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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Beshalach

Parshat Beshalach

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Beshalach 5781                                              Print Version
17th of Shevat, 5781 | January 30, 2020

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Yossi Bensoussan
Make the Choice

Someone who is truly happy carries a certain untouchable quality. The joy they exude cannot be marred or shaken up. It’s hard to believe, but let me tell you about someone I personally knew.

I once had a study partner who was much older than I was. He was married, I was single, and we learned together. Nosson was one of those happy people that people loved being around. My attitude at that point in life was the opposite. Simcha is the most beautiful attitude in the world, until you're not that way and someone else is. What's that anger you have towards them for being happy? It's not jealousy, mind you, it's annoyance. “Why are you so happy right now? Why are you being so dandy? I don't like it. It's very uncomfortable to me. Very uncomfortable.” These are the thoughts that ran through my mind. True beauty is beautiful in the eye of the beholder. But if you don't have the eye of the beholder, it looks horrible to you. So, I sat there, and Nosson would come in every single day, his normal happy self. One day, I said to myself, “I wish I could just be as happy as this guy. I got this going on and that going on. I wish I could be as happy as him! Let him walk in my shoes for two days; see how happy he’ll be!”

I remember thinking this clearly. I will never forget thinking it, because five minutes later, a guy came over to me and he said, “Yossi, you're close to Nosson, right? What shift do you want to take?” “What shift?” I asked, confused. “Shift in the hospital for his daughter.” I wasn’t following. “What are you talking about? What about his daughter?” “You don’t know…? Nosson’s daughter is very sick. The doctors have no idea what she has, but it's very debilitating. They don't know how much longer she has.”

A four-year-old girl. Nosson stayed up with her every single night in the hospital. And he was someone who had never come late even once to our learning time, or missed davening with the Yeshiva. He would walk into the Beis Midrash fully energized as anything. We used to call him the “energizer bunny” because he used to come in, clapping his hands, encouraging us on, “Let's go guys! Let's go! Let's learn!”

“I'm going to take tonight,” I told my friend. “I'm going to take the first shift you have. I got to talk to Nosson. I'm going to go into the hospital room, he's going to be sad for the first time, and I'm going to be able to comfort him. Finally, for once.”

I walk into the hospital room and there's Nosson, putting on an entire song and dance for his little girl. She's sitting up, tubes connected to her, clapping her hands, screaming, “Again! Again!”
I walked into that scene. I was only able to hold it for a few minutes, until she fell asleep, and then I turned to Nosson and said, “What is wrong with you? Seriously, what is wrong with you? Your daughter's sick, you have every right to be upset at every force of nature and beyond. What is wrong with you?”
Nosson turned to me and he said, “And who does that help? And what does that teach her? She sees me crying, and then she’ll say, ‘What, it's over?’ It's not over. And even if it is, do I want her to go all sad and depressed? G-d forbid! That will never happen, not on my watch.’

Genuine simcha has nothing to do with the outside world. It has nothing to do with what we're going through in life. It has nothing to do what our friends are going through in life. It has everything to do with a choice we make. The choice of choosing to be happy in life or not. If we want to, we can. It’s that straightforward.

Rabbi Yisroel Jungreis
Value the Power

The power of prayer is referenced throughout the Torah portions dealing with the Ten Plagues. Pharaoh complained to Moshe to get rid of the plague of Frogs, at which point Moshe “cried out” to Hashem, the Torah tells us. Our Sages teach that Moshe specifically raised his voice during this plague of Frogs as a matter of measure for measure. The croaking of the Frogs was so deafening that no one could fall asleep in Egypt. This was an exacting punishment upon the Egyptians, who placed tireless, demanding work upon the Jews and gave them no rest. The Egyptians experienced something similar with the incessant noise of the Frogs, which lent them no momentary respite too.

Given this, in order for Moshe to hear his own words of prayer, which needed to be audible, it is understandable why he would need to “cry out” and raise his voice.

