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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Vayakhel

Parshat Vayakhel

Compiled and Edited by Torah Time

"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter Parashat Vayakhel 25th of Adar I, 5776 | March 5, 2016 Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik Rabbi Chaim Rosenfeld



"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Vayakhel
25th of Adar I, 5776 | March 5, 2016

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Chaim Rosenfeld
Face to Face

ויהיו הכרובים ...ופניהם איש אל אחיו

And the Keruvim….were with their faces toward one another (Shemot 37:9)

While it is common for Jews around the world to frequently visit Israel, a number of individuals and families make a special effort to experience the High Holidays in the Holy Land. The uplifting days with inspirational prayers and throngs of Jews all around is a most exhilarating scene. As it occurred, a group of men from England decided they would make the trip to Israel one Yom Kippur. They intended to hear a well-known chazzan lead the davening whose voice was especially pleasant. As the exciting day arrived, the group gathered together at the airport and boarded the plane in earnest anticipation of a wonderful experience to come.

Of those who were flying from England was Mr. Goldstein. He was heading to the King David Hotel. Comfortably situating himself in his seat, he noticed the man sitting right next to him. Although not wearing a yarmulke, Mr. Goldstein figured that he was a non-affiliated Jew. And so he extended a warm welcome. “Hi, how are you doing? What’s your name?” Hearing the greeting of a fellow Jew, the man replied, “My name is Morris Shechter. How are you doing?” After cordially greeting each other, Mr. Goldstein and Morris began talking. And no sooner than later, the conversation turned to Judaism. “You know,” said Mr. Goldstein, “why don’t you come to my house for Shabbat when we get back to England?” “I would rather not,” quickly retorted Morris, “I’ve been through Judaism and I‘m done.” Rolling up his sleeve, Morris showed Mr. Goldstein an inscription of numbers on his arm. “I went through the Holocaust and survived. I had one son who I so dearly loved. But the Nazis took him away and I have not seen him in over thirty years. I don’t know what happened to him. He must have been killed. But let me reassure you, I will never again keep Shabbat or put on Tefillin. I have given up on G-d and Judaism.”

Disheartened by the news, Mr. Goldstein began thinking what he could say. “I’m very sorry to hear that. Maybe when we get back to England we can talk again. And if you would ever like, you are welcome to come to my house.” Thinking that he would take Morris’ home address and phone number when they got off the plane, the two of them continued to relax for the rest of the trip.

As the flight neared its end, the passengers exited the plane and headed to pick up their luggage. Morris left the plane and Mr. Goldstein left the plane, but their paths did not cross again. As Mr. Goldstein went to pick up his suitcase, he could not find Morris. Looking all around for him, he was nowhere to be seen. Distressed, Mr. Goldstein wished he would have taken Morris’ phone number earlier. But now there was nothing he could do. And so, he headed to the King David Hotel.

Yom Kippur was not for another few days. In the meantime, Mr. Goldstein looked forward to the invigorating davening and inspirational day. And then it finally arrived. Walking to the Shul near the hotel, the Yom Kippur night prayers, as expected, were beautiful. It was now Yom Kippur morning. Making it through Shacharit, the Shul prepared to say Yizkor, the memorial prayer for those who passed away. Being that Mr. Goldstein still had both of his parents alive, however, he decided he would take a short walk outside.

Making his way down the block, he saw a familiar face in the distance. It was a man sitting on a park bench eating a sandwich. Taking a few steps closer, Mr. Goldstein could not believe it. “Morris?” As the man picked up his head, it was clearly Morris. “Goldstein? How are you doing?” “Morris, do you know today is Yom Kippur? Almost everyone fasts on Yom Kippur, even those who have little connection to Judaism.” “Didn’t I tell you already,” Morris said as he took another bite of his sandwich, “I have nothing to do with religion! I used to be a religious Jew, but I gave it all up.”

