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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Summer B'chtav 5777

Parshat Summer B'chtav 5777

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Bchtav 3

TorahAnytime B'chtav    Print Version

Elul 5777 | August 2017

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Transforming Torah She’baal Peh

Into Torah She’bchtav

With an ever-increasing growth of more than thirty thousand video and audio lectures, TorahAnytime is dedicated to providing viewers and listeners like you the most inspiring and engaging Torah content. Yet now, you can hold your favorite Torah lectures in your hand and read it and reread it.

TorahAnytime B’chtav aims at taking one of the many insightful audio lectures and bringing them to life in their entirety in written form. Transforming Torah She’baal Peh into Torah Sheb’chtav, the opportunity is now available to enjoy your favorite TorahAnytime lectures anytime and anywhere on paper. It is hoped that this added feature will enhance your learning experience and provide another avenue for you to continue growing as an inspired Jew.

In this special edition of TorahAnytime B’chtav, Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein addresses one of the most fundamental cornerstones of Judaism: helping a fellow Jew. What does it mean and how is it achieved? The answers are about to be uncovered. Join Rabbi Wallerstein as he weaves together story after story and teaches you how to view people and the world in a way which will surely change not only your own life, but the lives of all of Klal Yisrael.

Team TorahAnytime


Rabbi Wallerstein

The Second Look

As we are all familiar, Avraham Avinu stands as the quintessential example of one who extends himself for everyone and anyone. Yet what exactly made him someone so great in kindness? What motivated him to make this trait his raison d’etre?

In Parshas Va’eira we learn the answer. On the third day following his bris milah, Avraham sat outside his tent in the blazing heat on the lookout for wayfarers he could invite into his tent. Despite the excruciating pain coupled with the intolerable heat, he awaited someone he could show kindness to. And to his sheer delight, he soon caught sight of three angels, disguised as Arab men:

“And he lifted his eyes and he saw, and behold, three men were standing on him; and he saw, and he ran towards them from the entrance of his tent and he bowed to the ground” (Bereishis 18:2)

In looking closely at this Pasuk, there is something which oddly stands out. It begins by stating that Avraham noticed three men standing “on top of him,” which simply understood, refers to their close degree of proximity. Yet, as the Torah continues, Avraham looked again and then “ran towards them.” How, though, can that be? If the angels were so close that they are described as being literally “on top of him,” how could he have run anywhere? He would have run right into them.

There are more questions to be asked further along in this episode. The Torah continues:

And he said, “My master, if you will please find favor in my eyes, do not pass before your servant” (ibid. v. 3)

Why does Avraham address these three individuals dressed as lowly Arab men as “my master”? Moreover, why does he need to beg them to enter his tent for food and drink? On such a hot day, of course they would accept the offer. Why did Avraham need to request that they stop in before continuing to travel?

Let me tell you a story.

When I first founded Ohr Naava in 2004, it began as a small weekly study group for women. Yet slowly but surely, it mushroomed into a renowned center for women of all ages to be able to connect to Torah and socialize in a healthy environment. It would provide round-the-clock Torah lectures and inspirational events and serve as a warm home for thousands of women and girls on all levels.

During the program’s incipient stages, I went to Reb Aharon Leib Shteinman shlita in Israel to receive a bracha that it be successful. When I arrived, he had just finished delivering a lecture and a large number of people were closely gathered around him. As I stood in front of him, he asked me to explain what Ohr Naava was about. I explained that it is a place for women to learn, socialize and grow in their understanding of Torah and Yiddishkeit. “How old are these women you are opening this program for?” he asked. “I am thinking from 16 until 120,” I replied. “And what will happen if a woman wishes to attend and she is 121; are going to throw her out?”

As he asked this question, laughs were heard around the room. While Rav Shteinman is known to be serious and not the type who would make such humorous remarks, that day was different. “Rosh Yeshiva,” I replied, “if she is 121, I will call and ask you what to do.” “Don’t worry; it will never happen,” he told me. As he said that, I began to think that it will never happen because people live only until 120. However, that was not what Rav Shteinman meant. “You know why it will never happen?” he said. “It is because a woman never tells her real age.”

