Skip to content


TorahAnytimes Newsletter Devarim

Parshat Devarim

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Devarim
4th of Av, 5780 | July 25, 2020

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Yoel Gold
Co-Authoring the Story

Sometimes, I have been asked, “What makes a good story?” I tell them that I have learned that a good story consists of two parts. One part is written by Hashem. That is the part that everybody is given. Globally, we have the fate of us as humans, and individually, we have our own unique circumstances. These are all pre-written by Hashem. Some people are born into a divorced home, and some are born with an illness. Everybody has their own challenges. But that is only one part of the story.

The other part is what we write. That consists of our responses, our reactions, our decisions and our attitudes to those set of circumstances which Hashem has given us. When those responses are aligned with the values that Hashem has outlined for us in the Torah – that makes a good story. If we can respond in the ideal way, regardless of the circumstances, that is an incredible story.

Right now, we are in the middle of writing an incredible story. The Coronavirus. And the way we have responded to this crisis is incredible.

I received two pictures recently which illustrate this.

The Melitzer Rebbe of Monsey stands in a Cherry Picker, lifted up to the second floor, where he can be seen visiting a resident. For many weeks, the Rebbe could not enter into the facility, as he would regularly every Friday. He therefore decided to visit the resident in a cherry picker.

What a great way to respond. The Rebbe is standing in the box, but he certainly thought outside of the box.

I received another picture of a bag of Tefillin with a note on it. It was intended for one nine-year-old boy, Eliezer Lipa, who is in the ICU, and has cancer and the Coronavirus. His parents are going through great pain, physically and emotionally. Their strain and stress are noticeable.

One day, Eliezer Lipa’s father noticed a bag next to the door with a pair of Tefillin. A note was attached which read, “I bought this pair of Tefillin so that your son should get well and use it when he turns bar mitzvah in four years from now.” His parents don’t even dare to think about tomorrow, but somebody decided to do something about it, and give them hope.

What a beautiful story. The difficultly is from Hashem; how we respond is on us. We are co-authoring our lives with Hashem.
Imagine you are going out on a date, and after countless dates you remain unmarried. Finally, to the 101st person, you get married. Now a year later, you are celebrating your first anniversary, and you write in the card to your wife, “I dated 100 other people, and from all those people, I chose you.”
But is this really true? “You chose me?” thinks the wife. Everyone else said no. You had no choice.

In our prayers, we state that Hashem chose us from all the nations. But wait a moment. Hashem went to all the nations of the world and asked if they wanted to receive the Torah and they said no. How then was it Hashem’s choice to give us the Torah and choose us from among all the nations? There was no one else who wanted it. Hashem had no other choice.

The answer is one word: priming.

I can prime you to say yes or no to certain questions. Take a pen and paper when you can and write down the following: So__p.
What word am I thinking of? If you are thinking about the letter U, you would write Soup. If you are thinking about the letter A, you would write Soap.

What would determine what letter you would add?

If, say, you were eating soup recently, you may likely write soup. If you had to wash your hands recently, you would most likely reply soap. You can be primed to answer a certain way.
Hashem primed us to receive the Torah way before we said yes. He put us through an exile in Egypt, showed us the many plagues, brought us through the Splitting of the Sea, and led us to Har Sinai. We witnessed everything Hashem did. When we were asked, “Do you want to receive the Torah?” of course we answered yes. Hashem had primed us to say yes. Hashem gave us specific circumstances which led us to the obvious response that we want the Torah. Every other nation said no because they were not primed and prepared for it.

The point is that Hashem’s choice for us as a nation occurred long before He asked the other nations if they wanted to receive the Torah. It happened with Avraham Avinu willing to accept G-d and bequeathing to his children the heritage of Hashem. Our forefathers laid down the path, and Hashem chose us as the cherished, chosen nation that we are. The many miracles only reinforced His existence and our place in the world as His nation. He therefore did indeed “choose us” long before, from among the many other nations, and was not forced to do so out of no other choice because every other people rejected to accept the Torah.

A friend of mine, Rabbi Shlomo Farhi, once went around the streets of England and asked people randomly the same question, “How many Jews are in the world today?” The answers ranged from a billion to 5 billion. Astonishing.

