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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Yitro

Parshat Yitro

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Yitro                                                                       Print Version
20th of Shevat, 5782 | January 21 , 2022

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi YY Jacobson
Never Stopped Dancing

My grandmother, Teibel Lipsker, was a very special and holy woman. Like many of our grandmothers, she did not enjoy a serene and smooth life. Growing up in Bolshevik, Communist Russia as a Jew was difficult and raising a family in Georgia during the 1930s under Stalin's tyranny was far from simple. Then came the war. She and her husband escaped the former Soviet Union with false papers and came to the displaced persons camps. But again, life was anything but serene, raising a large family, sometimes in a one bedroom flat.

My grandparents made it in 1947 to the United States and settled on a farm in New Jersey. That too didn't turn out so successful, and they relocated to Brooklyn, New York. My grandparents raised nine beautiful children and a tenth orphan. Making a livelihood proved very complicated, however, and the upheavals of her life took their toll on her. She suffered from anxiety and depression.

One day my grandmother consulted the Lubavitcher Rebbe what to do about her internal, psychological and emotional state. The Rebbe gave her fascinating advice. He suggested to her that she go to as many Jewish weddings as possible and to dance away at these weddings and inspire other people to dance. As it happens to be, my grandmother was an exceptionally skilled dancer. She embraced the Rebbe’s advice, and for decades she would go to every possible wedding and dance away. She danced with family, friends, relatives, community members and sometimes complete strangers. Everybody knew Mrs. Lipsker was here, and she was the life of the wedding and the life of the party. This was not part of her nature, however. It was, in fact, quite contrary to her nature. But she did it and she did it with every fiber of her being.

She lived in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, where there were many baalei teshuva, young women and men who returned to Judaism, and they had small families attending the wedding or sometimes no families. And my grandmother would come in and bring with her joy, vigor, stamina and inspiration. She would dance sometimes for hours with the bride and with the mother, with the siblings, or with the families and relatives, and indeed the joy that she brought to hundreds and thousands of people over long decades … it came back to her. It gave her so much joy, strength, fortitude, resilience and inspiration.

Sometimes we find ourselves engulfed in darkness. Many of us are dealing with anxiety and unresolved wounds and trauma. Pain, stress and depression take over. Sometimes we find ourselves in a state of darkness, confusion, uncertainty and despair. We want to battle the darkness. We want to extricate all that darkness from our environment, from our home and from our world. Sometimes, though, the most effective, powerful solution is not to fight the darkness, but to kindle a flame of hope, a flame of joy, of light, of positivity. Start dancing and inspire other people to dance. And in that dance, a passion, a fire, a warmth is created in you and around you, and the darkness will banish and dissipate.

Thirteen years ago, my grandmother's youngest son, Shmuel, was marrying off his child. I came to the wedding a little late and noticed that none of my uncles and aunts were present. My mother was also not there. What happened? I found out that my grandmother, who was 94 years old, had a hard time breathing and had been rushed to Methodist Hospital. My mother had been called by Hatzolah and she came straight from the wedding to visit her mother, my grandmother. Seeing that the situation was complicated, she called her siblings and other relatives to come to the hospital, and they did. They all rushed in from the wedding.

The scene was surreal. My grandmother was on her bed surrounded by some thirty family members. All the women dressed in wedding gowns and the men dressed in wedding attire, singing joyous melodies. At one point, the nurse came into the ICU and said, “What, is this a wedding?”

A few minutes after midnight, my holy grandmother returned her soul to its Maker. She died as she lived: in an atmosphere of joy, meaning, purpose and unity. She passed on with the family that she loved so much, surrounding her, all dressed in their finest wedding attire.

Rabbi Yoel Gold
Sing With Your Life

One of my all-time favorite quotes is, “Who you are speaks so loudly I can't hear what you're saying.” How we live our lives, how we conduct ourselves every day and how we treat other people is what inspires everybody else to emulate us. It's not what we say and it's not what we think. Shlomie Dachs reminds me of that quote.

In 1996, Shlomie was getting ready to release his debut album, One Day at a Time.

Shlomie relates:

One day I found in my mailbox a cassette tape with twenty-five songs from a composer, Yisroel Borochov. I begin listening to the songs, until suddenly, Ha’malach Ha’Goel comes up in the middle of the cassette. And instantly, I say, “This is my song.” I was drawn to it immediately. I began to listen to it several times and then I went to my mentor, Sheya Mendlowitz, a big producer in the Jewish music business, and said, “Sheya, I need you to hear this song. I'm working on a debut album and I need to know your opinion.” He listens to it with me, as I'm so excited, and then he says, “Shlomie, I don't think you should use these words. Abie Rotenberg already has the classic song of Hamalach Ha’Goel. Yours is going to get lost. The tune is beautiful, but let's come up with other lyrics. Find another Pasuk to put the tune to.” I was so torn. Here Sheya is telling me not to do it, but I feel the song. _
At the end, I went with it. I recorded the song with the words Hamalach Ha’Goel… and the rest is history._

This song became Shlomie Dachs’ signature song. He was invited to weddings, bar mitzvahs, concerts, and they always asked him, “Could you sing Hamalach?” A few months later, after the album was released, he was invited to sing at an NCSY Shabbaton. There were hundreds of teenagers at that concert. The energy, the excitement, the enthusiasm was electrifying.
“I began singing one song after another at the concert, and then came my signature song… Hamalach.”

