Skip to content


TorahAnytimes Newsletter Ki Tisa

Parshat Ki Tisa

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Ki Tisa
18th of Adar, 5780 | March 14, 2020

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi YY Jacobson
The Teacher’s Greatest Lesson

It was some number of years ago that one Johns Hopkins University graduate professor assigned his students an interesting research project. They were to investigate the background and environmental circumstances of two hundred boys from ages twelve to sixteen and predict their chances of success in the future.

Beginning their longitudinal study, the students consulted social statistics and considered the background of these students, from which they compiled data. In conclusion, they arrived at the estimate that 90% of these two hundred boys would spend some time in jail for one reason or another. This statistic was fully understandable considering the life situation of these boys. Very likely, they would end up falling into this future.

Twenty-five years later, a second group of Johns Hopkins graduate students were given the assignment of testing the prediction of the first group of students. Returning to the area of study, they tracked down one hundred and eighty of the original two hundred boys, and discovered that only four of them had ever been jailed.

Looking further into the resulting information, they wondered how these men, who had lived in a breeding place of crime for a quarter of a century, had an astonishingly good record. The boys, who were by now grown men, responded that it was thanks to a teacher they had. “I had a teacher,” was the commonly heard refrain time and again by the men. Interviewing them as to who this teacher was, in 75% of the cases, it was the same teacher who was being referred to.

By now, she was middle-aged and had moved into a retirement home. Extending the question to her, they asked what she had done to so remarkably and positively impact this group of boys. What teaching methodology or character traits did she have which so significantly charted such a bright future for these kids who, quite likely, would have otherwise ended up behind bars?

“I really don’t know,” she repeatedly remarked. The researchers continued pushing her, however, in the interest of finding out what she had done. But she was without words. “I really did nothing,” she said. Until finally, almost speaking to herself and mumbling under her breath, she whispered in a sigh and smile, “I love those boys…”

And then, the researchers understood what this teacher’s secret method had been. It was almost a matter of fact… “I love those boys…”

Rabbi Daniel Staum
The Shabbaton

One winter Friday afternoon as I walked into my garage an hour before Shabbat, I was met by an unpleasant surprise: my garage was flooded. A pipe had burst. Thankfully, the water did not reach near the house. However, I was not in the best of situations especially considering that Shabbat was to begin in just a short while.

Immediately calling the plumber, I eagerly tried to have someone come over to my house at the soonest opportunity before Shabbat. But right then, I was interrupted. “There’s someone on the phone for you!” my wife called out to me. Not wishing to get caught up in something else at the moment, I felt like asking her to tell the person to call back later. “Can you pick it up?” came my wife’s voice again. And so, compliantly, I picked it up.

“Hi Rabbi, do you remember me? It’s Eli from camp.” “Sure I do; how are you doing?” “Great,” he said. “Can you do me a favor? I am on my way right now with a few friends to Waterbury, Connecticut to serve as counselors for a Kiruv Shabbaton with Rabbi Josh Kohl. We left Brooklyn at noon and had to stop off in Queens. But then we got a flat tire. All things considered, the GPS says that we are an hour away from our destination. The problem is that sunset is in fifty-five minutes, after which we will no longer be able to drive. I am afraid we will not make it in time for Shabbat, especially because we are driving with a spare tire. Do you think we can stay at your house for Shabbat?” Listening to the difficult predicament these boys were in, I said that they would be more than welcome to stay at my home, although I didn’t think they would make it to my house in time.

Right then, there was a knock at my door. It was my neighbor. Still on the phone with Eli and remembering in the back of my mind that I was trying to get in touch with a plumber to repair the flood, there stood my neighbor. “Hi,” he said, “I noticed that some water was leaking out of your garage. Can I help you?” To my relief, he helped me shut off the main water valve and put to rest the water issue for the meantime. I was graciously appreciative of his help. I then got back on the phone with Eli.

Rushing to my computer, I quickly began looking for the closest place he could stay over Shabbat. After a few minutes, I was able to figure out that he was just about twenty minutes from Mount Kisco. There were two communities there: one of Chassidim and another Shul headed by Rabbi Eli Kohl. Thanking me profusely, Eli hoped to make it to Mount Kisco. That was the last time we spoke before Shabbat.

