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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Va'eira

Parshat Va'eira

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Va'eira                                                                    Print Version
28th of Tevet, 5782 | January 1, 2022

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Eliezer Abish
What Makes You Great?

As the Jewish people endure the arduous slavery of Egypt, Hashem introduces Himself to the world with the seven plagues. Amidst the Torah’s recording of the miraculous events, we find a subtle, yet recognizable pattern in the Torah. When Moshe and Aharon are spoken about most of the time, the Torah precedes Moshe’s name before that of Aharon. Sometimes, however, the Torah reverses it and says Aharon and then Moshe. It is a noticeable reversal. What is the reason for this change? Why is it sometimes Moshe and Aharon and other times Aharon and Moshe?

Rashi (Shemos 6:26) explains that this was done to teach that both Moshe and Aharon were of equal stature. But this begs the next question. Moshe Rabbeinu was the one who wouldn’t nurse from anyone because that would be the mouth to speak with Hashem. He was the one who went up to Heaven to receive the Torah and learned Torah directly from Hashem. How is Aharon equal in greatness to him? The Shechina was with Moshe Rabbeinu since he was born, a phenomenon we don’t find mentioned about Aharon.

One time, Rav Moshe Feinstein was at home, and his grandson was sitting with him. “Zaidy,” he asked, “how is it that you are not a baal gaava (arrogant)? After all, the whole world comes to you with their questions. Whatever the difficulty is, you are the address. How can you not become full of yourself?”

Rav Moshe replied with the following. There is a well-known Gemara (Bava Basra 11b) which speaks about Yosef ben Yehoshua who slipped into a coma. As others gathered around his bed and stood davening, he came out of the coma, whereupon his father asked, “What did you see up there in Heaven?” “I saw an upside-down world,” he replied. “Those who over here, in this world, are high up, up there, are at the bottom. And those down here who are not held with great esteem, up there, are held with great esteem.” “You saw a clear world,” his father replied.

What does this mean? Are we all making such mistakes with our judgment of people in this world?

Rav Moshe explained that here, in this earth, we are judged based upon our accomplishments; in Heaven, however, we are judged based upon our potential. While, down here, someone can learn for ten hours straight and he has a lot of knowledge, who knows what his potential is. If he learns for ten hours, he may have amassed a lot of knowledge, but his potential may be twelve hours, and that is what he is judged for in Heaven.

But what about someone down here who learns for fifteen minutes straight, and that is his potential? When he comes to Heaven, he is held in great esteem. “It is true that I have a lot of Torah knowledge,” responded Rav Moshe. “But you know what keeps me up at night? Maybe there is more. Maybe I can do more. And even though I do a lot, maybe there is more I can do. That is what keeps me humble.”

That is the meaning of this Pasuk here. While Moshe was much greater than Aharon here in this world, the Torah wants to tell us, that up there, in the Olam Ha’emes, where it is a clear world, they were equally great, because they both fulfilled their potential.

In fact, when the Rambam (Hilchos Teshuva 5:20) writes that anyone can be as great as Moshe, that is what the Rambam is referring to. Anyone can be as great as Moshe as long as you fulfill your potential. And then Rav Moshe said something very interesting.

There was once a fellow who became a baal teshuva as a teenager. His father supported him, and he was very happy to see him learn and grow. After coming home from school, the boy would take out a big Gemara and start learning. One day, after a few weeks of watching this, the father said, “What are you studying so much?” “I am studying the Talmud,” the boy replied. After a few weeks of seeing how engrossed he was, the father decided to find out for himself what his son was dedicating time to. “Why don’t you teach me what you are learning? Show me what you are doing…” “Okay,” replied the son, “but it’s not easy.”

Every day the boy would come home from yeshiva, and teach his father Gemara for twenty minutes. This went on night after night after night. After a few months, they turned the page and started to learn the second side, Amud Beis. They got towards the end, and eventually got to the end, at which point the father said, “Isn’t there some kind of celebration you make when you finish learning something?” “Yes there is,” his son said. “It’s called a siyum, but a siyum is made on the whole mesechta.” “Oh,” mumbled the father. “We spent so much time on this; I thought we would also be able to make a siyum.” The son didn’t know what to do.

He decided to approach Rav Moshe and explain the situation to him. His father wanted to make a siyum. Is it appropriate? “Of course it is appropriate,” said Rav Moshe. “To hear such an incredible story, you should make a siyum. But please, invite me to that siyum.” The boy was thrilled. A few weeks later, they were finished, and they made a siyum, and invited Rav Moshe.
Rav Moshe came himself and spoke at the siyum, saying how proud he felt to see what was accomplished. The father was very proud of himself as well, and went to sleep that night with the wonderful feeling of accomplishment.

That was the last night the father went to sleep… he never woke up.

The next day, Rav Moshe spoke at the funeral. “There are those who acquire their Olam Habah in one hour. This father acquired his Olam Habah with one blatt of Gemara. He worked so hard and fulfilled his potential. His potential was to learn one blatt, and he reached one blatt. Yeish Koneh Olamo b’Daf Echad.”
This, explained Rav Moshe, is the meaning in the above Rashi. Moshe and Aharon were both equal because they both reached their potential. And anyone who reaches his potential can be as great as Moshe Rabbeinu.

