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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Behar-Bechukotai

Parshat Behar-Bechukotai

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Behar-Becukotai
22nd of Iyar, 5780 | May 16, 2020

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Dr. Jack Cohen
Taking Care of You

It was the auspicious day of the yaartzeit of Rachel Imeinu, and three young married men studying in Israel stood on the lookout to flag down a car, attempting to catch a ride to Kever Rachel. Eventually, they succeeded in doing so, and took a seat in the back. Beginning to speak in their native Yiddish, they soon realized that the driver and individual sitting in the front seat were strictly Hebrews speakers, and so out of courtesy, they changed to speak into Hebrew.

Given the circumstances of these young men, the conversation turned into a discussion about the financial hardships they were each experiencing, which for one of them, centered around his worries about how he and his wife would ever find a comfortable apartment to settle in. Yet their words did not fall on deaf ears. Withing seconds, the passenger in the front swiveled around and said, “Would you like to hear my story?”

“I grew up in Jerusalem, and my father worked for the Israeli Broadcasting Authority, which was Israel’s public broadcasting station at the time. He made a nice living, though my family needed more in order for all of us to be comfortable. As such, my father decided to take on a second job as a head waiter in a wedding hall. Given his responsibilities, one of the special tasks he oversaw was bringing out the cake to be served before the bride and groom. But these were not just simple cakes with candles. He used to place special wedding sparklers atop the cake.

Now, not every time would the sparklers catch right away. In the event that it didn’t, a small amount of fuel lighter would be used to help the sparkler lighten up, which usually did the job.

One night, as you might be imagining what would happen next, the fire was a bit too strong, and the entire cake caught fire. But that wasn’t the worst. Kids were standing, running and dancing all over the place, and before a young girl knew it, she got too close to the fire, and she caught fire. Everyone froze and panicked.

The photographer, composing himself, grabbed a tablecloth and began wrapping her and rolling her on the floor. Thank G-d, he was able to douse the flames and save her life. But it wasn’t before she was left with third degree burns all over her body. My father, although known to be a strong man, couldn’t contain himself. He broke down crying, unable to take in the reality of what had happened under his supervision.

The young girl was rushed to the hospital, where she was admitted and assisted by doctors. My father followed behind to the hospital, pleading with the parents of the girl for forgiveness for what he had down. They expressed that he was simply doing his job, and it certainly had not been his fault, for which he should feel guilty about.

While there was a push to sue the wedding hall, which eventually went through, the parents of the girl insisted that my father’s name be taken off the lawsuit, as they did not deem it to be his fault. The girl was thereafter flown to Paris, where she was placed in a special burn unit, from which she went on to eventually recuperate.

My father proceeded to become a baal teshuva as a result of this incident, although the rest of us, including my mother and siblings, remained irreligious. We had been secular Jews until that point, and while this incident shook my father and prompted him to become more observant, the rest of my family remained as we had.

Years later, after I completed my service in the army, I began looking for a job. I eventually found one, working under a man named Uzi who owned a large chain of candy stores in Israel. He placed me in charge of running one of his stores.

One day, Uzi came over to me and said, “You know, I have a cashier at one of my stores. She is a nice, girl, and irreligious like you. Why don’t you go out with her?” But I didn’t understand. I knew who he was talking about, but she was always dressed very modestly. Why would she dress like that and yet be irreligious? But I decided to give it a chance.

Approaching her, I asked if she would like to go out. And indeed, that is what we did, and I took a liking to her. Time went on, and things between us continued to go very well. All the while, however, I was curious as to the incongruence between the way she dressed and her way of life. And so, I gently posed the question to her.

“I have to explain something to you,” she said. “When I was a young girl, I suffered third-degree burns all over my body… It happened years ago when I was twelve years old…” As soon as I heard those words, I turned white. I knew what her next words were going to be, and I couldn’t believe it. “It happened at the wedding hall…”

“I have to tell you,” I went on, “although I don’t know if you’ll ever speak to me again. My father was the head waiter who lit that cake.” The girl was in shock. But she had something else to tell me other than she never wanted to see me again. “If that’s what Hashem wanted to happen, and Hashem brought us together, then it must be all from Him.”

Both she and I returned to our parents that evening and relayed the information. We eventually became more religious and got married. But the story doesn’t end there.

