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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Vayishlach

Parshat Vayishlach

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter                  

Parashat Vayishlach 5781                                                     Print Version
19th of Kislev, 5781 | December 5, 2020

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Lazer Brody
Triumph Over Tragedy

On a recent flight I took with Dr. Zev Ballen from Chicago to LA, I discussed with him the following case and asked for his opinion on the matter.

Living in New York was a wonderful family with an illustrious ancestry. Having five sons, as the wife began expecting a sixth, her husband grew suspicious. Denying the paternity of the child, from the day he was born, the father did everything possible to make the boy’s life miserable.

The family lived in a nice neighborhood, although the father did not want to send the boy to the local cheder. He instead made him take a bus to an out-of-town school all by himself.

Confronted on a number of occasions by bullies, the frightened five-year-old boy continued making the daily trek to school. Although the father did not wish to leave his wife and family altogether, he set his eyes on ruining the life of this boy.

For years, the same type of lifestyle continued. One day, when the boy was twelve years old, he was confronted by a group of bullies. Unnerved, the head bully walked over to him and threatened that if he would not hand over his money, he would suffer grave consequences. Instead of simply giving in, however, the child did something surprising. Although no one else was aware, the boy had grown street-smart over the past number of years. Having been exposed to life on the street, he learned how to stand up for himself and face unwelcoming surprises.

Pulling out a stiletto, he firmly told the man that if he would come any nearer he would be sorry. Adding that the police would be inclined to favor his argument as a young boy as opposed to a suspicious-looking robber, the man turned around in a heartbeat. But matters did not improve. Continuing to live this way, the father’s death wish for his purported illegitimate son only persisted. Showering his five other sons with all their needs and wishes, the boy was not only underprivileged; he was rejected altogether.

Amazingly, though, the boy developed into the best student in yeshiva and earned the admiration of his peers. Athletic, studious and mentally gifted, he was a wonderful boy despite his life’s experiences.

When he turned eighteen, he looked to get married. His father, however, was not interested in marrying him off in the least. He was not willing to give him a single cent.

His Rosh Yeshiva, however, had been keeping his eyes on him. Consulting with his Rebbe if this boy would make a suitable shidduch for his daughter, he was told that he most certainly would. When the boy’s family heard that such an offer had been presented, they could not resist. Although his father refused to financially assist in the wedding expenses whatsoever, the Rosh Yeshiva agreed to take care of it all. Not too long afterwards, the boy got married.

Enrolling in his father-in-law’s kollel, he earned a sterling reputation. Once a week, his father-in-law used to deliver a lecture to the entire yeshiva relating to the particular piece of Gemara being studied. And without fail, this young man would always have rebuttals for his father-in-law’s questions and answers. This did not bode too well for him though. And not before long, his father-in-law actually grew to dislike him. Now he had a father and father-in-law who hated him.

But it didn’t end there. With such feelings filtering down, the young man’s own wife soon began despising him as well. His father-in-law proceeded to throw him out of the kollel and force his daughter to divorce him. Now, he was back on his own.
But he didn’t break. He single-handedly married himself off without any support from his father and entered into another kollel. Being blessed with two sons, by now, he had grown into a considerable talmid chacham and received rabbinic ordination.

Deciding to open his own yeshiva, he began to rebuild himself and inspire the lives of many students. Hiring his best childhood friend from yeshiva to help administrate the registration, students and funding, the yeshiva began to flourish. With the man dedicatedly serving as its Rosh Yeshiva and his friend caring for the physical needs of the boys, the yeshiva prospered beyond all expectation.

But then, one day, the administrator financially undercut the man and undermined his leading position as Rosh Yeshiva. Now he was, once again, on the streets.

But he didn’t despair. He moved to a different neighborhood and began a new yeshiva. Meeting success for more than twenty years, his two sons meanwhile got married and earned their own rabbinic certification. Working under their father for some time, finally, the day arrived when they felt it was enough. “We do not need the old generation,” they said, “we are talmidei chachamim in our own right.” If it was not enough that his father disenfranchised him and his father-in-law disenfranchised him, now his two sons did the same. They ousted their own father from the yeshiva.

He is now out on the street again.

After relating this all to Dr. Zev, I asked him what he thought should be the result of this man. “Well,” he said, “there is no doubt that he is a psychopath, a sociopath, dysfunctional and addicted. He is undoubtedly in the gutters. Who can withstand something like this?”

And then I revealed to Dr. Zev who this person was. This person wrote a poem. In fact, he wrote a whole book of poems. And this book of poems is the greatest bestseller in history.

