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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Ki Tisa

Parshat Ki Tisa

Compiled and Edited by Torah Time

"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter Parashat Ki Tisa 18th of Adar I, 5776 | February 27, 2016 Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik Rabbi Mordechai Bec



"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Ki Tisa
18th of Adar I, 5776 | February 27, 2016

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Mordechai Becher
Returning Home

נצר חסד לאלפים

The Preserver of Kindness for thousands of generations… (Shemos 34:7)

Upon completing college, a student from San Francisco decided he would take a world tour. His first stop was Williamsburg, New York. Sitting on a subway, he noticed a Chassidic Jew for the first time in his life. Unsure where he needed to get off the subway, he turned to the Jew and asked for help.

Happily directing the young man where to go, the chassid introduced himself and asked for the boy’s name. After repeating his name, the chassid remarked, “So you must be Jewish?” “No, no,” quickly interjected the boy, “it’s just a Russian name; my parents are from Russia. Many Russian names sound Jewish, and many Jewish names sound Russian, but I am not Jewish.” “I don’t think so,” responded the chassid, “I know that name and it is a Jewish name.” “I am telling you,” persisted the boy, “I am not Jewish.” Remaining steadfast to his opinion, the chassid gave it one last try. “Trust me, I know you are Jewish. My parents came from a small town and everyone in that town was Jewish. And the name of your family is from that town.” Informing him of the name of the town, the boy soon realized that he was in fact right. That was where his parents originally came from.

“Here is my business card,” said the chassid. “If you ever happen to visit Israel, go to one of these places.” Jotting down on the card the names of two yeshivot –Ohr Somayach and Aish HaTorah – the boy took the card, put it into the pocket of his winter coat and forgot all about it.

Sometime later, the boy decided he would like to go sightseeing in Israel. Touring throughout the country, he eventually stopped off at the Kotel. It was winter time, and he was wearing his winter coat. Taking in the breathtaking scene of the Kotel, he soon received a tap on his shoulder. It was Rav Meir Schuster, a man known for his dedicated outreach work. “Are you Jewish?” R’ Meir Schuster asked. “That’s an interesting question,” the boy replied. “Well, are you interested in learning about Judaism?” As the boy stood there and began to say, “I don’t know if I am interested,” he placed his hand into his pocket. Feeling a piece of paper, he pulled it out and opened it up. Looking at the paper, he turned to Rav Schuster. “Have you ever heard of Ohr Somayach or Aish HaTorah?” “Have I ever heard of those places? Of course I have!” Without delay, Rav Schuster took the boy to Ohr Somayach.

Sitting in on a class, the boy found it fascinating. And indeed, after some serious consideration, he decided to extend his stay and learn more about Judaism. Wishing to inform his family of his whereabouts, he phoned home to tell his parents that he would be away a bit longer than expected.

His father picked up the phone. “You want to stay in Israel? Where are you? On a kibbutz?” “Actually,” the boy said, “I’m in a yeshiva.” Coming from the other end of the line, the boy heard a bang. His father had just dropped the phone. Now picking up the phone was his mother. “Listen, can you call back later? Your father is not doing too well right now.”

An hour later he called again, and again his father picked up. “I don’t know how you found out or who told you that you are Jewish, but it is not too late to forget about it. No one has to know. I know what it means to be Jewish. I lived through the Second World War as a kid and it was horrific. Your grandfather also experienced pogroms. I’m doing you a favor. I don’t know what you are thinking, but you should come back home right now and never again think about Judaism.”

“Look,” the boy inhaled, “I feel I have to pursue this. There is something about Judaism which speaks to me, and I feel a connection to it. I just want to look into it some more. “You know what?” replied the father, “do what you like.” And so the boy decided to stay in the yeshiva.

Two months later, the boy received a package in the mail from his parents. It was a Hebrew book with a post-it note stuck on top saying, “This is the last Jewish relic we have in the house. You can have it; good riddance.” Opening the book, the boy could not understand a word. But he eagerly wished to discover exactly what type of relic he was holding. Approaching one of his rabbis, he requested if he could explain what the book was about.

As the rabbi opened to the front of the book and looked at the name of the author, he was taken aback. The name printed on the inside was the same name as this boy. Mentioning the name of the author to the boy, it was soon realized that this book was in fact written by the boy’s own great-grandfather.

