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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Shemot

Parshat Shemot

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Shemot 5781                                                            Print Version
25th of Tevet, 5781 | January 9, 2020

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Yaakov Moskowitz
A Big Deal

In the 1960s, General Electric, a multinational conglomerate company, came out with a new plastic product. Jack Welch was put in charge of the sales team that had to push this product and was tasked to motivate his employees to get the word out. He was starting from scratch and knew it would not be an easy task. What was his trick?

When the first client came in, Jack celebrated with his entire team. But he didn't stop there.

After ten clients had come through, Jack once again celebrated with his team. When a client phoned and said, “You know what, Jack, I want to purchase $500 worth of this product,” Jack once again honored his entire team, recognizing it as an incredible success. Jack's strategy ended up proving successful as he earned over a billion dollars’ worth of sales worldwide. The bottom line: Jack really got it right. Small accomplishments are a really big deal.

In Parshas Beshalach, the Torah records the incident of Miriam needing to wait outside the Jewish camp because she was inflicted with Tzara’as. During this seven-day period, the entire Jewish nation was told to wait for her. Rashi explains that the Jewish people waited for her because she waited for her brother Moshe many years earlier, when Moshe was a baby, and was put into the water.

Rav Simcha Zissel Broide asks why Miriam’s act was so big a deal that the whole nation had to wait for her. Isn't it normal for any big sister to wait and watch after her little brother, especially if he's being put into the water? He explains that Hashem wanted to teach us the incredible value of every small act. The culture that we live in emphasizes a very different mindset: Go big or go home. Did your video go viral? How many followers do you have? Did your business make millions of dollars? What about your Chesed organization? Is it known throughout the world yet? That approach causes a person to compare himself to others and often feel despair when he doesn’t match up to competitors.

The Torah's approach, however, is unbelievably liberating. Every ounce of concentration a person has during davening is valuable. Every little bit of Torah that you learn, every bit that you work on your middos, is valued in the eyes of Hashem. Truly, small accomplishments are a big deal to G-d, and we are meant to view them the same way.

Mr. Michael Rothschild
The Playbook

It is a week before Super Bowl XLII, with a match-up between the New York Giants and New England Patriots, who went 16-0 for the season. You are Eli Manning, quarterback for the Giants, and you and all of your family and friends know that you are about to be wiped out in front of 97 million Super Bowl viewers. But then, someone offers you a 30 second peek into the Patriots’ playbook. That's the extremely detailed book of play-by-play strategies your opponent is going to use in the game. You skip the Ethics’ questions and avidly read the playbook from cover to cover. We all know the outcome; the Giants beat the Patriots 17-14 in one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history.

Now let’s shift gears.

Imagine if you could look into the yetzer hara’s playbook… for you. It has your name emblazoned on the cover, and it shows play-by-play how your yetzer hara will trick you into doing what is not the best of you.

Let me share with you Play #1, or what is known as the yetzer hara’s go-to strategy: Convince you that kedushah (holiness) is for Tzaddikim; for someone holy and closeted away from society. It's not for the common man. Why is this strategy so powerful? Imagine if someone could have brainwashed one of the finest quarterbacks, Tom Brady, when he was younger, that he has no talent for football, and he would have believed them. Instead of football, he would have gone a different direction. Of course, you're saying, what a crazy story, he's Tom Brady! So now let's take your “average person.”

What’s happens? The Yetzer Hara has convinced some people that holiness just isn't for them. And once someone convinces you that you can't do something, your mind becomes your enemy and you believe that you can't do it. You're out of the game before the game even starts! But when Hashem gave the Mitzvah of kedushah, He said, “You shall be holy.” He told Moshe Rabbeinu to tell this to every Jew. In the words of the Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh, this mitzvah applies to every person, for every Jew who fulfills this mitzvah is referred to as a kadosh, and no category of Jew is ever closed off from it. You may not become the gadol ha’dor of kedushah, but every single person can notch it up one tiny level, and when you win that one time, you're like the Giants beating the Patriots in your Super Bowl.

Rabbi Pinchas Landis
Take the Opportunity

Let me tell you an amazing story about somebody taking an opportunity. I have a wonderful associate director of Partners in Torah here in Cleveland, Rabbi David Jacobi. He related a beautiful story from his previous job as the Portland NCSY director.

There, he ran a bus for many years for the NCSY summer program TJJ, The Jerusalem Journey, a wonderful program, which includes a trip to Israel for public school children.
On one trip, forty-two public school kids joined. They were in the city of Chevron and had just finished going to a museum, after which they headed to the Ma'aras Hamachpela. There they met a wonderful Israeli tour guide who had a wellspring of knowledge. But as I’m sure you can imagine, for children, being told a whole history tale filled with detail is not always the best recipe for success. And so, as the students walked through the Ma'aras Hamachpela, and the tour guide shared of his knowledge, the kids tuned out. Rabbi Jacobi, noticing this, seized the opportunity and took over for the next several minutes.

