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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Yitro

Parshat Yitro

Compiled and Edited by Torah Time

"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter Parashat Yisro 20th of Shevat, 5776 | January 30, 2016 Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik Mr. Charlie Harary Pa



"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Yisro
20th of Shevat, 5776 | January 30, 2016

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Mr. Charlie Harary
Passing the Test

וגם בך יאמינו לעולם

And they will also believe in you forever (Shemos 19:9)

As I was walking around the University of Columbia one Friday morning, a man approached me and “bageled” me. “Bageling” is a term used to describe when someone tries to impress you with how much they know about religion. “How are you doing?” he asked. “Good,” I said.” “Are you going to leave class early today?” Unsure what he was driving at, I innocently answered, “No, I don’t think so.” “Well, it’s sundown tonight.” Still unclear what he meant to say, I responded, “Well, isn’t it sundown every night?” “No, I mean it’s Shabbat tonight.” I finally figured out what he meant. We then started talking and it was from there that a wonderful friendship began.

Now, this man is truly phenomenal. Growing up in Cleveland, after he finished college, he went to China and became the first ever American to earn a Chinese law degree in Chinese. He was brilliant. In fact, when Bill Clinton became president and went to China for a conference to discuss America’s foreign relations with China, this man was used as a paradigm example.

After receiving his law degree in China, he returned to America. Getting a job in the number one law firm in the country, he was doing quite well. As time progressed, he got involved with the FIDF (Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces), an organization established in 1981 aimed at providing educational, social and recreational programs for those who defend the Jewish homeland. Still working as a lawyer, he was once selected to make a presentation on behalf of the FIDF in Israel.

Returning from his trip, he soon received a phone call. He was told that they would like to honor him with an award for his dedication as part of the FIDF. Agreeing to do so, he flew back to Israel. Arriving one day at the site where the presentation was supposed to be held, he was instead put into a car and driven to a café in the middle of nowhere. Sitting down at a table with three other men, directly opposite him was a commander from the IDF. “We want to find out more about your background. We would like you to join the Israeli Defense Forces.”

It was not too much later that he decided to quit his job in the top law firm and head to Israel. Entering the army, he was faced with basic training. It was tough, but he did very well. He passed the first course and second course with flying colors. Now he needed to pass the third advanced course if he wished to make it as a high level officer. The challenge was to use the given coordinate points to arrive at a certain location within a specific amount of time. If he would pass this course, he would attain his goal and move onto becoming a prestigious member of the army.

And so, the fateful day arrived and he received his coordinates. As he stepped foot into his jeep and maneuvered around, he finally saw a house in a distance. He knew that there laid his destination. But just as he was inching closer, the tire of his jeep popped out and the car spun out of control. Being caught off guard, he began yelling at the other men to get themselves together and quickly put on another tire. Finally doing so, he ran to the door of the house. But it was locked. Posted on the door was a note, “You failed.” Devastated to no ends, he returned to his barracks.

Depressingly sitting down in his barracks, the door opened. It was his commander. “Look,” he said, “It happens. We will give you another chance tomorrow.” As morning arrived, he was prepared. Receiving his coordinates, he double checked the tires and began to drive off. As time passed, everything was going well. They had five minutes left and the destination was in sight. Parking the car, he hopped out and began to run. Making a quick turn around a sand dune, however, one of the other men fell to the ground and let out a shriek. He had twisted his ankle. Yelling back at the men, “Pick him up! Pick him up!” the men finally decided to carry him for the final stretch. Placing him on their shoulders, they ran to the house. As the man approached the door in a panic, he let out a sigh. It was locked. Hanging on the door, again, was a note, “You failed.” Beside himself and totally hopeless, he headed back to his barracks once again.

Sitting down with his head hanging low, the door opened. It was his commander. “Don’t get too down on yourself. It happens. We’ll give you one more chance tomorrow. But this is it. If anything goes wrong, tomorrow night you will be packing your bags.”