The use of the word “tze’aka,” cry out, in reference to prayer, however, brings to bear the powerful element of prayer. Many times, it doesn’t appear as if the words we utter create any effect. After it, nothing tangible takes effect right away as we do so. But, truth be told, prayer is regarded by our Sages as one of the few things which stand at the “height of the world” (Berachos 6b). If we don’t see any apparent results, stay the course. Keep on praying. And then keep on praying some more. It is similar to an email which bounces and doesn’t go through to the recipient. You take a closer look and notice that one dot was left out. The result: the email didn’t find the right address. Add the dot and it does. With prayer, all it takes is one dot for something to occur. A small effort can yield great results.

Years ago, I attended a youth leadership convention. Presenting at one of the speeches was a man by the name of Alan Veingrad. A former NFL player for the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys, he later became a religious, Torah observant Jew.

He related that one of the first times he attended shul, he was reminded of an earlier incident which had occurred during his football career.

One Monday morning, he headed into his team’s locker room. It was Film Day, the day after a Sunday game, during which the team sat down and re-watched the game, studying and analyzing it with a focus on honing skill and strategy. That Monday morning, Alan walked into the Film room late. Jimmy Johnson, the Cowboy’s head coach and a no-nonsense guy, immediately called attention to Alan. “Veingrad,” he loudly called out, “why are you late? Do you have something more important in your life right now than football?”

That first time Alan stood in shul, the importance of arriving on time to shul and showing up prepared and ready to daven couldn’t have hit home clearer. “How can I come late when I’m speaking to G-d Himself?” A lesson from Alan Veingrad and Jimmy Johnson.

The power of prayer and the power of valuing that power. Understand that and you’ve tapped into a reservoir of unbelievable opportunity.

Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski
Sound of the Sirens

The story is told about Ulysses, a Greek hero, who had heard about a harbor where there was the “music of the sirens.” This music was so attractive, so irresistible, that anybody who went in that harbor was drawn toward the shore, where the music was being played. There were sharp reefs there, and so the ships that were attracted were destroyed. Other ships that went by the harbor saw the wreckages of all the previous ships that had gone there, but when they heard the music, they felt irresistibly compelled, and followed it, meeting their own dooming fate alongside. Ulysses wanted to hear the music of the sirens, but he was smart enough to know that he didn't want to lose his life in the process.

So, intelligently, he decided to stuff his sailor's ears with wax so they wouldn’t be able to hear the music. He had himself tied with strong ropes to the mast, and told the sailors, “No matter what you see me do or hear me do, don't pay attention. You keep on rowing straight.” They did exactly that. They rowed past the harbor, staying oblivious to the music of the sirens. As soon as Ulysses heard the melodious music, he started screaming, “Head towards shore!” But the sailors couldn't hear him. He struggled against the ropes. “I'm your captain, you must follow my orders! Head towards shore!” But they couldn’t hear a word.

Later, after they passed the dangerous area, Ulysses calmed down and recognized how close he had been to disaster. It was only because he was tied to the ropes that his life was spared.

We are living in a world where the “music of the sirens” is everywhere. One hundred years ago, Reb Yerucham Levovitz zt”l wrote that the world has been given over to the power of the Satan. G-d has given the Satan certain powers to delude us and make us hallucinate. We have no way of knowing if what we see is true or not. That was a hundred years ago when there was no internet and the many other barrages that consume our time, day and night. Today it is exponentially worse. The Satan has taken over, and caused us to believe many things that are not for our good, and we have only one way to defend ourselves. We must tie ourselves with ropes to Torah. Tying ourselves with ropes to Torah does not only mean binding ourselves to the mitzvos, but as Reb Chaim Vital says, the middos of Torah, the traits and values of a Jew.

At our tables, it would serve our families well to have several seforim available that we regularly learn from, and regularly talk with our family and children about. Mesillas Yesharim, Orchos Tzaddikim, Ma’alos HaMiddos should be commonplace seforim at our Shabbos table or any other time we have an opportunity to learn and talk about middos. Ultimately, even talking about it is not enough. We must act and live it. When we can do that, we’ll be able to steer clear of the sound of the sirens.

