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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Shelach

Parshat Shelach

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Shelach                                                                   Print Version
25th of Sivan, 5781 | June 5, 2021

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Label Lam
Dodging a Bullet

One of the very tempting yet elusive dreams many of us have is that of winning the lottery. “It would be so nice,” we think to ourselves, “if we could just win millions of dollars…” While of course we hear of the stories were such enormous wealth inundated its winner to the point of bankruptcy, we assure ourselves that we would not achieve the same fate.

Yet there is perhaps a more analytic and insightful reason that such wealth does not always lead to an easy future. The Orchos Tzaddikim writes that there are three reasons a person might be granted wealth from Hashem. Firstly, to punish him. Secondly, to reward him. And thirdly, to test him. The Orchos Tzaddikim continues to explain how an individual would know which category he or she falls into.

A person is being punished if the money is the cause of his undoing. In contrast, a person is being rewarded if the money is used to invest in the furtherance of Torah study, mitzvah performance and other meritorious acts. Lastly, a person is being tested if the money leaves him in an ambivalent and paralyzed state, by which he feels unable to bring himself to spend it on an indulgent lifestyle, yet simultaneously, cannot part with it to help others.

For this reason, explain the Baalei Mussar, wealth is an even greater challenge than poverty, for it presents one with testing opportunities and alluring frivolities on a constant basis. How and where the money ought to go is no simple question.

And so, although the enticement for wealth is great, we must realize that if Hashem did not grant it to us, it is because it is not in our best interest. While we may look at it as an enormous “prize,” just sometimes losing the lottery is as great as dodging a huge bullet.

Rabbi Yechiel Spero
Don’t Forget It

A special tzaddik by the name of Rav Gadola Eisner, the Mashgiach in the Gerrer yeshiva in Tel Aviv, was beloved by many. Having gone through the war, he not only survived, but helped other survive as well. You may assume it was his prayers or dedication to mitzvos, and I am sure he did both of that.
But one of the main ways he survived and helped others survive was… humor. Encouraging others to be upbeat when everything around them reminded them to be broken and sad.

One night, Rav Gadola laid down on a concrete slab along with eight others in the barracks. It was the middle of the night, and Rav Gadola, who was situated on one end, turned to his friend and gave him a little jab, right near his rib cage. The other fellow looked up, perturbed. “What do you want?” Rav Gadola let out a slow smile. “Pass it on…” “Pass it on?” the fellow questioned. “Yeah, go ahead…!”

Not probing any further, he went along and gave the fellow closest to him a slight nudge and passed along the same message. This went on until everyone awoke and looked to Rav Gadola. “Rebbe,” they all said even without speaking a word, their facing calling with curiosity, “what do you want?”

“In some time, we’ll all be out of here. We’ll be back at the Gerrer yeshiva, dining at a large tisch, basking in all the singing and delights we can imagine. We’ll be pushing and shoving, and squished like sardines. I don’t want you to forget what it feels like, so I gave you all a little push, a little reminder.”

They all let out a hearty smile and warming laugh, heading back to sleep, their spirits lifted.

When going through difficult times, one way to make it through is with an uplifted spirit. A positivity which looks towards great times ahead, and carries with it unrelenting optimism and belief that it is right around the corner.

Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair
Six More Weeks

Back in the 1950s, Ealing Studios produced a series of brilliant comedies, each with a moral. They could arguably have been viewed as a sort of 90-minutes mussar talk, wherein the viewer would learn an impactful life lesson. One of my favorites was “Last Holiday,” starring Alec Guinness. Guinness plays an unmarried and unassuming salesman who goes to the doctor and is told that he has a rare disease and has precisely six weeks to live.

What did he do?

He took out his life savings and high-tailed into the ritziest hotel on the coast where the glitterati of commerce, politics and entertainment met. As he felt he had nothing to lose, he was completely honest with everyone, and everyone was drawn to him like a magnet. Nothing was as attractive as his honesty. This unassuming salesman became a star, praised by the lords of politics and moguls of industry.

But as it turned out, his x-rays were mistakenly swapped, and he was never ill in the first place.

Over the past weeks and months, many of us have been asking ourselves, “What if I only had six more weeks to live?” Nothing brings a journey more into focus than the sight of its end. The fact that we are going to leave this world is inevitable. But how we are going to leave this world is up to us. Will we leave trying to grab the last morsel of this material world, or will we leave it with generosity, courage, bravery and self-sacrifice?

That is the most important question in life.

May Hashem give us the courage to rise to the occasion and experience long lives, lived as if we only had six more weeks of them to live.

Mr. Charlie Harary
Getting Real

I’ve said in the past that the average person who wakes up in the morning, learns Daf Yomi and davens like a mensch, is like a Navy Seal. He is a soldier. And it is totally true. The person who thinks he is a nobody, and all the while he is getting up, being an honest person, and being good to his wife and children – that man is a Navy Seal in these times. To be honest, to be happy, to be modest and real with Hashem, those attributes are nothing small to consider. We put pressure on ourselves because we don’t have this, or didn’t hit that mark, and we are living in this tiny fishbowl, as if in a celebrity culture, where we feel that unless people recognize who we are, we are lacking. What we are missing today is temimus, authenticity to Hashem. That realness and genuineness is the greatest and sweetest to Hashem.

My rebbe, Rav Moshe Weinberger, has been telling us that during these days, Hashem is looking to get us more in tune with the depth of who we are. We are not going to shul in the same way as before, and we are able to just start living life, and take it to heart that I am a Jew, and I can close my eyes once in a while and bring this home to myself. Once we realize who we are, we can build on it. We want to be a real person, and have it that when we speak, it is true to who we are. I want to talk with my wife and kids and it is true; I really do want to talk to them. I’m not just talking to my kids to get something out of the conversation or out of them.