It is called Tehillim. And that Rosh Yeshiva is Dovid Hamelech.
When Dovid Hamelech was born, his father thought he was illegitimate and sent him out to the field to be killed. Dovid proceeded to ward off a bear and lion (Shmuel I 17:34-36). And if that wasn’t enough, he was given a present in the form of a confrontation with Goliath. Goliath said, “I am going to wipe you off the face of the earth!” But Dovid Hamelech said, “No you are not; Hashem is at my side.”

But it didn’t end there. King Shaul took him as a son-in-law and tried to kill him. And Dovid’s wife, Michal, as well disparaged him. He had his kingdom and closest advisor, Achitofel, try to overthrow him. And his own two sons, Adoniyahu and Avshalom, mounted a rebellion against him and sought to overthrow him. What more could there be?

Dovid was kicked out of Jerusalem, only to later find refuge in Machanaim where Barzillai Ha’Giladi warmly accepted him in and provided him a safe haven. It was then that Hashem finally pitied Dovid and looked to bring him back to his old kingdom. On his return to Jerusalem, Dovid requested that Barzillai accompany him and receive special royal treatment in lieu of his benevolence in providing for Dovid earlier. However, Barzillai was already an elderly eighty-year-old man at the time and preferred that Dovid offer such preferential treatment to his son, Chimham, instead (Shmuel II 19:32-41).

While Dovid Hamelech may have provided Barzillai’s son with the most delicious food and comfortable amenities, Dovid’s own life had never been quite as exquisite. Sitting in exile, Dovid said of himself, “For me my tears were sustenance day and night…” (Tehillim 42:4). Just imagine what David Hamelech ate for breakfast and dinner while banished from Jerusalem? He would fill a cup with tears and drink it as he nibbled on a meager meal of parched bread.

But Dovid Hamelech did not become a psychopath, a sociopath or an addict. He wrote a masterpiece called Sefer Tehillim. And in Psalm 100, he exclaimed, “A song of thanks! Let the entire earth call out to Hashem. Serve Hashem with joy!” Despite being chased out of Jerusalem by his own son, Avshalom, he recited a song of thanks to Hashem. Dovid was not a social misfit and not someone who gave up on life; he was someone who lived a life full of gratitude and joy. He was someone who overcame the hardest of challenges and triumphed over tragedy. This is Dovid Hamelech. This is the forebear of Mashiach.

Every human being undergoes ups and downs through life. For some, they may pass easily and last only a short while. For others, they may be quite trying and endure for what seems to be forever. Yet, Dovid Hamelech was one individual whose entire life from beginning to end was fraught with challenges. And despite it all, he never gave up. He persevered and weathered the tumultuous storms that confronted him. And that was because he realized that no matter what life presents to a person, deep within the human spirit lies the resilient conviction to prevail. It is precisely those painful, dejected moments of our life that pave the way to our greatest triumph.

Rabbi Meyer Yedid
Become that Person

I was in Deal, New Jersey, helping my son along before his flight to Israel which was to take off at 10:50 pm in Newark. That week, Shabbat ended at 8:45 and I had yet to take my son about an hour away to the airport. As you can already see, we were up against the clock.

Right after Shabbat was over, we rushed into the car with his luggage and took off. When we arrived, it was already 10:00, well passed the two-hour international flight suggested arrival time. With no other option, we raced to check in his luggage. But as we soon realized, there had been heavy winds earlier in the day and many flights had been either delayed or cancelled. That may have seem good, but it was far from it. Instead of the luggage check-in line being short and quick, it was as long as could be with people waiting to catch later flights and book new ones. There was no way my son was making his flight. But we decided to wait anyway and see if anything could happen.

As this was all occurring, I noticed a lady off to the side who was helping move the luggage around. I approached her and said, “Excuse me ma’am, my son has a flight to Tel Aviv at 10:50.” “That’s great!” she replied, “but you’ll have to wait on line.” “I know,” I went on, “but it is 10:05, and if we wait on line, he’ll miss the flight.” “Sir,” she said. “I am very sorry, but those are the rules.” “Thank you very much,” I ended. “Shavua tov (have a good week).” After all, she was right. Those were the rules.

My son and I continued waiting on line, until, all of a sudden, an idea popped into my head. I headed back to the same lady, called for her attention and said to her, “Ma’am, you are unbelievable! The amount of patience you have is remarkable, even when there is a lot going on around you. Thank you!”
The woman couldn’t believe my words. And with that, I headed back to stand in line. A few minutes later, one of the airport representatives was finishing up with someone, and I quickly went back to the lady and asked if it would be possible to have my son’s passport be looked at, so as to allow him to proceed through security. “Sure,” the lady said. “Let me see what I can do.”

