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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Vayigash

Parshat Vayigash

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Vayigash                                                                Print Version
7th of Tevet, 5782 | December 11, 2021

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein
Like Your Child

Over thirty years ago, I decided that if anyone asks me a question, I will treat them as if I was dealing with my own son or daughter. This often leads them to be upset with the way I respond, given the degree of how honest and real I am.

A girl who had been going out with a young man for some time once approached me, and said that on their last time out, he had ordered something to drink for both her and himself, and it came out to $24. When he received the bill, he was surprised to see how much it cost. He took out his credit card and was prepared to pay for it, but he left no tip. “Should I be concerned about this?” the girl asked me. She really liked him, and this was the only incident that had left her unsure about his behavior.

I let her know what I would tell her as if she were my daughter. “There is no way I would let my daughter marry this man,” I said. “Why?” she asked. “For one, he made a huge chillul Hashem. The person serving the drinks deserves the tip and, regardless of the amount, it lacks in his relationships bein adam la’chaveiro (between him and other people). In addition, it lacks hakaras hatov. He lacked gratitude. There will come a time where you will prepare something for him, and he’ll lack that same appreciation. ‘That’s your job,’ he’ll say. ‘I don’t owe you anything.’” “But he’s not really like that…” she added. “If you’re asking me, I consider it over. You can, of course, ask for someone else’s opinion, but as far as I see it, this is what I would say.” She ended it then.

Sometimes, people don’t like what I say, but I feel very strongly that any question asked of you as an educator must be dealt with in the same manner, with the same sensitivity and thought that would go into how you would respond to your own child. When Hashem asks, “Did you treat My children like they were yours?” our answer must be yes. Why is there any difference?
For that moment, that person sitting or standing across from you is your child. This doesn’t mean that you have to hand over your bank account number; however, you must feel the personal responsibility and care that extends well beyond a job. Otherwise, the realm of chinuch is not for that educator.

I once mentioned this at a Torah U’Mesorah Convention. “If you are a rebbe or principal and do not have this attitude,” I said, “you should quit. What do you need it for? This is a demanding job, and if you don’t approach your students with this degree of relationship, don’t do it.” Afterwards, one rebbe followed me back to the car and said, “Rabbi Wallerstein, I’m done; I’m not teaching anymore. I’m not taking that responsibility of viewing every student as my own.” “You’re the one person who should keep the job,” I said. “If it bothers you that much, you’re the one who needs to keep the job.” It’s a responsibility when you work with others in chinuch.

In one meeting I had with a group of religious therapists, I said, “Of those individuals whom you are seeing in therapy, how many of their Hebrew names do you have? How many of them do you daven and say Tehillim for?” Many were surprised to hear this. Within professional bounds, when someone comes to you for your help, you must view them in the same light you would view your own child. If that was your own child, would you not daven? A lot of these therapists I was meeting with went on to obtain the names of their clients.

It’s a very big responsibility to deal with Hashem’s children. A remarkable privilege and yet an incredible responsibility.

Rabbi Joey Haber
Halacha is Halacha

On one Shabbat, I was speaking in shul when I noticed a man with a long beard whom I had not seen before. After everyone piled out, the man approached me and said, “My grandfather was Rav Hillel Zaks.” Rav Zaks was the grandson of the Chofetz Chaim. This man was then the great-great-grandson of the Chofetz Chaim. I was taken aback. “Tell me, do you know some story about the Chofetz Chaim that most people don’t know about?”

“I’ll tell you something, although it’s not a story.” After hearing what he said to me, I wondered to myself if I would ever repeat it publicly, but as it stands, it is something important to know.
“The Chofetz Chaim did not wear tefillin every single day,” he said. I didn’t know what he meant. “The Chofetz Chaim had a stomach issue, and the halacha is that if your body is not in a certain state of cleanliness, you should not wear tefillin. There were some days that he didn’t feel he should wear tefillin for that reason, and he didn’t!” I stood there listening intently.

“What’s the beauty of this?” he asked rhetorically. “If you take any religious Jew today, they would say to themselves, ‘I’ll find a way to put on tefillin! I understand that my body needs to be clean, so it’ll be pretty clean. I don’t want to go a day without putting it on! I’ll put it on at least for five minutes.’ You would likely not find someone who would skip a day, because that is how we think about our responsibility and obligation as far as tefillin goes.

But the Chofetz Chaim very simply followed the halacha. And when the halacha is not to wear it, that was the end of it. He didn’t wear it. He knew very clearly the parameters of when he could and could not wear it, and when he shouldn’t be doing so, he didn’t. Although he must have had thoughts that ‘I need to put on tefillin, and is my body really not clean … Maybe …’ those thoughts, however noble, would not trump what the right decision was.