Rabbi Yosef Palacci
The Odds

What are the odds of being born Jewish?

Think about it. First of all, what are the odds of being born? Contemporary scientists put it at one in 400 trillion. Now how many people are there in the world? 7.8 billion. How many Jewish people are in the world? Close to 15 million. Now do that math. To be born is a 1 in 400 trillion chance. To be Jewish is 0.00192307692. Putting this together, the likelihood of being born Jewish is approximately one in 769 trillion.

What is the likelihood of you winning the lottery? 1 in 13,983,816. Nothing compared to being born Jewish. When you thank G-d for being born Jewish, it is as well beyond G-d picking you out of the hat. Hashem determined that you were going to be Jewish. You were going to be one in 769 trillion.

And you are.

Rabbi David Ashear
Pray for Me

I know a man who was married for five years and still wasn’t blessed with a child. He was told that purchasing the honor of opening the Ark and holding the Sefer Torah for Kol Nidrei on Yom Kippur would be a special source of merit for him and his wife. And so, he found a shul that he could afford to buy this honor, and did so. But that year he still was not blessed with a child. The following year, he went back to shul and again purchased the honor, but to no avail. He still wasn't blessed with a child. He went back a third year, but this time, he was bidding against someone else. When the price got too high, the man grew nervous. Approaching the other gentleman, he said, “Please! I'm buying this because I don't have a child and I need to pray for myself.”

The other man understood, but also had something in mind. “I'm buying it for my daughter who's also childless and I need to pray for her.” The two men stared at one another. “I'll make you a deal,” the other man said. “I will give it to you and I'll even pay half, on one condition. When you're up there holding the Torah, you pray for my daughter to have a child this year. It'll be a win-win situation.”

The man accepted the offer. It was very hard for him not to mention himself as he held the Torah and only focused on the other man and his daughter. But he prayed for the other girl and felt the pain they were going through when he sincerely asked Hashem to bless them.

That year, indeed, they were blessed with a child. Prayer is wonderous. When you pray for someone else in need, it's even greater. The Gemara (Bava Kama 92a) tells us that when you pray for someone else with the same need you have, you are answered first. It's not magic; it’s rewarded effort. The commentaries say that the merit of self-sacrifice involved to want someone else to have what you need is very difficult. To want something so badly and yet you're going to pray for someone else who needs that very request is not an easy task. That merit is what brings the blessing. Only Hashem knows what's in a person's heart. Is he or she praying just to gain it for him or herself? Or does he sincerely want the other person to have it? If he sincerely wants it for the other person, it is a guarantee. Prayer is incredible.

The Chofetz Chaim once said that at the end of a person's life, they might be told, “You are credited for making twenty shidduchim, getting fifteen people jobs and healing ten people.” The person might say, “I don't remember doing any of that!” But Hashem will let him know of the truth. “It was your prayers that caused that girl to get married. It was your prayers that brought a refuah sheleima.” Most of the time we don't get to see the fruits of our labor. We don't even know sometimes who we're praying for. But Hashem is keeping track, and sometimes He even lets us see and experience the fruits of our labor.

A woman told me that in 2016, a new initiative was launched, where childless couples were matched up with singles who would each pray for each other. She told me that she prayed for her childless couple the entire year, while they were praying for her. She was delighted to find out in the summer of 2017 that the couple was expecting, but as January arrived and she had still not heard from the couple, she began to worry. And so, she doubled her efforts in Tefillah.

“A month later,” she told me, “on February 4th, I became a kallah. That night, after I celebrated my engagement, the first thing I did was go to my computer to inform the organizers of this prayer campaign that I am engaged, and that they should tell the couple who has been praying for me.

“The next morning, I received an email in my inbox: Mazel Tov! We were just informed by the couple you have been praying for that they had a baby on February 4th.” The exact same day she herself had gotten engaged.

It was one thing for her prayers to be answered, but another thing to see the orchestrated involvement of Hashem. That cannot be replaced by anything else.

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