The most powerful thing we can do is spend time alone with Hashem. It is not just for chassidim. Say, “Hi Hashem, it’s me… I messed this up. I can’t believe I blew it. I need to start to get real. I want to be more.” When a person spends this time every day, they’ll soon be telling themselves, “I got to do more of this.” It is simple, but it’s deep. And it will matter and make a difference in your life. Spend a few minutes with Hashem each day. Talk in English or whatever your language is, and just be real.

One Rav once told me, “Getting to know yourself is getting to know Hashem.” If you have a piece of Hashem within you, then it is the same path of reaching Hashem and reaching inwards. The way I see it, tefillah is reaching up and hisbodedus is reaching in. Even when you reach up, you reach in. But we need to climb. Our Sages infused with the words of prayers potent spiritual connections, which we are not always aware as to how it works. But hisbodedus is the process of discovering myself, and in that process of finding myself, I find Hashem.

You cannot get to Hashem unless you go through yourself. You are not doing G-d a favor by talking to Him. He did us a favor by putting Himself inside us. So now when you look at yourself, you know what you will find? G-d. It is an avodah. You are going into your inner Kodesh Hakodashim, Holy of Holies. Most people are afraid to spend time alone because they think they are alone. But they are not.

With time, your relationship with G-d will deepen, and you will find that He is there with you.

I know a wonderful girl who usually goes to friends for Pesach, although this year she was alone. She reached out to my family and wrote, “At first I thought I was alone in my apartment, but then I realized that I am on a date with Hashem. I am with Hashem alone.” As she said it, I thought, “She gets it. She is sitting over candlelight with her Dad, the Creator of the Universe.” And there are other people with big families who have never met Him. This is the avodah of this time period. It is deepening ourselves and believing in ourselves. It is not allowing the world to tell us who we are.

Now someone might say, “Look, I’ve have been talking to G-d for a really long time. I am now 40 years old and I am not married. So don’t tell me to talk to Him; I am not talking to Him anymore!” There are a lot of good people who do hisbodedus (self-contemplation). But when life hurts, and you’re in pain, it is very hard to go on with hisbodedus. It feels that G-d isn’t answering me!

I am not saying I own this concept, and it’s a good question as how to deal with that pain.

A lot of us have been raised in a culture that tells us that the reason you have Hashem is to get what you want in this world. He fulfills your needs, and therefore, if you need something, you turn to Him. If you play this out, though, the only function of Hashem is to give us more in this world. Therefore, if I ask something from Him for twenty years and I don’t get anything, that must mean that for those twenty years, our relationship has been for naught, because the only reason I talk to Him is because I want something from Him. But the minute that is the only reason we connect to G-d, we are missing the entire point.
We do not have Hashem to fulfill our needs; we have needs to find Hashem. Therefore, the prize for this woman after twenty years is that she has the thing that most human beings do not have. She actually has a relationship with the Creator of the World. And it is a real relationship.

I was once at a Gateways Seminar, and I spoke about Hashem being our father, and a woman came up to me, and said, “My father was a very wealthy lawyer, and I was a superstar kid.” She ended up being the one kid from her whole family who inherited the family business. And her whole life, her relationship with her father was a business relationship.

“I was the most career-oriented woman I know,” she said. “But if I could choose between giving up everything I have accomplished – my career, money and practice – to have one more day with my father, I would do it in a blink. I would give up everything materially to have that. There is nothing more valuable than just spending time with my father.”

The challenge is that we are using Hashem for our stuff. And if it is frum stuff, marriage stuff, or health, then for sure, we say that He owes it to us. But we are forgetting that the most valuable thing we have in this world is to walk around holding Hashem’s hand always. There is nothing greater than going through life and feeling that my father is next to me. And if we use every need we have as an reason to get back in the room with Him, and after twenty years, all we got was Him, there’s nothing else in the world that can come close to that.

Rabbi Paysach Krohn
The Raffle Tickets

A number of summers ago at Camp Romimu, my son-in-law, Rabbi Shlomo Dovid Pfeiffer, the learning director, along with his assistant, came up with an idea. They realized that camp on Shabbos presented a unique challenge. What can the kids do all day if they are not playing sports, swimming or taking a trip?
And so, they came up with the idea that they would give the kids one raffle ticket for every half-hour of learning they completed.
During the middle of the summer, a set of two prizes would be raffled off, and at the end of the summer, another set of two prizes would be raffled off. What were the two prizes?

The boy with the winning raffle ticket would have the opportunity to drive a golf cart during one day of camp. They could go all over the camp, and take whomever they wanted along for the ride. Many kids were excited to hear about this, though it didn’t come close to the other prize, of which many kids specifically from Antwerp, Belgium, were thrilled to hear about: two hours of horseback riding.

One particular boy from Antwerp jumped up with excitement, exhilarated to hear about this winning option. But all the other boys realized that it was not his wish to win the prize that would go anywhere; he would actually need to have the winning raffle ticket. They figured that he would nonetheless put in many hours of learning, which he certainly did.

The night the camp held the raffle, lo and behold, this boy from Antwerp won. No one could believe it. He wanted to win and he did! After the raffle concluded and the boys settled down, Rabbi Shlomo Pfeiffer, the head counselor, told them all the following secret.

“First of all,” he began, “you should all feel proud for learning diligently every Shabbos. You earned all together hundreds of raffle tickets. But now let me tell you a secret. This 5th grade ten-year-old boy from Antwerp was surrounded by an amazing group of friends. Every raffle ticket which the boys in his bunk earned, they wrote his name on it and submitted it to the raffle.”

Of course, when the time for the raffle came, this boy had over a hundred raffle tickets, and the likelihood of him winning was largely in his favor.

What a beautiful demonstration of unity and caring for a fellow friend.

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