From that day on, Rav Shteinman and I became very close. Every time I would visit him, everyone recognized me as the “man of 121.”

Some time after I began Ohr Naava, I started looking to create a high school for girls. It was to be for girls who had gone through difficult times throughout their youth and adolescence and needed a safe place to find warm direction and guidance. When I first considered opening the school, I was strongly dissuaded from doing so. As I was already running Ohr Naava and a business of my own and needed to care for my family, I was told that opening another school would be too much to handle. But I continued to remind myself of what my father had always told me, “If you say, ‘My plate is full, get a bigger plate.’”

Despite all the discouragement, I started the high school. The students were provided therapy and given the best teachers who selflessly gave of their time and effort to meet the needs of the girls. The problem, however, was that the kids would return home for the weekends. When they would later return on Monday, there would be countless new problems needing to be addressed. Sending the girls back to their dysfunctional homes was not a smart decision. And certainly if they had a few days off, such as during a Yom Tov, the problems we had to deal with when they returned were overwhelming. We therefore concluded that the most effective way to help the students would be to not only have a school for them, but a house for them. A frum family would live in the house and take care of the girls. There would be a teacher who would overlook them and make sure they returned by a curfew. They would as well be given meals and the opportunity to experience Shabbos together.

After looking into the matter, I finally found a house for the girls. The only setback was that it was in shambles. I needed to raise $300,000 to redo the entire house. Although we did not have the money, I was determined not to give up. Planning to be in Israel for Yom Kippur, I figured that I would go to Rav Shteinman on Erev Yom Kippur for a bracha. I told my staff not to worry about anything as I was close to Rav Shteinman. He would give me a bracha and we would have a house.

Walking into his room, I said, “Does the Rosh Yeshiva remember Ohr Naava?” “Yes,” he said. “I now have a high school for girls at risk and without a place to call home. I am looking to buy a house for them to stay in. I need to raise $300,000. Could the Rosh Yeshiva please give me a bracha that it goes easy? I really want this and so do the girls.” Looking up at me, Rav Shteinman said, “You want it? Who says Hashem wants it?” As soon as he said that, my heart dropped. “No, no Rosh Yeshiva. This is not about me. I do not want to rebuild my house for $300,000. It is for the girls.” Looking at me again, he repeated, “Who says Hashem wants such a house?”

I stood there dumbstruck, as the gabbai began ushering me out the door seeing that I already asked twice and was told no.
I immediately called my brother-in-law and said, “We are in trouble. Rav Shteinman said that Hashem doesn’t want this house. I can’t understand. Why wouldn’t Hashem want this? It is for His daughters!” However, not receiving the bracha did not dissuade me from trying to raise the money anyway. I continued to set out to raise the necessary funds.

Baruch Hashem, I was eventually able to find one person who planned to donate all $300,000. Thrilled to no ends, we all looked forward to finally being able to help the girls in the best way possible. However, at the last moment, the man decided to back out. “Don’t start building,” he said. “I received a large offer for an investment in Manhattan and I decided to use the money for that.” As I was told this, I knew that my lack of success was due in part to Rav Shteinman not giving me the bracha. But I still did not give up.

The following year I went to Israel for Yom Kippur, as I always do, and thought that I would go to Rav Shteinman and try it again. Entering his home, I said to him, “It only got worse. I have more girls in my school and I have bigger problems. We need that house. The Rosh Yeshiva needs to give me a bracha. I cannot send the girls back to the abusive homes they came from.”

As I said this, Rav Shteinman looked up at me. “It’s going to be easy; you are going to raise the money. And not only are the girls going to live in that house; the Shechinah (Divine Presence) is going to live in that house.”

As I heard this blessing, I was taken aback. Not only did he give us a wonderful bracha, but he even said that Hashem will dwell in the home.

