Skip to content


TorahAnytimes Newsletter Pinchas

Parshat Pinchas

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Pinchas                                                                    Print Version
23rd of Tammuz, 5781 | July 3, 2021

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rebbetzin Chaya Sora Gertzulin
Some Things Never Change

Incendiary balloons are the latest flashpoint in Israel-Hamas Tensions
(CNN Report, June 17, 2021)

At least twenty fires were started by incendiary balloons launched from Gaza into Israel.

Helium balloons, often in bright colors, similar to those used for children’s birthday parties, are being launched from Gaza into Israel. However, there is one big difference, however, between these balloons and the decorative party ones – the balloons from Gaza have explosive devices attached to them. They have been the cause of much damage to residential areas, as well as the destruction of crops, forests and nature reserves.

This year, Sunday, June 27, is Shiva Asar B’Tamuz, the Fast of the 17th day of Tamuz. It was on the 17th of Tamuz, that the walls surrounding Yerushalayim were breached, leading to the destruction of the Holy Temple.

The 17th of Tamuz is a day to recall the pain and tragedy our nation has endured. It is now more than 2,000 years since the Temple was destroyed, but nothing has changed.

As I read about the incendiary balloons being sent over border fences, I couldn’t help but think of the walls surrounding ancient Yerushalayim being breached, of fire being hurled over them, first by the Babylonians, and later by the Romans.

“… People who fast, and engage in aimless walking about, pointless activity, grasp what is of secondary importance, and forsake the essential.”
(Rabbi Avraham Danzig, best known as the author of the works of Jewish law called "Chayei Adam")

The 17th of Tamuz is a time to shed a tear for the tragedies of the past, and to ask ourselves how can I be a better person; how can I make the world a better place. What can I do to improve myself, what can I do to improve my community, my people, my nation? It is a time to take to heart the words of Hillel found in Pirkei Avos, Ethics of our Fathers: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me, if I am only for myself, what am I, if not now, when?” (Ethics 1:14)

The year was 1920. The British government appointed Sir Herbert Samuel as the first High Commissioner of Palestine (as Israel was then called). Sir Herbert visited the religious leaders of the Holy Land. He met with Christian and Muslim leaders, and made an appointment to visit Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld zt”l, Chief Rabbi of Yerushalayim.

The meeting was scheduled to take place in the rabbi’s small, simple basement apartment located in the Old City. To enter, one had to descend a long flight of steep stairs. The rabbi’s students pleaded with him to change his residence in order to give Sir Herbert a more favorable impression. Rabbi Sonnenfeld demurred, but made a small “indulgence” by acquiring a new tablecloth in honor of his guest.

On the day of the visit, Sir Herbert was escorted to the Old City by a tight ring of security. There were huge crowds and a large media presence to report on the event. As Sir Herbert descended the stairs and entered the apartment, he greeted the rabbi with a joke….”The Rabbi couldn’t find himself an apartment deeper in the earth?”.

Rabbi Sonnenfeld’s reaction was to open a shuttered window and reveal a street-level view of the Old City.

Tears began to roll from the Rabbi’s eyes, as he said in a pained voice: “As long as the dwelling place of my beloved G-d lies in ruins, my home need not be any better than His.”

The Rabbi’s profound and heartfelt words left the Commissioner in awe. He suddenly found himself speechless. Sir Herbert just turned around and silently left. When he reached the street, reporters surrounded him, firing questions at him about the meeting, but Sir Herbert remained silent.

My mother, the Rebbetzin a”h, was speaking in Yerushalayim. As was her way, after the lecture she stayed on and on, availing herself to speak personally to whomever approached her.

It was already way past midnight, when a beautiful young woman came over and shared her story. She was originally from Sweden and came to Israel for a visit. She fell in love with the land and its people…. and couldn’t bring herself to leave. She stayed on, and after much studying and preparation, she converted, becoming a member of Am Yisroel.

My mother was sure that she would be asking for a berachah to find an appropriate shidduch, but that was not the case. Instead, she asked for something else. A berachah to find it within her neshamah the ability to feel the aching of Am Yisroel, and to truly cry from the depth of her soul for Yerushalayim. To cry for a city in ruins, to cry for a people surrounded by enemies, a people in pain.

We are a nation that has shed many tears. A nation that has experienced much pain and persecution. Yet, at the same time we are nation that sings Ani Ma’amin – I Believe. A nation that infuses hope and belief, emunah and bitachon, into our tears. In that merit, the day should come soon when our tears of sorrow become tears of joy.

“Whomever mourns for the Yerushalayim, will merit to see in its glory” (Tractate Taanis 30b).

Rebbetzin Miriam Yerushalmi
Continuing Your Work

I still remember the day vividly. My books which had taken hours upon hours of tireless effort to put together finally arrived at my house. With pages full of vibrant captions and colors, these books were to be used to educate and imbue children with proper Torah values and ideals. But, at the moment, I was in a quandary. Thousands of dollars’ worth of books along with audiobooks of mine needed to be carried inside. Thankfully, one sweet boy offered to help me transport everything. But as the time arrived for us to begin, he told me that he needed to take care of something else for fifteen minutes, after which we could get started. In the meantime, I headed inside and began unpacking a few items of my own.

Fifteen minutes later, I heard a knock at the door. It was the boy and he didn’t look or sound too good. “What happened?” I asked. “Well,” he hesitated, “your car was broken into and all the merchandise is gone.” As soon as he said that, my heart fluttered. Running out to my car, I scanned it from front to back and saw that it was true. $12,000 worth of books and CDs had been stolen. I was heartbroken.

Without anything more to do, I headed back into my house. Flanked on one side by my bookshelf, I turned towards it and spotted one of the many Jewish books I owned: Igros Kodesh, a classic work authored by Rav Shneur Zalman of Liadi.