As they were about to climb the steps to the Me'aras Hamachpela, Rabbi Jacobi gathered all the forty-two students together, and began, “We're about to enter the cave of our Patriarchs. This is the place where Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, and Leah and Jacob are buried. This is the source of us as Jews right here in this building. When we go in there, everyone should take an opportunity and pray. Don't necessarily get caught up in praying Shacharis, Mincha, Ma’ariv, or saying Tehillim. Go into the cave of the Patriarchs, pick a room and ask G-d for something. Ask G-d for something that you know He wants you to have. Take the opportunity to connect. You know He wants you to have good health and good things. Ask for something that you know He'll want to say yes to you for.”

All those forty-two kids walked in, and went to different parts of the Me'aras Hamachpela. Rabbi Jacobi himself then went to daven Mincha in one of the Minyanim at the Me'aras Hamachpela. Fifteen minutes later, he walked out and saw the students in all the different rooms, pouring their hearts out. Many of the kids were even crying, asking G-d for things and taking it seriously; even more seriously than he took his own words.

Every room was the same. Forty-two public school kids sitting at the Me'aras Hamachpela, asking Hashem for something that they knew He wants to grant them. An amazing experience.
Finally, as the group came together and the kids began making their way down the steps, past the security checkpoint and out of the Cave of the Patriarchs, one of the students received a phone call. The boy answered and had a quick conversation. And then the boy turned ghost white. “What happened?” asked Rabbi Jacobi. “You'll never believe it,” the boy said.

The kid was somewhat traditional, and had the practice of putting on Tefillin every day. The day that he left for the TJJ trip, he had already packed his Tefillin in a suitcase, and asked his father if he could borrow his Tefillin to put on that morning before going on the plane. The boy put on the Tefillin, took them off, put them on the counter in the kitchen, and then went on to catch the plane to Israel. When the boy landed, the father called frantically, asking, “Where did you leave my Tefillin?”

“Dad, I borrowed your Tefillin, and put them afterwards on the kitchen counter. I’m sure they're right there.” “I can’t find them,” said the father. For the next several days, the whole family was upset at this boy. They thought that he must have brought the father’s Tefillin with him to Israel and lost it. When that boy was sitting in Ma'aras Hamachpela, the one thing he asked Hashem was that his father should find his Tefillin. And literally, as they walked down the steps out of the Me'aras Hamachpela, his phone rang and it was his father. “I’m so sorry I blamed you for losing my Tefillin. I found them.”

The housekeeper had taken them, didn't know what they were, stuck them in some cabinet in the kitchen, and they weren't able to find them for the next week… until that day, when the boy was in Me'aras Hamachpela and asked Hashem for his father to find his Tefillin. And sure enough, at that moment, right away, the father did. That's called not missing an opportunity. That's called seeing an opportunity in front of us, seizing it and making something out of it.

Rebbetzin Elana Mizrahi
Feeling, Not Becoming

“I totally get it! You're feeling angry, you're feeling upset, and you just feel really mad.”
Now I say the word “feel” and not “you are.” That’s because we are not angry, we are not mad, we are not upset – we are who we are. But we certainly can feel it. How can we make it that we do not become what we are feeling?

Breathe. Take a deep breath in through your nose and exhale through your mouth. In Parshas Vayechi, right before Yaakov Avinu passes away, he calls in all his sons to bless them and share his last words. When it comes to Shimon and Levi, and Yaakov Avinu wishes to rebuke them, he curses the anger they displayed when decimating the city of Shechem. Yaakov did not curse them, but rather their anger, and that is because they are not their anger.

The word in the Torah for anger is apam, which comes from the word af, nose. The connection is evident between anger and our nose, and the lesson for us is instructional. Breathing is natural and automatic. We don't have to think about it much. Similarly, sometimes when we grow angry and upset, we automatically react. We don't think about it. We don't pause and reset ourselves. But just like our breath can be controlled – either slowing it down or increasing it – so can our anger. We can either rile ourselves up or calm ourselves. We are in control. And it all begins and ends by taking a deep breath.

Rabbi Ephraim Shapiro
Waiting For You

It was a beautiful day in Jerusalem as the legendary Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld zt”l strolled down the street for a walk. The day was filled with the beauty of life and the beauty of G-d’s world. But such a mesmerizing reality came to a halt as soon as Rav Sonnenfeld noticed a little four-year-old girl crying in front of a school. Seeing that she was clearly perturbed, he approached her. “Is everything alright?” Rav Sonnenfeld gently whispered to the girl. As it turned out, today was the first day of school, and the little girl’s mother was critically ill in the hospital. The doctors’ prognosis was dismal. With no one to therefore pick up the girl from school, she was left alone in tears.