Lying down on his bed frustrated, he wondered who he could blame. “Maybe the Israeli army doesn’t want me to get to this level. Maybe they don’t want me to rise up in the ranks. And on top of everything, I quit my job as a lawyer. What a foolish mistake!” But then his mind began to wander. Reminiscing of the first time he was asked to join the army, he remembered the three men he was sitting with. It then hit him. “Those three men all went on to becoming prominent officers. I haven’t seen them in a while, but I think they were participating with me in this challenge. They were there. And come to think of it, they knew my name. How did they know my name?”

He then began to connect the dots. “Wait a second. Maybe, after all, they are not against me. Perhaps they are on my side. They are manipulating all these circumstances for my benefit. They are pushing for me. They want me to succeed.” But there was still one question which stumped him. “Why would they be failing me?” Musing over the issue, he finally realized. “Maybe they are not testing me if I can get to the destination on time. Maybe they are testing something else. They are challenging me to see how I react when a soldier falls down and I am faced with a pressured situation.”

Now, fully prepared for tomorrow’s challenge, he donned his uniform bright and early. Waiting by the door and ready to go at 5am, he was eventually told it was time to go. Told this time to manage two jeeps, he set off. Everything was going well. A few minutes before reaching the destination, though, he received a call. “The second jeep is under fire.” Knowing what to do, he quickly turned around and did everything necessary to insure the safety of the other jeep. He made sure all the men were secure and alright. Only after properly handling the makeshift attack from the enemy did he make his way towards his destination.

Slowly walking up to the door five minutes late, he placed his hand on the knob. It was unlocked. Opening the door, sitting down at the desk in front of him was his commander with a smile. “Good job,” he said, “you passed.”

The moment that changed this man’s career was when he realized that the wall in front of him was in fact not a wall. It was rather his road to success. Once he understood that the army believed in him and was working with him and not against him, his entire perspective changed. All the challenges and impediments we experience throughout life are there for us to successfully arrive at our ultimate destination. But from start to finish, Hashem believes in each of us. And when we as well believe in our own potential and eventually achieve our purpose in life, Hashem will look down at us with a smile and say, “My dear children, you finally arrived. You passed the test.”

Rabbi Avraham Schorr
Growing with Hashem

Living in our day and age, life is fraught with difficult and dark moments. But from time to time Hashem shows us a smile and reminds us that He is always with us. As a loving Father, He will never abandon His children.

Amongst the segulos (auspicious practices) for an individual looking to get married, one is to recite at the conclusion of Shemonah Esrei the words of Tehillim (Ch. 121), “שיר למעלות אשא עיני אל ההרים מאין יבא עזרי, עזרי מעם ד' עושה שמים וארץ” –“A Song to the ascents, I raise my eyes to the mountains, from where does my help come? My help comes from Hashem, Creator of heaven and earth.” Why is reciting this a segulah?

A person sometimes throws up his hand and wonders, “מאין יבא עזרי,” “Where will my help come from? This situation is impossible! There is אין –nothing –left to hope for!” But the answer to such despondency is found in the next Pasuk –“עזרי מעם ד' עושה שמים וארץ” –“My help is from Hashem, Creator of heaven and earth.” From what material did Hashem make the heaven and earth? From nothing – מאין. If Hashem can create an entire world of beauty from nothingness, He certainly can take the nothingness any person feels in his or her life and turn it into something beautiful. A person must therefore never give up hope no matter how depressingly desperate life seems to be.

Praying Shemonah Esrei and realizing that no one can grant us help but Hashem, we will find the strength to optimistically look towards a better and brighter future. Even the bleakest of circumstances which we face can turn around in a moment. If Hashem can create an entire world from nothing, He can certainly take our troubled personal lives and make something from nothing. Coming to terms with this reality serves as a favorable merit for an individual beseeching Hashem.

Years ago, a religious Jew was regrettably sentenced to prison in Rikers Island. Allegedly known to be a prison where maltreatment is rampant and most certainly one’s spiritual, physical and mental health is at great risk, the situation for this Jew looked dismal. All efforts expended in pleading with the judge to change the verdict were to no avail. He simply would not budge from his decision.

There was a man named Feth, however, who was capable of altering this particular judge’s ruling. For Feth himself, he had just suffered the loss of a family relative in North Carolina. Flying there to be with his family during this difficult time, he eventually made his way back to New York. After arriving at Penn Station, Feth began to wait for a taxi amid the blazing heat of day. And then he waited some more. And then some more. But no taxi was available to take him home. Holding two suitcases all by himself, he began to weary.

