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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Beshalach

Parshat Beshalach

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Yerushalayim Hakarat Hatov Special Edition
13th of Shevat, 5780 | February 8, 2020

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Shraga Kallus
Learning Torah, Living Torah

Rav Elchanan Wasserman hy”d once remarked that the difference between the Chofetz Chaim and so many other people is the difference between putting into practice what is learned.

When the Chofetz Chaim was but a young five-year-old boy, along with a bunch of other boys, he grabbed a number of apples from a salesman and ran away. The following day in cheder, his teacher taught the class the laws pertaining to returning a stolen item. Of all the boys, the Chofetz Chaim returned to the store, purchased some apples, and immediately placed them back down and ran out of the store, reconstituting his earlier error of taking apples that belonged to the owner.

The Chofetz Chaim made a commitment that whatever he learned in life, he would implement. The other students heard the very same lesson from their teacher, yet it stayed in the classroom and was not exported into life. What differentiated the Chofetz Chaim was that he not merely learned Torah; he lived Torah.

Rabbi Dovid Kaplan
Why is He There?

Rabbi Chananya Chollak, founder and director of Ezer Mizion, a medical and social support organization, was once standing at the Kotel alongside a philanthropist. Together, they noticed a man standing a distance away and crying his eyes out. Rav Chollak commented to the wealthy fellow, “You know, if a Jew is crying like that, it can only be one of two things: a medical problem in his family or a financial problem in his family. I’ll make you a deal. If it is a medical issue, I’ll take care of it. If it’s a financial problem, you take care of it.”

The wealthy man listened to the offer, and acquiesced. Rabbi Chollak approached the man and said, “My name is Chananya Chollak, if you have a medical problem, I have the referrals and the doctors, and I can get you into anywhere you need.” “Thank G-d,” the fellow replied, “everyone in my family is healthy.”

Rabbi Chollak returned to the philanthropist and said, “You’re up.” Walking up to the man, he placed an arm around his shoulder and remarked, “Name the amount. You can even fill out the check, and I will give it to you.” The man replied, “Thank you very much. We don’t have much, but I am not in a situation where I need to receive tzedakah.” At this point, Rabbi Chollak grew curious and walked over to the man. “Why then are you crying if everything is well with you and your family?”

“You know,” the man explained, “I have twelve children, and after each one which I marry off, I come to the Kotel and I cry, for good finances for my family, a shidduch for my other children and so on. Thank G-d, Hashem has given me everything I’ve needed. Last night, I married off my last child, and I came to the Kotel to say Thank You to Hashem.”

Another plateau of prayer, aside from asking Hashem what we need, is thanking Him for what we have. It is not when we ask for something new, but rather when we simply stand in from of Him and thank Him for what we do have, even though there may be more that we are missing.

Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair
Every Day

One of the blessings we recite each morning is, “Blessed are You, Hashem, Who has not made me a non-Jew.” The question begs as to why we recite this blessing every day? Was there any chance that we might have woken up this morning and found that we were no longer Jewish? Why is this blessing not simply a one-time ordeal that we say as we become bar or bat mitzvah?
Being Jewish does not mean being on an unassailable platform of holiness. Rather, being holy entails struggling every day with the yetzer hara, the evil inclination, which can only be subdued with prayer, merit and the help of Heaven. Every day we thank Hashem for the privilege and responsibility of being created Jewish, and each day we wake up and become Jewish again, by reminding ourselves that being Jewish doesn’t mean just having the great Sea Splitting moments of spirituality in life; it means getting out of bed and being prepared to fight our own battles with the help of Hashem… each and every day.

Rabbi Eitiel Goldwicht
One Dollar

I remember as a kid, after I must have done something noteworthy, that my father handed me ten dollars. Without skipping a beat, he took the opportunity to teach me about the mitzvah of giving maaser, a tenth of my earnings to charity. And so I gave one dollar to tzedakah. My father then proceeded to ask me, “How much money do you have now?” “Nine dollars,” I proudly replied. My father then shared with me words that I have never since forgotten. “You know how much money you have left? One dollar. Those nine dollars you are still holding, you might lose them or spend them on candy, but the one dollar you gave to charity, no one can ever take that away from you. The reward in Heaven for that mitzvah is something that will last for eternity.”

