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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Va'eira

Parshat Va'eira

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Va'eira Newsletter
28th of Tevet, 5780 | January 25, 2020

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Sruly Bornstein
R’ Eliezer, The Great

It is interesting to observe that the first opinion mentioned in the first Mishnah in Shas (Mesechta Berachos) is that of R’ Eliezer, who rules as to the time the evening Shema’s recitation extends. Yet R’ Eliezer is not only the first opinion cited in Shas, but as well the very last (in Mesechta Uktzin). [See commentary of the Tosafos Yom Tov who addresses how this remains true despite the oft-cited and printed final Mishnah in Mesechta Uktzin noting the opinion of R’ Yehoshua ben Levi].

The Chidushei HaRim explains such a phenomenon in light of R’ Eliezer’s comment (Succah 28a) that “no one ever preceded me in entering the Beis Midrash (study hall) to study… nor did I ever leave someone behind in the Beis Midrash and leave…” R’ Eliezer was always the first person to enter and begin learning and always the last one to exit. It is for this reason that R’ Eliezer merited being the first opinion to begin the entryway into learning Shas and merited being the final cited opinion in concluding the series of Mishnayos in Shas.

However, perhaps an alternative perspective can be offered in explaining why specifically R’ Eliezer is the one who begins the start of our learning of Shas, and why his teaching relates to the mitzvah of reciting the Shema.

R’ Eliezer was also known as R’ Eliezer Ha’Gadol (R’ Eliezer, the Great one), reflecting his unparalleled greatness among the leaders of his generation (Radal, intro. Pirkei D’Rebbi Eliezer). This fond appellation derives from the Mishnah (Avos 2:8) wherein R’ Yochanan ben Zakai remarked after enumerating the praises of his five prized students, “If all the wise Torah scholars would be placed on one side of a scale and R’ Eliezer would be placed on the other side of the scale, R’ Eliezer would outweigh everyone.” R’ Eliezer greatness was markedly unmatched.
But R’ Eliezer was by no means a child prodigy.

In fact, Pirkei D’Rebbi Eliezer begins with the backdrop to the story of R’ Eliezer’s rise to greatness. R’ Eliezer’ father was a wealthy man whose children worked alongside him in the family business. R’ Eliezer, however, was not particularly successful in his work in the field, nor did he know how to learn Torah. His father would often deride and mock him, adding insult to injury.

On one occasion, one day, Eliyahu Ha’Navi disguised himself as an ordinary person and approached R’ Eliezer, asking him why he appeared to look sad and downcast. In explaining his predicament, R’ Eliezer underscored how he felt down about his progress and lack of success, and how he lacked the rudimentary skills to learn Torah. Eliyahu Ha’Navi recommended that he enter yeshiva and begin to learn, in no less than the prestigious yeshiva of R’ Yochanan ben Zakai.

Yet R’ Eliezer was sorely underprepared. Eliezer, a 28-year-old unlearned man, informed R’ Yochanan ben Zakai that he had never in his life recited the Shema, nor prayed, nor recited Birkas HaMazon after eating. However, R’ Yochanan ben Zakai did not regretfully reply that the yeshiva he had entered was not for him, yet rather told him to stand up while he would teach him all three – how to recite the Shema, how to pray and how to recite the requisite blessings after eating.

This same R’ Eliezer, who had been mocked by his father and ridiculed by his peers, went from not knowing how to recite the Shema at age 28 to being the greatest leader of the generation.
It is for this reason that R’ Eliezer earned the honor and merit of beginning our cycle of learning Shas, specifically with the mitzvah of Shema. When Jews around the world begin the study of Talmud Bavli, the very outset of our learning commences with that of R’ Eliezer and Shema, the very individual who at 28 years old did not know himself how to recite the Shema.

The hidden lesson and message embedded in this subliminal allusion is the encouragement that no matter where we may be as it relates to our understanding and caliber of learning in life, it is not only never too late to begin, but never too late to rise to become one of the greatest leaders of our generation. We are to never sell ourselves short or underestimate our capabilities to grow and grow, despite what has gone on before. R’ Eliezer’s life is the greatest testament to that.

The 2,711 folios of the Talmud Bavli may be lengthy and challenging, yet we all can accomplish that which we may think we could never attain. It all begins with R’ Eliezer and ends with R’ Eliezer. He greets us at the start of our journey and awaits our completion to celebrate with us at the very end.

Rabbi YY Jacobson
Burning through Burnout

At the first encounter between Hashem and Moshe Rabbeinu, Moshe is shepherding the flock of his father-in-law in the desert, when suddenly he notices a bush ablaze. The bush was burning with fire, yet the bush remained unconsumed. It was at this point that Hashem appointed Moshe to be the leader of the Jewish people, and charged him to emancipate the Jewish people from Egyptian tyranny, mold them into a nation and lead them to receive the Torah.

Yet, nowhere else in Tanach do we see this miraculous display of Hashem, as here in a Burning Bush, when He wishes to introduce himself to a prophet or great leader. Moreover, why from all potential miracles and encounters does G-d choose this image and vision of a burning bush, yet the bush not being consumed?

Moshe was about to accept upon himself the awesome task of leadership. He would need to stand up to oppression, revolt against Pharaoh and lead the Jews through forty difficult years in the desert until they would reach the Land of Israel.

One of the most difficult challenges of leadership, which so many of us experience throughout life, is defined by one word: burnout. How many people remark, “I’m just burned out…”? At the beginning of some endeavor or experience, there was a thrill and an electrifying joy, yet as the years go by, pressures grow, stresses intensify and arguments increase, and you just feel depleted. There is no more energy.