Continuing to examine the book, the rabbi turned to the introduction. And with that, he began to read the words of the boy’s great-grandfather: “I am not a great scholar nor am I writing this book for fame or money. I am writing this book because I see the winds of change blowing through Russia. I don’t know if my children will be religious or if my grandchildren will identify as Jews. I don’t know if my great-grandchildren will even know that they are Jewish. But I am writing this so that if one of them finds his way back home, he will know where he came from.”

The boy’s great-grandfather would certainly be happy to know that his great-grandson is now more than well-aware of his heritage and is practicing Judaism as an observant Jew.

Oftentimes we may encounter one of our brothers or sisters who are wandering and looking for their way back home. They may have lost interest altogether in religion, not finding meaning in the Judaism they were brought up with, or are perhaps simply lacking a basic Torah education. But, in an attempt to return them to their Father in Heaven, we are to embrace them and show them the beauty of living a Torah way of life. And sometimes, to our delightful surprise, we may find ourselves reconnecting someone who is already closer than we ever thought.

Rebbetzin Miriam Krohn
Coping with Plan B

ויאמר ד' אל משה פסל לך שני לחת אבנים כראשנים...אשר שברת

And Hashem said to Moshe, “Carve for yourself two stone Tablets like the first ones… which you shattered” (Shemos 34:1)

We all have a clear picture of how we would love for life to be. We would like to have a nice home, reliable car, good parnassah, stable family and nachas from our children. Our only wish is that Hashem shower upon us a life of blessing and happiness. But the reality of life is not always as we wish. There are disappointments and challenges and ups and downs experienced day after day.

While many challenges are small and fairly easy to handle, some are big and difficult to cope with. How in fact we are to deal with such vicissitudes?

After living in Israel for nine years, my son and daughter-in-law decided to move back to America. Being an artist and nostalgically thinking about the beauty of life in Eretz Yisrael they were soon to leave, my daughter-in-law in a moment of inspiration took out a canvas and began painting a gorgeous picture of Yerushalayim. As she was nearing its finish, accidentally, a few drops of the paint fell to the bottom right corner of the painting. Trying to remove the stain, she only made it worse.

Now left with a smudge which wouldn’t come off, my daughter-in-law told herself, “This was meant to be. The smudge is there and it reflects my heartfelt feelings for Eretz Yisrael.” A little stain was not going to ruin her entire masterpiece, after all.

Taking the painting to a framing studio, when she later returned to pick it up, her eye immediately drifted towards the bottom right corner where the smudge had been. And to her surprise, it was no longer a smudge which was there but a sticker. Thinking how a sticker could have gotten there, she remained without an answer. And so she approached the proprietor of the store. “Would you perhaps know why there is a sticker on my painting?” “I do know,” the man replied. “There was a smudge which I covered over with a sticker.” “I’m so sorry,” my daughter-in-law replied, “but can you please open up the frame? You cannot have a sticker on the painting. I know it had a smudge and I gave it to you with that in mind.”

As the proprietor unscrewed the frame and took off the sticker, my daughter-in-law was only more astonished. Underneath the sticker was a hole. “What’s this?” “Well, when I saw the smudge, I tried removing it with acetone. But instead of improving the smudge, I actually created a hole. I therefore covered it up with a sticker.”

Hearing how someone had taken matters into their own hands and made the painting only worse, my daughter-in-law was understandably upset. But, exercising self-control, she did not say anything. She simply told him to put back the sticker and reframe the painting. And with that, she returned home.

Of course when she returned home, she vented her frustration to her husband. “Isn’t it self-understood that you can never improve on the work of an artist? Every artist is defensive of what they’ve created. You can never alter a painting which is done!”

Looking at my daughter-in-law, my son said to her, “I now understand what Chanah meant when she declared after giving birth to Shmuel, “אין צור כאלקינו” –“There is no Rock like Hashem. Chazal, based on the Pasuk’s usage of tzur (Rock, a reference to Hashem) which linguistically relates to tzayar (artist), interpret this phrase to mean, “אין צייר כאלקינו” –“There is no artist like Hashem.” Chanah meant to say that no human being can improve upon the artwork of G-d. We cannot improve on how the world is meant to be and what Hashem wants for us. Hashem wishes for us to grow from our challenges, cope with our misfortunes and help each other pull through hardships. Hashem’s artistic world is beautiful; we cannot in any way better it. All we must do is learn how to deal with what life has to offer us and embrace it.”

