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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Shemini 

Parshat Shemini 

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Shemini 5781                                                         Print Version
28th of Nissan, 5781 | April 10, 2021

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Fischel Schachter
Remember Me?

It was just days after the great Rav Yaakov Galinsky had gotten married that he was called upon by the Chazon Ish. “I need you to take care of something very important,” the Chazon Ish urged. Hundreds of children from Teheran had been forcibly locked into Israeli kibbutzim and anticipated to be acculturated and secularized in line with an irreligious lifestyle. Only after due arbitration was it agreed that already Orthodox, religious children would be allowed to be released into stable religious homes and avoid steeping themselves in a future that stood antithetical to their values. But there was one hindrance.

Agency officials in charge of overseeing the Teheran children refused to allow any religious children to be released except for those who had been documented as ‘religious.’ A detailed, authoritative list had been compiled in Europe and would serve as proof for which children would be allowed to leave. But it wasn’t in the hands of the religious leaders, unfortunately, but rather with those who had placed the children into kibbutzim. It was thus far from simple to obtain the list and begin any process as hoped for.

But the Chazon Ish’s instructions to Rav Galinsky were clear. “Go and ask for the list,” he said. It was a far-fetched request, though Rav Galinsky went along with it.

Stealthily making his way to the army base, he was met by a number of soldiers who abruptly and accusingly stopped him. “Do you belong here?” they asked. It appeared as if Rav Galinsky was trying to secretly obtain something, which he in fact was. But Rav Galinsky only shrugged when asked what he was up to. Presuming that he was looking for someone who spoke Yiddish, the officials summoned one of their executive officers who could interrogate Rav Galinsky in Yiddish.

As soon as Rav Galinsky caught sight of the officer, he sprung into an outburst. “Chulit!” he exclaimed, a clear reference to the officer’s name. The officer was offset, his eyebrows burrowing in confusion and seriousness. “How do you know who I am?” inquired the officer. “Allow me to remind you,” began Rav Galinsky.

“Years ago, I was arrested while living in Russia. Every day, they used to feed me only a morsel of food and beat me. It was a terrible and terrifying situation. With me was a list of all the Jewish children who were later brought to Teheran. I was forced to relinquish that list with all the names.

“A few days later, I was told that I would be sent to Siberia, though my frail condition was concerning to the officers. It didn’t appear as if I could even make it there alive. They decided to thus give me a bowl of plain noodles, which I could have devoured within minutes.

“But then, I heard a heartbreaking outcry coming from nearby. It was you, Chulit. You had just been brought to those terrible living quarters and knew it would soon be your turn to be sent to Siberia. You cried about your ominous future and begged for just a morsel of food. Hearing you cry broke my heart, and I decided that I would share half of my noodles with you, which you so graciously accepted.”

Chulit, now a reputable soldier, looked at Rav Galinsky. It all came back to him, and he indeed remembered. “Remember…?” whispered Rav Galinsky. “I gave you the noodles… I saved your life… Please give me the list of those Jewish names back.”
And sure enough, Rav Galinsky was given the list.

There will be times in life where matters not only look dismal but are dismal. Life is challenging and crushing. Yet all the while, that very situation may be paving an unknown road that will later turn out to be our ticket to where we want and need to get. In hindsight, it is no less than our source of blessing and life. It is a most depressing and dejected moment, yet all the while, it is in the process of becoming our most promising and positive moment.

Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein
Seconds, Minutes, Hours

Goals are a supremely important and motivating force in our lives. When we are able to set our focus on something and commit to it, we find within ourselves wellsprings of will and energy that we may have otherwise never discovered. However, there is likewise an aspect of having a goal that can lead to just the opposite. Allow me to explain.

I was one approached by a fourteen-year-old girl who said to me, “Rabbi Wallerstein, I am ready to get married.” Thrown off by the question, I asked if she could elaborate on what she meant. “I am ready to leave school and head out to work.” I was troubled by her train of thought. “Why do you want to get married during your teenage years? You have a lot to learn and a lot to absorb, and at the appropriate time, in years from now, you can get married. Why are you so eager to do so now?” “Rabbi,” she said, “that’s my ultimate goal. Once I have that, I am set. If I don’t get married soon, I may get older and never get married.”