My son made his flight.

What happened? It is a matter of principle. If you recognize someone for who they can be, they will become that person. They will want to live up to what they know they can personally achieve. When I made this woman aware of how patient and diligent she worked at her job, it motivated her to excel more and offer the best service she could. In the realm of relationships, carrying the respect for what someone can become will help them truly become that person.

It is a golden rule.

Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser
What Should I Tell Him?

Every night I wonder to myself if I should leave the ringer on my phone on or off. A dilemma ensues in my mind as to whether I should simply aim for an undisturbed, good night’s sleep, or perhaps I should keep the possibility available that someone will need me in case of an emergency.

One night at 3:00 am, my phone began ringing. Waking up from amidst a deep sleep, I grabbed the phone and picked up. “Rabbi, Rabbi!” I heard yelling on the other end, “I’m going to jump! That’s it, I’m done with my life! I don’t care about anybody or anything! I’m jumping!”

I immediately broke out into a cold sweat, now fully alert and aware of the severity of the matter at hand. “Who is this?” I innocently asked. But instead of getting a name, I only heard more frustrated yelling. “I’ve gone through enough of life; I don’t need to experience any more pain!”

As the caller continued speaking, I soon recognized that it was a young woman who had attended a few of my classes in Manhattan.

Unprepared to receive such a heavy phone call in the middle of the night, I wasn’t sure what my next step should be, although I knew I needed to move quickly. Of course, I wanted to genuinely show the woman that, despite her despairing thoughts, there was a purpose to her life and she should never give up, but how would I do that on the phone as she stood several flights up a building about to end it? My positive affirmations of how commendable it was of her to attend my Torah lectures did nothing to sway her, nor did my pleading to spare her parents the agony they would experience if she would jumped. I was troubled with what I could say to her, though I was quite sure that I was her last stop before everything would sadly be over.

But then I said to her, “Wait a minute, just tell me one thing. What should I tell your chassan?” A moment of silence settled in between us. “My chassan?” the woman said. “What are you talking about rabbi? I don’t have a chassan… I’m not even going out with anybody now!” But I repeated myself again. “What should I tell your chassan?” It was clear that the girl was quite confused. “Allow me to explain,” I said.

“Our Sages tell us that forty days before you were born a Heavenly voice announced that you will marry someone (Sotah 2a). And so, I ask you, if you jump, what should I tell your chassan…?” The girl paused for another moment before responding. “You mean I have a chassan and one day I will get married?” “Yes, absolutely. You can rest assured one thousand percent. With G-d’s help, you will have a chassan who will be proud of you and you will be proud of him.”

I then heard sobbing tears from the other end of the line and a bang. I could tell that the phone had dropped. Panicking, I immediately began mumbling words of Tehillim.

But then, within moments, someone came back on the phone. “Hello, this is Officer Constanza. G-d bless you, Rabbi…We have her… she is now safe…”

Chazal tell us, “Even if a sharp sword is resting on the neck of a person, he should not despair of Heavenly mercy” (Berachos 10a). Even at the threshold of life ending, don’t ever give in and give up. No matter how bitter and bad matters may seem, always retain hope and belief. You are alive because G-d wants you to be. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be here.

The Baal Shem Tov, commenting on the above Gemara, notes that it does not say that a person should begin praying when faced with a life-despairing predicament. Prayer is most certainly ever-important and powerful, but there is something else that carries even more weight. And that is bitachon (belief in Hashem). “He should not despair of Heavenly mercy” but rather reinvigorate his belief and confidence that G-d is there at His side, commiserating with his pain and wishing, as much as he does, to put an end to it. At a moment of crisis, the hotline to call is that of trust in Hashem.

And second to this are the insightful words of Rav Tzadok of Lublin. As we awaken each morning and recite Modeh Ani, we declare, “I give thanks before You…for You have returned my soul within me with compassion – great is Your faithfulness!” These last words – “Great is Your faithfulness” – explains Rav Tzadok, refer to Hashem’s faith in us. He believes in us. He believes that we can attain greatness and actualize our potential, despite every setback and failure we encounter.

And as Rav Tzadok so eloquently writes, “Just as we must believe in Hashem, we must believe in ourselves.” Our future chassan or kallah is out there somewhere waiting for us. And if we already have one, then we have our future one step closer to us already.

And so, if you ever experience a moment of hopelessness or anguish, always remember to believe. Believe in yourself. And why? Because Hashem believes in you.

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