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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Behalotcha

Parshat Behalotcha

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"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter Parashat Behalotcha 19th of Sivan, 5776 | June 25, 2016 Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik Rabbi Yisroel Jungrei


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter    Print Version

Parashat Behalotcha
19th of Sivan, 5776 | June 25, 2016

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Yisroel Jungreis
Worth Millions

ויצעק משה אל ד' לאמר קל נא רפא נא לה

Moshe cried out to Hashem saying, “Please, G-d, heal her now” (Bamidbar 12:13)

A number of years ago, I attended a dinner for Bonei Olam, an organization which financially assists couples who are dealing with infertility have children. Through supporting this organization, one can be assured that his contribution will help bring a child into this world. At the dinner, Rabbi Shlomo Bochner, founder of the organization, related the following story:

A few months ago, a man who had been married for many years and was still unable to have a child came to one of the heads of our organization. His situation, though, was particularly difficult. His medical history told of a tumultuous past fraught with illnesses and treatments, the most outstanding of them being three kidney transplants. Realizing that his predicament was particularly difficult and complicated for our organization to undertake, he was told that we could not be of any help. The man walked away disheartened by the news and unsure where he would now go.

Shortly thereafter, this man returned to his rabbi heartbroken. “Don’t take no for an answer,” his rabbi said. “Make a personal appointment with Rabbi Bochner and see what can be done. Don’t give up.” And so he did.

As this distraught man sat down with me, he began to cry. “Are you sure you cannot help me have a child?” he said in tears. “I want to say Shema Yisrael with my son and daughter; I want to teach my children Torah.” As I could palpably sense the emotional turmoil this couple was undergoing, my heart went out for them. But I knew that accepting to provide the amenities in this case would mean cutting back on funding for close to ten other couples. It was a weighty decision to make and I didn’t exactly know what to do.

It was around that time that I visited Israel. Scheduling an appointment with R’ Aharon Leib Shteinman shlita, I planned on seeking his advice on this issue. As I entered his room, he noticed that something was amiss. “What’s the matter?” he asked. After hearing the complicated situation the man who had come to us was in, and how accepting to help him would be a significant strain on our organization, R’ Shteinman would not take no for an answer. “You must take this case,” he said. “Let me bring you a proof from the Talmud.”

The Talmud (Taanit 21a) relates that while Nachum Ish Gam Zu was once riding on a donkey, he was approached by a man begging for charity. Telling the poor man that if he would only wait a few moments he would dismount from his donkey and provide him with his needs, by the time he did so, it was too late. The poor man had perished out of starvation.

“You see from here,” said R’ Shteinman, “that if a person comes to you, there is an obligation to help him. Even if the predicament is very challenging, don’t worry. In your situation, when you bring a child into this world, you are a partner with Hashem and He will help you. You will be successful.”

Listening to R’ Shteinman’s advice, I decided to take the case. When the husband was subsequently admitted into the hospital for treatment, I went to visit him. Profusely thanking me for everything we had done, I knew that we had made the right decision. And in fact, within months, the couple was expecting a healthy baby.

Later that night, the man who had sponsored the dinner got up to speak. And to their great beneficence, he publicly announced that he would be donating one million dollars to the Bonei Olam organization.

Every effort spent on bringing a Jewish child into this world is unquestionably worth it. The preciousness of every neshama is greater than all the diamonds in the world. Although there may be times when doing so presents a challenge, we must never forget that Hashem partners with us in this endeavor. And we can never know, sometimes the means we struggled to procure earlier will later fall into our hands when we least expect it.

Rabbi Jonathan Rietti
Enjoying the Banquet of Life

ויהי העם כמתאננים...זכרנו את הדגה...את הקישואים... ועתה נפשנו יבשה אין כל

The people took to complaining…we remember the fish, the cucumbers… But now, our life is parched, there is nothing (Bamidbar 11:1-6)

Where in the Torah do we find a mitzvah to be happy? Where does Hashem hold us accountable and responsible for simcha?

