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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Tetzaveh

Parshat Tetzaveh

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Tetzaveh 5781                                                        Print Version
16th of Adar, 5781 | February 27, 2021

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Daniel Coren
Dressing Up

As has been the long-standing custom, individuals and families dress up in costumes and masks on Purim. While typical costumes consist of Mordechai, Esther and the like, there are those who have the practice of dressing up as Achashveirosh, Haman, Vashti or some other type of villain. What is the reason behind this?

One of the many reasons for the custom of dressing up is based upon the Gemara (Megillah 12a) which relates that the Jews were spared from destruction in the times of Purim for their external actions did not reflect their internal thoughts and feelings. They bowed to Haman, who had made himself into a figure of idolatry, simply out of fear. In light of that, Hashem lightened the retribution and performed a miracle on their part.

Similarly, we wear costumes and masks to highlight the same notion. Even though we may externally do actions unbefitting us, deep within us, we all have a pristine neshama which only wishes to do what is right and listen to Hashem.

But there is more to add. The Talmud Yerushalmi (end of Mesechta Berachos) states that the difference between Avraham Avinu and Dovid Hamelech is that the former was able to channel his yetzer hara (evil inclination) towards the good and make it akin to his yetzer tov (good inclination). Dovid Hamelech, in contrast, out of fear that his yetzer hara would overwhelm him, completely suppressed all physical pleasure and drives, thereby ridding himself of it.

On Purim, we take the approach of Avraham Avinu and direct our physical, mundane lives towards serving Hashem. We eat, drink and rejoice – all physical acts – against the backdrop of tremendous closeness with Hashem. Purim is a time of “V’nahapoch hu,” of turning things their opposite way. We turn physical acts into spiritual experiences and elevate ourselves to higher and higher plateaus.

Mr. Charlie Harary
Take Nothing for Granted

Early on in my career, I was given several pieces of advice that have stayed with me to this very day. They were business tidbits that successful business people and companies always live by, and factually work. They are the keys to tried and true success.
But what I have also learned throughout my entrepreneurial career is that many of these business tips also apply to life as a Jew. We tend to divide our lives at work from our lives at home. Yet, in fact, tremendously insightful nuggets of wisdom exist within the business world, which if applied to our lives at home with our families and communities, offer us paths to success.

Of the many secrets and strategies I learned, here is one that stands above all else: Successful business people and companies never take anything for granted. You can never sit in a meeting and say, “Well, they were our customers last year, so of course they will be our customers this year.” Or, “We practiced real estate this way for the past year; we can continue using the same strategies for the next twenty years.” Having this attitude is a recipe for disaster, for you can expect that the world will change even overnight and life will look different. What was is not what will be. It is absolutely true that businesses discuss the implications of life with self-driving cars and convertible homes. If these considerations were overlooked and the status quo was taken for granted, by the time they would finish constructing a building, its design would be obsolete.

The key fundamental distinction between successful businesses and unsuccessful ones is this very point. Nothing is taken for granted. You cannot rest on your laurels and allow life to happen to you.

Applying this principle to our personal lives with our families, we are clued into a perspective we’ve all heard before, yet never gets old. We shouldn’t take anything for granted. This is true for all of us, no matter what age or stage we are up to in life. If we are grandparents, we cannot expect our grandchildren to appreciate the vibrancy and richness of Jewish tradition of old, but must rather teach and tell them of it. If we are parents, we cannot expect our children to be devotedly religious just because we are. We must actively instill and inculcate them with Jewish values and ideals, and model and nurture a vibrant Torah life for them and with them. And as children, we must make considerable personal strides to ensure that our love and connection to Judaism remains alive and meaningful, regardless of our upbringing.

It is the line to hang up on your wall, pen in your notebook and repeat to yourself again and again. Take nothing for granted. Why, though, is this so important? Why is it the key to successful companies and Jewish life? It is because with this attitude, we step up to become the business people of our families and the marketers of Yiddishkeit to all those we come in contact. Our grandchildren and children may be attending a Jewish school, yet we do not assume that we can simply sit back and relax. “They are learning everything they need in school; why would they need my help? What more could I offer them?” That is regressing to an attitude of expectations and assumptions. And assumptions lead to disappointments.

