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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Yitro

Parshat Yitro

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Yitro 5781                                                                Print Version
24th of Shevat, 5781 | February 6, 2020

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Paysach Krohn
The World’s Symphony

At the Yeshiva Derech Chaim, one of the teachers is a man by the name of Rabbi Moshe Plutchok. He told me that in the summer, their entire yeshiva moves up to the mountain area, near Monticello, in a place called Greenfield Park. There they host what is called ‘Kollel Mechanchim.’ It is a place to study for all teachers that teach in the various camps in the mountains. The vibe and atmosphere of Torah learning there is absolutely incredible.

One year, on the first day of the Kollel, Rabbi Plutchok looked around and recognized most everybody from previous years. But then he noticed a businessman whom he never seen before. He figured that he probably came from a local bungalow colony. The man opened up his Gemara and started learning with tremendous concentration. Rabbi Plutchok noticed this go on the first day, the second day, and on and on. The businessman was, without question, fully invested and involved in his learning. If you would have observed this man, whenever he had a question on the Gemara, he would ask one of the younger fellows. They were all younger than him, but he wasn't embarrassed.

Sometime later, Rabbi Plutchok went over to the man and introduced himself. “I’ve never seen you here before. But I must tell you that I'm so impressed with your diligence in learning. You come in the morning and you stay throughout the afternoon. It's really incredible to watch you.”

The man looked back at Rabbi Plutchok and replied, “Rabbi, you don't know me. But the ArtScroll Gemara is carrying me. I never had an opportunity to learn when I was young. Now that ArtScroll has translated the Gemara, I'm able to come and learn. Rabbi, you also don't know, but I have liver cancer. If I would concentrate on how sick I really am, I wouldn't make it through a day. So, I come here, and I take my Gemara and throw myself into learning, trying to maintain a connection to the legacy that is Klal Yisroel.”

Rabbi Plutchok was visibly moved by this man. “Listen,” Rabbi Plutchok said, “I want to become your friend. Ask me your Gemara questions. If I can give you the answer, I will, and if not, I will go and ask for you. But you stay right in your seat, learn as much as you can, and if you have any questions, come over to me.”

Rabbi Plutchok and this fellow become very friendly throughout the summer. A day before the last session, Rabbi Plutchok walked into the room, but didn’t see his friend. Where is he? He then noticed the man sitting in the back, looking awful. “Is everything okay? You don't look so good today.”

“Rabbi,” said the man, “my illness is progressing. The last couple days, I've been thinking, what's the difference if I learn anyway? Who cares? You think I understand everything? Even when you explain it to me, or the other fellows explain it to me, I don’t understand everything. You are all big talmidei chachamim. When you learn it's special! What's the difference if I learn though?”

It was nothing short of a miracle that that the night before this conversation, Rabbi Plutchok heard the following story on a Jewish radio station.

In the 1950s, there was a great orchestra leader by the name of Arturo Toscanini. He was a brilliant musician, bordering on a perfectionist. He had an ear for orchestral detail, and was an extremely intense person. He had led symphony orchestras all over the world. It was near the end of his life that he had a biographer detail his life history.

On one afternoon, the biographer came in and said, “I’d like to come tomorrow night, interview you and finish the book.” “Tomorrow night you can't come,” said Toscanini. “Tomorrow night, I'm doing something special, and I don't want any interruptions whatsoever.”

The biographer prodded. “What are you doing?” “There is a certain orchestra that I used to lead, but now because of my health, I can't lead it this year. Tomorrow night on shortwave radio, they're going to play that concert on the radio. I want to listen to it, and I don't want any disruptions. I don't want anybody there; I just want to listen and see how the conductor leads that orchestra.”

The biographer knew it was an opportunity. “It would be so special for me, if I could come and watch how you listen to the orchestra and listen together with you. I promise I won't say a word.” “Not a word?” confirmed Toscanini. “Not a word.”

A quarter to eight the next evening, the writer walked into the house. Toscanini was sitting there, and put on the shortwave radio. At eight o'clock it started, and by nine o'clock the concert was over. Toscanini shut off the shortwave radio, and the biographer walked over to him and remarked, “Wasn't that magnificent?” “No, it wasn't,” Toscanini said. “There was supposed to be 120 musicians there, including 15 violinists. There were only 14.”

The biographer looked at him as if he was crazy. How could he know over shortwave radio that that one violinist was missing? But he didn't want to say anything, fearing he'd lose the job of writing the biography. He decided, though, that he’d call the music director.

“Tell me,” the biographer asked of the director the next day, “how many musicians were supposed to be there? And how many showed up?”

The director replied, “There was supposed to be 120 there, 15 violinists, and only 14 showed up.”

Now the biographer couldn't believe it. He returned to Toscanini and said, “I must admit that last night I thought you were just being arrogant. But you were right the whole time. But just explain it to me. How in the world could you, over shortwave radio, know that one violinist was missing?”

Listen to what he said. It's going to change your life.

“There's a great difference between me and you,” Toscanini said. “You are the audience, and to you everything sounds great, but I'm the conductor, and a conductor must know every note of music that's going to be played. When I began to listen intently and I realized there were some notes not being played, I knew without a doubt that one of those violinists wasn't there.”

Rabbi Plutchok then said to the gentleman, “Maybe to me it doesn't make a difference that you're learning, but to the Conductor of the World Symphony, to Hashem, Who knows every line of Torah that can be learned, Who knows every line of tefillah that can be prayed, it makes a difference. Because He knows what everyone can do.”

The man was taken by Rabbi Plutchok’s words.
They embraced and the next day they parted. The following winter, Rabbi Plutchok met the son of this man, and asked how his father was doing.