In Parashat Ki Tavo, probably the most heart-rending section of the Torah, we find our answer. In explanation for why ninety-eight curses will, chas v’shalom, befall the Jewish people, the Torah states, “תחת אשר לא עבדת את ד' אלקיך בשמחה...” – “Because you did not serve Hashem out of happiness…” (Devarim 28:47). Failure to perform Hashem’s mitzvot with a sense of joy brings in its wake the greatest of calamities.

But the Pasuk does not end there. The Torah continues to elaborate on the reason why tragedy may strike: “ובטוב לבב מרוב כל.” This phrase is typically translated to mean, “[Because you did not serve Hashem] with a good heart when everything was abundant.” What, though, does this exactly mean?

The Arizal observed that the word “בשמחה” (happiness) shares the same letters as “מחשבה” (thoughts). Happiness is not defined by what happens to you or what you have in life. Nor is it determined by your health, wealth or children. Those are all wonderful amenities to have and certainly make it easier to achieve contentment. However, they are not the ultimate reasons for which happiness or the lack thereof is experienced. Happiness is an attitude, a mindset determined by what we choose to focus on. Being happy, or שמח, is comprised of the same letters which spell “שם מח” (sham mo’ach, “there is the mind”). What we choose to focus our attention on will determine our simcha.

As to how we achieve this positive mindset, the Torah does not let us down. It provides two clues. Let us address the first: Tuv Levav. What does this mean?

Fundamentally speaking, the first usage of a word in the Torah reveals the essence of that particular item or trait. The first mention of the word lev is in the context of mankind deserving to be destroyed by the Flood of Noach. The Torah states, “V’chol yetzer machshavot libo rak ra kol hayom”–“And every product of the thoughts of his heart was but evil always” (Bereishit 6:5). Classically understood, this Pasuk speaks of the wickedness of man’s “heart” during that generation. However, a much more accurate rendering of the verse would lead us to translate lev as mind. The thoughts of the people living in that generation were preoccupied with negativity all day long.

Why, though, would the Torah capture the intellectual thoughts of the mind with the word “heart,” the seat of emotions?

Rav Avigdor Miller zt”l explains that the Torah wishes to underscore the importance of passionately and excitedly carrying out Hashem’s will. We are not meant to perfunctorily perform mitzvot without any enthusiasm. Quite to the contrary, our intellectual investment in the Torah’s commandments is to be coupled with heartfelt enthusiasm and zest.

Consider some examples where the metaphor of “heart” in fact refers to the mind. Shlomo Hamelech states, “Guard, my son, the mitzvot of your father and do not deviate from the teachings of your mother. Tie them on your lev all the time” (Mishlei 6:20-21). In this instance, the word “lev” most accurately refers to one’s mind. We are constantly to be thinking about the ideas and values we have learned and inculcated from home.

Here’s another Pasuk.

“Write them [words of Torah] on the wall of your lev” (ibid., 3:3). This is a beautiful metaphor. What are the pictures we hang on the wall of our mind? Are they pleasant pictures of our family and accomplishments or are they unhappy pictures of the complaints we have? Shlomo Hamelech cautions us to have words of Torah written there. That is what should be hung on the most precious place in our being.

And lastly, “All the days of a poor man are bad” (ibid., 15:15). Do we need the towering personality of Shlomo Hamelech to tell us this basic fact that the days of a poor man are wretched? Obviously not. But look at the end of the Pasuk. There we are informed what type of poverty is being referred to here. “Tov lev mishteh tamid” – “A good lev enjoys a constant banquet.” A mind which is filled with good thoughts is always celebrating life. He is always enjoying that which he has. Someone, however, who occupies his mind and focuses his attention on that which is negative in his life will be poverty-stricken. Since he is fixated on the negative, he lives his days impoverished of the beauty of life. He misses out on noticing the joys and blessings of existence.

Let’s go one step further.

After finishing to describe the six days of Creation, the Torah states, “And Hashem saw all that He had made, and behold it was very good” (Bereishit 1:31). Few things are referred to by Hashem as “good,” let alone “very good.” If that is the case of the creation of the world, it must be something very special. This is the meaning of the indictment mentioned in Parashat Ki Tavo – “me’rov kol,” an abundant good. We are held responsible for living a happy life amidst the bounty of good that the world provides us with. Although life inescapably includes moments of misfortune and discomfort, the abundant good of life is so much greater.

