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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Vayeira

Parshat Vayeira

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Vayeira Newsletter
18th of Cheshvan, 5780 | November 16, 2019

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Yosef Palacci
An Eternal Gift For You

A man approached me a while ago and related the following: My sister married into a wealthy family, and has ever since been living very comfortably. One day, she came over to our house wearing her new Godier watch studded with diamonds. As my wife later told me, she was marveling in the beauty of her sister-in-law’s watch. It was certainly something impressive and not your everyday piece of jewelry. However, she added, although it was very nice, she knew that we were not in position financially to afford something like that and she was perfectly content. ‘I figured that if I was not meant to have such an expensive piece of jewelry like your sister, I wouldn’t have it.’

“Six months later, on one Friday afternoon, I gave my wife a letter before Shabbos. What was it about? Let me first tell you what would go on every Friday afternoon before Shabbos.
‘I know it is a little bit hectic every week before Shabbos,’ I told my wife, ‘but I just wanted to ask if it would be okay if I designate the two hours before Shabbos begins to learn.’ ‘Of course it would!’ my wife replied. ‘And so, for a couple of years, I would learn Gemara for two hours before every Shabbos. And then the letter came six months later.

“To my dear wife,

You should know that for the past couple years, during these two hours before Shabbos, I would always say that the learning which I do should be in the zechut (merit) of you. Today, I just completed Mesechet (Tractate) Pesachim, and I am giving it to you as a gift. The merit of me spending all those hours learning the Mesechta goes all to you.”

My wife was so touched when she received this letter. “I feel like a million dollars,” she told me. She still remembered the Godier watched that her sister-in-law had, but nothing compared to her Mesechet Pesachim. The merit of that learning lasts for eternity.
How beautiful. Here was a couple who may not have been the richest financially, but they were surely rich spiritually. The wife’s support and encouragement allowed her husband to grow in Torah and fear of Heaven, and most certainly brought an influx of blessing and peace into the home. The most guaranteed insurance for a home filled with Hashem’s presence and presents spiritually and materially is commitment to Torah study and its fulfillment. When such dedication is created by the husband and wife’s love for one another and desire for each other to grow together, there is nothing more beautiful than that. It is the surest way to bring blessing into one’s life in this world, and eternal reward for oneself and one’s spouse and family in the Next.

Rabbi Yitzchok Fingerer
A Very Important Person

It was a known fact in the school. One particular boy was notorious for being a difficult student who wouldn’t follow school rules and classroom directions. Teachers were not too thrilled to have him as their student each year, considering that they could just imagine the challenges they were bound to confront.

But one day during his sixth-grade year, it all changed. The surprising thing was that it literally changed overnight. One day he was misbehaving, non-compliant and disruptive, and the next he was respectful, attentive and studious. His friends and even more so his teachers were at a loss to explain the cause for such a turnaround in his behavior and attitude. A few years later, after developing even more as an excellent student, he went on to become the 8th grade valedictorian and serve as the recognized pride of the entire school. It was quite phenomenal.

While he and his friends and teachers placed his past history of elementary school years behind him, one teacher was particularly interested in something. No one had ever asked the boy what was it that brought him to where he was that day of graduation? It was a puzzling mystery that no one had ever understood. What was the impetus for him completely changing and becoming such a great a student? That was the million-dollar question.

“No one has ever asked me about this,” the boy told the teacher, “but I’m glad you have.” The boy then went on to explain.
“There was a day in my life when things were pretty rough. I had gotten into trouble in class and I knew the principal wanted to have a talk with me. I was called into the office and the principal sat me down. We began talking until, all of a sudden, he received a phone call, to which he answered. But the conversation did not last that long.

“Excuse me,” the principal told the other person on the line, “would you be able to call me back later; right now I have someone very important in my office.” And with that, the principal hung up the phone and turned back to me to resume our discussion. I ended up not getting expelled from the school, although I was not in the greatest position at that time.

