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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Metzora

Parshat Metzora

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"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter Parashat Metzora 8 Nissan, 5776 | April 16, 2016 Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik Rabbi Avraham Nissanian A B



"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter    Print Version

Parashat Metzora
8 Nissan, 5776 | April 16, 2016

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Avraham Nissanian
A Bar Mitzvah Celebration

ואם דל הוא ואין ידו משגת

If he is poor and his means are insufficient… (Vayikra 14:21)

Enjoying a modest lifestyle, a family of four, amongst them two twin boys, lived in America. Appreciative of all that they had, as the years went by, the boys developed into caring and considerate young men.

It was nearly two months before the bar mitzvah of the twin brothers that their father took them for a two and a half week trip around the United States. Realizing that a childhood friend of the father lived in one of the areas they intended to visit, plans were accordingly made to meet him. The friend had in fact gone onto become a respectable rabbi in a community, and it would be both a pleasure and privilege to reunite after so many years.

Making their rounds from city to city, after some time, they finally reached the community the father’s friend lived in. Embracing one another, the two of them exchanged warm remarks and began conversing. Yet, the conversation was not to last that long.

Shortly thereafter, the rabbi said, “I am very sorry, but I must leave right now. I am involved in helping a Russian couple who after ten years of being unable to have a child finally gave birth to a baby boy. The unfortunate news, however, is that the baby has contracted a debilitating disease. He is now in critical condition. Going from one doctor to another, the parents were finally informed that his only option of survival would be a twenty-thousand dollar surgery. The parents themselves are unable to afford such a procedure, but they desperately need the money. They therefore asked if I could help raise it. As of now, I have been able to raise ten-thousand dollars, but I am still short the other ten-thousand, and I plan to shortly meet a few families who hopefully can assist the cause. Let’s try to reconvene later.” And with that, the rabbi began walking away and heading for his car.

Hearing this breaking news was one of the twin boys, who immediately approached his father. “Daddy, could we donate ten thousand dollars and save the baby?” Listening to his son, the father replied, “I am not sure if we have the money to do so. We already spent a considerable amount on our travels around the country.” “What if we would give up the money we planned to spend on our bar mitzvah party?” said the boy. “It is very nice of you to think of that,” replied the father, “but you would need to ask your brother. Go and see what he says.” Quickly running to his brother, the boy explained the situation. “Of course we can give up our bar mitzvah party to save this baby!” the brother answered. Running back to his father, the boy happily relayed the news.

Hearing of his children’s willingness to give up their own party for a fellow Jew, the father agreed. Making their way downstairs, the father and two boys just barely flagged down the rabbi who was about to drive away. “Rabbi,” the father yelled, “come back here. We will help you.” Turning around, the rabbi returned. “Listen, you don’t have to go anywhere. My children decided to give up their bar mitzvah party to help save the child.” The father then proceeded to write out a check for ten-thousand dollars and give it to the rabbi.

As the time for the boys’ bar mitzvah arrived, instead of having a lavish party, they enjoyed a small celebration in the backyard of their home. Nicely put together, everyone was happy despite the downsized party. But then, almost suddenly, a familiar looking man walked in. It was the rabbi the boys had donated the money to. He had come from New York to join the bar mitzvah celebration. Turning to the father, he said, “Would I be able to address the audience?” “Sure,” the father replied, “please go ahead.”

“I want you to know,” he began, “why this bar mitzvah is being celebrated in a home and not in a fancy hall. These two young bar mitzvah boys decided to forego their party to save the life of a baby.” As not everyone was aware of such information, the moving news silenced the crowd. “But there is more,” continued the rabbi. Taking out an envelope from his pocket, he said, “There is a certain committee which is dedicated to collecting stories of all the good deeds performed around the United States. And every year, the committee awards the “Best Good Deed of the Year.” Opening the envelope, the rabbi read a piece of paper. It was a certificate from the organization commending the boys for their noble deed and choosing them as the ones who had performed the greatest act of kindness that year. Hearing this, both of the brothers agreed that despite all of the wonderful gifts they received, nothing compared to this present. The presence of this rabbi and the present from this organization was the dearest gift of all.

