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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Vayeshev

Parshat Vayeshev

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Vayeshev 5781                                                         Print Version
26th of Kislev, 5781 | December 12, 2020

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi YY Jacobson
Throw it into the Ocean

I was once in Melbourne, Australia, planning to deliver a series of lectures. After landing in the airport, I was taken to the home of one of the prominent and senior leaders of the community, Rabbi Yitzchok Dovid Groner z”l. Rabbi Groner had founded dozens of educational institutions and sustained them over many decades.

During the course of our conversation, he disclosed to me that he used to struggle with depression. On one occasion, he visited New York and had an audience with the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Before departing the office, the Rebbe told him, “As you travel back from New York to Australia, you are going to fly over the Pacific Ocean. Take your depression and throw it into the ocean.”

Rabbi Groner went on to say, “As the Rebbe said that, I was moved. I understood it and it had a powerful impact on me. On the surface, it seemed like a cute and charming thing to say. Was I supposed to open the window of the airplane and throw my depression away? Is depression a bag that you just throw out? But I internalized it as a profound lesson in life, and personally as a way for me to view my depression.

“Our struggles and insecurities are not who we are. The stories we tell ourselves about ourselves are not who we are. They are what we say we are, but those are just words. Our fears, negative thoughts, predictions about our future and our internal self-talk do not constitute the truth of our core being. They are akin to an extra suitcase in our mind, and we all know that you don’t want to take extra luggage when traveling.

“We would be wise to tell ourselves, ‘I do depression,’ instead of telling ourselves, ‘I am depressed.’ For in truth, these realities and experiences are what we do, not who we are.
“What must be done is throw the suitcase out of the window and discard it, and focus on choosing the life based on who we really are. And certainly, the Pacific Ocean is big enough to hold all of our problems.”

Rabbi Benzion Klatzko
My Dear Student

For several years, I have had the humbling and eye-opening opportunity of taking college-age students to Poland. Our visit incorporates up-close views of the harrowing experiences and tragedies of the Holocaust, and offers inspiration and encouragement that will hopefully leave the students inspired to carry on the torch of Jewish destiny and tradition.

Some time before one of these trips, a dear student of mine, who had sadly lost her mother just months before, got engaged. Unfortunately, this was not the only tragic incident she had experienced in her life thus far, but one of many. I therefore knew that it would be most meaningful if I would attend her vort in Brooklyn, which I happily did.

Months later, I received a call from her. “Rabbi Klatzko!” this same girl exclaimed in a chipper tone. “Are you available next Thursday?” The truth was that I wasn’t. “Well, I will be in Poland with a group of students,” I replied. “Oh…” mellowed out her voice. “What is ‘oh’?” I asked, getting the sense that something was amiss. “I am getting married next Thursday.” I was caught off guard. For one, I hadn’t received any invitation, and moreover, even if I had, a trip to Poland had already been scheduled. Fifty students had signed up and thousands of dollars had been laid out. “I am so, so sorry,” I said, nearly choking on my words, “but I cannot cancel the trip. If I can make it up to you though, I would really love you and your chassan to come to my house the first Shabbos I return home…” The phone conversation soon thereafter ended, but I was just about broken.
I knew how much it would have meant for her if I would attend the wedding, but it was simply impossible for me to be in two places at once.

The following day, her chassan called me. “Rabbi Klatzko, I could be mistaken, but I’m not sure if my kallah was clear. She was hoping that you and your wife would walk her down to the chuppa.” My heart immediately dropped. I then realized what we were dealing with. Her mother had passed away, and she was therefore not merely asking me to attend the wedding, but fill the special role of walking her to the chuppa. I was torn. I sincerely wished to be there for her, but I also needed to be there for my other students on their trip. It would not be fair to them to cancel anything. And so, reluctantly, I reiterated to the chassan how much I would have loved to be at the wedding, yet I was deeply sorry I would be unable to make it.

A few days later, there I was in the Majdanek Concentration Camp in Poland. Standing in the same place that so many of our brothers and sisters once did, I and all the students were shaken to the core. Our hearts dropped as did tears from our eyes, leaving our cheeks wet and cool. The tour guide then spoke up. “You cannot imagine how many parents cried for the loss of their children here, and how many children cried for the loss of their parents here.”

It then, suddenly, hit me. There I stood, at the very place where young children who would never again see their parents shed endless tears. And thousands of miles away was my own student, who as well cried over the loss of her mother as she prepared to walk to her chuppa. “How could I not be there for her?” I asked myself. If I were to leave her alone and disappointed, I would be failing to act on the lesson I stood to learn from that concentration camp.

