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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Mishpatim

Parshat Mishpatim

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Mishpatim
27th of Shevat, 5780 | February 22, 2020

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Chaim Rosenfeld
Seizing Miraculous Moments

After David and Shimon had gotten together one morning, they both headed back to their cars and began driving behind each other down the New York State Route 42. Not too long after entering the state highway, David noticed a middle-aged man standing off to the side of the road. He seemed to be collecting tzedakah for a certain cause and in need of a ride somewhere.

But before David knew it, he was already too far past the man that he decided to continue on driving. Looking back in his rear-view mirror, David hoped that Shimon would notice the man and offer him a lift. Sure enough, Shimon stopped off by the side of the road as the man, who introduced himself as Zev, climbed into the car.

Shimon, now sitting together with his guest passenger, was pleased to be of help. He figured that he would drive Zev for a couple of miles to his destination and continue on from there. But, just a few minutes into the drive, Zev began to have shortness of breath. “I don’t feel too good; I’m having chest pains.” Worried about Zev’s health, Shimon immediately pulled over and phoned Hatzalah.

Shimon relayed the current situation and location, and within minutes, Hatzalah arrived and rushed over to check on Zev. Providing him with oxygen in the meantime, they proceeded to load him into the ambulance and rush him to the hospital. And sure enough, after a quick examination, the doctors determined that he had suffered a heart attack. “If you would have waited a little bit longer,” the doctor told Shimon, “he might not have made it. You saved his life.”

When Shimon heard this news, he couldn’t believe it. In no way was he expecting to save someone’s life that day as he drove down the highway.

A few hours later, Shimon asked the nurse if it would be okay to visit Zev who was now stabilized and resting in bed. Being granted permission, Shimon gently knocked on the door and entered.

“How are you feeling?” Shimon asked. “Baruch Hashem, much better,” said Zev. “My only concern is that I will be unable to continue traveling around and raising funds. Maybe the reason I had this heart attack is because I am under a lot of stress. I have a big family and just recently my daughter got engaged. The problem is that I was let go of my job and I have no means to support my family, let alone pay for the wedding. My goal was to raise $20,000, but it doesn’t seem like that will happen any longer.” As Shimon listened to Zev’s stressful predicament, he wondered if there was something he could do. “Just give me a few minutes,” he told Zev. “Let me see what I can come up with.”

Shimon proceeded to walk to the room next door and take out his cellphone. And then he got to work. Calling a number of his business contacts, he told each of them the same thing. “I just met a man from Israel who lost his job, needs to support his large family, pay for his upcoming daughter’s wedding and just now suffered a heart attack. Would you be able to give him a hand?” Within an hour, Shimon had raised $20,000.

Heading back over to Zev’s room, Shimon reassured him. “Zev, you have nothing to worry about. Thank G-d, your heart is fine and you are on your way to recovering. And neither should you worry about raising $20,000. I took care of it all; you are set. I just made a few phone calls, and you can expect the $20,000 by tomorrow.”

Zev could not believe his ears. “I never thought I would meet Eliyahu HaNavi, but I guess I just have.” Guaranteeing Zev that everything was taken care of and it was his absolute pleasure to perform an act of chesed, Shimon asked Zev to please stay in touch with him. And with that, Shimon headed off home.

Later that night, Shimon decided he would make one more call. It had been a long and busy day, but he knew that he needed to speak with someone. And that someone was David. “David,” said Shimon over the phone, “you won’t believe what happened today! Do you remember the man you passed by this morning on the highway?” “Yeah,” replied David. “Well, I picked him up.” “I know that,” interrupted David, “I saw you pick him up.” “No, you don’t understand,” said Shimon. “Just a few minutes into the ride, he had a heart attack and needed to be rushed to the hospital. Thank G-d, he got there in time and survived. The doctor told me that he almost didn’t make it.” “That’s amazing!” said Shimon. “You’re like Eliyahu HaNavi.”

“But that’s not all,” continued Shimon. “The man then told me that he had come to America to collect money because he had just been let go of his job and he needed to support his family and pay for his upcoming daughter’s wedding. When I heard this, I immediately called some of my business associates and asked if they could help him. Within an hour, I raised the $20,000 he needed.” When David heard this, he was even more taken aback. “You really helped this man out. What a tremendous zechus (merit) you have!”

As David hung up the phone and thought about what he had just heard, it suddenly hit him. His mind began to picture how after a hundred and twenty years he would come before Hashem. “So David, did you ever save someone’s life?” “No.” “Did you ever help someone make a wedding?” “No.” And then Hashem would inform him of what could have been. “You had the opportunity to both save someone’s life and help them pay for their child’s wedding. Do you remember that day when you passed by that man on the side of the road? Had you picked him up, you could have changed the life of a fellow Jew, his family and generations to come.”