That night I went home a bit confused. Who was the very important person in the principal’s office that he was referring to? As far as I knew, it was only the principal and I in the room. I tossed and turned at the thought of who he could have meant, but it simply baffled me. Until, to my surprise, I figured it out. He must have been referring to me. I was the very important person. I had never before been called important, let alone by the principal or any other esteemed authority figure. But there must be something to it.

I began thinking of why I was in the principal’s office altogether, and if the very important person I was understood to be in fact belonged there. I rightfully concluded that I could expect much more from myself, and ought to in fact try to do so. I decided to do my best to improve my behavior and work harder to become a better student. Sure enough, I began to see improvements, which my teachers also noticed. By the end of the year, I was looked upon as a completely different student than I had been before. And things only progressively got better from there. I scaled up and up the academic ladder of achievement and proved to myself and everyone else that I did have the capability to be an exceptional student.

It all began at that moment in the principal’s office - “Excuse me, would you be able to call me back later; right now, I have someone very important in my office.” Those words were seared into my heart and mind and provided me with the motivation to achieve extraordinary results, the likes of which neither my teachers nor I ever anticipated.

We are all important. Our children are important, because they come from parents who are important and are surrounded by friends, family and teachers who are also important. It is precisely this attitude which creates standards which we strive to attain and sets goals which will propel us to heights that we never imagined we were even capable of. But indeed, we are.

Mrs. Shira Smiles
Living in the Moment

One beautiful concept in Yiddishkeit is for an individual to take upon themselves a particular mitzvah which deeply resonates with them and they feel a special connection to. Whatever it may be, that one mitzvah is something which a person adheres to carefully and closely and holds dear to his or her heart.

For one elderly 87-year-old grandfather, that mitzvah was tefillin. Since his bar mitzvah, a day had not gone by in which he missed the cherished opportunity to don his precious tefillin. One day, though, his tefillin were accidently swapped with the tefiliin of another man in shul, leaving each of them with the other’s tefillin.

And as it so happened, the other man decided that day to have his tefillin checked, as he had not done so in many years. But of course, little did he know, that they were really not his own.
When the report came back about his tefillin’s status, he was obviously taken aback. They were invalid, and in fact had never been valid even to begin with. Yet rather quickly, it was realized that a slight mix-up had occurred. They were not his own tefillin, but rather those of the 87-year-old man.

Now, the obvious dilemma arose as how to break the news to the elderly man, whose entire life had been marked by devotion to this special mitzvah. With a group of family and friends gathered around him, they proceeded to gently relay the news, slowly but surely.

And then there was silence.

Worried that he hadn’t heard them clearly, one of the family members repeated the news about the invalid tefillin, raising his voice just a bit louder. But that wasn’t the problem. “I heard you the first time,” replied the grandfather. Unsure what to make of everything, the family remained silently still.

And then the grandfather began to dance. Now thinking that he had really lost it, just about everyone looked at each other with a blank and confused stare. But then the grandfather began to explain the motivation behind his behavior.

“For my whole life, I was under the impression that I was performing the mitzvah of tefillin to the utmost degree of refinement. Yet now I have discovered that such has not been the case. But you know what? Now I have much reason to rejoice. For the first time in my life, I will finally be able to perform the mitzvah of tefillin correctly with a kosher pair of tefillin. Shouldn’t I be happy and dance?”

Here was a person who lived in the moment. He understood his past, yet more importantly, understood his future. Part of living in the moment includes not carrying the heavy baggage of past experiences and lost opportunities. We must never forget and disregard our past, yet simultaneously, we can never let it hamper us from optimistically moving forward. Life is not all about sighing, “What if…I should have… I could have…” Where you are today is exactly where you need to be. All that you are asked to do is pick yourself up, hold your head high and look brightly and vibrantly towards the future. Because without question, many wonderful opportunities await you…

Rabbi Dovid Orlofsky
Your True Character

There are a few very specific ways it is possible to discern and detect the true character of a person. For one, notes the Rabbeinu Yonah (Shaarei Teshuvah 3:148), it is by what qualities they praise. If they admire someone of refined and kind character because of who they are, then it safe to presume that they hold in high regard and wish for themselves those same attributes. Whatever a person speaks highly of tells you a great deal about themselves.