And so, later that evening, I stood up in front of the students and said, “Dear students, I hope you will understand, but I will need to leave you for a short while. I am going to fly back to Brooklyn on the next flight and walk one of my students down to her chuppa. I will soon return after the wedding. I am doing this because I must be there for her.” And that is exactly what I did.

Some time later, one of the students who had gone along on the trip approached me. “Rabbi Klatzko, I just wanted to tell you that you leaving to attend that wedding was the biggest lesson you taught us this trip. It demonstrated the importance and extent we are to care for our fellow brothers and sisters. That is something we will never forgot.”

That trip was one which I too will never forget. Not just the flight to Poland, but the flight from Poland. It forced to me to realize that our mission to eternalizing the legacy of our nation is championed when we not merely learn about the past, but live the past. As I heard how children cried for their parents, I realized that the same was happening for my student in the present. And I would only be fulfilling my responsibility as a teacher, a role model and a Jew were I to be there for my student. If I had only traveled all the way to Poland for that one lesson, it would have been all worth it. Yes indeed.

Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein
Never Forgets

Allow me to share with you the life of Yosef HaTzaddik, someone who went through incredibly trying and tough times. The Chidah writes that Yosef was given the appellation “Tzaddik” because he is the foundation of Klal Yisroel.

As we are told in the Torah, Yosef’s own brothers threw him into a pit and sold him into slavery in Egypt. Yet, in being transported to Egypt, Yosef was taken in a caravan, which was filled with nice-smelling spices, reminding him that G-d was with him even amidst his deepest and darkest moments. He knew that Hashem was there with him.

Even amidst all that is going on now, we must do our utmost to focus and understand, like Yosef did, that Hashem never forgets his children.

After the unbelievably challenging test which Yosef overcame facing the temptations of the wife of Potiphar, we would have assumed that he would have been handsomely rewarded. He passed such an incredibly tempting and trying test; he certainly deserved to be miraculously brought back home and returned to his father from whom he had been separated. After Avraham Avinu passed his test at the Akeidas Yitzchak, Hashem “blessed him with everything,” says the Torah.

Yet what was Yosef’s reward? After feeling so good for overcoming his yetzer hara, what happened?
He was placed in prison.

Yosef could have thought to himself, “Hashem, what happened! I just passed this very difficult test; why don’t you give me an easier time! Why is this happening that I’m thrown into a dungeon? That is how I am rewarded?”

There Yosef was in prison, and no one would ever find him. The last words in Parshas Vayeishev, which mirror a similar feeling which many people feel today, is, “And the cupbearer did not remember Yosef, and he forgot him” (Bereishis 40:23).
Yosef HaTzaddik was forgotten. Many individuals right now are looking at their lives and looking all around at the world, and feeling… forgotten…

But Hashem never forgets His creation or His children.
If you just turn the page in the Chumash, the next words are, “Vayehi Mikeitz – And it was the end of…” Just turn the page. In one moment, you feel forgotten, and Hashem turns the page and everything changes.

It was Rosh Hashanah when Yosef was remembered and pulled out from prison (Rosh Hashanah 11a) … and he became second in command to Pharaoh, to the most powerful king.

Yet throughout it all, Yosef never forgot that Hashem was looking after him. In looking through the Pesukim, the constant word which escapes Yosef lips is the name of Hashem. “Without Hashem,” says Yosef to Pharaoh, “I cannot interpret your dream.” “That which Hashem tells me I will say to Pharoah…”
A human being can forget someone else, but Hashem never forgets us.

Rabbi Dovid Orlofsky
The Right Response

When Rav Hillel Zaks, grandson of the Chofetz Chaim, was learning in the Lakewood yeshiva, he was once questioned as to why he does not daven at the yeshiva minyan in the morning. “Well,” he explained, “what can I tell you? I do not sleep in late. I have my tefillin in my hand and am on my way when I see this woman with a bunch of little kids and no one to help her. So what do I do? I put down my tefillin and help her get the kids dressed, make lunches for them and walk them out the door. By the time I am done, it is too late to daven at the yeshiva minyan, so I daven elsewhere.”

Everyone was taken aback to hear of such kindness and thoughtfulness displayed by the grandson of the Chofetz Chaim. “Who is this woman?” they inquired. They wondered if perhaps a rotation of some sort could be set up to assist her on a daily basis.

“Her name is Mrs. Zaks,” replied Reb Hillel.