Rabbi Yitzchak Botton
Light in Our Homes

The ninth plague in Egypt was that of darkness, of which the Torah relates, “In all the homes of the Egyptians, there was darkness, but for the Jews, there was light in their dwelling place” (Shemos 10:23). Beyond the historical implication of this incident, there is a profound lesson which we can apply to our lives. Life in exile is full of figurative darkness, of alien ideologies which contraindicate Jewish values. At the same time, within the darkness of exile, there remains light in our homes, in our places of prayer and Torah learning. These are the strongholds of light, which cast a shadow on the darkness and disperse it, enabling us to navigate our way through the thickness of exile.

Rabbi Yirmiyahu Cohen
Fuel, Not Force

I once received a call from a parent who remarked, “My eight-year-old son does not want to go to shul, and when he does attend, he does not pray, but either disrupts, falls asleep or goes outside. Rabbi, how can I encourage my son to go to shul?”
I responded very straightforwardly. “Your son,” I began, “is not obligated to go to shul at eight years old. What is obligatory at this point is that you educate your son before his bar mitzvah, at which point he is ready to go to shul. If you are wondering what chinuch, education, looks like, it is not to force your son to go to shul or pray. It is to motivate him to attend shul. If you force him, he will go, but he will resent it, and he will grow up finding ways to avoid going. Your role now is to inspire him to want to go to shul, and to motivate him to want to do what is right on a long-term basis. Don’t force him; make him want it.”

Rabbi Daniel Travis
Altering Our Attitude

I was once walking with Rav Shimshon Pincus zt”l when I commented, “When my life was more difficult, I found myself davening much better.” Rav Pincus looked at me and let out a laugh. “You want the tzaros (difficulties) back?” he said. “The Chofetz Chaim commented,” he continued, “that the reason we are visited with tzaros is that we do not precede the difficulty with prayer. If we would daven beforehand, as if the challenge was already upon us, Hashem would find no need to give us the challenge.”

As I reminisce of this incident, I believe that Rav Pincus was conveying the message that in life, we can sometimes have it considered as if we went through a tribulation without experiencing the pain. The Maharal (Derech Chaim) explains that the study of mussar, which stems from the word yissurim, affliction, and more colloquially refers to the study of character development and improvement, can engender an individual to change his outlook on life and view matters through a Torah lens, which is ultimately that which Hashem wishes us to attain through the experience of a challenge in life. By studying mussar then and likewise praying to Hashem, we are essentially accomplishing the same goal of an affliction, which alters our outlook and attitude, yet we are spared the experience of the actual manifestation of a difficulty.

Rabbi Avi Slansky
A Holy Suit

Imagine putting on a suit or dress, and it fits you just perfectly. Removing the outfit, you nicely hang it up in your closet, glowing at the windfall of your latest purchase and excitedly anticipating your upcoming special occasion to wear it.

Two months later, you open your closet, remove the suit or dress, and put it on. It fits beautifully. But then you go to look in the mirror, and what do you see? There are tiny, little holes throughout the suit. You immediately realize what happened. You forgot to cover your suit or dress, and moths got the better of it.

In life, it is possible to be doing all the right things, but if the environment you are embedded in and your surroundings are not conducive to a Torah life, you may end up with a perfect-fitting suit with holes. We should never downplay the influence of our community or wherever else we find ourselves. It makes all the difference.

Rabbi Yaakov Mizrahi
Not Stop Getting Up

The well-known Pasuk in Mishlei (24:16) states, “Sheva yipol tzaddik v’kam – Seven times the righteous one will fall and get up.” If we were writing this Pasuk, we would most likely place the word tzaddik (righteous) at the very end of the verse, as if it would say, “Sheva yipol v’kam tzaddik – Seven times he will fall and rise, a righteous one.” The person should not be a tzaddik when he falls, but rather after he overcomes his struggle and after he gets up, which would be emphasized by placing the word tzaddik at the very end of the Pasuk. As the verse is written now, the person is depicted as a tzaddik even while he falls.

The truth is, as the Pasuk underscores, that even when an individual is down on the ground, he is still a tzaddik. And why is that so? Because he completes the next word – v’kam. He gets up. You are not determined to be righteous based upon if you fall or not, but rather if you get up or not. Greatness is not about winning all the time, but about remaining undefeated all the time. So long as you have an undefeated spirit and get back up, you are righteous.

