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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Chukat-Balak

Parshat Chukat-Balak

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Chukat-Balak
12th of Tammuz, 5780 | July 4, 2020

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Paysach Krohn
Enjoy Your Shabbat

It was Friday, January 21, 2018 and the weather was as stormy as could be in Ramat HaSharon, a coastal town near Tel Aviv. As the clock ticked and there remained just hours until Shabbos, dozens of men, women and children circulated around the Yohananoff supermarket located at Haroshet St 18. But then, suddenly, what any supermarket manager never wishes to happen, in fact did. Thunder and lightning pierced the skies, and the lights went out. Customers stood still, wondering if this was just a temporary issue that would be resolved quickly or last some time.

Knowing that this could happen, the supermarket was equipped with generators, which kicked in, and did their job of ensuring that no food would spoil. But what the generators did not turn back on were the electronic cash registers.

Tzvi Abraham, manager of Yohananoff supermarket, had one of two ideas. He could either ask everyone to wait until the electricity would turn back on, and everyone could then pay at the cash registers. Alternatively, he could send everyone out and ask them to shop someplace else.

But it was getting late and Shabbos was just a few hours away. After consulting with his boss, Tzvi Abraham had a brilliant idea. Without any loudspeaker, he began announcing aloud, “I just spoke to my boss. It is now late Friday afternoon, and everyone should take their food home. Just write down what you took and go home, and you can return on Sunday and pay for what you took. Enjoy your Shabbat! We do not know when the electricity will turn back on and we don’t know if you will be able to make it to other stores, given the weather. Just take your food and go home and enjoy Shabbat.”

Nobody could believe it, though everyone began writing down what they had in their carts, with some people leaving their name and number near the cash registers. Tzvi Abraham insisted that everyone follow this protocol and not feel bad taking food now and only returning later to pay their dues.

That Sunday, 70% of the people returned to pay what they had taken, and by the following Friday, 100% had returned to pay.
Care, concern and connection. That’s what it’s all about.

Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser
Never Give Up on a Soul

Years ago, a Jew by the name of Rav Tzadok lived in Europe and made a living as a wagon driver. Known to be a supremely pious Jew, he would mouth words of prayer and Tehillim all day long. Despite his long days of work and driving near and far, he never wavered in his commitment to Yiddishkeit.

Yet, as Rav Tzadok grew older, he began to feel a deep-seated sense of sorrow in his life over one particular aspect that he wished he could do more for: his son. His only son was irreligious and had done away completely with a life of Torah.

With Rav Tzadok’s own, personal dedication to Torah so important, he wondered what he could do to encourage his son to find such fulfillment in his life as well. But Rav Tzadok knew that it would not be simple to do so, as his son in no which way embraced his heritage and ancestry of illustrious Torah Jews.

But as Rav Tzadok’s final days of life neared, he penned a will, and included within it a special request that his son recite the traditional Kaddish prayer after his passing. Nothing more was asked of the son but to say Kaddish in merit of his father’s soul.

Truth be told, after Rav Tzadok passed on, his son began to ruminate over his father’s lifetime. While the son was certainly not following in his father’s ways, and that was not going to change, at the very least, he could pay honorary dues by fulfilling his departing wish. That was the one request he could actually commit to. After all, Rav Tzadok had been a loving and supportive father.

And so, the next day, off went the son to the local shul in earnest intent to recite Kaddish. But he didn’t get too far, as the shul members recognized him immediately and threw him out. “What are you doing here?” they berated him. “You don’t belong here! You are going to defile us! You are going to make us impure!” Without any other choice, the son ashamedly walked out. But he wasn’t ready to give up so easily. Off he went to another shul. But the same scene repeated itself. “Get out of here! You’re not staying here!” they yelled. But that’s not all. This shaming scene unfolded even a third time.

But, despite not being interested in Judaism, the son was not a quitter. He wouldn’t let go of what he said he would do. If he had made a commitment, he would do absolutely everything possible to complete it.

He entered into yet another shul, that of Chassidic Breslov Jews. They welcomed him in, and accepted him non-judgmentally and respectfully. For the next six months, all he did was recite Kaddish. No Shema, no Shemonah Esrei, no Tefillin. Just Kaddish.