We might tend to think that when it comes to helping other people aside from our closest family relatives, including our wives, that we are engaging in wonderful acts of kindness. It is then that we have risen to earn the honorable title of a great person. But, in truth, helping one’s wife is no less great, if not greater. “Nosei b’ol im chaveiro,” carrying the burden of a friend, includes our spouse, and is equally so, along with all other middos, a prerequisite to acquiring Torah. It is an amazing phenomenon. The more we work on being a genuinely happy person, scaling up the ladder of purity and learning to listen and understand, the more we are prepared and capable of being a repository for Torah. The two may not seem to bear any direct correlation to each other, but our Sages let us in on a secret. They actually have everything to do with each other.

Rav Yitzchak Elchonon Spektor once was trying to assist a boy avoid the draft into the Russian army. After much hard and tiring work, another yeshiva student ran into him with good news. “Rebbe, Rebbe,” the boy said excitingly, “he was released from the army!” Rav Yitzchak Elchonon was relieved. “Ah, Baruch Hashem. Thank you for telling me.” A few minutes later, another boy came running in. “Rebbe, Rebbe, did you hear? He was let out of the army!” “Baruch Hashem,” Rav Yitzchak Elchonon sighed, “thank you for telling me.”

After the boy left the room, the surrounding students turned to Rav Yitzchak Elchonon for an explanation. “Rebbe,” they politely spoke up, “didn’t you already know that information from the first boy?” “I did,” Rav Yitzchak Elchonon replied, “but the boy didn’t know that I knew, and he wanted the thrill of being able to tell me personally.”

In my line of work as a speaker, I often have people come over to me and say, “Rabbi, I have a joke you can use.” They then begin sharing the joke with me, which takes about three minutes when it could have been told in about twenty-five seconds. They set up the background, describe the people involved and on and on. This is all considering that I know the joke already. But I just continue standing there and smile, knowing that it gives the other person so much pleasure to tell me the joke with enthusiasm.

It wouldn’t make me a better person if I would say, “Yeah, yeah, I know that one already.” What improves my middos and makes me a kinder and more considerate person is standing there and listening to the joke I’ve heard time and again. That, believe it or not, is how we become great people. Not necessarily listening to jokes, but keenly listening to others and carrying the burdens of our friends in our hearts.

Rabbi Avraham Nissanian
Never Falling

The Gemara (Berachos 4b) makes an insightful observation that we likely would have otherwise missed. Why are all letters of the Hebrew alphabet present in the acrostic recital of the Ashrei prayer except the letter nun? Why is that the only letter which is omitted?

The Gemara explains that it is because the letter nun contains an allusion to the downfall of the Jewish people, as referenced in the Pasuk, “She has fallen and will no longer rise, the maiden of Israel" (Amos 5:2). In deference to this verse, the prayer of Ashrei follows with the letter sameach after the letter mem, and omits the nun.

Yet, what oddly stands out upon considering the implication of the Gemara is the poetic hymn sang every Friday night, Eishes Chayil. Calling upon the virtues and qualities of the Jewish wife, the husband of the home serenades his wife with praise after praise. However, in Eishes Chayil, unlike Ashrei, the letter nun is included. The question thus begs: are there no fallings and descents in the life of the Jewish wife? How can it be that we include the letter nun?

For 365 days a year, a wife stands at her husband’s side, and all the while looks after the house and the children. As the hymn describes, in her incredible strength, she diligently performs countless household tasks, prepares clothing and provisions for her children, and arises early before dawn and cares for the poor. The true Eishes Chayil accomplishes the extraordinary.

Yet amidst such beautiful accolades praising the Jewish wife, the hymn adds in the line, “Distinctive in the councils is her husband, when he sits with the elders of the land.” In this acrostic of the letter nun, its author, Shlomo Hamelech, highlights the husband. But it is puzzling. The entire Eishes Chayil is devoted to singing the praises of the wife, and now all of a sudden, it switches to speak of the husband’s stature and position? What place does he have?

The answer to this conundrum is the answer to the original question. It is no coincidence that the husband of the Eishes Chayil is specifically alluded to in the letter nun. It is because he is the one who gives her strength, encourages her and fortifies her. When she needs him, he hurries home from his work with the prominent elders and stands by her side. The Eishes Chayil may be on the verge of falling, but she never completely falls, for her husband is always there to pick her up.

The letter nun thus alludes to the wife and her husband’s support. Despite being a hard-working, distinguished individual in the workplace, the husband knows where his true priorities and deepest love lies. And that is with his wife and his home. They are what he rushes home from work to take care of. And it is precisely that devotion and dedication which uplifts and carries the Eishes Chayil all the days of her life, and never allows her to falter.

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