Halacha is halacha. It’s not about what we want to do in the face of what Hashem truly asks of us to do. It’s not our own Yiddishkeit to make up what we do or do not want to do. If something is required, period. Torah is our code by which we live, and as honorable Jews, we keep to it exactly as we need. The Chofetz Chaim knew that fully well and lived that way.
So should we.

Rabbi Yaniv Meirov
Your Noble Legacy

In Pirkei Avot, we learn, “Da ma l’maalah mimcha – You should know what is Above you.” This, plainly stated, refers to Hashem and how we are to internalize before any course of action we take how Hashem is constantly watching the way we behave. This, as an effect, is meant to curb and steer us toward proper conduct as Torah observant and G-d fearing Jews.

However, there is another spin to this phrase in Pirkei Avot. “You should know that what will be for you in Heaven – after your life – is mimcha, from you.” Right now, the way we are, the way we live our lives, are we ready to go to Heaven? Every day of our lives, we must be prepared to face that reality. Are we prepared to face Hashem today, as our life stands?

Alfred Nobel was the founder of dynamite. When his brother passed away, the newspaper accidently held a misprint. “Alfred Nobel, the founder of dynamite, passes away,” it read. When Alfred saw this, he was disturbed. This is how the world is going to remember me? The man who created dynamite; that is my legacy? While dynamite could be used for constructive purposes, it also held power for destruction. It was a wake-up call to him.

Alfred turned his direction of life, and he began the undertaking of creating what we have today as the Nobel Peace Prize. Today, when you hear the word ‘Nobel,’ what comes to mind right away? Dynamite or the Nobel Peace Prize? The latter. His name is even attached to it. He changed his legacy.

When he saw the way his life’s trajectory was going and how people would remember him, he turned it around.

What others will say at our funerals does not have to do with the material possessions we had, but our spiritual and character accomplishments. All the good deeds and positive ways we inspired others will be what we stood for, will be our legacy. Today, think about your life and where it is going. And if it needs realignment, do so. It’s worth it. Your legacy and World to Come is all dependent on how you live your days here in this world.

Rabbi Yaakov Mizrahi
Long Live the King

There was once a king who was informed that, among his subjects, a revolt was stirring. Immediately, he let his officials know to quell the rebellion and bring him the individual who had been spearheading the uproar. “Do not kill him; I want take care of him myself.”

The officials did exactly as told. Victoriously, they put a stop to the revolt, and like the kind had wished, they returned with the leader. At this point, the king was ready to kill the head leader of the rebellion. But curious as to exactly who this man was, they peeled off the mask that had been placed on him. And what did they see? It was none other than the king’s son.

“Your Majesty,” relayed the officials, “we’re sorry to tell you, but the person who led this revolution is none other than your own son. It is he who you wish to kill.” But the king was no less adamant than he was before. “It makes no difference!” he fumed. “Bring him to me!”

There stood the king’s son facing his father. Not saying a word, the son and his own father walk to the gallows. The son, at this point, realized that his father was serious about his conviction. He would put his own son to death, if that’s what it meant. No pardoning.

Now standing at the gallows, the son asked of the executioner if he could have one final request from the king. “At your request, you may,” he said, as was customary. They led the son face-to-face with his father, and the son began. “Father, the last request I have is, ‘Long Live the King! Long Live the King!’”

Within moments, the king was in tears. To hear those very words uttered from his own son who had kicked up a maelstrom and sought to be the king’s undoing was powerful. It beckoned the son’s change of heart. The king pardoned him, from father to son.

We can rebel against Hashem every day in our life. How can we turn things around? How can we reset ourselves and get back on the right path, bringing Hashem back into our lives and placing ourselves in the right space for a better relationship with our Father, the King? Pronounce those very words, “Long Live the King!” When we recognize and appreciate G-d as our King and take to heart that we know our place in his kingdom, we start taking our role seriously and making amends of our actions. This is true as we approach Rosh Hashanah, but the same is true year-round. We need not wait until Elul to change our ways and improve; we can do it every day of the year.

A desire to regain new respect for the King and His place in our lives can occur right now. Don’t wait. Don’t let another day go by living anything less than the best life you can have as a respected citizen in G-d’s kingdom. Your Father’s kingdom.

Rabbi YY Jacobson
Don’t Extinguish, Empower

There comes a point in life when we must ask, “How can I be there for this person to help them become the person they are capable of?” We need a lot of courage to ask this question. When it comes to our children, we want to be able to relax into the nachas, the satisfaction and pleasure, we can have from them leading a life that we are proud of. But while that is beautiful, that is about our nachas, not necessarily theirs.

We must flip the lens and accept that, for whatever reason, this may not be the journey that child is on. The greatest mistake that can be made is to dig our feet into the ground and say, “My way or the highway.” When this takes place, we can squelch the child’s spirit and be a cause of them losing their fire. The focus is on empowering them and helping them navigate through whatever they face, only to become the man or woman they always wanted to be.

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