Yet there is something else, which oftentimes escapes our purview, which also speaks volumes of a person’s character. And that is how a person spends the day of their death. Now, just about no one is aware of this day; yet if we were, and for those who are, it is most certainly a telling piece of information.

Rav Yisroel Salanter, founder of the Mussar Movement, was someone who dedicated his entire life to introspection and character development, both as it related to himself and the world over. As he lay on his deathbed with just hours left in this world, he was accompanied by a shomer, a boy who had been designated to look after his body from the time he would expire. The boy looked pensive and nervous, something which caught Rav Yisroel’s attention.

“Are you nervous that you are going to be left with a dead body?” Rav Yisroel somewhat rhetorically inquired. “Yes, I am,” the boy gulped. Rav Yisroel looked back at him, his eyes tender and body waning. “Do not worry,” Rav Yisroel comfortingly said, “do not be afraid…” Moments later, the great Rav Yisroel Salanter returned his soul to Heaven.

How were the last minutes of this great sage spent? Comforting and reassuring a young boy that everything would be alright despite his nerves and uneasiness. During his last moments on this earth, instead of spending it on himself, he spent it on making someone else feel better. That is how Rav Yisroel ended it.

Such care and concern is what exemplifies a Jew, and our gedolim (leaders) in particular. Their entire life is filled with love and compassion for another Jew, and it literally extends until their dying moment.

Yet allow me to share with you another instance where such sensitivity was likewise displayed.

When Rav Shimon Schwab zt”l, leader of the Jewish community in Germany and later in America, visited the Chofetz Chaim, he brought along his younger brother, Rav Mordechai. After waiting some time for the Chofetz Chaim who was learning, he finally came out. “Who were you learning with?” asked Rav Mordechai intriguingly. The Chofetz Chaim was offset by the question. There had been no one learning with the Chofetz Chaim, or so it seemed. “I saw an old man with a long white beard,” exclaimed Rav Mordechai. The Chofetz Chaim looked at Rav Shimon. “Watch your younger brother,” he said. “He is a little young to be seeing Eliyahu HaNavi…” Suffice it to say, Rav Mordechai Schwab was a special, holy person.

Years later, Rav Mordechai Schwab was elderly and had become a recognized and reputable Torah giant. One day, he received a phone call from a young man with a request. “Would I be to speak to the Rav? It is an important matter…” Rav Schwab inquired as to when would be a good time for him to meet.

“Monday would be fine for me,” replied the man. Rav Schwab agreed to such an arrangement, though asked if he could come before seven in the evening. The man confirmed that he could come at six, to which Rav Schwab reiterated that they must be finished by 7 p.m. sharp.

Shortly thereafter, the young man mentioned to someone else that he had scheduled a meeting with Rav Schwab. But the other fellow persuasively discouraged him from going through with it as it would likely disturb Rav Schwab, who was already advanced in years. Perhaps he could seek advice from some other respectable Rav and avoid burdening his issues on Rav Schwab at this time. The young man agreed, and went on to cancel the appointment.

The following morning, the announcement was made that Rav Schwab had passed away the night before – at 7 p.m.

How Rav Schwab knew that he had only until 7 o’clock to meet with this fellow goes beyond us. Somehow, he knew how much time he had left in this world. Yet what remarkably stands out is not that fact.

It is the fact that he was willing to spend his last hour in this world helping someone else in need. Rav Schwab knew that as long as he had life, he can something left to give and something else he could do. Time was not over. It was not too late. And what he was ready to do with those remaining precious minutes was express his love, care and compassion for a fellow Jew. That was Rav Schwab’s true character. And his last hour of his life said it all.

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