But there was one question which was bothering me. Mustering the courage to ask, I boldly turned to Rav Shteinman and said, “Could the Rosh Yeshiva please tell me the difference between last year and this year? Why did Hashem not want the house last year, and this year He is moving in? That is a big difference. Is it me? Did I do something?”

Looking back at me, Rav Shteinman said penetrating words I will never forget. “Rabbi Wallerstein, last year when you came to me, you told me that you and the girls want a building for your high school. What you want in life, Hashem doesn’t always give you. This year, however, you said that you need a building. If a daughter of Hashem needs something, of course He will to give it to her.”

I learned an amazing lesson at that moment. As I was later speaking at an over-forty singles event, I related this idea to them. “I am not telling anyone what to do,” I said, “but let me tell you something very important. People who want to get married do not always get married. People who need to get married, however, do get married.”

I later received a letter from a woman:

“Thank you, Rabbi Wallerstein. I was at that singles event and I am now married. I had gone out with someone and thought to myself, ‘He is not exactly like me.’ But then I thought again. Do I want to get married or do I need to get married? Thinking about the situation again, I saw matters in a different light and realized that this man was the right one for me. Now I am happily married.”

In life, there is a very big difference between wanting and needing. It is the difference between someone who actually changes his own life and changes the world.

So many people want to help others. They want to help kids who are going through difficult times, help people looking for a shidduch and help men and women suffering from an illness. The list goes on and on. But what will truly push someone to actually take the real step towards helping is not the want to help, but the need to help. Many people want to help others, but those who feel the need to do so will actually take the initiative.

This was how Avraham Avinu lived. For him, the inability to perform chesed pained him more than anything else, even more than the pain of his bris milah. This is why Avraham referred to the Arab men with the honorary title of “master.” From Avraham’s perspective, it was not that he was merely doing them a favor; they were doing him a favor. And what exactly was that favor? They were enabling him to do chesed. And why did Avraham have this perspective? Because he did not simply want to perform kindness; he needed to perform kindness. That is the true hallmark of a person: do you want or do you need?

Turning “Wanting” into “Needing”

How though can you take a “want” and turn it into a “need”?
The Torah in the above-cited Pasuk tells us the answer:

“And he lifted his eyes and he saw, and behold, three men were standing on him; and he saw, and he ran towards them…” (ibid.)

Why does the Torah state twice that Avraham saw the Arab men? Why did he need to look more than once? What didn’t he see the first time?

The answer is exactly that. Avraham Avinu had what is called “the second look.” He developed a third eye and looked deeper and beyond what most people see right in front of them. The first look in life reveals a picture which anyone can see. You see Arab men and they appear to be standing right in front of you. But then you look a second time, and you see that they are farther than you thought. And then instead of standing still and waiting for them to approach you, you run to them.

This is how you develop a “need” to help. Take a second look and truly look at what is occurring. When it comes to someone in pain, identify with the person’s plight not as something as he or she simply wants to improve, but something they need to improve. They don’t want to get better; they need to get better. When your outlook aligns with this perspective, you will take your own want and turn it into a need.

Most people don’t see things this way. Imagine a tzedakah collector would come to your door and you bow to him and say, “Thank you so much for coming and allowing me to do chesed! You are doing me such a favor!” Who looks at such a scenario this way? The individual who does not want to perform chesed, but needs to perform chesed. And that difference comes about through developing the second look.

Let me tell you a story.

In Flatbush, New York, there is a lady who sits outside the supermarket Chap-a-Nosh every Friday. Collecting tzedakah for herself, as people walk into and out of the store, they kindly drop a quarter or dollar into the cup she is holding.

When I myself would walk by, I would give her a dollar or so and ask her how she was doing. I knew that I was helping by giving her a few dollars every so often, and I felt good about it.

