what? Jeff personally knew David, and that being the case, things changed. “Case dismissed,” announced Jeff at the conclusion of the proceedings.

We are given a unique privilege and opportunity the night before the big day of judgement. Rosh Hashanah may be a day of awe, but it is also a day of joy and optimism, for we are confident that G-d will find us favorable in judgment and grant us a blessed new year. And why is that so? Because just the night before, we were honored to host Hashem, the ultimate Judge, in our dining room. We took hold of various fruits and vegetables and proposed toasts. “We should be the head and not the tail; all of our merits should shine forth; and we should have a prosperous year.” And to each one of these toasts, Hashem responded Amen. “You are My children,” Hashem said, “and I will take care of you.”

What would we pay to have even a few minutes with the judge the night before our big trial? Well guess what? Our rabbis arranged for it… We are in the best position we could possibly be for a happy, healthy, sweet new year.

Dr. Norman Blumenthal
Set Your Alarm Clock

Many years ago, I was working with a woman who was undergoing an extremely challenging time. I remember her telling me something that has stayed with me for years.
While she relayed in detail her sorrow and suffering, I spontaneously asked her, “How do you get up in the morning?” She replied that she had bought herself a digital alarm clock and no matter what day of the week it was, whether she could sleep in more or less, she set her alarm for 6:13 a.m., representing to her the 613 mitzvos. That is how she got up in the morning. It was a gentle reminder that Hashem was with her, supporting her and caring for her, and granting her a new day in this world to get up and make great things happen with her life.

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