But Rav Sonnenfeld did not waste any time. He proceeded to obtain the girl’s home address and walk her home.

The story could have ended here and it would have been a beautiful demonstration of Rav Sonnenfeld’s care and concern for others. But it didn’t.

When Rav Sonnenfeld shortly thereafter entered the little girl’s home, he was met by total disarray. The house was not exactly organized and put together, but there was good reason for it. Yet, as Rav Sonnenfeld stepped further inside and extended his warm greetings to the family members, he said, “I just want you all to know two things. Firstly, the mother is going to have a complete recovery. Secondly, the mother is going to walk this four-year-old girl down to her chuppa.”

And so it was. In an inexplicable change of circumstances, the mother underwent a total recovery. It came as an incredulous shock to all the medical staff, yet everyone graciously accepted such news. Now it came time for fulfillment of the second part of Rav Sonnenfeld’s blessing.

The four-year-old girl had grown up and she was now seventeen. Although young, names of prospective shidduchim were coming her way. Yet, one after another, she turned them down.

She was now twenty, and her younger siblings began getting of age to marry. Although still unmarried herself, she encouragingly and happily let them go ahead. And indeed, it happened. Three years later, her younger brother got married. And another three years later, two more of her siblings had gotten married. All the while, she received names of some wonderful boys who seemed quite suitable for her. But she just didn’t go along with any of them. It seemed as if she was extremely picky.

By her 32nd birthday, the last of her siblings finally married. It was an unbelievably joyous occasion for all of the family. Within a number of months, the four-year-old girl who was now 32, finally got engaged and then married. And like Rav Sonnenfeld had said, her mother walked her down to the chuppa.

As the next morning rolled around and everyone began to get up for another day, the mother did not. And that was not because she was tired. Rather, in fact, she had passed away in her sleep. The newly-married girl of 32 would be going to her mother’s funeral.

As is the custom in Jerusalem, children ask forgiveness from their parents before they are lowered down to the earth for their repose. The kallah of just barely 12 hours had difficulty speaking, but went on to say:

“Ma, I want to ask mechillah (forgiveness) from you. For fifteen years, I appeared to be overly picky in the many shidduch offers I received, and it brought much heartache to you. I am sorry, and I am asking for mechillah. But I just want you to know why I was so picky. It was because I wanted all of my younger siblings to also benefit from Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld’s blessing to have you at their chuppa. Only after every one of them had gotten married and you walked them down to their chuppas was I ready… Please be mochel me…”

All along, it may have seemed like the girl was being picky for herself. It was about her finding the perfect boy. But, in reality, nothing could have been further from the truth. It was all about her siblings and her beloved mother. It was about affording her brothers and sisters the opportunity to have their mother dance at their weddings, and about her mother having the chance to reap the nachas of seeing her children’s most joyous moments where they would begin building the family’s future and legacy. That is what it means to lead a selfless existence. That is what it means to care for others outside of yourself.

Rabbi Label Lam
The Irresistible Prayer

On Rosh Hashanah, we read about a woman named Chanah, who launched what was probably the most successful prayer of all time. It was from that prayer that Shmuel HaNavi, who changed the landscape of the Jewish people, was born. What though was the secret of her great success?

She employed something we could call “the irresistible prayer.” Her appeal was not, “I want a child, so I can bounce him on my knees and my friends can give me attention.” It was rather, “I need a child for you Hashem. I need a child so he can serve You.” And she meant it. The proof was that two years old after Shmuel was born, during those cutest years, Chana made him a coat and shipped him off to the holiest man in the generation, to Eli, to begin his career in serving Hashem in the Mishkan.

The same is true of us all. Anything that we seek, if it is with such sentiment, it goes far. “I need parnassah (income), not for me, but for you Hashem, to serve You. I need a child for you Hashem. I need a shidduch for you Hashem.” It is so ever powerful to couch our prayers in those terms. Our only job is to really mean it. Because if we can, it is truly an irresistible prayer for Hashem not to answer.

A Short Message From
Rebbetzin Chana Silver

Rav Eliyah Lopian zt”l interestingly observes that the resources we have in life which are plentiful are the very same resources we direly need in order to survive. For example, air to breathe and water to drink. Air is free and available for everyone to breathe. Water, as well, is necessary for a person to survive. And as we know it, the world is largely made up of water. The same is true, notes Rav Lopian, when it comes to emunah, belief in Hashem. Belief in G-d, which is so vital to our lives, is so plentiful. Simply looking out into our world and studying its breathtaking depth and intricacies leaves one awestruck. There are plenty of indications in our world which point to a Creator; all that we must do is open our eyes and take a look.

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