Imagine the follow scene. At the joyous occasion of a close friend’s wedding, you make your way over to the table and pour yourself a drink. Just as you are about to recite a blessing, the glass breaks and leaves a slight cut on your finger. Grabbing some tissue, you press it against your finger and stop it from bleeding.

Here is the dilemma. At the wedding, there is beautiful music, fantastic company and superb food. All the conditions are conducive to having a wonderful time. But your finger is pounding painfully. The throbbing is palpable and cannot be ignored. Now you have a choice. Do you choose to allow the pain in your finger to drown out the compounded simcha of good company, great music and delicious food? Or will the pain be drowned out due to the abundant good that is present at the party? You have a mental decision to make: should I let this pain mar my happiness or let the abundance of joy overshadow the discomfort?

Shlomo Hamelech tells us that we always have this choice in life. We can decide to live mentally poverty-stricken and miserably focus on the negativity and deficiencies before us. Or, we can choose to look at everything radically differently and instead turn our life into one long banquet. The decision is ours. What will be our attitude and mindset? We would be prudent to follow the words of the wisest of men and enjoy one long life of simcha.

Rabbi Avraham Schorr
Sweeter than Honey

והמן כזרע גד הוא

And the Manna was like coriander seed (Bamidbar 11:7)

In describing the appearance and texture of the Manna which fell for the Jewish people in the desert, the Torah says, “The Manna was like coriander seed.” As additionally noted earlier in the Torah, the natural taste of the Manna was as sweet as honey (Shemot 16:31).

But there is something which goes further than the Manna. And that is Torah. Dovid Hamelech depicts Torah to be even “sweeter than honey” (Tehillim 19:11).

For the Jewish people in the desert, this reality was brought to life. Soon after entering into the desert, Klal Yisrael tasted the Manna, which was as sweet as honey. But then they received the Torah and came to realize that there was something even greater. Learning Torah provided such an enjoyable experience that it undoubtedly topped the sweetness of the Manna.

But this portrayal of Torah is not merely figure of speech. It bears real implications and teaches a profound lesson as it relates to character development. Consider the following halachic query. If a person wishes to consume bee’s honey, may he do so even if some pieces of the non-kosher bee are found embedded in the honey?

The Rosh, one of the foremost early Talmudic commentaries, cites the Rabbeinu Yonah that one is permitted on account of the sweetness of the honey which neutralizes the taste of the bee (Mesechta Berachot 6:35). The potency of the honey is transformative. It takes the bee, which is intrinsically impure, and renders it pure from a halachic standpoint.

The same is true of Torah, observes the Chafetz Chaim. Its transformative nature can literally change a person’s life. While one may be inclined to argue that he will never be able to improve his behavior, correct his character and overcome his temptations, nothing could be further from the truth. The Torah’s insightful wisdom and truth hold the power of penetrating our neshamot in unbelievable ways.

This is the underlying meaning of Torah being compared to honey, explains the Chafetz Chaim. When one engrosses himself in it, he is doing nothing less than surrounding himself with the sweetness of honey. When one is deeply absorbed in Torah, its eternal wisdom and lessons for life rid him of all his impurities. One’s coarseness of character and unsavory behavior is transformed by the potency of Torah and one no longer remains the same person. Such is the sweet beauty of our Torah.

A Short Message From
Rabbi Doniel Kalish

Have you ever wondered what the name of your neshama is? What about your friend’s neshama? In truth, they have the same name: kavod (honor). When Dovid Hamelech wishes to refer to the soul, he uses the expression “k’vodi,” my honor (e.g. Ura k’vodi ura,” “Awake, my soul, awake” – Tehillim 57:9). The implications of this are far-reaching. As the Maharal articulates, when we honor another, we are doing no less than giving them life and uplifting their very being. We are recognizing their uniqueness and making them feel valued, important and respected.

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