After our wedding, we moved into my wife’s parents’ home for a year. After that year, we both wished to find a place of our own, but we knew it would be a financial strain if we would do so. But little did we know that our future had been taken care of for us, many years before…

When the wedding hall was sued for what had happened, my wife’s parents received two-and-a-half million shekels, and purchased a 5-bedroom apartment in Modi’in, which was set aside to eventually be given to my wife and her husband. And now that time had come. For many years, it had been rented it to a doctor, who had been paying monthly ever since.

A couple days later, we contacted the doctor, and as it happened, he had just recently found himself another apartment, leaving it available to both of us.

“So let me tell you something,” said the front passenger to the three young men in the backseat. “Hashem runs the world… You do your part, and Hashem will take care of you. Just wait and see…”

Rabbi Yaakov Mizrahi
Priceless Reward

The Mishnah (Avos 1:3), states, “Antignos Ish Soco received from Shimon HaTzaddik: He used to say, ‘Do not be like those servants who serve their master in order to receive reward; rather be like those servants who serve their master not to receive reward.’”

At our optimal level, our service of Hashem is meant to be done l’shem shamayim, for the Sake of Heaven, and not for any ulterior motives. There were, in the history of the Jews, however, two students who misconstrued this message, making it out to mean that no reward exists at all for what we do. They used this argument to discount the notion of reward and punishment and deny the existence of the World to Come, wherein we are rewarded for all that we have done during our lifetimes. These two students became the forerunners for the two cults of the Baitosim and Tzedukim.

While our intent as we perform mitzvos is not to be for the reward, we can never lose sight of the incredible reward that is awaiting. Hashem will pay us back, and when He does so, it is done in such gracious measures. We cannot imagine how much Hashem will repay for every single, small action that we did in this world. One second in this world is eternity in the World to Come. It is priceless.

I remember hearing from Rabbi Eli Mansour that it is impossible to receive reward in this world for any mitzvah we do. We may receive the reward for the dividends or fruit of our actions, or the peirot. But the principal of our mitzvot, the keren, that cannot be repaid to us in this world. Were we to take all the money which every individual has in every bank across the globe, it would still not be enough money to repay us for one mitzvah which we did. That is how valuable a mitzvah is.

My daughter was once wearing a buttoned shirt on Shabbat, which got caught by the back of her hair and remained tangled. I tried getting her hair out from the button which it had gotten twisted in, but it was to no avail. We weren’t able to cut it either, as it was Shabbat. There thus wasn’t much else to do except for her to wear it or hope that it would somehow come undone by itself.

With little option, my daughter decided to sleep with her shirt on. The next day, sticking out and above her dress was the shirt still tied to her hair. You could tell that it was pulling slightly on her hair. I asked if she was alright, and she was as happy as she could be and beaming with a smile. “It’s a little heavy on my hair, but it’s okay.”

I told her, “It so beautiful what you are doing. You have no idea how precious and dear your keeping of Shabbat under these circumstances is to Hashem. Chazal tell us that ‘L’fum tza’ara agra – According to the pain is the reward.’ But in your case, we could as a pun, say, ‘L’fum “sa’ara” agra – According to the hair is the reward.’ She appreciated hearing this and remained positive and happy.”

We have no idea how much Hashem pays us back for the mitzvos we do in this world…

Rabbi Aharon Walkin zt”l
I Love You, You Love Me

Rav Chaim Volozhin, in his commentary Ruach Chaim to Pirkei Avos (6:1), explains the meaning of Torah Lishma, known to be the highest and purest form of learning Torah, as meaning that one is engaged in the study of Torah out of love for Torah.

Along these lines, the concluding words of several Gemaras are, “And all of your children, learned of [the Torah] of Hashem…” Simply speaking, this refers to the fact that all of our children should be those who learn Torah. However, I once heard a Chassidish explanation, which takes these words to mean, “And like all of your children… should be your learning of the Torah of Hashem.” Just as you feel for all of your children unlimited love, so should you feel unlimited love for the words of Hashem, for the words of Torah.

In one of my grandfather’s introduction to his seforim, Beis Aharon, he writes words which stands out. He, so to speaks, talks to his sefer and writes, “My daughter, until now you were home and you were with me. Now you are to be published and given over into the world… I don’t know if everyone will treat you the way I treat you with so much love… There will be some people will love you as they look for the truth in their learning and you will be of tremendous value…” Several gedolim commented that from these introductory words, you can see the unbelievable love for Torah the Beis Aharon had. He spoke to his sefer as if it were his child, as if it were his daughter. “And like all of your children… should be your love of learning the Torah of Hashem.”