A few years ago, it was a Friday morning and I arrived a bit earlier than usual. Walking towards the woman, I noticed another girl standing next to her and handing her a cup of coffee and a chocolate danish. I figured that she purchased the coffee and danish from the pizza shop, Jerusalem Cafe, across the street. Yet as I continued to stand and watch the woman thank the girl for bringing her the food, I began to curiously wonder why she had gone especially out of her way to help this woman. And so, I followed the girl in an attempt to find out.

“Can I ask you something? Is this the first time you did this?” Looking back at me, the girl said, “No, I do it every week.” Quite surprised, I continued to pry out of curiosity. “Why don’t you just give her money like everyone else?” And then she revealed the true reason behind her actions.

“Rabbi Wallerstein, you don’t understand. This lady fasts all day. She sits in her chair and refuses to get up herself and buy some food. She is a poor woman and feels that if she will walk across the street, three or four people will walk out of Chap-a-Nosh and she will lose out on making a few dollars. I have seen this and know about it. I therefore go and buy her food. That is my tzedakah and I know it is helping her.”

As I walked away from this girl after hearing what she said, I was taken aback. “What is the difference,” I thought to myself, “between me and her? I see a lady holding a tzedakah cup and think to myself, ‘I feel bad; let me give her some money.’ My thought process is poor lady – cup – dollar bill. Yet what does this girl see? She sees something entirely different. She sees the hand and the person holding the cup. She sees a woman who is cold and hungry and in need of sustenance to make it through the day. Only this girl saw that person; I never saw that person.”

That is what taking a second look means. With the first look, you see a cup and only a cup. With the second look, however, you see a completely different world. All of a sudden, you see a hand connected to the cup and a human being connected to the hand. And then you realize that you are not merely dealing with cents and dollars, but with a person who has feelings and wishes to feel cared for and valued. And then, like this girl did, you walk across the street and buy a cup of coffee and a danish.

This may seem like a small difference in attitude, but in truth, it is life-altering not only for the person who develops this outlook, but for the people who can be helped.

Let me share an example with you.

Years ago, a post-rehabilitation center was opened in Brooklyn called “Judah’s Place” in which Jewish boys and girls who had undergone drug rehabilitation and were now clean could remain safely off the streets. Looking to counter the problem of relapse for kids coming off an addiction, a center was opened which would provide them with pool tables, ping pong tables, computers, music and couches. The intention was to allow these kids who had a history of drug abuse to be given a place to have a safe and fun time until midnight and then return home to sleep.

One day I received a phone call from the man in charge of Judah’s Place. “Rabbi Wallerstein,” he said, “could you do us a favor? Tisha B’av is in a few days and it is a long night for the kids. Would you be able to talk to the boys and girls at midnight?” Now, I had been teaching eighth-grade boys for the past twenty-six years in what could be called a kiruv school. The boys primarily came from non-religious homes and were trying to receive a Jewish education. Teaching was nice and quiet. They learned Gemara, were given sports activities and pizza and so on. But I had never before spoken to kids who were completely irreligious or those who were religious but had become resentful of Judaism. But I wasn’t going to say no, so I complied.

As the night of Tisha B’av arrived, I got ready and made my way to Judah’s Place. As I entered inside, I saw three girls and three boys sitting on a couch. Taking a seat opposite them, I looked across and said with a big smile, “Hi, my name is Rabbi Wallerstein.” Now, the way it works on the streets is as follows. If you are a rabbi and there are a group of boys or girls you want to talk to, there will always be one person who will try to knock you down. If that one kid wins that initial debate, then all the kids will walk away from you as if you have just lost. If you win the argument, however, you will have earned their respect and they will curiously lean over and say, “Rabbi, we like you; what do you have to say?”

Of these three girls, one of them was a fourteen-year-old named Abbey. As I introduced myself, she immediately jumped off the couch and walked up to me. She was pierced with earrings all over her face. Her eyebrows, her nose and her tongue to name a few. She had so much metal on her face that I am lucky I didn’t walk inside with a magnet. I would never have gotten out of there. We would have been stuck together for life.

