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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Korach

Parshat Korach

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Korach                                                                    Print Version
2nd of Tammuz, 5781 | June 12, 2021

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Benzion Klatzko
Changing the Narrative

The world often looks at us in certain ways and is quick to apply condescending labels – money-hungry, separatists – but we should be just as quick to show them how their narrative of us Jews is wrong.

I was at a house sale some time ago, where I spotted a beautiful piano. Both my wife and I had grown up with pianos, and I figured that it would be a nice piece of furniture to add to our home and be used to play. Turning to the man running the sale, I asked for the price. “$250 in cash,” he said. I knew immediately that $250 was a superb price for a good piano and showed interest in buying it. “The only thing is that a lady came here before you and was asking about it. It looks like she is going to buy it.” I turned around and soon spotted the woman, a Jewish lady, who had shown such interest. “No problem,” I replied to the proprietor, “she came first and has the preferred right to purchase it.” “But wait just one minute here,” added the owner, “let’s just make sure that she has the money.”

Checking with the woman that she had the $250 in cash on hand to buy the piano, she said that she would take a look. If she didn’t have it, she offered to go home and bring the money right away. Turning to me, he asked if I had the money readily available. “I do have the cash,” I said, “but I am not going to jump in front of her.” “Why?” the man asked me in curious disbelief. “You have the cash! I’ll sell it to you, and it’ll be a done deal.”

Before he could go any further, I interjected. “I can’t do that,” I said. “In Judaism, we have a concept which teaches that if a person enters into a transactional agreement with someone and settles on a price, even though no transaction has actually been completed, no one else can interfere and try to purchase the item for themselves (in the language of our rabbis, this is termed, ‘ani hamehapech b’charara – an impoverished person chasing a crust of bread.’) Here this woman has agreed to pay the settled price of $250; I can’t jump in and grab the deal.”

But the owner didn’t understand and couldn’t grasp the fact that I was so politely allowing her to buy the piano and stepping aside myself. “Do you have the money or not?” he asked the woman again. She opened up her purse, and including singles, had a total of $70. The man turned back to me. “Look, she doesn’t have the money!” “I can go home,” she said. “Ma’am,” firmly said the owner, “I can’t afford to lose a customer if I have to wait for you while you return home.”

I then turned to the woman, and said, “How much more do you need? Another $180?” I opened my wallet, counted out $180 and handed it to her. “Take this,” I said, “I’ll give you my address and you can send me the money when you get back home.”
The owner couldn’t believe his eyes. What about the Jewish narrative that we are cheap, stingy and selfish? “Do you even know this lady?” he asked. “No, I replied, “but I trust that she will return the money to me as soon as she has the opportunity.” And that was it. I then proceeded to walk into one of the adjacent rooms.

Just minutes later, one of the young helpers came running over to me. “Do you know what they’re saying about you out there? They’re so impressed. They said that they realize now that they’ve never understood Jews!”

Reflecting on this, I realized that here was an opportunity to not only make a Kiddush Hashem, but to also change the narrative that the world has of Jews.

The story has a very interesting ending though.

As I was about to leave, I noticed that there were a few bottles of wine and alcohol for sale. “How much are these?” I asked. The owner looked at me and said, “They’re yours.” “No, no, I don’t want them for free,” I made clear. “How much are they?” “They’re yours; I want you to have them.”

The owner certainly had the right to freely give them to me, and so, I graciously complied. After taking them and returning home, I discovered that one was a $300 bottle of scotch, the other was a bottle of Cherry Heering Liqueur that was about fifty years old, and the third was a bottle of Sabra Liqueur from the 1960s. They were all collector’s items and worth more than the piano I had let go.

Every Shabbos during Shalosh Seudos (the third meal), I take out these expensive bottles for my guests and have what I call “Commitment L’Chaims.” Whoever would like can come up, make a L’Chaim and take upon themselves some commitment they would like. They may commit to start keeping Shabbos, putting on Tefillin or whatever else they can do.

But even if that was not the ending of the story, the lesson to take away is the opportunity we have when we perform a Kiddush Hashem. We do not simply inspire others by our caring and thoughtful actions; we change their narrative of the Jews and offer the world new lenses from which to view us Jews much more positively.

Rabbi Yossi Bensoussan
Make the Choice

Someone who is truly happy carries a certain untouchable quality. The joy they exude cannot be marred or shaken up. It’s hard to believe, but let me tell you about someone I personally knew.

I once had a study partner who was much older than I was. He was married, I was single, and we learned together. Nosson was one of those happy people that people loved being around. My attitude at that point in life was the opposite. Simcha is the most beautiful attitude in the world, until you're not that way and someone else is. What's that anger you have towards them for being happy? It's not jealousy, mind you, it's annoyance. “Why are you so happy right now? Why are you being so dandy? I don't like it. It's very uncomfortable to me. Very uncomfortable.”

These are the thoughts that ran through my mind. True beauty is beautiful in the eye of the beholder. But if you don't have the eye of the beholder, it looks horrible to you. So, I sat there, and Nosson would come in every single day, his normal happy self. One day, I said to myself, “I wish I could just be as happy as this guy. I got this going on and that going on. I wish I could be as happy as him! Let him walk in my shoes for two days; see how happy he’ll be!”

I remember thinking this clearly. I will never forget thinking it, because five minutes later, a guy came over to me and he said, “Yossi, you're close to Nosson, right? What shift do you want to take?” “What shift?” I asked, confused. “Shift in the hospital for his daughter.” I wasn’t following. “What are you talking about? What about his daughter?” “You don’t know…? Nosson’s daughter is very sick. The doctors have no idea what she has, but it's very debilitating. They don't know how much longer she has.”

