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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Ki Tisa

Parshat Ki Tisa

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Ki Tisa 5781                                                            Print Version
23rd of Adar, 5781 | March 6, 2021

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Noach Orlowek
The Truth

More than once, I have been interrogated by the police at the airport when wishing to cross borders. I though stick to one hard-and-fast rule: never lie. Literally.

On one occasion, the police sent me to the immigration offices. I told them, “I am here to recruit boys, and I am coming from the Middle East.” To a non-Jew, that sounds like military talk. I proceeded to take out some papers and envelops I had from my yeshiva, Torah Ohr in Jerusalem, and explain that I was planning on interviewing boys for the school.

“The school is in New York?” the police officer asked. I had seen him catch a glance of the brochure for a moment, and knew that if in any way I would answer in the affirmative, he would catch me lying and that would be the end of it. “No,” I said, “it’s in Jerusalem.” Thankfully, I was spared any further questioning. That is one of the most important points to keep in mind: tell the truth when at an airport.

But that was not the only experience I ever had when flying.
On one trip to Johannesburg, South Africa, I was asked by the TSA agent, “Is that your bag?” “No,” I said. “Did you pack it?” “No,” I replied again. The man didn’t know what to do with himself.

Fortunately, Hashem had pity on me and Rebbetzin Auerbach, whose husband works at Ohr Somayach in Jerusalem, was also at the airport. I was taking a bag for her daughter who had just gotten married. I told the officer, “She packed the bag.”

Scurrying over to Rebbetzin Auerbach, he asked her, “Did you pack the bag?” “No, I didn’t; she did.” The kallah had packed it. Talking the matter over with the kallah, the bag was finally taken cleared. One bag down, one bag to go.

“Is this your bag?” he asked. “No,” I said again. He tried further. “Where did you pack it?” “At my children’s in-laws, Mrs. Ehringsting.” “Do you have a number?” Luckily, the person with me had a phone number, which I gave to him. But I didn’t know how successful I would be this time.

Getting on the phone, a girl picked up. “Dina, how are you?” called out the TSA agent.

The girl who picked up the phone, Dina Ehringsting, was this security guard’s cousin. Both of the bags I was carrying were cleared.

While one might be inclined to sometimes tell a small, innocent “white lie,” we are always much better off being straightforward and honest. Distorting or hiding the truth may oftentimes seem that it will get us further, yet the truth is quite the opposite. It will likely put us further back in the line or worse. And in fact, sometimes the truth will happily reunite two cousins who have not spoken for a while.

Rabbi David Shelby
Spare a Coin, Spare a Life

As a certain Rabbi Schwartz walked into yeshiva one morning, he noticed an unusual sight. In the parking lot, there stood a stunning motorcycle. While it was certainly a scene uncommon to the yeshiva premises, Rabbi Schwartz didn’t think too much about it, and simply carried on with his day.

Later that afternoon, as Rabbi Schwartz began walking outside after finishing teaching, he noticed a man getting onto the motorcycle. Pausing, Rabbi Schwartz tried catching a glimpse of the man, and to his great surprise, it was none other than a previous student of his who had graduated over six years ago.
Making his way over to his student, who he had now identified as Yosef, Rabbi Schwartz began striking up conversation. As it turned out, during those past six years, Yosef had gone to Boston, though he had now returned to his hometown and decided to make his first stop be the yeshiva which he had loved so dearly.

“I miss everyone here!” Yosef began. “I miss all the rabbis and the boys, and I came here to learn a bit, as well as give the yeshiva a check from my maa’ser money for all the six years I have not been here.” Yosef pulled out his checkbook, wrote out a check and handed it to Rabbi Schwartz. After some more chatting, Yosef hopped on his motorcycle and took off.

For the next few days, Rabbi Schwartz taught his classes and attended to his normal schedule. Until one day, he received a phone call. “Is this Rabbi Schwartz?” “Yes, speaking…” “Do you remember how a few days ago, one of your old alumni came to visit you on a motorcycle?” “Sure, I do!” Rabbi Schwartz replied emphatically. “Is everything okay?” “Everything will, G-d willing, be okay.”

“Yosef was on the highway yesterday with his motorcycle and unfortunately got into a major accident. You cannot imagine the miracle it is that Yosef is alive today, and he has asked for you to come and visit him in the hospital.” Rabb Schwartz did not hesitate, as he immediately began making plans to head to the hospital and visit Yosef.

As Rabbi Schwartz arrived, he saw Yosef all bandaged up. “Rabbi,” Yosef muttered between breaths, “you can only imagine how terrible the accident was…” As Yosef continued talking, in walked a police officer, holding a piece of metal. “I found this piece of metal fifty feet away from the site of the accident. It flew off the motorcycle!” Both Yosef and Rabbi Schwartz were awestruck to hear this, and continued talking both with utter shock and gratitude that Yosef was still alive.

“Rabbi, do you know why I am alive today?” Rabbi Schwartz could not think of anything. “Think about it,” prodded Yosef. “What was the last thing I did before saying goodbye to you?” Now Rabbi Schwartz caught on. “You gave the yeshiva a check. You gave tzedakah.” “Rabbi, that’s what saved my life. Our Sages teach, ‘tzedakah tatzil mi’mavet – charity spares one from death.’”

“And Rabbi,” continued Yosef, “it also answers another question that I’ve had for the past six years, ever since I’ve graduated from high school.” Yosef paused for a moment, catching his breath and realizing the incredible foresight relating to what he was about to say.