You may turn around when your child is past high school and wonder why they know little about European Jewry and the Holocaust. They know little about basic life skills or your family’s history. The list is endless. The question we must ask daily is, “If I were the only one responsible for transmitting Jewish tradition and life to my children, what would I do? How different would my Shabbos table look? How different would I talk and teach my children?” Perhaps you would set aside special time from your hobbies and activities to devote to your children’s education and community development.

This equally applies to our personal lives. Every step we take is not to be taken for granted. We made the effort to wake up early enough to daven before we headed off to work, and we ought to pat ourselves on the back. Even if we have done it for years or decades, it doesn’t mean it was granted that we would do it today. Compliment yourself and feel positive. The same is true in the reverse. Just because we prayed today doesn’t mean we will pray tomorrow. Perhaps an unforeseen event will arise, and we will be derailed. Take nothing for granted.

The economy fluctuates, innovations originate, ideas shift and the world changes. Nothing in this world stands still, and we must recognize our personal responsibility as bearers of the Jewish future and take matters into our own hands. Look at life similar to the perspective of businesses. Yes, we are growing as individuals, our children are attending schools and our communities are burgeoning. But status quo by definition means an unaltered condition. And we all know that life conditions alter.

The solution is to always be thinking and rethinking of how we and others are doing. You learned something once; do not take for granted that you will remember it. Your child looks happy; do not take for granted that he or she is actually happy. Make sure it is true. Your student raised their hand to answer a question; do not take it for granted. You have no idea how much courage it took for them to make that move. Your friend helped carry your luggage up to your hotel room; do not take it for granted. Look them in the eye and heartfully say, “Thank you.” Your husband or wife feels the support they need; check in with them to verify that such is the case.

It is so powerful a motto and the true ticket to success. Take nothing for granted. That is how we will achieve personal, familial and communal growth and greatness.

Rabbi Paysach Krohn
Ascending the Mountain

The Chofetz Chaim (Ahavas Chesed, ch. 12) writes that not a day should go by without a person performing an act of kindness. Practically speaking, keep a notebook where you can write down what act of kindness you did each day. In a short time, that notebook will become of your most treasured possessions. It need not be something of major consequence; just something small, where you think of another and extend yourself for them.

Let me give you a small example.

In the shul where I daven in Kew Gardens, New York, there is what is called the ‘Beis Midrash of Mordechai HaTzaddik’ every year on the day of Purim. Fathers, sons, uncles and grandparents all gather together an hour before Mincha in the afternoon to learn. Following Mincha, all the young children line up wearing their costumes in front of the rabbi and receive a small Purim gift of gelt (money). It is something all the children look forward to.

A friend of mine, Nigel Collins, lives in Manchester, England. He is a wonderful fellow who is a great photographer. One year, he was visiting me for Purim and he decided, all by himself, to take a picture of each child as they stood next to the rabbi and received their special Purim gift. No one asked him to do so.
The amazing part was that within a few hours, he had gotten every picture developed and had it distributed to every family in the neighborhood. Each family received a picture of their child smiling in their costume next to the rabbi. Nigel was in no way obligated to do this, but out of the goodness of his heart, he brought much joy to many children and their families.

That is what it means to think outside of yourself and lead a life where your priorities are in order. It is a mindset which places others at the height of importance and constantly thinks of what can be done to bring oneself and others to a higher point on the mountaintop. And then, sooner than later, we will all find ourselves together at the peak of the mountain, with our hands free of heavy and burdensome loads, and instead full of eternal spiritual reward.

Rabbi Dovid Kaplan
Explosive Blessings

As the meal ended at the banquet of one kiruv organization and dessert was served, platters full of watermelon came out. Seated at this elegant banquet was a man who had taken significant strides in Judaism. After noticing the refreshing watermelon placed before him, he took one slice and recited the blessing, “Baruch atah Hashem Elokeinu Melech ha’olam she’hakol nihiye bidvaro.”