Rabbi Yerachmiel Milstein
A Life-Changing Decision

There was a fellow who used to attend a shiur (Torah class) before davening beginning at 5:30 a.m. However, barring a few exceptions, he always used to come a few minutes late. His mother eventually took ill and she had to be admitted to a nursing home, which led to the man showing up to the shiur even later that he had in the past and eventually stopping to attend altogether.

After a few months, he was back in his seat at the shiur. But he wasn’t just back like he used to be, a few minutes late. He arrived five minutes early, and sat ready and waiting with his Gemara open. His friends looked at him and wondered what had happened. What had changed in the past few months with him tending to his mother? “Now we have to learn…” said the man. “Can’t talk right now. After davening, I’ll tell you.”

Sure enough, after davening, they approached him and he let them know what had unfolded.

My mother was placed in a particular nursing home and I visit her every single day. And, you know, it took a toll on my schedule and it became more difficult for me to attend the shiur. But what changed was when they started doing construction in the nursing home. This nursing home is a religious nursing home, and they have a separate floor for men and separate floor for women.

Usually I come into the lobby, and take the elevator to my mother's floor and visit my mother. But with the construction going on, I needed to take the stairs. To do so, I needed to walk through the men's floor and then take the stairs up to my mother.

Yesterday, as I was walking through the men's section, I heard coming from one of the rooms what sounded like a heated argument. As I passed by the room, I saw three men sitting on chairs by a window and screaming at each other. “It’s a hundred and five!” “No, it’s not. Ninety-six!” “No, it’s ninety-eight!” They were all screaming at each other as if their life depended on it! I figured maybe I could be helpful. As I walked into the room, they asked if I could settle the dispute. I had no idea what that meant, until one of the gentlemen explained. “Two hours a day, where there's no schedule in the nursing home, we get together in this room and sit by this window. This window is facing the front of the nursing home and we can see the cars passing by. So we count how many cars have passed by in the two hours. He said it was 96, but I disagree!”

As soon as I heard this, I laughed. “This is what they’re talking about?” But alright, and I moved on to walk upstairs to see my mother. After I finished my visit, I headed back down and walked through the men’s section again.

On my return, I started hearing another lively conversation. “No, that’s not what it means!” It seemed as if the entire floor was filled with people yelling. Hearing this, I decided to go in and see what was going on. As I approached the room, I noticed two elderly Jews, each sitting with a Gemara. One was yelling at the other, “No, that’s not what Tosafos (Talmudic commentary) means! It can’t be!” And the other was replying, “It has to people, because of what Tosafos says over there!” Hearing these two elderly Jews learning together, I had a premonition that one day I too may be in a nursing home, and I asked myself: which group would I rather belong to? The group arguing about the cars or learning Torah? The path that I’m on now – not attending shiurim – I’m going to wind up counting cars.

“And that’s why I came early to shiur today.”

Rabbi Duvi Bensoussan
You Still Have A Chance

In Yaakov Avinu’s final words of blessing to his son Yosef, he tells him, “Va’ani natati lecha Shecham, achad al achecha – And I have given you [the city of] Shechem [as an inheritance], one [portion] above your brothers.” Rav Shamshon Astropoli made a remarkable observation based upon this Pasuk.

The gematria (numerical value) of the word “Va’ani” is Elul. “Natati Lecha” is equivalent to the gematria of Tishrei, the month in which Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur fall. The gematria of “Shechem” is Shovavim, a word which refers to the Parshiyot and weeks of Shemot, Va’eira, Bo, Beshalach, Yitro and Mishpatim. These are weeks which are spoken about in our Torah literature as having an auspicious power to rectify all areas of our life where we have been derelict when it comes to matters of kedusha and tahara (holiness and purity). The gematria of these words are exactly equivalent. Not off by anything.
What does this mean?

Hashem has given us two immensely powerful times of Divine factor and acceptance: the months of Elul and Tishrei. During these months, we are given the unique opportunity to remedy our past deeds, engage in the process of teshuva (repentance) and start anew and fresh. But there is something else which Hashem gives us, just as powerful. It’s hard to believe, but it’s true.

The weeks of Shovavim. But when do these weeks have this incredible potential, well beyond what we’d imagine? When “Achad al achecha,” when the year has one more than your brothers. Brothers, in this context, refers to the twelve tribes. In a year when there is “one more than your brothers” – a Jewish leap year with thirteen months, one more than the normal twelve months – Shovavim is even as great as Elul and Tishrei. What you didn’t get done during the months of Elul and Tishrei, you can accomplish during the weeks of Shovavim.

This year, we have this opportunity. It’s a gift from Hashem. Whatever efforts in the realms of morality and purity we put our heart and mind to during these days, Hashem accepts with open arms.

Rabbi Label Lam
Murphys’ Law

Murphy’s Law states, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” That’s the world Murphy lives in. Hashem’s law says, “Anything that can go right will eventually be made right.” If there’s anything we learned from the episode between Yosef and his brothers, it’s that: at the end, everything is understand and everything turns out right.

I once heard in the name of a Rebbe, who remarked, “If I was Hashem, I would be doing everything the way Hashem is doing things right now. I may not understand how or why things work the way they do, but Hashem has a precise plan.” In the short run, it may look like Murphy’s law is dominating, but at the end, it’s Hashem’s law.

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