After hearing this, I explained to her the following. Marriage is not a goal. If that is the way you view it, you will be sorely unhappy as soon as you walk back from your chuppa. You have accomplished your goal, so now what? Where do you go from there? Marriage is rather a means to other goals, including having children and building a Jewish family and Torah future. It is an ingredient, but by no means a goal.

What though occurs if you adopt the attitude that it is a goal? You may be fourteen years old, and you realize that you cannot get married for a number of years. Those gap years then become a barrier and get in your way of your goal. They are blocking you from achieving your desired finish line. If you could, you would rush through those years as fast as you can to avoid the pain of waiting to get married. After all, the sooner you reach your goal, the more successful and happier you will be? But that is far from right.

Hashem created our life in such a way where we experience small increments of time, which aggregate to form larger increments. Seconds turn into minutes, which turn into hours, which turn into days, then weeks, then months, then years.
There are micro and macro segments of time to our life. Every moment of our lives is counted and calculated into the larger framework of our time on this earth. If we fail to appreciate this, we will be exchanging unbelievable opportunities for fulfillment of a “goal.” When that goal will happen, it will happen, but don’t sit around until it does and fritter away the time in between. Of course, if you are taking necessary steps towards that goal, then you are engaging in a meaningful process and living in the present with your sights to the future. Yet, if your focus is anything less than that, you will likely squander and surrender your present time to the future attainment of your goal, and miss out on the here-and-now of your life.

The count of Sefiras Ha’Omer, which culminates with Shavuos, teaches us this profound lesson. Every day counts. We don’t merely end Pesach and wait around until arriving at Shavuos.
We left Egypt and had our eyes set on an extraordinary goal, that of receiving the Torah. It would be simple to forget about the interim days and merely wait until Shavuos arrives, and then observe it. However, we do just the opposite. We count the days in between, and call attention to the time before our goal manifests itself. And that is because Sefiras Ha’Omer is a step towards Shavuos, and we want to recognize and value every minute, day and week.

At the end of our lives, Hashem will show us all that we accomplished. But how we will view it? It will not be merely the bookends of our lives. We were born here and passed away there. We will review our every second, minute, hour, day, week, month and year. Every increment counts and is accounted for. If we learned for one hour, said Tehillim for ten minutes and gave tzedakah in one second, that will all be to our credit. If, however, we only set our eyes on a goal of ours and overlook the time in between, we are minimizing the power of the moment and the present.

Every second in our life is a microcosm of Sefiras Ha’Omer. Count your seconds and make them meaningful. Pull yourself into a quite space and think, “What is my goal this moment?” We must live our lives for every moment, because that is where our truest goals will find fulfillment.

Rebbetzin Frumah Altusky
The Catskills

For many Jewish families, the Catskills Mountains serve as a resort for the summer months. With many wonderful sites to visit and spend time in, bungalow colonies are packed with parents and children for months.

Years ago, Al lived with his wife, Lilly, and their children in Manhattan. Working as a taxi driver, Al enthusiastically drove up and down the busy streets of Manhattan day after day. While some may have found such a job tedious and tiring, Al immensely enjoyed helping people to and from their destinations. It was, in fact, his dream job. But one day that all changed.

Unfortunately, Al developed ulcers. Going for a checkup with his doctor after three occurrences of his ulcer bursting, he was told news he never wished to hear. “Al,” said the doctor, “you are not going to survive another incident like this. You need to take it easy. I am sorry, but I don’t think you will be able to drive a taxi any longer.”

Taking aback by the news, Al was not going to comply with the doctor’s wishes without putting up a fight. “Doctor, there is no other way it can heal? I need to drive a taxi for a living!” “You need to take some time off,” repeated the doctor. “You will need to find another way to make a living if you wish to stay healthy.” With little hope of convincing the doctor of another option, Al returned home.