David could just imagine that now Zev would continue on living a healthy life and accomplishing extraordinary things. And for his family, as well, they would be able to live comfortably. And his daughter, too, she would go on to build a wonderful family and raise Jewish children with beautiful Torah ideals. David could have taken the first step to helping a family, which would have in turn likely lead to helping a community, and perhaps at some point, the world. What an opportunity he had skipped over and Shimon had seized.

In life, oftentimes the difference between changing nothing and changing the world is a moment. It all comes down to that one opportunity which seems so small, yet in truth, is so great. All we must do is make sure we do not skip over those miraculous moments. Because quite literally, they can make all the difference in the world.

Rabbi Yom Tov Glaser
Riding the Waves of Life

It was a beautiful day on the shores of the beach in Mexico. Clear-blue skies, gorgeous weather and perfect waves for surfing. The average wave that day was between sixteen to eighteen feet. As my friends and I sat on our boards and scanned the horizon to see if any waves were coming our way, we were having the time of our lives. But we were eagerly waiting for something more than merely having a nice time in the cool water.

Well aware that the indication of an oncoming wave was the horizon becoming obscured from vision, we all kept our eyes wide open to see where the next wave would break. We enjoyed the close competition of trying to beat each another to the spot where the wave hit and be the first one to exhilaratingly ride it. But we were all in for a big surprise this time.

All of a sudden, the entire horizon disappeared. Without question, gigantic monster waves were heading right toward us. Looking at me was my best friend. “Let’s get out of here!” he yelled. Turning his board toward the shore, he began paddling. I knew that he didn’t stand a chance against the massive waves. He most definitely would lose the race to the shore against them and end up getting crushed. Having learned that if a large wave is coming in your direction, the best move is to paddle deeper into the ocean and attempt to make your way over the top of the wave before it breaks, I yelled to my friend to turn back around and paddle out. And he listened.

Up ahead of us was another one of my friends. Paddling outward, he was just able to make it over the top of a twenty-five-foot wave and avoid being thrown off his board. He was safe for the moment. Then there was another friend of mine. He too was able to maneuver himself up and about and glide over the enormous wave. He too just barely made it. The next surfer was in a more difficult situation. The wave was already starting to tube, and only seconds remained until it would come crashing down. Fortunate for him, he was able to cut under the wave just in time. It was now time for me and my friend to face the challenge. But we were in no position to ride over the wave or cut through it as they had done before. The lip of the wave was just about to smash the surface of the water.

Thrusting ourselves forward, we just barely positioned the noses of our boards underneath the wave and pushed ourselves through. We made it by a hairsbreadth. Literally.

We were not done though. There were more waves ahead. Continuing to paddle forward, all of us fared better the next time around. One surfer was able to make it over the top of the wave, another one made it through with time to spare, and my friend and I were able to punch through it a little bit better. Over and over again, we all gracefully maneuvered up and around the immense waves.

But then I started to think. “Did I come all the way to Mexico just to paddle over the waves?” And so, I shifted gears. As the last wave inched closer, I spun my board around and started paddling as fast and hard as I could to catch the gigantic wave.

The problem was that this wave was around twenty-five feet high. And when trying to ride a big wave, using a bigger board enables you to paddle faster and be let in by the wave. But that was not my case. My board was on the smaller side and I couldn’t move quickly enough to catch the wave. It was only getting steeper and steeper and was not allowing me inside.
I eventually managed to get myself positioned on top of the wave until I was looking down twenty-five feet. And then the wave turned completely vertical. That was my cue. Dropping my board in front of me, I stood up and landed onto it. The only problem was that the wave was still too vertical for me to smoothly make contact with it. And so, I airdropped twenty-five feet.

Landing with a boom on the surface of the water, I had no forward velocity. Fortunately, however, the wave almost immediately lunged toward the shore and took off. The next thing I knew, I was in the tube of a twenty-five-foot wave racing toward the shore. Tucking myself down, I avoided getting hit by the rushing water and tumbling over.

For the next half of a mile, I rode the wave like a giant roller coaster until the shore. When I finally reached the sand, I let out a triumphant shout of “Whoo-hoo!” I had made it. I rode the wave instead of letting it ride me.

In life, the above anecdote plays itself out. The first surfer is the one who upon seeing fear, freezes and runs. He retreats and turns the other way. He recognizes the formidable and crushing waves in his life, and immediately heads for refuge. People who retreat, though, are eventually creamed by life. The waves will one day catch up to them and leave them in a compromised position.