“In my graduating yearbook, the school included one specific verse, taken from anywhere in Tanach, and placed it underneath the picture of each of the graduating students. Rabbi, I used to collect tzedakah during Mincha in school. They added the Pasuk underneath my name which said, ‘tzedakah tatzil mi’mavet – charity spares one from death.’ I had never understood why. There are many verses in Tanach which reference the mitzvah of tzedakah. Why, out of every other verse, was that one chosen? Now my question has been answered.”

Yosef went on to recuperate, regain his strength and live with even more passion and fervor as a Jew. He never forgot how he had personally experienced the power of tzedakah as a life-saving act of kindness, and made the giving of tzedakah his mantra for life.

Rabbi Moshe Bamberger
No One But You

A poor man once knocked on my door, collecting for a particular tzedakah cause. After hearing a little bit about his need, I welcomed him inside my home. Before I knew it, my children had gathered around him and were talking away. He went on to show us pictures of his family, which eventually lead to me writing out a nice check to him.

Before he left, he said to me, “I want to tell you something. What you did for me was the perfect form of tzedakah. I once went to a rich fellow and asked for tzedakah, and was told, ‘I don’t deal with my own tzedakah. I give it to my rav and he has full discretion to give to whomever he would like.’ After hearing this, I realized that while he was definitely performing the mitzvah of tzedakah, he was losing out on a precious opportunity to teach his children the value and importance of giving tzedakah by outsourcing it and delegating it to someone else.”

There are certain things in life that bring maximum benefit when they are done by you and only you alone. To hand it off and place the burden of responsibility on someone else may be more convenient, but it is less than ideal.

The Chofetz Chaim once hosted a guest in his home, who was hesitant to allow the Chofetz Chaim to wait on him and assist him. He preferred that he take care of himself, and the Chofetz Chaim merely provide him the bare minimum necessitates of lodging.

The next morning, right before davening, the Chofetz Chaim approached his guest and said, “Please give me your Tefillin; I’ll put it on for you.” The guest was taken aback. “What do you mean that you’ll put it on for me? I have to do it myself!” “Well, hachnassas orchim, hosting guests, is the same way. I want to do it myself, and not assign it to you!”

There are things in life that we must do ourselves and not substitute other people in our place. As a Jew, a parent, husband, wife, child, brother, sister, friend, chavrusa, neighbor, boss, employee or member of a shul. We are to look inward to see what can be done; not outward. The answer is to be found right where we are.

Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss
Working Decades

I once heard from R’ Eliezer Ginsburg the following story, which occurred with my Rebbe, Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l during one summer he spent at a camp.

Rav Moshe used to write his Torah insights and novella on a special printed stationary, with a fountain pen, which he would refill from an ink well that was next to him. Given that he would write with a fountain pen, he would need to leave the papers to dry for some time after he would write. This would prevent the ink from smudging and making the writing illegible.

On one occasion, he had just finished writing three pages of his Torah thoughts over the course of a few hours, after which he got up and left his paper stationary to dry. Shortly thereafter, three yeshiva boys came by Rav Moshe’s table to glance at the work of the gadol hador, though accidently, the ink well somehow spilled over and poured onto the papers, ruining them all. When they saw what had become of Rav Moshe’s papers, they couldn’t believe their eyes. Appalled, they took off in a sprint.

Learning of what had happened was one of the camp rebbeim, who approached them. The boys confessed and owned up to what had happened, and from there went to Rav Moshe himself to apologize.

Standing before Rav Moshe nervously, the three boys expressed regret and their apologies over what had happened. Rav Moshe made nothing of it, and soothed the boys’ fears, reiterating that it was not their fault and that he accepted their apology and forgave them.

Some time later, Rav Moshe was asked how he was able to control his disappointment and frustration and not get upset at all? It had taken him hours upon hours to write those papers. Rav Moshe’s response is worth remembering for a lifetime.
“I worked for hours on writing those novella, but I worked for decades on not getting angry.”

There are those instances in life when we have spent considerable time and effort investing in something, and it doesn’t work out the way we wanted. For whatever reason, we are left in a position which could arguably warrant losing our cool. It is in that moment when we could let our rage flare that we ought to remember that while we may have worked for hours on that project, venture or investment, we can be on our way to working for decades at refining our character. For Rav Moshe, trading in his temper for those papers, which were already ruined and nothing more could have been done anyway, was not worth it. All that remained was showing anger to these boys. But more valuable than that, and an even greater lesson to the boys and triumph for himself, was to remain perceptively poised and calm amidst the frustration.

Rav Elya Lopian once remarked that when dealing with negative character traits, one must extinguish the “pilot light.” His intent was that by doing away with such undesirable traits, when an incident later occurs which could ignite it (e.g. a frustrating incident which could cause anger), nothing will follow. Since the core trait has been a focus of improvement, it cannot be reawakened by any subsequent event. There is no “pilot light” for the anger to grow out of.

For Rav Moshe, he had spent day in and day out reminding himself of the importance of staying in control of himself, that the value of controlling his temper far outweighed any temporary relief that losing his temper would yield. That hallmarked his character and is a model from which we can all draw inspiration.

Dr. Norman Blumenthal
Set Your Alarm Clock

Many years ago, I was working with a woman who was undergoing an extremely challenging time. I remember her telling me something that has stayed with me for years.
While she relayed in detail her sorrow and suffering, I spontaneously asked her, “How do you get up in the morning?” She replied that she had bought herself a digital alarm clock and no matter what day of the week it was, whether she could sleep in more or less, she set her alarm for 6:13 a.m., representing to her the 613 mitzvos. That is how she got up in the morning. It was a gentle reminder that Hashem was with her, supporting her and caring for her, and granting her a new day in this world to get up and make great things happen with her life.

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