Years passed, and now it was the time for one of the boys who had so kindly given up his bar-mitzvah party years earlier to celebrate the bar mitzvah of his own child. Deciding to make a party for his son, the necessary arrangements were made. And then the awaited day arrived.

Graced by the presence of many family members, the grandfather of the bar mitzvah boy was there as well. Sitting down with his son and grandson, the grandfather began reminiscing about what had occurred years ago. He thought back to the trip he and his twin boys had taken around the country, and the great moments they all shared together.

As the grandfather and father ruminated about their past, an older gentleman along with a young boy walked into the hall. As the grandfather and father glanced down the hall, it was hard to see who exactly it was. But as the old man neared them, it became apparent. It was the rabbi who had many years ago come to the twin’s bar mitzvah. He was now much older and required an assistant to help him walk.

As the rabbi finally approached them, words of love and appreciation were exchanged as everyone embraced each other. It was an emotional moment, yet very joyous. However, the rabbi had not traveled so far just to see the grandfather and father of the bar mitzvah boy. He had something else in mind. Turning to father of the bar mitzvah boy, he said, “I brought you a very precious present today. Would I be able to address the audience?” And without further ado, the rabbi began:

“Not all of you may know, but decades ago, the father of the bar mitzvah boy donated together with his brother ten-thousand dollars to save a Russian baby. That year, the boys received a certificate praising and awarding their kind-hearted deed. Today, however, they will receive something even greater than a certificate.”

And with that, the boy who was thought by everyone to be the rabbi’s grandson stepped forward. He was none other than the Russian boy whose life was saved. “I wanted you to see who you gave life to,” said the rabbi to the grown-up twin brothers. “For many years he has been trying to come and thank you for your act of kindness. I thought to myself that the best time for him to do so would be on the bar mitzvah of your own son. And so now, here he is.”

We can never underestimate the life-changing impact our actions have. While these little boys chose to forgo their own celebration, a much bigger celebration was taking place: the giving of life to another human being. One decision can change the future of not only one person, but an entire line of descendants. With this, we can appreciate the saying of our Sages (Sanhedrin 37a), “One who saves the life of one person is as if he saved an entire world.”

Rabbi Yonoson Roodyn
Transformative Pesach Cleaning

In preparing for Pesach, a daunting task stands before us: Pesach cleaning. Going to incredible lengths to rid our homes and possessions of chametz, tireless hours are spent cleaning, scrubbing and dusting every nook and cranny in sight. Working to develop an aversion to chametz, we do everything possible to insure we do not eat it, see it or have any connection to it whatsoever. While on a Biblical level, it is sufficient to simply renounce all ownership of chametz, the Rabbis have prescribed that we search and clean all places where it could be found. But why exactly is this so? From a philosophical standpoint, what are we meant to be achieving by making our homes chametz-free?

Imagine a person decides to go on vacation. Finding himself an exotic resort, he looks forward to spending some time away from home and altering his daily schedule. Upon arriving at his destination, he heads to his room and begins planning for the many sites he intends to see and many trips he wishes to take. And indeed, for the next week, he spends every waking moment traveling all over and seeing as much as he can. Reveling in the breathtaking sites, it ostensibly seems as if his week of vacation is more hectic than his week of work.

Would we say he enjoyed a “vacation”? He most certainly did. And that is because what matters most to this individual is something greater than hours of rest and sleep. He most surely wishes to relax, but a change of mindset and attitude, scenery and routine is what he primarily wishes to accomplish for the next week.

On Pesach we also go on vacation to a different planet. It is called “Planet Pesach.” The Torah demands that we remove the primary staple of bread from our lives and enter a new realm of existence. For a week our houses look and feel different. The scenery is changed and our attitude towards chametz is summarily transformed. Indefatigably working to alter the ambiance within our homes, we learn to relate differently to the world around us.