Considering my current state of mind and situation, I was in dire need of some guidance and inspiration. I took hold of the book and began perusing through the different pages. And no sooner than later, I came across a line which stood out to me black and white: “You must continue your sacred work. You have been successful in the past, and you have been drafted into the elite core and cannot stop.” While these phrases emphasized the notion of recognizing the supreme importance of Torah, mitzvos and serving G-d, I wondered what it personally meant for me.

I remained sitting and thinking for hours on end, deep into the night and early morning. I kept on staring at the sentence over and over again, “You have been successful in the past…” What had I done in the past that I should draw inspiration from to continue in the present? I struggled to pinpoint anything. And then it hit me.

Let me take you back sixteen years earlier.

I was running a children’s museum in Israel for which I borrowed over $10,000 to produce books and cassettes. As months progressed, the finances became overwhelming, and I struggled to come up with the necessary funds to pay back the loan. My deepest wish was to continue running the museum with all its wonderful programs. Children were learning more about their Yiddishkeit, enjoying an educative after-school program, helping to pack and distribute food to the poor, receiving assistance with homework, and given the opportunity to participate in Shabbatons. It was a beautiful place and framework for children, parents and their families to be excited and proud about their Jewish heritage and life overall.

But I had gotten to a point that financial difficulties were putting an untold strain on all the programs. I did my utmost to bring in a substantial source of revenue, but I didn’t get too far. I knew it would break my heart and so many others to see the disintegration of such a beautiful tapestry of programs, but the decision needed to be made. The museum needed to close down. And it did.

The only remnant of it all was one small room which remained. There, I kept one artifact: a miniature Beis Hamikdash. It was something I had put together over the span of eight months and was crafted out of wood and overlaid with nuggets of gold and spray-paint. It was a real masterpiece, and had just recently been finished when I closed down the museum programs.

Not wishing to entirely give up everything I had been doing, I decided I would take this miniature Beis Hamikdash and run smaller programs at various venues. I would give a little demonstration and talk about the Beis Hamikdash, intending to inspire and educate children about its history and everlasting importance. To my great excitement, my plan took off. I brought it to one school and gave the class, which was immensely appreciated and enjoyed. I still nostalgically thought back to the glorious days when I had numerous programs concurrently running and a much larger audience, but I came to terms with the fact that G-d wished for me to educate our youth in a different way.

After one of my demonstrations, I brought my miniature Beis Hamikdash along with a number of other handmade crafts to the next site I planned on giving the class. Tisha B’av was a few days away, after which my upcoming performance was planned on the following Monday. And then the unthinkable happened.
It was Tisha B’av and I decided to walk into the room where I had stored my Beis Hamikdash. Yet as I opened the door, I was in for my worst surprise. My miniature Beis Hamikdash was destroyed. Something had happened, and there it remained soaking wet. The beauty with which it once shined was gone.

Tears began flowing down my eyes as I looked on in untold distress. I quickly realized that it was not coincidentally Tisha B’av. Although my little structure was a far cry from the authentic Beis Hamikdash, I found it hard to pull myself together. I sensed what it felt like to see the work of your hands crumble and break.
Aside from my own loss, I knew I faced an additional problem. I was slated to carry out a presentation in a few days, but now that would have to change. Suffice it to say, though, it worked out. We organized a mini soup kitchen, which went fine. But I still carried that destruction of my miniature Beis Hamikdash in my heart.

Around that time, I left Israel for Crown Heights and moved into an apartment on Eastern Parkway. Little did I know what Hashem had in mind for me, but quite quickly I would learn. Within days, I noticed that directly across the street was a large building. I wasn’t exactly sure what it was, although I kept on curiously wondering. And then I figured out. It was a children’s museum. That was the last thing I ever would have imagined being there. Yet what was I supposed to do now? Was this some sort of indication that I was meant to work there? I didn’t know.
The next day, a close friend of mine called me. “I never knew that you ran a children’s museum in Israel! I am going to be running a program in the museum right next to where you live, on Eastern Parkway. Why don’t you come join me and help?” I couldn’t believe my ears. I knew Hashem worked quickly, but this was extremely quick.

I attended a meeting a few days later regarding what I could do in the museum. I was familiar with the fact that my friend was a dancer, and wondered if she would be interested in conducting a Jewish dance class. Presenting the idea to her and a few other board members, they liked what they heard and accepted the proposal. And so we began. Thankfully, it was something which was well-liked and embraced by the community.

I continued periodically flying to Israel and monitoring the programs which they had been trying to revive on and off. Overall, from all my work, things were progressing slowly.

And then the night arrived when thousands of dollars’ worth of merchandise was stolen, and I opened my book of Igros Kodesh, only to read the words, “You must continue your sacred work. You have been successful in the past, and you have been drafted into the elite core and cannot stop.” After having all of these past incidents flash through my mind, I realized what was meant by my successful past. I had accomplished so much with the children’s museum, only for it to heartbreakingly close down. And now too, thousands of dollars were gone and I was heartbroken. How would I move on and from where would I draw the resilience and fortitude to do so?

The answer was imbedded in those words. And indeed, I would heed the wise advice and not stop. I would not give up and give in, but rather move forward, despite the hardship I faced, and do even more than I had been. How would everything work out? Just as Hashem had helped me before, I remained confident that He would help and guide me again. And so, as the early morning dawn cast aside the darkness of the night, there I sat, poised with elation and happiness. I knew, confidently and comfortably, that much goodness was awaiting me in the future.

Picture of newsletter
100% free

Subscribe to our Weekly Newsletter

Timely Torah insights, stories, and anecdotes from your favorite TorahAnytime speakers, delivered straight to your inbox every week.

Your email is safe with us. We don't spam.