People begin business ventures, full of life and animation, yet then the daily grind just gets to them. When you look into their eyes, their passion has waned and a certain piece of them has died. The difficult challenges have burned them out. At that unique moment of the Burning Bush, Hashem was teaching Moshe Rabbeinu an eternal lesson, “Moshe, if your passion in life becomes about changing the world, liberating slaves from their suffering, creating a world full of justice, morality and kindness, I promise you that your bush will never be consumed.

Your fire will never be extinguished. You will continue burning.”
Sometimes you look at your life, and you have no idea how long your fire can last. Yet if you dedicate your life to the purpose of kindling the human soul, if your passion becomes about changing humanity, elevating the world, changing the landscape of yourself, your family and your community, and making it a place of goodness and holiness, your bush will never be consumed and your fire will never burn out.

Mr. Uri Lati
The Most Potent Prayer

The Torah relates that when Yitzchak ventured to find himself a shidduch and future wife, he “went out into the field.” While much is to be learned from Yitzchak’s behavior, why exactly did he find the need to go out a distance away to pray in the field?

One close student of Rav Shimshon Pincus struggled to have children over the course of ten years. He and his wife attempted every segulah they could, recited all the Tehillim they felt was possible, and yet they remained without children. Rav Pincus, wishing to assist his student, phoned and informed him that he would be at his student’s home at 1:00 a.m. He would provide his student with an incredible segulah that the couple had not tried before.

Sure enough, 1:00 a.m. came around, and Rav Pincus knocked on the door. Guiding his student into his car, he drove an hour away to the desert. Not one person was around within miles. At this point, the student was confused. He thought that Rav Pincus was simply going to appear at his doorstep and advise him with something to do. He did not expect at all to be driven an hour away. “Rabbi, with all due respect, what is the segulah?”

“Please exit the car,” Rav Pincus said. It was 2:00 a.m. in the middle of nowhere, and now the student was being asked to step out of the car. But, with no other choice, he complied. At that moment, Rav Pincus turned to his student and said, “I’ll see you back here in three hours.” The student was incredulous. It was the middle of the night, and Rav Pincus was going to drive away and leave him alone for three hours!

“Listen,” said Rav Pincus. “Right now, it is you and Hashem alone. Nothing is stopping you and no one is bothering you. Pour your heart out and cry to Him. It has been a while since you talked to him directly. You’ve gone to every single rabbi, every doctor and every organization. When is the last time you spoke to Hashem and put every fiber of your faith and belief in Him?”
A year later, this man and his wife had a baby boy.

If you are looking for your prayers to be answered, it must be you and Hashem alone and you must feel it to the point that there is no one else to rely on but Him. There must be no interruptions, no interferences and no distractions. Just you talking and crying to Hashem.

The lesson of Yitzchak going into the field, away from everything, is that prayer reaches Hashem when it is just you and Him. This is why Rav Shimshon Pincus drove miles away to leave his student alone, just with Hashem. He wanted his student to feel that there was nothing for him to think about but how he could cry out to Hashem, and no one else to lean on but Hashem.
If you are looking to reach Hashem, you will find him when you entrust everything into His hands.

Rabbi David Ozeri
The Power of the Daf

One of the early post-war Siyum HaShas gatherings in America took place in 1953 at an Agudas Yisroel gathering of 150 people. It then transpired in 1960 that the Agudah hosted a Siyum again, this time with 200. Yet again, in 1968, with hundreds gathered at the Bais Yaakov of Boro Park. In 1975, the Manhattan Center with over 5,000 people… In 1982, at what was formerly known as the Felt Forum, adjacent to Madison Square Garden, an arena with over 5,000 seats.

1990… Rav Moshe Sherer zt”l decided that he would be bold enough to take an arena with 20,000. People thought it was an unwise move. How would he be able to convince 20,000 people to fill such an arena for a Siyum? Indeed… hundreds of people waited outside just to get in. But they couldn’t get in. Everything had been sold out and all the seats had been filled.

In 1997, the Siyum HaShas was held at the Madison Square Garden and Nassau Coliseum, with a total of 45,000 people. In 2005, at Madison Square Garden, Javits Center, Continental Arena, with again, an attendance of 45,000 people…

In 2012, at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, a stadium which has seating for 82,500 was filled to capacity, with another 8,500 folding chairs placed on the playing field and a dais of approximately five hundred other distinguished rabbis and leaders. All 92,000 seats were sold out.

2020… MetLife Stadium and Barclays Center, with its capacity of 92,000 and Barclays Center, with another 19,000 seats. Over 110,000 Jews, just in one city in America… attended the Siyum HaShas.

But, allow me to tell you, there was another Siyum in America, years before many thousands of people crowded into a huge stadium in New York. It occurred in 1945 at a Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah meeting in New York. Rav Aharon Kotel zt”l was new to the American shores, and at the end of the meeting, he turned to those seated around the table and said, “Does anyone know what day is today on the calendar?” Everyone tried guessing, until Rav Aharon remarked, “Today is the day of the Siyum of Daf Yomi, and I am going to make a Siyum right now.” And how many people where around that table? 10 people.

1945 in America... 10 people. A mere 75 years later, in the same city in America, over 110,000 Jews. How does this happen?

It is the power of Daf Yomi, the power of Torah She’baal Peh. That is how you keep all Jews around the world on the same page.

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