Shlomo was pouring every bit of his being into it, and singing it with all his heart.

There was one Yachad child in the front trying to get my attention, and I saw that he wanted to come up on stage.

They bring up the boy on stage, as Shlomie is about to transition into the high part of the song. Shlomie hands the microphone to the boy and asks him to sing the high part. But…

The boy began to sing the classic Hamalach Ha’Goel to the tune of Abie Rotenberg.

This was Shlomie’s moment, this was the highlight, this was the climax, this was the grand finale. And the boy ruined it all.
“I started to remember what Sheya Mendlowitz had told me when I bought the song: “Don't use those words. The classic Hamalach is too famous, is too good.” And here I am on a big stage at this huge NCSY Shabbaton concert, and lo and behold, he went into Abie’s Hamalach. Immediately, I motioned to the band. They switched the song, and this child went on to sing the rest of the song – Abie’s Hamalach.

It almost looked like this was planned, because the beat is pretty much the same, and they ended up finishing off the night with Abie Rotenberg’s Hamalach.

Three months later, out of the blue, I get a call from the legendary educator, Rabbi Chaim Wielgus. He says, “Shlomie, I have an incredible story to tell you.”

Just yesterday, I was at this fair that NCSY put up for teenagers, and I was looking around at the different boys running from ride to ride, and I noticed that one of the teenagers had long hair and looked completely secular. But, oddly enough, he had tzitzis flying out of his shirt. I couldn't believe how a completely irreligious boy could be wearing tzitzis. I decided to approach Rabbi Jessie Horn, one of the today’s heads of Yeshivat HaKotel. “Tell me a little bit about that boy,” I said. Rabbi Horn replied, “A couple of months ago, we were at the Shlomi Dachs’ concert...”

“It turns out that this boy was getting turned on to Jewish music and was so excited about the concert, and asked Rabbi Horn if he could go backstage and watch the concert from the back. Rabbi Horn said sure. And sure enough, this boy saw me switch the two songs and how seamlessly I went from one into the other without embarrassing this boy. After the concert was over, he immediately ran to Rabbi Horn, his advisor, and said, “Rabbi Horn, Rabbi Horn, did you see what happened?” “No, tell me.” “Shlomie Dachs was singing his Hamalach, and this boy started singing the other one, and then in an instant, he changed the song. And this boy did not even realize. This boy was not embarrassed; he didn’t have to feel uncomfortable. I am blown away. I want to do something special for what I just saw.” And Rabbi Horn came up with the idea, “Why don't you wear tzitzis? It's an easy mitzvah. You can wear it under your shirt and it’s not expensive. And you could take on that mitzvah because of what you saw and how you were amazed.”

Dovid Hamelech in Tehillim says “Ashira La’Hashem b’chayai,” which simply understood means, “I will sing to Hashem throughout my life.” But I believe it has a much deeper meaning. Dovid Hamelech doesn't say “Ashira b’koli,” I’ll sing to Hashem with my voice, or “b’kinori,” with my harp. He says, “Ashira b’chayai,” I’ll sing to Hashem with my life – with the way I live my life, with the choices I make, because those choices are the musical notes. The ups and downs of my life, those are the highs and lows of the song, and the way we treat other people, that's the harmony of the song.

The truth is, we are all on the stage of life and all of us are performing. We have an audience: our family members, our neighbors, our community. They're all watching us. They're watching how we treat other people, and they're watching in the moments when we think nobody is watching.

That's ultimately what inspires others to emulate us and to sing along.

Rabbi Shlomo Landau
First Class Honesty

Rav Yehuda Zev Segal zt”l, the Manchester Rosh Yeshiva, was once on a train with a student of his, learning together. But soon enough, a rowdy, boisterous group of people stepped onto the train and it quickly became distracting to learn under such noisy conditions. With this, Rav Segal and his student looked to find another car in the train that was quieter where they could continue learning. But they couldn't find any place, so they went up one class – to first class – fully intending to pay the difference when the conductor came around.

But the conductor never came around.

It seemed as if the conductor had already gone through all the cars. As soon as they exited the train and arrived at their destination, Rav Segal hurried to the station master, where they sold tickets, and said, “I owe you money.” “What are you talking about?” asked the station master. Rav Segal explained. “We bought a coach fare, but it was very noisy, so we walked into first class. First class was empty and quiet, but we owe you the difference.” The station master was quick to reply. “There was no one there anyway. Don't worry about; it's fine.” But Rav Segal saw it otherwise. “No, it’s not fine,” he said. “Do you have the authority to make the decision that I don't have to pay the difference between a coach ticket and a first class ticket?” At this point, the station master didn’t know what to say. “I want to speak to your supervisor,” said Rav Segal.

Sure enough, the supervisor came over and said the same. “It's not a problem; don’t worry about it.” But again, Rav Segal was adamant. “Do you have the authority?” Hearing this now twice, Rav Segal had nothing more to do … than reach into his pocket and pay the difference.

That’s a living example of first class honesty. Rav Segal had rock-solid faith that everything Hashem gives us in life, we are supposed to have, and whatever we're not supposed to have, we won’t get. But that doesn’t mean we take advantage. Quite to the contrary, we give advantage. We must make it right. We must live our lives with the highest degree of integrity. Nothing less. And knowing this, Rav Segal had no problem reaching into his pocket and paying the difference. We can only imagine the Kiddush Hashem he made that day at the train station.

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