In fact, there are currently 7.8 billion people in the world, and the random person thought that there are billions of Jews in the world.

We actually are close to 18 million, or 0.227% roughly. The nearest whole number is 0%. We are a minority. We are a minority, but we are chosen by Hashem.

We are living in historic times. We are from the minority who will greet Moshiach very soon, but we are chosen to be here right now. We ought to step up and be proud that Hashem has chosen us.

I always like mentioning that Moshiach can come now in our times even though he never came in previous, great generations for a very good reason.

I recall how last year I came home from shul and my six-year-old son grabbed me and said that he needed my help.
He pulled me into the playroom and showed me that he had built an entire tower made up magna-tiles. He said, “I can’t reach to the top; can you put the last piece on top of the tower?” I took the last piece and stepped onto the ladder and carefully placed it on top.

My son was so proud.

The Chofetz Chaim said that Moshiach will come in our generation not because of our greatness, but because that we are on top of the tower. We are the last and final generation, and we have the responsibility to stretch ourselves and put that last piece on top. We have that job, and as far I can see, we are passing this test. We continue to show how we go above and beyond to be the great Jewish nation that we are.

Rebbetzin Chaya Sora Gertzulin
Sarah’s Tent, Our Homes

Our father Avraham, and our mother Sarah, made their abode an “aishel” – a tent that was open to all travelers, an inviting home with food and lodging. Avraham and Sarah were able to feel the pain of the long-distance traveler, for they themselves followed Hashem’s commandment of “lech-lecha” – go for yourself. They left their familiar surroundings and traveled through the desert. They trekked across the hot desert sand, they experienced the need of a cool drink, and a place to rest their feet. They endured the discomfort of being in a strange land. Having lived through this experience, they decided to establish an “aishel” for wayfarers. “AiSheL” is an acronym for: A - Achila/food, S - Shetia/drink and L – Linah/lodging. One could say that Avraham and Sarah set up the original “B & B”.

In Sarah’s merit, three constant miracles occurred in the tent:

1. The Shabbos candles remained lit from one Shabbos to the next.
2. The challah never became stale, but remained fresh from week to week, even in the hot desert sun.
3. There was always a “cloud of Hashem’s glory” hovering over the tent.


What is the significance of these miracles, and how do we bring the wonders of Sarah’s tent into our homes?

The Candles

The candlelight that Sarah brought into her home tells us about her love for Shabbos, her intense spirituality, and her constant desire to bring light, warmth and inspiration to others. The Hebrew word for fire, “aish”, is spelled with an aleph and a shin. The aleph represents ahavah/love, and the shin represents simchah/joy. Her tent was the embodiment of ahavah and simcha for Torah, mitzvos, Hashem, and for others. If we will it, Shabbos has the power to bring us to a spiritual high – the same spiritual high that Sarah experienced and which stayed with her all week long.

When Shabbos is over, we pack away the candlesticks and the tablecloth. We turn on the dishwasher and straighten out the kitchen. Unfortunately, at times, just like everything that we pack away, so too does the spirit of Shabbos dissipate. Not so with Sarah. It remained with her, in her heart and soul all week long.

The Blessing in Sarah's Dough

Bread symbolizes the materiality in life. Sarah was always “sameach b’chelkah” – content with what she had. There wasn’t a “new season” for her wardrobe – out with the old, in with the new. She didn’t feel the need to constantly redecorate or refurbish. It was all good. It was always fresh to her – just like her challah.

There is yet another message in the miracle of Sarah’s challah. Sarah had the ability to uplift the mundane and make it “kadosh”/holy. When guests would come, she would take the challah and explain how everything in life is a gift from Hashem. She conveyed the power of gratitude, and the beauty of a berachah – thereby uplifting the physical to a whole new level. A level that makes it everlasting.

The Cloud of Glory

The Cloud above the tent symbolizes “shalom bayis”, peace and tranquility in the home. A blessing we all pray for. At the entrance to our homes, there is a mezuzah. The mezuzah is affixed to the doorpost on a slant, not straight and rigid. This is a lesson to us all, that upon entering into our homes, we must remember that nothing is worth the bickering, arguing or harsh words. The lesson of the slanted mezuzah teaches us the importance of compromise, to be flexible and yielding. By giving in a little this way, and a little that way, our home will be blessed with peace and harmony.