Rabbi Yom Tov Glaser
Already There

When I look to people to help them, my real secret is to view them as if they are already healed. I see a healthy person, and all that is left to do is help them discover that within themselves.
In Florence, Italy, one of the great sculptures is that of David, a giant marble sculpture created by MichelAngelo. MichelAngelo was once asked, “How did you do it? How did you take a rock and create David out of that rock?” Simply, he replied, “David was in there; I just removed what was in the way.”

Rabbi Efraim Stauber
Who We Are

The Pasuk (Bamidbar 19:20) states, “A man who becomes contaminated and does not purify himself [with the ashes of the Red Heifer], he shall be cut off from the congregation, if he shall have contaminated the Sanctuary of Hashem.” What is quite strange with this Pasuk is the connecting sequence. How is it that if a person does not have the ashes of the Parah Adumah sprinkled on him that he is subject to being cut off from the Jewish people (i.e. kares, spiritual excision) “if he shall have contaminated the Beis Hamikdash in an impure state”? There is no indication in the verse that he ever entered the Beis Hamikdash, so why would he be worthy of such a punishment?

In mulling this over, I realized that we often lead our regular lives, and then… we keep Shabbos, a Yom Tov rolls around, we put on Tefillin or light Shabbos candles. To this effect, the Pasuk is underscoring that the life of a Jew is one which is embedded within the context and framework of the Torah. Of course the individual will enter the Beis Hamikdash; that is where he naturally gravitates to. It is expected and anticipated. The same is true of all the many aspects of Jewish life. When Yom Tov, Tefillin, Shabbos candles or the like epitomize our identity, they become fused and inextricably part of the fabric of our every breath. It is as natural and expected as walking into a room. It is our identity. As a Jew, we walk into the Beis Hamikdash or light Shabbos candles. That is who we are.

Rabbi Chaim Eisenstein
What Money Cannot Buy

During my sister-in-law’s time spent in Sherut Le’umi, she was entitled to what is called Bituach Le’umi, National Insurance. On one occasion, she phoned the offices of Sherut Le’umi to find out more information relating to her entitlements as set forth by Bituach Le’umi. As an American girl and not too familiar with speaking Hebrew, she turned to a nearby friend and asked her to remind her the words to say to the phone attendant. Yet, despite the help, my sister-in-law said to the attendant, “Ani rotzah liknot bitachon atzmi,” which means, “I want to buy self-confidence.” She had confused the words Bituach Le’umi (National Insurance) and Bitachon Atzmi (self-confidence).

The attendant on the other line couldn’t have put it any better. “Ani menahelet kesef; aval ani lo yecholah latet lach bitachon atzmi – I deal with money, but I’m not able to give you self-confidence.” Having all the money in the world does not translate into having self-confidence. That commodity is worth much more, and is found elsewhere.

Rabbi Nachum Chaimowitz
The Walls of Exile

I once received the following question: Dear Rabbi, I don’t understand what the purpose of galus (exile) is. If Hashem doesn’t like us for what we did, why doesn’t He just forget about us? Why are we always so focused on leaving the galus?

The answer to this can best be found in the parable articulated by the Baal Shem Tov, cited by his grandson in his sefer Degel Machane Efraim (Haftorah, Parshas Ki Savo). The Baal Shem Tov describes a king who placed many walls, barriers and guards before the his palace. The king’s son however, who lived outside the palace, also needed to make it through the many walls to see his father. He could not help but wonder why he could not simply walk through the gates, and so he began crying.

The king then broke down the walls and opened the gates for his son, explaining, “I put up the walls not for you, but for the rest of the kingdom, so they could observe you and learn from you how you overcame all the barriers, but they could not.” The exile we find ourselves is a national and individual challenge wherein we prove, through the pressures we experience, what our true and ultimate focus in life is, namely to create a positive, mutual relationship between us and Hashem. When the world sees our resilience and eternality, they are led to recognize G-d Himself.

Rabbi Ari Goldwag
Sharing Our Lives

Rav Chaim Shmulevitz zt”l writes that if a person were able to ascend to the Heavens and observe what occurs there, he wouldn’t be able to fully enjoy and take pleasure in it until he could share what he saw with others. One of the unique aspects of our world in contrast to the World to Come is the ability to share our lives with others. In our world, where we are surrounded by people – family, friends, neighbors, co-workers – we are granted the blessing to enjoy companionship and comradery. We can inspire and be inspired. Such is one of the great pleasures of our world.

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