One day, a fellow by the name of Rav Yankel approached the son. With love and care, he asked if he would like to put on Tefillin. Rav Yankel’s gentle words, warmth and authenticity were evident, and the son complied.

It wasn’t long before one mitzvah led to another. The son continued putting on Tefillin, reciting Shema and Shemonah Esrei and learning. However, there came a time not too long thereafter, that the government issued a mandate, resulting in all the mikvaos in town forcibly being closed. The foundation of the Jewish home, that of taharas hamishpacha (Family Purity), was put into jeopardy.

With this occurring, Rav Levi Yitzchak Bender approached the son of Rav Tzadok. “You are a gifted man,” he told the son. “You have talented hands. We are in dire need of a mikvah to serve our community. If you could commit to building a secret mikvah that would not be known to anyone but those members of our community, it would be an unbelievable blessing, and Family Purity could continue in our region.”

The son of Rav Tzadok, with his artistic hands and masterful mind, built a mikvah and covered it over so well that a horse and wagon could drive over it, and no one would have known that a mikvah was underneath. To the son’s credit, the practice of taharas hamishpacha resumed in the region. Even the day that the government caught wind that there was a mikvah in the Jewish community, and sent out officials to look throughout the city, they found nothing. Rav Tzadok’s son had done such a brilliant job camouflaging it that they walked right over it and never discovered anything.

This son, the one who was told these very words, “You are going to defile us! You are going to make us impure!” was the very individual who brought purity and holiness to the entire community.

Each and every one of us possess the incredible potential and power to purify, uplift and inspire ourselves and those around. We are capable of igniting ourselves, and with that, diffusing light to others. That fire and passion can become so great that we spread it to others and touch their lives in the most profound of ways. Never, ever give up on a Jewish soul, because you never know where it may go.

Rabbi Gavriel Friedman
Check Your Calendar

Jonathan had grown up in a home that was Jewish, but only minimally connected to any form of religious observance. As Jonathan neared his thirteenth birthday, however, he approached his father and asked if he could have a bar mitzvah. His father, not knowing much about what was entailed in a bar mitzvah, assumed that his son was asking to have some friends get together and have a party. But Jonathan had other aspirations in mind. He wanted to read from the Torah in shul, put on Tefillin and become a fully engaged religious Jew.

A local rabbi was contacted, and Jonathan began to study his bar mitzvah Parsha weekly. As time went on, the rabbi began to feel a nagging question. And so, one day, after learning, he turned to Jonathan and said, “Jonathan, let me ask you something. Why in fact do you really want a bar mitzvah?”
Jonathan, an incisive, young boy, replied with the following.
“Let me tell you a story. I have a sister, and like all good siblings, I love her, but I’ve always wanted a brother. So some time ago, I turned to G-d and said, ‘If You give me a brother, I’ll be yours. I’ll go to synagogue and follow the commandments. I’m all yours; just please give me a brother.

“But I began to wonder, how would I know it came from G-d? So I added the following stipulation with G-d. My baby brother would have to be born on my birthday. If that would happen, I would commit to a religious life.”

“What happened?” the rabbi asked, intrigued by Jonathan’s story.

One year later, my mother gave birth to a baby boy. Five days before my birthday. I said, “You know what G-d? That’s close enough. I’m in!” The rabbi could not believe it. An eleven-year-old making deals with G-d, and it didn’t even come true, and here he was still with it.

The rabbi went home, and returned to Jonathan a few days later. “I want to tell you something,” he said to Jonathan, “I checked the calendar, and your brother was born on your Hebrew birthday.”

This little boy was none other than Rabbi Jonathan Rietti, a renowned Jewish speaker of today.

What do we learn from this story?