But then, from nowhere, his help arrived. “Can we help carry your luggage to your house?” They were two fifteen year old yeshiva students who had noticed Feth tirelessly waiting for a taxi, but no one ever picked him up. “Are you sure?” Feth replied, “it’s four blocks to my house from here.” But without further hesitation, the boys carried the suitcases to his home.

Arriving at the front of Feth’s apartment, he profusely thanked the boys for their kind assistance. “No, no,” they said, “we want to take your luggage up to your apartment.” “It’s all the way on the third floor,” Feth said in dissuasion. But the boys insisted that they help him to the very opening of his door. Carrying the bags up, as they placed them down right before his apartment, Feth pulled out of his wallet two twenty-dollar bills. “Here,” he said, “this is for each of you. I cannot thank you enough for what you’ve done.”

But the boys refused to accept any money. “We don’t take money,” they said. “It’s our pleasure to have helped you.” And with that they walked away. Entering his apartment, Feth was beside himself. He could not believe the extent of care and concern these yeshiva boys had shown to an absolute stranger.

Feth immediately called the judge and said, “That Jew you sentenced to prison in Rikers Island is not going there. I never saw such a thing in my life. I never saw anything like the care and sensitivity these Orthodox Jews acted with. You cannot put a Jew into Rikers.”

But this was not the only time Hashem has shown his smiling countenance towards His children.

For a man who was learning in Kollel in Israel and enjoying life, everything changed one day. Unfortunately, he was victim to a poisonous snake bite. Rushing him to a doctor specialist in Ramat Gan, he was operated upon in an attempt to extract the poison and return him to full health. But matters did not seem all too hopeful. After all, with venom of a poisonous snake in his body, his life was at risk.

A number of days later, after trying to remove the poison, the man called his doctor. “Doctor, what are the results?” “Let me tell you something,” began the doctor, “you won’t believe it.”

“I have never believed in G-d my entire life. But today, after seeing the results of your tests, that has all changed. I now believe in G-d. As we were examining you, we noticed to our unfortunate surprise that you had cancer in your lungs. Unbeknownst to you, your life was dangerously threatened. You may not have lived much longer. But now, there is nothing to worry about. The venom of that snake which bit you killed the cancer in your lungs. Had you not been bitten, your life may have ended sooner than later. But thanks to the bite of the snake, you can look forward to many years to come.”

Sometimes, the most dismal of situations is what brings about the most hopeful of situations. In the mind of this man, a poisonous snake bite meant something life-threatening. But in truth, what appeared to be a bite of death was a bite of life. Even amid the darkness of life, Hashem is our light. All odds may appear to be against us, but quite to the contrary, those odds may be the very reason we are given life.

At the end of this week’s Parsha, we learn how the Kohen would ascend to the top of the Mizbeach (Altar) not on steps, but on a plank. Why was this so? Why was there a plank to walk up to the Mizbeach instead of steps?

I once heard the following beautiful explanation. Steps allow a person to pause and take a rest. With a steep plank, on the other hand, any moment you stop, you begin to slide backwards. There is no option of stopping.

The same is true of serving Hashem. We do not ascend in spirituality by way of steps, but rather by means of ramp. We cannot choose to rest and complacently say, “Next year I will move up another step. I will take a break now and resume some time later.” On a ramp, we cannot choose to rest. Otherwise, we will inevitably start slipping backwards. Life is about constant growth and ascent.

What does Hakadosh Baruch Hu do, though, when we begin to slip? He sends a message to wake us up. He sends us a jolt we never expected and reminds us to continue moving up the ramp.

All throughout our lives, Hashem sends us reminders. Daily occurrences of having our car not starting, forgetting money which we needed at home or getting stuck in traffic and missing our appointment are events which we must take to heart. They are there for us to open our eyes. All the subtle messages, obstacles and smiling moments we experience in life are there for our spiritual growth and development. All we must do is open our eyes and ears and recognize the presence and presents of Hashem in our lives.

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