Sunday night I received a phone call. It was Eli. “Eli, what happened? Where did you spend Shabbat?” “Rabbi, let me tell you what happened. We arrived in Mount Kisco fifteen minutes before Shabbat. Driving over to the house of Rabbi Kohl, we knocked on the door. Rabbi Kohl opened up and warmly welcomed us in. After explaining our situation, he told us something we could not believe.” “I am actually hosting a Shabbaton at my house this Shabbat for a bunch of kids. We have tons of food and programs planned for them. The only problem is that we are short counselors. Would you be able to help us out?”

“We couldn’t believe what had happened,” Eli said. “Not only did we experience a beautiful and inspiring Shabbat, but they even asked us to come back again.” As I listened to Eli’s words, I told him, “You thought you were going to do kiruv with Rabbi Kohl in Waterbury; but instead you were going to do kiruv with a different Rabbi Kohl in Mount Kisco.”

Everyone experiences ups and downs throughout their lives.
Whether it be a flat tire, a plumbing problem, a time constraint or all of the above combined, life is fraught with tests and challenges. But the main point to keep in mind is that there is a Divine plan to all that occurs. Nothing is haphazard and without reason. What if these boys would have smoothly made it to Waterbury? The other Shabbaton in Mount Kisco would have been understaffed. We may never know for sure why things happen, but we can rest assured that Hashem is Divinely guiding us to the exact destination we need to be in.

Mr. Yaakov Yosef Jungreis
Safe Passageway

While I was a young boy living with my family in Szeged, one of the largest cities in Hungary and near the Yugoslavian border, my father served as the presiding rabbi. In the neighboring town of Xanten, Germany, there lived one particularly prominent Jewish family. Unfortunately, however, the father of the family was taken away, leaving his wife and their unborn child all alone. As this occurred, the entire city of Xanten was moved into Szeged, which had been turned into a Jewish ghetto.

One night, as I was davening Maariv in my father’s Shul, in came four broad-shouldered men carrying a large bed. The woman who was expecting the child was about to give birth. But being that there was no other available place for her to do so, the men positioned the bed right in front of the wide open area before the Aron Kodesh. Some time later, my mother helped deliver the baby boy this woman was carrying.

Eight days later, the brit mila was held in the dark basement of our Shul by candlelight. With my father bringing the baby into the basement and the Rav of Xanten serving as the sandek, it was an emotionally stirring occasion. Although giving the baby a brit milameant that he would now clearly be identified as a Jew and be in danger if ever caught by German soldiers, tears of great happiness streamed down the cheeks of all those who were present.

After the brit was completed, my mother asked me to do something that for years later she and my father wondered why they ever allowed. “Take off your yarmulke and yellow star, jump the fence of the ghetto and run to the city to buy some diapers for the baby.” Although the risk existed that I may never return, I nevertheless followed these instructions, and returned safely with the diapers in hand.

In April of 1944, this baby with its mother made their way from Xanten to the concentration camp in Strasshof, Austria. Populated with 18,000 Jews, my grandfather, Rav Tzvi Hirsch Cohen, served as the sole Rav for the entire city of Strasshof.

Times were difficult and conditions were uneasy. But then there was Rudolf Israel Kastner. He was one of the leaders of the Budapest Aid and Rescue Committee and was known to have assisted Jewish refugees escape Hungary in 1944 when the Nazis invaded. Kastner would every month or so come to Strasshof and offer the Gestapo a sum of money to avoid killing Jews wantonly.

On one such occasion, Kastner approached my grandfather and said that he had rented two trucks with twelve seats each. He wished to save twenty-four Chassidish Rebbes, one of them being my grandfather. With every seat accounted for, this was a unique opportunity at escaping the clutches of potential death especially considering that what the future could bring may be for the worst.

But my grandfather was not so quick to comply with his kind offer. “Listen,” said my zaidy to Kastner, “there is a widow here with her young child from Xanten. Give her my seat.” And so it was. When the trucks came to take the twenty-four Rebbes, the young lady and her baby went along.

But that is not the end of the story.

Being granted such an opportunity, the young woman had something special in mind. She decided that for the rest of her life, she would support and serve the needs of Torah scholars. And so, as she took a seat on the truck next to the Stropkover Rebbe, not before long, she went on to marry him. Despite the large age gap, she was committed to rebuilding a future with the Rebbe.