The next surfer acts with extra precaution. He does not run the other direction, but still seeks to ride over the top of the wave and evade challenges. He does not scurry in a panic, but maneuvers with caution and skirts around anything that frightens him. While it is wise to take precautions when dealing with life’s dangers, over-anxiety often hampers our ability to live life to its fullest. Fears about one’s marriage, children, finances or lifestyle are understandable; but to let such worries hinder one’s quality of life is not judicious. Hashem wishes for us to live engaged lives where we completely invest ourselves and eschew the fear of making mistakes or failing.

The third surfer is the individual who rides the waves of life. Every wave that life hurls towards him or her is confronted. Instead of retreating backward or quickly hurdling over the challenge, he paddles forward fully committed. This surfer realizes that there is no place for hesitation or lack of confidence.

Getting cold feet at the last moment is dangerous and will not bode well. And when he in fact confronts the wave and rides it, he experiences a thrill like no other. He lives as a champion.
The goal in life is to train ourselves to be like the third surfer. Life’s test is to learn how to cope with our challenges instead of running or hiding from them. By resolutely focusing our attention on confronting our greatest struggles and worst fears, we stand the chance of coming out on top.

Studies have shown that there are five major fears within every human being. They are (in order of most to least common): 1) Fear of Rejection; 2) Fear of Failure; 3) Fear of Lack of Control; 4) Fear of the Unknown; 5) Fear of Pain and Suffering.

Fear of rejection is the uneasiness we have about how others perceive us. Maybe they feel that I do not meet such-and-such standards? Maybe they think I am inadequate and less adept?
Fear of failure is a subjective feeling. It stems from one’s own lack of confidence about performing well or making a significant impact. Failure in this respect refers not to how others judge us, but how we judge ourselves.

Fear of lack of control. Although we have been given the gift of free will and are in a position to make decisions, ultimately Hashem is in control of the world. We must do our best, but in truth, we are not in charge.

Fear of the unknown. No one knows what the future holds in store. We can plan strategically and project what will be, but after all things are considered, there are no guarantees.
Fear of pain and suffering. Whether it be physical, mental or emotional pain, facing discomfort and misfortune is not even a thought we like to ponder.

If you think about it for a moment, you will realize that all five of these fears are within you. Some may be more prominent and obvious, while others may reside in the subconscious. But, either way, they are all undeniably there. Our quest, though, is to uncover which fear is most dominant within ourselves. Once that has been pinpointed, the next step is to discover how to most effectively tackle that fear and overcome it.

Interestingly, demographic studies have corroborated that different countries suffer from these fears in various degrees. Those living in South Africa have been found to be particularly fearful of not being in control. In Los Angeles, fear of rejection was proven to be most dominant. With much emphasis placed on external appearance and opulence, rejection and alienation painfully hurts. In Manhattan, failure was shown to be the number one fear. In a city where business and financial success makes the man, painstaking effort is placed on perfect performance. In England, due to various cultural factors, all five fears were found to be equally present. Evidently, human psychology is influenced by one’s surrounding environment. However, that does not mean we cannot surf through these blockading factors and embrace our fears.

When facing the sea of life, the waves may appear daunting. Many challenges will inevitably come our way, sometimes even unexpectedly, and threaten to knock us down. Numerous worries will cross our minds, depending on where we live and at what stage of life we find ourselves. But, wherever and whenever, we must remember the surfer who rides the waves. We can choose to continuously circumvent the issues, or preempt the danger by rushing to safety, but that which will make us into better people and transform our lives is boldly confronting them. And when we do so, we will see incredible breakthroughs which open new vistas of unknown opportunity. We will be capable of unlocking our inner potential and rising to the peak of self-perfection.

Riding the waves of life will ensure that we will triumphantly reach the shores after a hundred and twenty years as golden champions, and have our masterful mentor, Hashem, pat us on the back with a big smile.

A Short Message From
Rabbi Bentzion Shafier

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.” If you haven’t figured out who said this quote, let’s take a little hint. It was a college professor, a statesman, someone who wrote a treatise which won the noble prize, and a world leader who was knighted by the Queen of England. He was the prime minster of England, Sir Winston Churchill. Yet let me share with you just exactly who Sir Winston Churchill was. Historians credit him with saving the free world. If not for his galvanizing strength and energy, Nazism would have won the war. It was Churchill’s strength of character which brought the Allies together.

Yet in May of 1945, Germany surrendered, and in August of that year, Churchill found himself voted out of office. England viewed him as a great wartime president and man of battle, but it was now a different era which called for a different leader. After bringing England to its finest hour and saving the free world, he found himself unemployed and on the streets without a job.

But that was his life. Going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm. If you ever find a human being who has succeeded in any endeavor in life, you will find a person who has failed many times. Such is the key to understanding life and understanding what is required for a human being to reach greatness.

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