I had never seen anything like this before. She boldly approached me, and I could tell she was fuming with anger. Before I could say anything, she began to furiously yell, “You know what Rabbi?” And then I began to hear words I could not believe I was hearing. Expletives were being uttered every other word. Nobody in my life had ever talked to me that way. She was putting me down, Judaism down and G-d with the most debased of words. I felt like saying, “Okay, thank you very much; be well,” and walking out the door. I was so beyond myself. I had never heard such words.

As I remained sitting there, I thought to myself, “Hashem, a telegram right now would be a big help. I don’t know what to say.” Baruch Hashem, Hashem put the right words in my mouth. “Abbey,” I said, “you are really special.” As I said that, she started again with the curse words. “No, no, no,” I tried to assure her, “I really mean it. You see, Abbey, I came here tonight to sit with you for an hour and prove that there is a G-d. But you already believe in G-d. You cursed Him. You didn’t say ‘Curse the Martians.’ You may not like G-d and you are angry at Him, but you know He exists. You have an emotional feeing that He is in charge of the world. Abbey, do you know how much time I spend with kids on the streets trying to prove G-d to them? You already believe in Hashem! You are far more advanced than all these kids. You’re amazing!”

I could tell that all the girls on the couch were thinking to themselves, “We like this Rabbi.” Abbey then stared at me. I knew that this was the moment. If she would say, “No, you’re wrong; I disagree with you;” then everyone would walk away. I would lose the battle. If, on the other hand, she would give in, then I would stand a fighting chance to get in another word.
She said, “You’re cool.”

I stayed at Judah’s Place until 4am. As I was finally readying to leave and closing the door, Abbey turned to me and said, “Rabbi Wallerstein, can I ask you something?” “Sure,” I said. “Can I be your chavrusa? Can we learn together?” I smiled as I said that at the moment I didn’t have any chavrusas. And with that, I gently closed the door.

Abbey became part of my family. She used to stay at my home quite often. But there was one thing which really, really bothered me: her tongue ring. Every time she talked, you could see it moving up and down. Whenever Abbey would eat soup, my daughters would lean over in their chairs trying to look into her mouth. It wasn’t the greatest education. So I told her, “Listen, Abbey, give me the tongue ring. You are learning and growing in Judaism. Give it up.” But she wouldn’t budge. “Rabbi,” she said, “the tongue ring is my identity. It makes me different. You will never get my tongue ring.” While I felt bad that she was so emotionally attached to a little tongue ring, I didn’t push her.

A couple weeks later I asked again. And again she responded in the negative. She was in no way going to part from her beloved tongue ring. I then tried making an offer I thought she wouldn’t refuse. She had no money as she was basically living on the streets. “Abbey,” I said, “here is five-hundred dollars; give me the ring.” But it still didn’t work as she reminded me, “Rabbi Wallerstein, you don’t understand. If I give it up, I don’t exist. It defines who I am.”

It was Simchas Torah night. She had been staying at my home throughout Sukkos, and now we were on our way home from shul standing at the corner of Avenue K and East 22nd Street. I was reminding myself how I had heard the story of someone involved with baalei teshuva in Israel. He was working with children from all sorts of backgrounds, including those who had earrings and all other piercings. He had taken all the metal of the earrings and adorned the paroches (curtain) in front of the Sefer Torah with them. Thinking of this idea, it suddenly hit me. “Abbey, I’ll make you a deal.” “What is it?” she asked. “If you give me your tongue ring, I will put it in my Tallis bag. I will put it in my Tallis bag and look at it every day. I will see that little ring and remember you for the rest of my life.”

Looking back at me, Abbey puzzlingly wondered, “You’re going to put my tongue ring in your Tallis bag?” “That’s right,” I assured her. “People are going to be asking questions, but that’s what I’m going to do.”

My plan worked. “Close your eyes,” Abbey said, “and put your hand out.” Right there on the corner, she removed her tongue ring and dropped it into my hand. I felt like saying ‘Uuh!’ and shaking my hand clean, but this ring was the most precious thing of all.