Sometimes we pray for something, and we get it; and sometimes we pray for something, and we think that we’re not getting it. But maybe, the truth is, we’re just looking at the wrong calendar…

Rabbi YY Jacobson
Your Last Words

Since 1979, Benjamin Zander, originally from Buckinghamshire, England, has been the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic. As a world-renowned composer of Classical music and speaker on leadership, he has used music to inspire others and add a touch of joy and harmony to thousands of people’s lives. In his June 2008 TED Talk, he relayed the following incisive and enlightening thoughts:

“Now, I had an amazing experience. I was 45 years old, I'd been conducting for 20 years, and I suddenly had a realization. The conductor of an orchestra doesn't make a sound. My picture appears on the front of a CD, but the conductor doesn't make a sound. He depends, for his power, on his ability to make other people powerful. And that changed everything for me. It was totally life-changing. People in my orchestra said, "Ben, what happened?" That's what happened. I realized my job was to awaken possibility in other people. And of course, I wanted to know whether I was doing that. How do you find out?

“You look at their eyes. If their eyes are shining, you know you're doing it. If their eyes are not shining, you get to ask a question. And this is the question: who am I being that my players' eyes are not shining? We can do that with our children, too. Who am I being, that my children's eyes are not shining? That's a totally different world.

“And you know, I have a definition of success. For me, it's very simple. It's not about wealth and fame and power. It's about how many shining eyes I have around me.”

But Benjamin Zadner had one more idea to share:

“So now, I have one last thought, which is that it really makes a difference what we say – the words that come out of our mouth. I learned this from a woman who survived Auschwitz, one of the rare survivors. She went to Auschwitz when she was 15 years old. Her brother was eight, and the parents were lost. ‘We were in the train going to Auschwitz,’ she related, ‘and I looked down and saw my brother's shoes were missing. I said, 'Why are you so foolish? Can't you keep your things together for goodness' sake!'” It was the way an elder sister might speak to a younger brother. Unfortunately, it was the last thing she ever said to him, because she never saw him again. He did not survive.

When she came out of Auschwitz, she made a vow. She told me this. She said, "I walked out of Auschwitz into life and I made a vow. And the vow was, ‘I will never say anything that couldn't stand as the last thing I ever say.’" Now, can we do that? No. And we'll make ourselves wrong and others wrong. But it is a possibility to live into.”

Powerful words that ought to ring and resonate in our ears. “I will never say anything that couldn’t stand as the last thing I ever say.”

How different would our interactions and conversations be if they all were measured by this meter? How many people do we meet all so casually, at the store, on the street, or on our way to and from school that we may never see again in our lives? And what if just at that moment, we have the choice to say something that will indeed be our last word to them? What would it be?

With our children as well, when we arrive home and meet a house of disarray and we are in dismay, what if those words we utter then would be our last to them? How would we react? That is the question of all questions.

More than anything, it is our silence and other times our carefully chosen words which can awaken possibility and potential in other people and allow their eyes to shine brighter than ever. The baton is in our hands.

Rabbi Ephraim Wachsman
Your Sweet Accompanying Music

The son of the Chofetz Chaim writes of an incident which occurred in Radin, at which the music band for a wedding was unable to make it. With no other option, the young men in the area gathered together some pots, pans and blocks and began banging away. The music was certainly not up to par of what would have been, but the men did as best as they could.

Watching the music procession from a distance was the Chofetz Chaim, who called over his son and asked, “What’s missing? Why doesn’t everyone look happy at the wedding? It’s a beautiful simcha; what’s wrong? Because there is no music, and if there’s no music, the ambiance of joy and celebration is not felt as much. Of course, the main simcha is that of the chosson and kallah, but the music is an essential component needed to uplift everyone’s spirits.”

The Chofetz Chaim then continued, elaborating on the above idea. “In the World to Come, a person can have accomplished a lifetime’s worth of Torah study and good deeds, but it is the challenges and difficulties which he experienced that add sweet music to his portfolio. Those valleys in a person’s life sweeten the judgement and amplify Hashem’s compassion on Him.”

Were you to observe a band setting up their musical instruments and equipment before a wedding, you would notice tiring hauling back and forth and carrying all sorts of appliances. As they then start tuning up, and each instrument sounds different, it seems like chaos. But, underlying all this preparing, you realize that there will be beautiful music soon enough. A person’s difficult situation is preparation for the music that will be played in his World to Come.

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