It is now many generations later. Yet, the timeless messages of Sarah’s tent speak to us today. While our homes may not be tents of sheepskin, we have the ability to bring the miracles that Sarah merited in her tent into our homes today.

Especially during these uncertain times of COVID, when we have been spending more and more time in our “tents”, Sarah’s legacy is so meaningful.

May we all merit seeing our homes become “tents of Sarah”, homes of warmth, simchah, inspiration, and holiness. May we merit to see the Clouds of Glory hover over our homes

Mr. Charlie Harary
Are You Willing?

One of the things we love most are underdogs. We love stories where the person who has no chance beats the opponent. When someone had nothing and went on to create a business, the more he had nothing beforehand, the better the story.

But the ultimate question is how this happens. How does an underdog go about successfully triumphing over the opposing team or force?

Every year I take about 200 men to Israel, from every background you can imagine. They have never been to Israel before, and we go together for a week.

At the end of the week, on Friday night, we go to the Kotel to daven. It is an unbelievable experience. I always get in contact with another organization which arranges to bring Israeli soldiers to the Kotel and meet us. Just as we finish davening, thirty soldiers walk in with uniform, and we dance together. It is a great moment for all of us.

One year, the army men showed up, but they were wearing plain clothes. They were commandos and were not dressed in uniform. I could tell instantly that they didn’t have the same effect on my group of guys, given that they didn’t have that Israeli army look. The head leader of the army squad realized that my group wanted to dance with soldiers in their full uniform, and it wouldn’t be happening.

Knowing I was let down, he pulled me aside and said that he would try to “make it up to me” by allowing me the opportunity to talk to one of the heads of the Intelligence Operations in the army. Sending me farther away from the Kotel, I soon stood in front of what was supposedly one of the most well-respected of men in the army.

“Hi, my name is Charlie Harary…” I said. He had no idea who I was. “So, you must be a really brave guy to be in the army your whole life?” “No, I’m not brave at all,” he shot back. Any attempt I had at getting through to him came up short. Noticeably feeling bad for me, he said, “You want to hear how I got into the army?” “You better believe I do,” I said.

“If you know your history, before the IDF, there were many small forces that were defending the Land of Israel. My father was in one of them. One day, while deployed on a mission, he got shot. He didn’t want to go to the hospital, out of fear that he would expose his unit. He therefore decided to go home. Now you can imagine what happened then. My mother broke down. But with no choice, we pulled aside bedsheets and curtains to wrap him up to stop the bleeding, as I went down the block and called over a neighborhood doctor. We ended up making a makeshift hospital room in the middle of our home.

I was panicking, but I realized that my father was going to survive. For the next few days, I stayed home to take care of him. One night, I was walking near his room, and he called me over. As I took a seat, he looked at me. “It’s time.” “Time for what?” I said. “Time for you to be a man.”

“Time for me to be a man? I’m eleven years old.” My father slowly said, “It’s time… It’s time for you to be a man.” I looked back at my father, after it hit me. “Oh, no, no, no, no, no. No way. You can’t go. I need you. We can’t survive without you. I’m not ready to be a man. You can’t leave us.” My father looked at me and said slower, “It’s… time… for you to be a man… You can do it…”

But I was not ready.

My father was not a religious man, but he was knowledgeable about the Torah. “You think Avraham was ready? You think Yosef was ready? What about Moshe and Dovid? Do you think people are ready when the time comes for them? You don’t have to be able or ready; you just have to be willing.”

If you are willing to do something you cannot do, you need to believe that Hashem can give you the strength.

And with that, the Intelligence Officer concluded. “Every day I am in the army, I think that even if I can’t, if I try, G-d will give me the strength to do the things I think I can’t do.”

In life, when you are willing to do something you think you can’t do, G-d can make you be anything. Even if you don’t know how it will work out, you can do something when you are willing. It all comes down to grit and will.

That is how the underdog is victorious. Not because of ability, but because of willingness.

Picture of newsletter
100% free

Subscribe to our Weekly Newsletter

Timely Torah insights, stories, and anecdotes from your favorite TorahAnytime speakers, delivered straight to your inbox every week.

Your email is safe with us. We don't spam.