Standing there in a state of shock and disbelief, Mr. Goldstein thought of the best words to say. “Listen, the people in the Shul are saying Yizkor right now. It is a memorial prayer recited for those who have passed away. Why don’t you come inside and mention your son. You will be honoring him.” But Morris would not budge. “I already told you, I have nothing to do with G-d or Judaism!” Now in a hard pressed situation, Mr. Goldstein knew he needed to respond with a good argument. “Don’t do it for yourself; do it for your son.” After a moment of silence, Morris said, “But I’m not dressed appropriately to walk inside!” “Don’t worry about that,” reassured Mr. Goldstein; “just come inside.” After much back and forth, Morris finally consented.

Walking into the Shul, those standing around took note of Morris’ entry. He clearly stood out of place, but he nevertheless kept on moving slowly to the bima where the chazzan was standing. Approaching the bima, the chazzan turned to Morris and asked, “What’s the niftar’s (one who passed away) name?” “Yaakov.” “And what’s your name?” continued the chazzan. “Morris.” “No, no,” interrupted the chazzan, “what’s your Hebrew name? “Moshe.” “Okay, Yaakov ben Moshe.”

But then the chazzan paused. A few seconds went by and there was silence. Turning back to Morris, the chazzan asked, “And what’s your last name?” “My last name?” Morris astounded confusedly. “Why do you need my last name?” “Just tell it to me,” repeated the chazzan. “It’s Shechter,” replied Morris. And then there was dead silence. Amid tears, the chazzan looked straight into Morris’ eyes.

“Abba? Is that you? Where were you? I have been looking for you for thirty-seven years! After the Holocaust I didn’t know where you were. You are my father. I am Yaakov ben Moshe.”

By now the entire Shul had filed back inside. Tears were shed not only by Morris and his beloved son, but by just about everyone in the building. It was a riveting moment in time. Mr. Goldstein too was undoubtedly touched. Yes indeed, he experienced that uplifting day he was looking for.

While Morris may have given up on Hashem, Hashem never gave up on him. And unquestionably so, Hashem never gives up on any of His children. No matter how far a Jew may be from Judaism, the return address to home is just down the block. And when you return home, you may never expect what is awaiting you. It is not only Hashem, but sometimes your very own child. “Abba,” he says, “I have been looking for you for years…”

Rabbi Mordechai Kraft
Lessons from the Hebrew Alphabet –The DNA of Creation

וימלא אתו רוח אלקים בחכמה בתבונה ובדעת

And Hashem filled Betzalel with a G-dly spirit, with wisdom, insight and knowledge… (Shemot 35:31)

Betzalel knew the skill of combining the letters with which the heaven and earth were created… (Berachot 55a)

The Zohar states that Hashem created the world using the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. This is alluded to in the very first words of the Torah: “בראשית ברא אלקים את” –“In the beginning Hashem created את.” Breaking down the word “את,” it refers to the expanse of the alphabet from letters Aleph (א) through Tav (ת). The blueprint and DNA of creation is quite literally the letters of the Hebrew alphabet.

When analyzing Lashon HaKodesh, there are four areas to examine: (1) the meaning of the word; (2) shape of the letter; (3) numerical value, also known as gematria is one, ב is two, ג is three…); (4) the first instance a letter appears in the Torah forming the root of a word.

In light of the profound depth of the Hebrew alphabet, let us journey through part of the Aleph-Beit and glean from its wisdom:

א (Aleph) in numerical value is one. It is also the letter which refers to Hashem, the One omnipotent Creator of the world. Spelling the word Aleph (אלף) backwards, we arrive at the word peleh, פלא, meaning wonder or amazement. Why is this so?

As finite human beings, we can never fully understand Hashem who is infinite. While we may be able to comprehend Hashem’s ways to a minute degree, we cannot expect to grasp everything. In our life, there will always be “peleh” of the “Aleph.” There will always be aspects of life which we do not understand and are beyond the scope of our limited mind. But that is because Hashem is above and beyond all human comprehension. All we can do is place our trust in Him and know that He is micromanaging the world.