And now in my Tallis bag, there is not just one tongue ring – there are many. There are many Abbeys today.

Years later, my wife and I took a trip to Israel. It was Erev Shabbos, the day before Lag Ba’Omer. As we were walking up a hill, all of a sudden, I heard a familiar voice. “Rebbe?” Turning around, I couldn’t believe what I saw. It was Abbey. There she was with her hair covered so much that her eyebrows couldn’t be seen. And standing next to her was her husband, along with their beautiful chassidish children. “Abbey,” I said, “is that you?” “No, it’s Avigail.” I hadn’t seen her in years. “Where are you living now?” “We live in the West Bank on a Moshav. And Rebbe, you are not going to believe it!” “Yeah, tell me,” I eagerly said. “I’m a Morah who teaches third-grade!”

As I continued to stand there amazed, she all of a sudden began to raise her voice and say, “Rebbe, what’s wrong with you?” I thought that perhaps she was reverting to her old self. “No, no, no, here we go again,” I thought to myself. I began to look for a ring hidden somewhere on her face, but I couldn’t see anything. “Rebbe,” she said, “I don’t understand why you don’t live in Israel! Don’t you know that every step you take in Israel is a mitzvah!”

For Abbey, that same fire which once burned with hatred against Hashem was now full of love for Hashem. And what began that change for Abbey? A second look at her. The first look revealed a girl full of piercings and tattoos. “This kid is too far to ever change,” you would tell yourself. But look again. Look deeper and see what lies beneath.

Now what do you see? A beautiful neshama with unlimited potential. From Abbey to Avigail, from hatred of Hashem to love of Hashem, from a tongue ring to a Jewish wedding ring and beautiful children, a neshama reconnected to its Creator. Those same emotions of repulsion towards Hashem and Judaism became feelings of supreme yearning for holiness and connection with Torah. Abbey is no longer Abbey; she is now Avigail, a wonderful teacher educating Jewish children and changing lives.

With the first look, you see angels standing on top of you, piercings and tattoos, and a paper cup. With the second look, you see angels at a distance, a beautiful neshama burning to come close to Hashem, and a hand connected to the cup.
Ask yourself, “Do I want to help Klal Yisrael or do I need to help Klal Yisrael?” The answer to that question lies in the answer to the question, “Will I look once or twice?”

Just One

Now you may become exasperated and say, “Well maybe I can help one person, but not the entire Klal Yisrael…” If you ever wonder that, remind yourself of the man who once walked along the beach. Looking down, he noticed that a tide had washed up tons of starfish on the sand. Picking up one starfish, he threw it back into the ocean. He then picked up another starfish and tossed it back as well. One after another after another, the man slowly returned the starfish to the water. “You are a fool!” yelled an onlooker, “there are so many starfish here. You will never save all of them! What difference does it make!” Turning aside to the gentleman, he picked up another starfish and tossed it into the water. “To that one it made a difference,” he said.

Just help one person. One person. Don’t minimize the impact you can have. One person is equal to an entire world.

Let me tell you another story.

Four years after opening Ohr Naava, I began looking into opening a high school for girls. And in fact, we went on to create Bnot Chaya Academy. It was hoped that such an environment for girls who had undergone difficult times in their youth would enable them to thrive spiritually, emotionally and physically.

The first year the school opened, I partnered with the Jewish Board of Child’s Services located on Coney Island Avenue in New York. Being granted a free floor in their building and ensured that they would provide free therapists, I was quite thrilled to know that we would have a building to place the students and run the school. However, there was one very significant catch. They only permitted there to be fifteen students in the school.

As we went about interviewing various girls and seeing who would best fit the school, we eventually enrolled fourteen girls. With just one spot remaining, the principal, Rabbi Ezra Max and myself decided that we would go about selecting the last girl who would be admitted into the school. And so, we set a date for three girls to come for interviews.