When things don’t go our way, we must realize that it is the will of Hashem. As part of G-d’s world, expectations and plans will not always go as smoothly as we wish. There will be a number of rough patches along the way. Yet we must remain realistic and learn how to cope with Plan B. If your spouse forgets to turn on the oven at five o’clock and you return home at a quarter to six and nothing is cooking, switch to Plan B. Perhaps put the food in the microwave instead. Part and parcel of our life’s journey in this world is facing bumps in the road and learning how to handle them.

Along these lines, Chazal have coined the expression, “תחלתו קוצים וסופו מישור” –“The beginning is thorns, but the end is a straight plain” (Koheles Rabbah 1:35). Oftentimes in life, the beginning of an endeavor or experience is fraught with negativity and pain. It is only after everything plays out and all is said and done that the path looks straight. Only then can we look back in retrospect and perhaps make some sense of it all. That is what Shlomo Hamelech meant when he said, “רבות מחשבות בלב איש ועצת ד' היא תקום” –“There are many thoughts in the heart of man, but Hashem’s counsel will prevail.” Ultimately, what Hashem wishes to happen will happen. While we can devise all sorts of plans, Hashem’s overarching plan stands above all. This is alluded to in the last word of the Pasuk, “תקום,” abbreviated for, “תחלתו קוצים וסופו מישור.” The plan Hashem puts into place sometimes appears to us as negative in the beginning and only turns out positive at the end. But we must remain steadfast in our faith that Hashem never abandons us.

I remember once reading how a woman speaking to parents of children with disabilities related the following story:

My husband and I were looking forward to a long awaited vacation. Having planned for months ahead of time, we made all the necessary arrangements to visit Italy. Purchasing maps and tour-guide books and even learning a bit of Italian, we excitedly prepared for the trip of our dreams. And then the day arrived.

Boarding the plane and comfortably taking our seats, the flight was relatively uneventful. But as soon as the plane landed, we were in for a surprise. The airline steward got onto the microphone and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Holland.” Looking at each other, we were sure a mistake was made. “Holland? We are not going to Holland? We are going to Italy!” Calling over the flight attendant, I said, “I think there has been a misunderstanding here. We are not going to Holland; we are going to Italy.” Staring back at me, the steward said, “Lady, I’m sorry, but there’s been a change of flight plans. We have landed in Holland, and it is Holland where you are going to stay.”

The woman relating this story continued: “I have experienced this trip of mine in real life in a different way. After carrying my baby for nine months, I was overjoyed when the day finally arrived. But then the doctor entered the room and told me, “Your son has disabilities.” “No, no,” I said, “you don’t understand. This is the child I am going to enjoy life with, grow together with, travel together to sites, learn about life and have nachas from. I think there is a mistake.” “Lady,” the doctor said, “there’s been a change of plans. This is your child; but the child has disabilities.”

“When my husband and I were informed that we landed in Holland, we took the maps, guide books and Italian we had learnt and put it aside. But you know what? Holland was also okay. There were beautiful tulips everywhere, the canals were pleasant, the weather was gorgeous, the people were nice and the air was crisp. Holland was not so bad after all.”

Concluding her speech, the woman said, “These are our children. But you know what? My child with all his disabilities became the child I am proud of. I am growing together with him, enjoying raising him, learning about life and having nachas from him.”

Life is about learning the skills to resiliently move on to Plan B and look at the large picture. While we all hope our challenges are minor, sometimes they are major. But notwithstanding all the distress, with Hashem’s support, we can most certainly confront and cope with the challenges we face and positively grow from them.

Similar to how Moshe Rabbeinu broke the first set of Luchos and went on to fashion a second set, we must oftentimes do the same in our own lives. When matters don’t work out the first time as anticipated and we are faced with a troubling predicament, our next move must be Plan B. Instead of allowing ourselves to be setback and hampered by our experiences, we would be wise to chart for ourselves a new plan and only look forward to a better and stronger life ahead.

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