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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Ekev

Parshat Ekev

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Ekev                                                                          Print Version
22nd of Av, 5781 | July 31, 2021

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Yaniv Meirov
Like You, Don’t Like You

The Torah tells us in Parshas Pinchas how Pinchas, recognizing the illicit act being publicly committed by Zimri and Cozbi, avenged G-d’s name and killed them. How is it that Pinchas had the courage to kill them, especially Zimri who was a leader of the tribe of Shimon? What gave Pinchas that inner strength and conviction?

The commentaries explain that Pinchas looked at Zimri, who was a leader in his own right and publicly rebelling against God's will and said to himself, “If Zimri is putting his reputation on the line, and not caring what other people say, how much more so should I do what is honorable and right. With that, Pinchas killed him, which brought a halt to the plague decimating 24,000 people. Second to this is that Pinchas garnered criticism from what he did, after which Hashem came to his defense.

Reflecting on this prompts the question as to how we can best deal with criticism that we receive.

The mashal is told of the practice that would take place for a couple who was about to get married in Yemen. A donkey would lead them to their wedding, during which they would wave to bystanders and wish each other well. However, the caveat was that the donkey held only one passenger at a time. Either the bride or the groom could sit atop the donkey, but not both at the same time. So what were they to do?

For one couple, the groom sat on the donkey, as the bride walked beside him. But soon enough, people began rumoring that the couple is not even married yet and the husband is already controlling the wife. So the future husband and wife decided to switch places. The bride sat atop the donkey as the groom strode beside. But, yet again, it was not long before people began whispering that they are not even married yet and the wife is asserting her power and trying to dominate the husband. Now they were at an impasse.

So they both remained off the donkey, walking beside it. But this didn’t stop people from clamoring and talking to one another about the absurdity they were witnessing right before them. Here was a bride and groom with a perfectly healthy donkey right beside them, and neither of them were sitting on it!

At this point, the bride and groom had too much, and moreover, realized what must be done. They each climbed atop the donkey and sat there together. But quicker than ever did the comments begin. “How could they be so thoughtless! Here is this poor donkey who is carrying them both!”

By now, the bride and groom were exasperated and couldn’t take it. In a moment of annoyance, they came up with what they were going to do together. They together lifted the donkey and placed in on their shoulders. But that only drove the townspeople wild with laughter!

And then they realized that whatever they would do, there would always be criticism. Always. Never would they find the exact, perfect way of being that would make everyone approve of them or like what they were doing. So they decided that they were going to make the right choice: do what they believed should be done and not look at anyone else for approval.

In life, one of the biggest hindrances to success is living with the intent for people to approve of you. Being needy of other people liking you and approving of you will result in you leading a life of how other people want you to live, and not how you want to live.
You may begin by being a certain way, and find that some people like you and some people don’t. Realizing that you’re not getting everyone’s approval and thinking that if you change something about yourself, you will gain that very approval, you go about making that change. But soon you discover, that yet again, some people like you and some people don’t. You can’t win. Either way you go, someone doesn’t like you.

Pinchas looked as to what he needed to do, and not what other people thought about him or what they thought he should do. Guided by the principles and values of Hashem and His Torah, Pinchas guided himself to action with poise. In a close play on words, it could be said that he was worried about what the Shechinah (G-d) wanted from him and not what his sh’cheinah (fellow neighbor) wanted of him.

And that is the great truth of life. Whatever you do, what will always remain the same is this: some people will like you and some people won’t. So don’t live your life for other people. Live it for yourself, in the way that stays true to who you are and what values you stand for. And that will ensure that, in your life, you reach the success you are striving for.

Rabbi Uri Lati
The Secret of 120 Years

At the conclusion of Shemonah Esrei, we say, “N’tzor le’shoncha mei’ra… - Let us guard our tongue from evil…” We bring home to ourselves the importance of staying away from slanderous, degrading speech of others. Notably, the first letter of each of these words (nun, lamed and mem) add up to the gematria (numerical value) of 120. One-hundred-and-twenty is the optimum life span we wish for others and for ourselves. How do we get there? What is the promise for longevity and a good, quality life?

Watch what comes out of your mouth. Be careful with the words you say to another, ensuring that they come across with respect and care. And you’ll be on your way to living a life of 120 years.

Rabbi Moshe Tuvia Lieff
The Store of Shabbos

The Chofetz Chaim paints the following analogy. You want to purchase furniture, and so, you head to a furniture store on a Tuesday, only to find out that there is a posted sign which says, “Closed on Tuesday.” While today is off limits for any purchasing, you are not deflated, as you can still buy from the store on a different day of the week.

You come to the store a few weeks later at 12:15 p.m. and the sign says that they’re closed. Now you know that they’re closed during lunchtime. So you decide that you won’t head to the store on a Tuesday or any other day from 12 – 1 p.m. You then come a month later, and you discover that the store is closed yet again, and this time, as the sign reads, it’s for a family occasion for two weeks. So now you know that as long as you don’t come on a Tuesday or during lunch hours or during these two weeks, you can buy furniture.

But how do you know that you can never buy furniture there? When the sign comes down. When the store is no longer there, the store is out of business.