It is for this reason that we place our hands over our eyes when we recite Shema. As we proclaim G-d’s oneness, we recognize that we are not always privy to seeing His hand orchestrate behind the scenes. We remain in the dark and unable to understand. But notwithstanding, we carry within our hearts the firm belief that Hashem is One and everything that He does is for our good.

Along these lines, the word used to describe nature is “Ha’Teva” –הטבע. Sharing the same numerical value of 86 with Elokim – אלקים – one of the names of Hashem, the natural world is full of G-d and His wisdom. The study of nature in this regard is meant to bring one to discover and detect Hashem.

However, at the same time, changing the vowelization of the word for nature –teva –we have the word “tava” –טבע –which means to drown. Man can either discover Hashem in nature or heretically drown in nature and believe that it came into existence by itself.

We are given the free choice to either believe in Hashem or deny His existence. Interestingly, the word for free choice is bachar, בחר. Rearranging the letters, we have the word חבר, friend. Scrambling the letters in yet another form, though, we are left with חרב, sword. Our free choice allows us to either become a friend of G-d or fight with G-d.

One of the marvelous aspects of our world is the miracle of human life. Given that an average month is thirty days with other months lasting 31 or 29 days, a nine-month pregnancy (הריון) lasts for 271 days. Not coincidentally, the gematria of הריון is 271, the exact number of days in a pregnancy.

The word for human being is Adam (אדם). Shifting the letters around, one is left with the word מאד, more. Man’s mission in this world is to always strive for more and become greater and never remain complacent. An animal, on the other hand, is called a בהמה. The makeup of an animal is reflected in the breaking up of the word into two –בה מה –literally meaning, “What is in it?” Bereft of a soul, there is no more to an animal than is externally seen.

A number of other words share the same letters, yet when rearranged, convey opposite meanings. The underlying concept behind such a phenomenon is that the very gifts we are given in this world can either be used as tools to spur us to higher spiritual plateaus or, contrarily, have us plummet downwards.

While every human being seeks pleasure (ענג), there is an inherent danger which presents itself when doing so. On the one hand, pleasure can most certainly be used as a means of drawing closer to Hashem and productively enriching one’s life. On the other hand, if overly abused, worldly pleasure can steer one away from G-d and all meaningfulness in life. In this regard, ענג, pleasure, will turn into נגע, affliction. Instead of using earthly pleasures to promote positive growth, we will be using them to sink into an abyss of self-ruination.

An abundant source of financial wealth (שפע) as well presents a challenge. Used properly, it can greatly enhance one’s own life and the life of one’s family. Conversely, if misused and treated negligently, such affluence can become a source of פשע, sin, and be directed towards destructive ends.

While we may perceive events in our life as bad (רע), ultimately every difficulty we experience is meant to awaken us (ער) to change our ways and improve ourselves. What may appear as a punishment (ענש) is in fact a means for us to grow and reach our potential.

This is most poignantly corroborated by the very spelling of the word ענש. The first letter – ע –pronounced as a word is עין, literally meaning “eye.” The job of an eye is to look, analyze and investigate. The last two letters – נש – refer to the act of “falling.” In example, an eagle is called a נשר. As verified by ornithologists, eagles undergo a molt, a process whereby their feathers fall out beginning with their head. In respect to this natural occurrence, the eagle is referred to as a נשר, literally meaning falling.

Considering the above implications, our understanding of punishment ought to be redefined. When something distressing and painful in life occurs, we are not being “punished” in the colloquial sense of the word. What Hashem is rather doing is enabling us to “see that we have fallen.” From within the tragedy experienced, we are meant to awaken ourselves to the reality that we have fallen from where we are supposed to be. Our behavior and habits need correcting and our life must be redirected. In short, we are to “עין נש” –closely analyze that we have fallen and look to pick ourselves up.

While we may have just scratched the surface of the profundity of the Hebrew Alphabet, one thing is certain: there is Divine authorship to Lashon HaKodesh. Such a language could not have possibly been the product of human imagination. Forming the building blocks of the world, every nuance contains layers upon layers of meaning. All we must do is open our eyes to see its breathtaking depth.

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