Al and his family knew very little about Judaism. Nevertheless, Al made sure that his family observed Yom Kippur and ate matzah on Pesach. But even so, the family maintained little connection to a life of Torah. One day, though, as Lilly was relaxing and reading the Jewish Press, she found the panacea to Al’s health issue. “Al,” she said, “I know what we are going to do. We are going to the Catskills for the summer!” “The Catskills?” Al blurted out. “What’s over there?” “There is an advertisement here,” Lilly continued, “which mentions that there is an opening for a position in a store. You could run the store over the summer and take it easy. The Catskills is the perfect place to relax. It is a wonderful idea. What do you say?” Looking back at his wife, Al figured that he had little choice to decline the offer considering that his doctor had said that driving a taxi was out of the question for now. “Okay, sounds like a nice idea,” Al said.

After making the necessary arrangements to secure a job in the store, the family began making plans for their upcoming vacation. As the summer months soon arrived, Al, his wife and children, along with two family relatives, Aunt Jenny and Uncle Eddy, headed to the Catskills. Upon arriving there, the family found the accommodations quite comfortable. And without any delay, Al began to work in the store.

It was not too long before Al realized that those who frequented the store and in fact the entire vicinity were religious Jews. He had never before experienced such a scene of Jews walking all around. Neither was he accustomed to wearing a yarmulke, and so, he instead wore a hat. Otherwise, Al kept on doing business as usual. But then came Shabbos. Not having any special meaning to Al, Saturday was just another day. Nothing changed and the store remained open.

Al continued to work the next week as his family enjoyed the new environment. The family felt a bit uncomfortable, though, as they clearly stood out as different from the rest of the community. Nevertheless, life moved along. After two weeks of business, however, Al began to think of an idea. “Lilly,” he said, “what do you think if I close the store on Saturday. After all, for the past two weeks, I only made a small amount of money. It is not that worth it. And besides, I feel better not working on Saturday among religious Jews.” Hearing her husband’s words, Lilly agreed.

After closing the store, life took on a different shape. The family became more consciously aware of Shabbos and the fact that they were surrounded by Jews who identified with a rich and beautiful heritage. It was greatly inspirational to Al and his family. One day, Al turned to Lilly and said, “Look, we are living among Jewish men and women. Maybe you should consider buying some clothing which is more in vogue with Jewish apparel. After all, you go outside amongst other women who wear skirts.” “Al,” Lilly replied, “I think you have a good point.” “And also,” added Al, “while you are at it, would you be able to pick up for Eddy and me a couple of yarmulkes?” “Sure,” replied Lilly. And with that, Lilly and Aunt Jenny left to go shopping.

After returning home with the new purchases, Lilly and Jenny began to wear skirts and Al and Eddy began to wear yarmulkes. At this point, the family was observing Shabbos and wearing modest clothing and head coverings. The entire family had taken great strides in their Yiddishkeit and were rightfully proud of each other. And in fact, the next Shabbos, they were invited out for all three Shabbos meals.

Becoming more interested and connected to Judaism, the summer was nearing its close. After having worked for a few months and relaxing and more significantly learning of his Jewish roots, Al turned to his wife. “Lilly, I have another idea. We have gone so far. We have begun to keep Shabbos, dress according to Jewish tradition and become more knowledge of Judaism. The only thing that I have been thinking about is the kids. They are in public school right now and it is not the best environment. They know little of their own heritage besides what they have been exposed to here. What do you say about putting them in Jewish schools? I looked into it, and there is a Jewish day school right here in the Catskills just up the block.”

Hearing her husband’s sincerity, Lilly knew that life was going to drastically change not only for them from this point forward, but also for their children. But she was ready for that, and so was the rest of her family. Pulling the children out of public school, Lilly and Al placed them in Jewish schools in the Catskills.

For fifteen years, Al continued to live with his family in the Catskills. He married off his children to nice Jewish boys and girls and enjoyed true Yiddishe nachas. And throughout all this time, incredibly, the ulcer was quiet.

We can never be certain where life will lead us. A distressing situation may lead to a new, brighter future which we otherwise may never have experienced. In this situation, Al’s uncomforting health brought him back to his Jewish roots. He may never have dreamed that he was about to embark on a journey that would forever change and shape not only his own life, but the life of his wife and children. But then again, nothing is ever impossible. With a genuine resolve to grow closer to Hashem and our true selves, not even the skies are the limit.

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