Shabbos is our store. It is our source of blessing. When we are lax in our observance of Shabbos, the store is not open. It is ironic that Shabbos as our store, as our source of blessing, is open when we close our physical stores and businesses.
When we keep Shabbos, it affects everything. It holds the power of opening or closing the entire store of our Jewish identity. When we are Shomer Shabbos, it defines who we are. When we describe ourselves as someone who is Shomer Shabbos, it speaks to a whole array of behavior that we are meant to carry ourselves in accordance with. It is an inclusive, encompassing description of our identity, of our lives as Jews.

Moreover, as much as keeping Shabbos gives us our identity as people, we in turn grow in our depth of Shabbos observance by virtue of observing Shabbos itself. Shabbos deepens us as identified Jews, which as a result deepens our future Shabbos appreciation and adherence. When we carry ourselves as Shomer Shabbos Jews, it influences us completely. It personifies and encapsulates who we are. Shabbos defines us in totality, and is the essence of a Jew.

Rabbi Yitzchak Fanger
Be Like a River

Years ago, in the early years of the Enlightenment Era, a young man began degrading one of the local rabbis studying in the synagogue. But even with all the taunts and jeers, the rabbi remained unfazed and undeterred from breaking away from his studying. So the young man amped up, raising his voice to an even higher decibel and adding even more ferocity to his condescending remarks.

But the rabbi stayed still. Not a word. Not a move.

At this point, the fellow grew exasperated. “Rabbi, what’s going on? Why are you not disturbed by what I’m doing? Is it not bothering you?” Hearing this, the rabbi picked up his gaze. “If somebody wants to give you a present and you decline the present, the person who wanted to give the present away still keeps it. You wanted to give me your words and I decided not to receive them. So you’re kept with your own degrading words.”

The fellow walked away, pondering these words of the rabbi. He had wanted to tell the rabbi off, and all that happened is that he himself was kept with the bad feeling of frustration. And it certainly didn’t feel good. He wanted to get that off his chest, and here he was, stewing in his own emotional chaos.
The next day, the man returned to the rabbi and said that he felt ashamed. “Rabbi, can you please forgive me…” The rabbi looked up. “The truth is that I forgave you yesterday. And in fact, I am not today who I was yesterday.

“If, in example,” continued the rabbi, “you see a river and you throw stones into the river, will you see any remaining effect tomorrow? No, because they fell into the river and either sunk or were washed away. A person needs to be like a river. Let things flow. Let things roll off you. The person you are today is a different person than you were yesterday. What happened in the past is in the past and doesn’t need to be carried over into the future. It’s all up to you how you want to react.

The events we experience in life are shape and toned by our reaction. And we can react in any way we want. Choose your reactions and choose your life.

Rabbi Label Lam
Obsessed with the Boo Boo

There is debate among psychologists if children are little adults or if adults are big children. Sometimes, it can seem as if an adult just has more keys on his ring and he is playing with bigger trucks and bigger blocks from 5th to 7th Avenue. And sometimes, kids are quite impish and know a lot. But there is an aspect to our behavior to focus on. It is what what children call, “Boo Boos.”

I remember that for my daughter’s fifth birthday, she received two boxes of band aids. Boo Boos were a big deal and band aids were used even on clothing. Adults, too, tend to obsess with boo boos in life.

I remember how I once scheduled a meeting with a fellow, and had parked my car next to a meter. After I finished the meeting, and realizing my time was running low, I darted back to my car. But as I approached it, I wasn’t too happy to see that an officer was standing right beside, readying herself to place a ticket on my dashboard.

I made it too late. As I swaggered to my car, I grabbed the ticket and looked at it. $85. I had just met someone as an act of chesed, I’m a teacher, and between the two, this $85 ticket wasn’t helping one bit. I was grinding my teeth.

With nothing more to do, I started driving down the West Side highway, heading back to the George Washington Bridge. It took me until I arrived at the bridge to catch myself. It’s cold outside, but it’s warm in the car. My house is a warm place and my wife is baking challah, and my children are in school and are healthy. Look at how many good things I have in life, and here I am obsessed about this little boo boo.

This is human nature. The boo boo eclipses everything that is going well in our life. One little rip in the suit or tear in the dress and it spirals us downwards. No one would notice the tear, but every time you look at it, it feels as if you’re falling into the Grand Canyon.

When my wife was in labor with one of my daughters, she was being helped by a nice and tender birthing coach. She was soothing and calming my wife during the process. But it was carrying on and on.

There I was myself in the corner, saying Tehillim. Suddenly then there was a moment of pause, after which the coach said, “One more push and you’re going to have your baby.” My wife looked up. “Baby?” she exclaimed. I remember thinking to myself, “What does she think we came here for?”

Later I realized that it’s a psychological principle. A person can be in the midst of the most obvious production, the most valuable production in the world – a child – and he or she is arriving any minute. And yet, when you are experiencing the pain, it eclipses and blocks out even that very best experience of a lifetime.

As humans, we obsess with what’s going wrong. The whole house is perfect and one cabinet is not closing well, and that’s all we can think about.

Don’t focus on the boo boo. Focus on the good you have. It’s right there. Just look.

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