A four-year-old girl. Nosson stayed up with her every single night in the hospital. And he was someone who had never come late even once to our learning time, or missed davening with the Yeshiva. He would walk into the Beis Midrash fully energized as anything. We used to call him the “energizer bunny” because he used to come in, clapping his hands, encouraging us on, “Let's go guys! Let's go! Let's learn!”

“I'm going to take tonight,” I told my friend. “I'm going to take the first shift you have. I got to talk to Nosson. I'm going to go into the hospital room, he's going to be sad for the first time, and I'm going to be able to comfort him. Finally, for once.”

I walk into the hospital room and there's Nosson, putting on an entire song and dance for his little girl. She's sitting up, tubes connected to her, clapping her hands, screaming, “Again! Again!”
I walked into that scene. I was only able to hold it for a few minutes, until she fell asleep, and then I turned to Nosson and said, “What is wrong with you? Seriously, what is wrong with you? Your daughter's sick, you have every right to be upset at every force of nature and beyond. What is wrong with you?”
Nosson turned to me and he said, “And who does that help? And what does that teach her? She sees me crying, and then she’ll say, ‘What, it's over?’ It's not over. And even if it is, do I want her to go all sad and depressed? G-d forbid! That will never happen, not on my watch.’

Genuine simcha has nothing to do with the outside world. It has nothing to do with what we're going through in life. It has nothing to do what our friends are going through in life. It has everything to do with a choice we make. The choice of choosing to be happy in life or not. If we want to, we can. It’s that

Rabbi Yom Tov Glaser
The Perfect Forest

After my wife and I had finalized our engagement, we both were beyond excited. However, for certain reasons, my Rosh Yeshiva in Aish HaTorah shortly thereafter recommended that our engagement be broken off. Respecting his opinion and understanding where he was coming from, I knew that I should listen to him.

When I later approached my kallah in Tzfat and broke the news, her reply was, “Baruch Hashem.” “What do you mean ‘Baruch Hashem’?” I said. “I thought you wanted to marry me?” “I want what Hashem wants,” she said. “I thought that Hashem wanted me to marry you and I was very happy. Now that you are telling me that the engagement is off, it seems that Hashem does not want us to get married. Were we to do so, it may be a mistake. That is why I say, ‘Baruch Hashem.’”

As soon as she finished explaining what she meant, all that I could think of was how I now needed to marry her. “She is so special,” I said to myself. “That is the kind of wife and mother I am looking for.” But it didn’t seem like those dreams were going to materialize.

A week later, I found myself davening at the Kotel. On my way out, I stopped off by the water fountain to take a quick drink. Making the requisite blessing of Shehakol, I pressed down the button and began drinking. And then I heard a voice behind me. “How did you know it was going to work? Maybe when you pushed the button, no water would have come out, and you could have said G-d’s name in vain!”

Looking back behind me, there she was. Aside from never having considered the possibility of water not actually flowing out, I was taken aback by the beautiful commitment and connection my previous kallah had to Torah and mitzvot. And there I was thinking again, “I need to marry her; she is so special.”

As the days passed by, my kallah eventually learned that I had grown especially depressed due to the breakup. Possessing a Breslov flair, she was accustomed to entering the forest and praying. At this point, she was staying in Har Nof, next to the Jerusalem forests. And so, one day, when she went into the forest for her usual hitbodedut (meditation), she davened that I be able to cope with what happened and happily move on in life.
But, as Divine Providence had it, it was clear that we were supposed to get married. We shared much in common and my Rosh Yeshiva agreed that we should get reengaged. And so we did. We went on to choose a wedding hall, after which my now renewed kallah proceeded to fly to America.

Sometime later, she called me and said, “I have been thinking about it, and I want to get married on Eretz Yisrael.” Wondering what she meant by this, I asked, “What do you mean ‘on’ Eretz Yisrael?” “I don’t want to get married in a wedding hall,” she explained, “I want to get married on the land of Israel itself. I want to feel the earth underneath my feet.” While the idea sounded nice, I wasn’t sure how the logistics would work out. Asking her what she had in mind, she said, “It’s simple. Go and grab your mountain bike and ride around until you find a nice spot.” Being that I am an athletic mountain biker, I happily embraced the challenge.

Although I knew that it wouldn’t be too easy to find the perfect area, I ambitiously headed out on the excursion. I was looking for a large area which had extra space to accommodate parking and provide the convenient amenities for elderly people, including my Rebbe, the Pinsk-Karliner Rebbe zt”l, and the Rosh Yeshiva of Aish HaTorah. After five hours of maneuvering just about through all of the Jerusalem forest, I finally came across a site I felt fit the criteria.

Calling my kallah later that night, I related what I had done and described to her the exact location I had found. When she heard what I had to say, she couldn’t believe it. “That spot in the forest is the exact same place I davened for you when you were feeling down.” And indeed, that is where we got married.

Every year, my wife and I along with our children revisit that same spot in the forest. My wife puts on her wedding veil and walks around me seven times just like a kallah does to her chattan, and all our children stand there laughing. With tears of joy filling our eyes, we daven together for our children and Am Yisrael. And let me tell you, it is beautiful.

Many times throughout life we face situations which leave us depressed and despondent. Feelings of hopelessness set in and we slowly lose our inner tranquility and peace of mind. But then, matters improve, and we see a brighter future beckoning on the horizon. Life returns to normal and we regain our inner composure. It is then that we come to realize that even during those gloomy moments we were being supported. We were being carried by a loving hand and listened to by an attentive ear. At the very moment we felt things could get no worse, our greatest salvation was conceived. Hashem never abandoned us; He was only clearing the way amid the forest for our most beautiful future.

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