With chametz representing the physical world, our rendering of it like the dust of the earth as dictated by our Sages ingrains a certain perspective within us. When we look at bread, cake and cookies, we do not see food, but dirt. Our relationship to such food items and commodities is redefined and transformed. In the words of the Ramban (commentary to Mesechet Pesachim), “Therefore, nullifying chametz makes it insignificant and aligns our perspective to the view of the Torah.” We look at chametz products the way the Torah wishes us to. This is what bittul chametz, the nullification of all leaven products we own, is aimed at accomplishing. It is more than a mere failsafe which prevents our transgression of owning chametz; it inherently redefines what chametz is and changes the way we relate to it.

That is the essence of Pesach. The servitude experienced in Egypt physically and emotionally broke us. Bitterly enslaved and bereft of all material comfort, Klal Yisrael learned to live with nothing more than the bare minimum. Yet when one lives with close to nothing, it becomes easier to appreciate that which one has. Our slavery taught us how to be in control of our interaction with the material world and subsist on that which we need, not what we want. The holiday of Pesach in this respect enables us to elevate our relationship with the physical world. We become free to control and define our connection with the world and live on an elevated, spiritual plane. We are capable of relishing in matzah, something so poor in physical terms yet so rich in spiritual quality. It nourishes us and sustains us. Pride is taken in the fact that we live a sublime existence and are part of the world of matzah, not the world of chametz.

After living with such a mindset for seven days, when we resume eating chametz after Pesach, it is a completely different experience. We understand that it is our neshama which controls the way we live, not our bodies. A loaf of bread is no longer something to be avoided because we know how to properly deal with it and harness it. We know that we can take something very physical and sublimate it spiritually and not be worried that we will become its victim. The physical world no longer controls us; we control it.

Picture a child hearing the tune of an ice cream truck any day of the year. Quite likely, he will begin running towards it. Yet on Pesach, something diametrically different occurs. I remember as a young boy attending a show for kids during Chol Hamoed Pesach. Intended for children of all religious backgrounds, a non-Jewish clown was hired to put on a demonstration. Dazzling the kids with all sorts of entertainment, his grand finale was firing a booming cannon full of candies and sweets. While such an experience is just about any child’s dream, that is not the case on Pesach.

As all of the children excitedly stood mesmerized by the clown, we were in for a surprise when the cannon went off and countless candies came flying out. But we were even more surprised when we realized that there was only one problem: they were all chametz. And indeed, not one child took home any of the candy. Even us young children understood and appreciated that is was Pesach, and knew that no matter how delicious anything looked, it was off limits. Having learned about the severity of eating chametz, the candy did not entice us. The candy did not control us; we controlled it.

In light of the above, our cleaning for Pesach ought to take on new meaning. We are engaging in much more than spring cleaning; we are elevating our homes and creating an environment akin to a miniature Beit Hamikdash permeated by the presence of Hashem. By removing our chametz, we redefine ourselves as ennobled masters of the physical world, not its slaves. And after such a fact of life has been established, we will soon be able to delight in our cheesecake with the right perspective and offer a luscious bread offering in the Beit Hamikdash on Shavuot.

A Short Message From
Rabbanit Amit Yaghoubi

Years ago I was speaking with my Rebbetzin, Shira Smiles, around this time of year and mentioned an issue I felt I needed to vehemently address. But she dissuaded me from doing so. “Be a matzah,” she said. As we prepare for Pesach, we will have numerous opportunities to be a matzah. If a child or sibling eats chametz in a room we have already cleaned, we can angrily say, “I told you it was cleaned already!” Or we can softly tell them, “You must not have heard me, but I already cleaned this room. Would it be possible to eat over there?” Before we can eat matzah on the Seder night, we would be wise to first make ourselves into a matzah.

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