“Rabbi Plutchok,” the son said, “my father passed away. But I want to tell you something. Ever since he came home from the bungalow colony, every time he opened up his Gemara, he said, ‘I'm performing for the Conductor of the World Symphony.’”

We are all musicians in Hashem's symphony. We are all playing in the spiritual orchestra of Hashem. And as in every orchestra, the cellist can't play like the violinist, the violinist can't play like the flutist, and the flutist can't play like the drummer. But they don't have to play like each other. Each has to be the best that he or she can be. That’s all that is asked of us.

So play. Play your personal best music. That is the sweetest sound to the Conductor of the World.

Rabbi Fischel Schachter
Your Greatest Desire

Reb Tzadok of Lublin writes, “Kol adam yesh lo chemda – Every person possesses an inner desire.” It may be for money, physical pleasure, honor, or a variety of other pursuits. “But one should know,” says Rav Tzadok, “that these desires are not bad. Because within your most difficult nisayon (test), blessing in your life is hinged directly upon. That very desire you have, which was given to you by Hashem as a challenge, is the very key to blessing.”

When Dovid HaMelech became king, he appointed Shevuel to be his secretary of treasury. Shevuel must have been the most honest person to ever live, you would assume. Actually, however, it was just the opposite. Shevuel was the most money-hungry person around. But Dovid determined that precisely because money rang loudly in his ears, he would execute the job impeccably as its treasurer. And that is because of what Shevuel could turn around. Dovid saw within him the power of teshuvah, and that he could take his very weakness that he had, and return it to its source. That incredible effort Shevuel would put in would itself elicit blessing for Dovid’s treasury. If you hire someone who has the biggest inner struggle for theft, and he restrains himself, that yields the greatest blessing.

The same is true of a host of other life challenges. Someone who refrains from looking where he shouldn’t or holds himself back from saying something is directly infusing beracha into his life. In Dovid HaMelech’s mind, the key to was to take the biggest thief and get him to turn it around.

During these weeks of Shovavim, when we turn our focus on matters of Jewish holiness and purity, we can accomplish this. I remember hearing of the Satmar Rebbe zt”l who would talk about the concentration camps and how people who had lost their lives and children rebuilt themselves. He said, “You have to take the pain, and instead of using it to be angry, convert it to beracha. Take the despair and convert it to hope.” He then would start crying, and everyone would follow with crying themselves. They then would calm down, and the Rebbe would say it again, and everyone would start crying again. When you left, you felt like you were washed in and out.

It is the power of taking your weakness and struggle and turning it into your biggest source of blessing and strength in life. And we all can achieve that.

Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski zt”l
Times for Growth

A lobster is a soft mushy animal that lives inside a rigid shell that does not expand. How then does the lobster grow?

The truth is that as the lobster grows, its shell becomes very confining. The lobster feels itself under pressure and uncomfortable. What it does, though, is crawl under a rock to protect itself from predatory fish, and in that safety, it casts off its shell and produces a new one. But you know what will happen next.

Eventually that shell becomes uncomfortable as it grows into it. Back under the rocks. The lobster repeats this numerous times.
The stimulus for the lobster to grow is that it feels uncomfortable. If lobsters had doctors, they would never grow, because as soon as the lobster felt uncomfortable, it would go to the doctor, be prescribed some medicine and feel fine. But then it would never divest itself of its shell. We must realize that times of stress are also times for growth. And if we use adversity properly, we can grow tremendously through it.

Rabbi Ari Bensoussan
Missing Hashem

I've been sick with cancer two times, and the second time I had to get a stem cell transplant. At the time I was recuperating, a very close family friend was also sick with cancer. But there was a difference. While I was getting better, she was not. We would talk to each other, and I would try to tell her, “With G-d’s help, you will get better.” But then it was hospice. And then she left this world.

It hurt a lot. But I didn't realize to what extent, until years later, after I got married and moved to Israel.

This woman’s husband, a Rabbi himself, ran a certain school in New York. Every year, he brought his 12th grade class to Israel to look at yeshivas for the next year. The year after his wife passed away, he came to look at my school with his boys. After they walked through it all, I said to him, “New, Rabbi? Are you going to do some sightseeing while you’re here?” His response was something that taught me more about wisdom and living than anything I think I've learned.

“Ari,” he said, “what's the point of going sightseeing if I have nobody to share it with? I can't, it hurts too much. I would love to watch a sunset, but when I turn and the space next to me is empty, and I can't turn to my love and say to her, ‘This is so beautiful,’ I would rather just stay in my hotel room. I'm lacking so much. I miss her so much.”

If this is true of a relationship with our spouse, how much truer is it about our relationship with Hashem.

If you want to know what it means not to have G-d in your life, this is it. I’m not even talking about the Next World; I’m talking about this one. We are supposed to share everything with Him. We are meant to roll over in the morning and say, “Hashem, I'm back again, and You gave me my soul!” Every success that we have, we’re supposed to say, “We did it, Hashem! We did it!” And every loss that we have, we say to Hashem, “I'm hurting.” How much do we miss our husband or wife and kids when we they are not at our side?

When we err, and want to reconnect to Hashem, tell Him, “I'm lacking. I don't have You. I'm not connected to You. I wish I could fill my life more with You. I wish we had this endless life with each other, in this world and the Next. Hashem, this year, let it be filled with me and You, together.”

But we must first and foremost be real with ourselves. Where are we? What are we doing with our life? If we’re living an imposter existence, if we are a mere shadow of what we could become, we won’t be able to get there. If you're ever asking the question, “Where is G-d?” the answer is, “Where are you?” Find yourself and you're going to find Hashem very quickly.

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