The great Rav Baruch Ber Leibowitz zt”l was known to never hold a Gemara clutched at his side and carry it as such. He rather held it tightly, wrapped around by his arms and held close to his heart. Remarking as to why he did this, he said, “The way you carry a child is the way you carry your Gemara.” Certainly, no one would carry his or her child at their side. You carry the child close to your heart. The same is to be true of our dear seforim.

Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank zt”l, the esteemed Rav of Yerushalayim, and his family were told during the 1948 war that they needed to leave their home and take refuge in bunkers. Given these conditions, it was unknown as to when they would return to their home. Now, what does a person do when he has to leave his home for a long period of time, especially if he is unsure if he will ever return and even if will, is still unsure if the house will remain standing?

Rav Tzvi Pesach went to his bookshelf, where all his seforim were situated, and gave each sefer a kiss and said, “I’m leaving, but I hope one day to come back… I hope one day to come back… I am going to miss you…” For Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank, his goodbye to his seforim was as if he was saying goodbye to a beloved child. “And like all of your children… should be your love of learning the Torah of Hashem.”

At the conclusion of a Mesechta (Tractate), as we make a Siyum, we tell the Mesechta, “We will return to you, and you will return to us; our mind is on you, and your mind is one us; we will not forget you, and you will not forget us.”
It is a real relationship. We love the Torah and the Torah loves us…

Mrs. Tzipi Caton
The Pretzel Vendor

The smell of freshly baked pretzels could be sensed quite a distance away, as one pretzel vendor stood still waiting for customers amid the cold winter day. One day, a man who had never before frequented the area approached the vendor. “Excuse me, how much is a pretzel?” “25 cents,” came the reply. And with that, the man took out a quarter and placed it down on the table.

Yet before the vendor could grab the steaming pretzel and hand it to the gentleman, he already began walking away. “Sir,” yelled the vendor, “you forgot your pretzel!” But the man kept on walking without missing a beat. “Sir, you forgot your pretzel!” No response. Not wishing to leave his pushcart unattended, the vendor had no choice other than to return the pretzel back to where it belonged and keep the change.

The following day, the same scene repeated itself. The gentleman came over, asked how much a pretzel cost, put down a quarter and walked away without taking anything. Day after day, the same thing happened. Eventually, the vendor stopped reminding the man how he forgot his pretzel.

A year later, the man still paid for the pretzel every day but never took it. Yet one day, as the same scene which had occurred so many times unfolded, the vendor chose to no longer remain silent. “Wait! Wait!” he yelled. But the man kept on walking. This time the vendor left his pushcart and began chasing the man block after block. Finally, he just barely grabbed a hold of the man. “What do you want?” asked the gentleman. “I don’t need your pretzel. It’s fine.” “That’s not why I’m here,” replied the vendor. “I came to tell you that the price went up. The pretzel is now 35 cents.”

This may sound humorous, but in truth, it reflects how we often live our lives. Many times, Hashem grants us the most wonderful, blessed life on a silver platter. Yet we take it for granted and move along without appreciating its gift and counting our blessings. And then the day comes when Hashem sends us a reminder and awakens us to just exactly what we have been receiving all along. He whispers to us, “Appreciate every moment of every day and use it wisely.” The last thing we want is a rude wake-up call that we have been ignoring the beautiful price of life and forgotten to thank and praise the One who grants us every breath we take. As in the analogy, we would be wise to never forget who the true vendor is and how much the pretzel costs.

A Short Message From
Rabbi Moshe Don Kestenbaum

Our Sages (Shabbos 127a) tell us that the mitzvah of learning Torah is k’neged kulam, equivalent to all the other mitzvos. Yet why in fact is this so? What is so special about the particular mitzvah of learning Torah that it trumps all others?

Imagine all the various elements to a wedding. There is a band, a caterer, a photographer, flowers and the chosson’s suit and kallah’s gown. These are all important parts of a wedding, which enhance and enliven the joy of this special day. Yet, what is the most important of everything? What makes the wedding a wedding? The chosson and kallah themselves.

The same is true with Torah. It is true that in the event no one else can perform a mitzvah at hand, one is required to pause their Torah study and engage in the mitzvah, yet the ultimate goal of all the chesed and other mitzvos we perform is to further our ability to grow closer to Hashem, which is most primarily done when learning His Torah. Learning Torah is akin to the chosson and kallah themselves, without whom no wedding can take place. The other amenities are most certainly needed at the wedding, but what actually makes the wedding are those two people. The Torah, in relation to other mitzvos, is the same.

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