Sitting just next to him was one of the outreach rabbis. Realizing that the man had erred and made the blessing of she’hakol on the watermelon instead of the correct beracha of ha’adama, the rabbi politely informed him that although it is wonderful to make blessings, he had made a mistake. “I make she’hakol,” the man insisted. “And why is that so?” inquired the rabbi. “I’ll tell you why,” replied the man.

During the 1973 war in Israel, I was positioned in the Golan Heights with my platoon. As Syrian tanks surrounded us, we knew it was the end. We were hopeless. Looking to say some prayer, we all fell silent. None of us knew anything about Judaism. There was one soldier, however, who did know one thing: how to make the blessing of she’hakol. And so, he said aloud, “Baruch atah Hashem Elokeinu Melech ha’olam she’hakol nihiye bidvaro,” as did the rest of us after him. Just then, someone released a shot and blew up a Syrian tank. All we heard was “Baruch atah Hashem… she’hakol nihiye bidvaro” BOOM and down went the tank.

“Rabbi, if it’s good enough for Syrian tanks, it’s good enough for watermelon.”

Such is the power of a bracha. It truly is like an explosion as it reverberates in Heaven and brings down to the world an abundant flow of blessing.

Rabbi Label Lam
Profound Approach, Profound Results

It was Shabbos in Israel as cars drove up, down and around the Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramot. With large crowds of religious Jews likewise filling the streets, it frequently became a source of contention and protest as cars would pass by. “Shabbos!” they would yell. “Shabbos!”

But for Rav Zaks, grandson of the Chofetz Chaim, such reactions to the breaking of Shabbos fell short. There was a far better and more effective way of impacting and impressing upon others the importance and beauty of Shabbos. “Come with me,” he once told a group of students on Shabbos, “let me show you what you can do.”

And so, one Shabbos, Rav Zaks led a number of boys outside and stood at a strategically positioned corner where cars were sure to pass by. “The next car that passes by,” he said, “one of you remember the first three digits of the license plate and another remember the last four digits of the license plate.” And so it happened.

When Shabbos came to an end, Rabbi Zaks, prepared with the full license plate number, headed to police station where the location of the car with those numbers was eventually tracked down. And with that, Rabbi Zaks headed to the home of a supposed irreligious Jew.

After tapping on the door, a young secular boy opened, only to see Rabbi Zaks flanked by a few other boys dressed in their accustomed yeshiva clothes. It was certainly an unfamiliar sight to the boy, who summarily called upon his father. “How can I help you rabbi?” asked the irreligious fellow.

After some brief introductory remarks, Rav Zaks got to the point. “After the war, my family along with many others moved here and began rebuilding our lives. Our religious life in Europe had been rich and vitalizing, yet new challenges have arisen in Israel. We have a shul and community, yet there is something that has been particularly disturbing here for some time. I don’t want to tell you what to do, but the cars disturb us and disturb the serenity, and it is an affront to our Shabbos. We are not going to throw anything, but I just wanted to let you know that this is how we feel, and perhaps if you choose to drive, you can take an alternate route that avoids traveling through the main Jewish neighborhoods.”

The fellow looked at Rav Zaks, a certain twinkle in his eyes. “I don’t exactly know what I am going to do, but I like your approach and I appreciate it.” And with that, the conversation ended and Rav Zaks and the irreligious fellow bid each other farewell.

A few months later, the same man tracked down Rav Zaks’ phone number and gave him a call. “Rabbi Zaks, my son is turning thirteen soon and we would like him to receive a bar mitzvah. I do not know how to approach the subject and was wondering if you could help me navigate through it.” Rav Zaks was pleasantly surprised to hear from the man again and went on to help him and his son purchase tefillin.

Shortly thereafter, the man called once again, this time with a different question. “My wife and I never grew up in a home with a Kosher kitchen and we decided that we would like to buy some new dishes and turn our current kitchen into one that is Kosher. Would you be able to help guide us?” Sooner than later, the bar mitzvah boy was registering in a yeshiva and the family began keeping Shabbos and slowly observing more and more mitzvos.

Such was the kiruv approach of Rav Zaks, the grandson of the Chofetz Chaim. One which humbly and subtlety guides the way to change and replaces berating and rebuking with inspiring and beautiful words of empowerment and enrichment.

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