When the day we scheduled to meet the girls arrived, we all sat together in an office, waiting for the first girl to walk in. Her name was Faiga. As she entered inside together with her parents, we were all surprised by what we saw. Quite surprised. She pretty much wobbled in, took a seat and her head hit the desk. She was out cold. She had just spent three days in the mountains with a bunch of kids partying and was, as it seemed to be, incoherent. Knowing that we couldn’t run an interview with Faiga’s head on the table, I turned to her parents and said, “Would you be able to wake your daughter up? This is an interview for high school.” Shaking Faiga, after a few moments, she came to her senses.

“Faiga!” I called out, “why do you want to come to my school?” Looking back at me with starry eyes, she said, “Uh? I don’t know…” And then there was a boom. Her head hit the table again. She was not with it. At all. Under these circumstances, I knew that we could not accept her. Looking at Rabbi Ezra Max, I tried getting across that by judging the way she was now, there was no way we could let her into the school.

I wanted to be polite and not immediately dismiss Faiga from the interview, so I continued asking her parents some very basic questions. After we finished speaking, I told them that we would get back to them soon with our decision. I knew that there were another two girls waiting, and I assumed that they would be better candidates.

The parents then stood up and literally picked Faiga up from her chair. Helping her towards the door, I remained silent. And then I very nonchalantly asked them one last question. “By the way, how are your other kids doing?” Although we ideally wished to accept Faiga, she didn’t seem to be doing too well at the moment. As soon as I said that, Faige’s father, a tall, respectable man, turned around and said, “Rabbi Wallerstein, Faiga is our only child. We had her late in life. She is all that we have.”

As he said those words, I sunk into my chair.

And then, without a second thought, I said to Faiga’s parents, “You don’t have to wait until tomorrow. She is accepted right now.”

While my quick decision may have come as a shock, I was not in any way doubtful that this was the right move. I then realized quite clearly what it means to take a second look at someone. The first look at Faiga showed someone who would not get too far in life. “What did I need her for?” I thought. But the second look yielded a completely different picture. She was an only child, and she represented the future of her family. If she didn’t make it, who would? I then knew that we had to take her. We would work with her, and she would become not only a source of nachas (pride) to herself, but to her parents and family as well.

Looking back at her parents once again, I said, “Just try to clean Faiga up. Let her sleep for two weeks and then be ready for when school starts.” As Faiga’s parents genuinely thanked me, I knew I had made the right decision. And let me tell you, today, Faiga is one of the funniest kids I have ever met. With a pleasant and vibrant personality, she is healthy, growing and thriving.

One girl. Two looks. Generations saved.

Scenarios similar to this come up every day. Your child comes home with a 50% on their test. How should you react? What is the first look? You may think to yourself, “What happened? Why did you get half the questions wrong?”

Now take a second look. “You got 50% right! Let’s look at the ones you got right. Question #3 was much more difficult than Question #2. Great job!” Look at what is done right and acknowledge what the child does have, not what they don’t have.

Ultimately, developing this outlook and perspective in life will come down to you. It is up to each and every one us to decide if we want or if we need, to look once or to look twice. All the external inspiration will only go so far. If you are looking to make a real change in your life and in the lives of others, the only one who will accomplish that is you yourself.

Let me explain what this means.

After Yehuda, a dear student of mine, lost his father, I began stepping in to mentor and guide him. After helping him along, he eventually went on to attend law school and become a teacher. Some time during his schooling, I remember him coming over to me and saying, “Rabbi, the best lesson I ever learned in law school was a class called, ‘Coach your Client.’” “Tell me about it,” I said. And so, Yehuda went on to tell me the following story he heard from his professor:

When a well-to-do politician was charged with first-degree murder, he without delay hired a top-notch defending lawyer. This lawyer was known to have never lost a case, and his retainer fee was triple digits. The prosecuting lawyer, on the other hand, was a young boy just out of school. Functioning as the ADA (Assistant District Attorney) and matched against this other seasoned defending lawyer, everyone expected the case to come to a close quite quickly.