Years later, the Stropkover Rebbe passed away. But even so, the woman was still intent on remarrying and continuing to build another family. And indeed, with the Tzelemer Rebbe losing his own wife, this woman went on to marry him.

With the Tzelemer Rebbe passing away on the 27th of Nissan, 1980, the woman’s young son who had survived the war assumed the role of the next Rebbe. He is known today as the Tzelemer Rav shlita, head mashgiach (food supervisor) of Kedem Wine and Products.

At a moment when survival was a most viable option, Rabbi Jungreis chose a different option: to grant safe passageway to a single widow and her child. Thinking of not himself, but a fellow Jew, he insured the existence of a future rabbinic dynasty and brought life to those who perhaps would never have seen tomorrow. Such is the care and sensitivity that hallmarks a Jew.

Rabbi Label Lam
Blue Skies, Blue Eyes

We may have been asked some time in our lives, or perhaps even asked ourselves, “How can I experience G-d? How can I know that He exists?” It’s most certainly an important question to ask and an even more important question to answer. But, for a moment, consider the following thought.

Hashem, figuratively, has blue eyes. They are not the exact same blue eyes you or I might have, but they are blue. The blue skies are really the blue eyes of Hashem, and He is observing you from that close. Everything is as clear as day to Him.
It may sound strange, but the sentiment is certainly true. Hashem knows everything that goes on across the globe. Nothing is beyond His sight. The sky spans the entire expanse of the world and views everything at every moment of the day.

But what then happens at night, when the sun sets and the sky becomes pitch black? You wonder again, “Now where is Hashem? Has He closed His eyes?” The answer is exactly to the contrary. The black sky is really the pupil of Hashem’s eyes. It is not that He closed His eyes, but that you are even closer to the center. During the densest and deepest times of darkness, G-d is not only not farther away, but He is that much closer and nearer to us.

And so, whether it be day or night, light or dark, fortunate times or unfortunate times, G-d is always there looking down at us with His big and beautiful eyes. And every day He gives us a shining smile and every night He lights for us a candle. How beloved we are by our dear Father in Heaven.

A Short Message From
Rabbi Daniel Glatstein

As we are well aware, one of the greatest tests of our generation is that of shemiras einayim, being wary of that which we look at. Arguably so, there has never been so potent a challenge in this area as there is today. Yet with such difficulty, there exists tremendous reward and opportunity as well.

The Gemara (Yoma 86a) relates that R’ Yishmael taught how the degree of teshuva (repentance) for each sin is commensurate to its level of severity. For violation of a positive commandment, teshuva erases the sin immediately. For violation of a negative commandment, teshuva along with the passing of Yom Kippur is required. If the negative prohibition is one which incurs kares, spiritual excision, then teshuva, the passing of Yom Kippur and afflictions are all needed. And lastly, if the sin involves a chillul Hashem (desecration of G-d’s name), it requires all of the above and the day of death to expiate the sin.

What is clear is that certain sins require specific modes and methods of repentance to wipe it away. However, there is a trick and technique, mentioned by the Darchei Teshuva (a student of the Ri Mi’Pano), which lets us in on a secret as to how we can achieve repentance for all sins, even the severest, in one moment.

Even though the Gemara says that for the most severe sin of chillul Hashem, the day of death is needed to attain full repentance, there is a different way of looking at it. Elsewhere, the Gemara (Nedarim 64b) states that there are four people – a pauper, a leper, a blind person and one who has no children – who are considered as if they are dead. If therefore, a naturally blind person is like he is dead, then one who can see but makes himself unable to see and thus makes himself “blind” would also be rendered as if he is dead.

What thus follows, says the Darchei Teshuva, is that if one closes their eyes and controls their gaze when facing a temptation, they are rendering themselves into a blind person and making themselves dead, which atones for all of one’s sins. As difficult as the challenge is and as powerful as the temptation is, it is an opportunity of a lifetime, for right then and there, one is capable of wiping away even the most severe sins and earning themselves the World to Come.

Picture of newsletter
100% free

Subscribe to our Weekly Newsletter

Timely Torah insights, stories, and anecdotes from your favorite TorahAnytime speakers, delivered straight to your inbox every week.

Your email is safe with us. We don't spam.