Yet for a few days, the prosecuting lawyer was doing unexpectedly well. Presenting cogent arguments, it was rather surprising to see the defending lawyer simply sitting back in his chair and saying nothing. Unsure why no defense was being taken on behalf of the accused, the media was under the impression that the defense lawyer was having a nervous breakdown. Something was certainly amiss.

A few days into the proceedings, the judge finally called for summation. By then, the prosecuting lawyer had lodged a significant number of compelling arguments with the defending lawyer saying nothing. But then the defending lawyer got up.

“You are all probably under the impression that something has gone wrong with me over the past couple of days. The truth, though, is that I was not worried at all. I didn’t want to waste your time or my time. Just the other day, I spoke to the girl who was supposedly murdered by this man sitting in front of you. She told me that she is currently in Mexico, and after telling her the details of this case, she agreed to walk into this court room. Today, on Friday, between 3 o’clock and 4 o’clock, you will see her walk through that door.”

Taking the audience and media by surprise, the tables seemed to have turn. It was in fact the defending lawyer who had the upper hand all along. All that now awaited was the clock striking 3.

3 o’clock. The court room settled down and silence filled the room. 3:05, 3:15, no sight of anyone yet. At 3:30, the door opened. Everyone jumped as their heads turned towards the door. But it wasn’t the victim. It was a court reporter. 3:30 rolled around, 3:45. 4:00. No sight of anyone.

“Sir,” said the judge to the defending lawyer, “what do you have to say now? Where is she?” And then the defending lawyer stood up. “Your honor,” began the lawyer, “let me ask you and the jurors something. In American law, is it not true that in order to find someone guilty, you must have proof beyond a reasonable doubt? Now, is it not true that between the hours of 3 and 4, everyone in this court room was looking at that door and expecting that the girl would enter? And is it not true that at 3:30, when those doors opened, you all picked up your heads and thought she was there? That being so, I do not believe there to be evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that my client is guilty. I rest my case for his innocence.”

Brilliant. Now the media was in an upheaval. Turning the case on its head, the judge could not disagree with the argument. All he could do was tell the jurors to deliberate and reach a conclusion. And sure enough, not too long thereafter, they returned with their decision.

“Your honor,” one of the jurors said, “we find the accused guilty of first-degree murder.”

Pandemonium broke out in the court room. Shocked by the verdict reached, the judge asked for an explanation. “Your honor,” said one of the jurors, “let me tell you something. It is true that everyone in this court room believed that the girl would walk through that door. And it is also true that at 3:30, when the door opened, everyone in here jumped up and thought she had arrived. However, I was looking at the accused for that entire hour. And not once, did he pick his head up and look at that door. And that is because he knew that he murdered the girl.”

Case closed.

And with that, the defending lawyer got up and walked over to his client. “You fool! I had everything in place for you. All you needed to do is just once look at that door!”

“And then the professor of my class,” Yehuda concluded telling me, “finished his lesson. In front of all of us young, aspiring lawyers, he said, ‘Let me tell you the most important principle in law. You can be the most brilliant lawyer and have everything ingeniously worked out, but if you do not coach your client, you will not win the case.’”

As Yehuda finished telling me this lesson, I said to him, “Yehuda, that’s a big story. Not only for law, but for life.”

All too often, we are inspired for a short while, and then the inspiration disappears. We attend a convention or a lecture, and we hear all about how we can change our lives and improve. We hear motivational words from the best lawyers, the best rabbis and the best speakers. But then, we walk out of the room and return home. And then we wonder, what happened? Where did the inspiration go?

The answer is found in this story. If we do not wish to turn around and look at the door, we will end up losing the case. More than anyone else, the one who will change our lives the most is none other than ourselves. Speakers “coach the client,” but it is up to each of us to take charge of own lives and make that change. Our job is to take their words of inspiration and make them words of reality.

So now ask yourself deeply and sincerely: do you want to help Klal Yisrael or do you need to help Klal Yisrael?

Take a second look at this question and think about it for a moment. And then hopefully, the answer will be clear.

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