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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Pekudei

Parshat Pekudei

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Pekudei                                                                  Print Version
2nd of Adar II, 5782 | March 5, 2022

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi YY Jacobson
The Wonders of the World

King Solomon tells us in Proverbs that the human soul is compared to a flame. The flame is never stagnant, it's never paralyzed. There's always motion and movement. It's always swaying and dancing, kissing heaven, licking the air, in the many ways that represents our lives, which are always in a state of motion and movement. Life is filled with fluctuations, but when you gaze at the flames, you also see a very deep tranquility and serenity, a silence, a warmth, an intimacy. It's almost like the flames are inviting us to show up to life with full presence and silent mindfulness. To be able to appreciate that life itself is not just about making a living; to appreciate wholeness within all of the vicissitudes of life; and to discover peacefulness and serenity within our scattered lifestyle. The flame reminds us to find tranquility within our upheavals and fragmented schedules, and ensure that the constant flux and movement of life doesn't take us away from showing up to life with our full presence, enjoying every moment of the miracle of life.

A group of junior high school students in Chicago were studying about the seven wonders of the world. The teacher asked them to write down what they think qualify as the seven greatest wonders on our globe. At the end, it was the following which received most of the votes: Egypt's Great Pyramids, the Taj Mahal in India, the Grand Canyon in Arizona, the Panama Canal, the Empire State Building, the Great Barrier Reef and China's Great Wall. While gathering the votes, the teacher noticed that there was one student, a quiet girl, who did not turn her paper in yet. He asked the girl if she was having trouble with compiling her list of the seven wonders, and the girl replied, “Yes, I can't quite make up my mind what they are because there are so many.” The teacher went further. “Why don't you tell us what you have, and maybe we can help?” The girl hesitated and then read from her paper.

“I think the seven wonders of the world are to touch, to taste, to see, to hear, to feel, to laugh and to love.” The room fell silent. You could hear a pin drop.

The young girl reminded us of a simple yet profound truth about life. Money can buy you a house, but not a home. It can buy a bed, but not rest, it can buy a clock, but not time, it can buy a book, but not wisdom. It can buy a position, but not respect. It can buy medicine, but not life. It can buy acquaintances, but not friends. It can buy connections, but not intimacy. It can buy admirers, but not love. It can buy fun, but not happiness. It can buy possessions, but not meaning. It can buy everything in the world, but not inner dignity. Watch those flames and listen to that story of living a life full of constant change and growth. And yet, anchored in absolute serenity and inner wholeness.

Rabbi Ephraim Shapiro
Coins that Changed the World

The year was 1951 on a Friday afternoon when my father, HaRav Mordechai Shapiro zt”l, was in Tel Aviv, walking on a wide boulevard, Allenby Street. He saw across the street a green wooden kiosk, and he was intrigued by the person who was working behind the desk. He appeared to be an elderly Jew and gave the impression that he was constantly learning Torah. He never stopped learning from a book in his hands or what was placed in front of him, as he swayed back and forth. If someone came over to buy something, he asked the person what he wanted, gave him the item and took the money, but never stopped learning. My father was inspired by this sight and thought about walking over to him. Eventually, he did.

As he began making his way over, right then, another young man made it to the elderly storeowner and asked for a pack of cigarettes. The elderly man hesitated not one bit, and looked at his watch. It was 12:15 p.m. “I’m sorry,” the owner said, “but it’s passed chatzos (midday) and I don’t sell cigarettes after then.” That was his policy. He was concerned that if he’d sell the cigarettes close to Shabbos, his customers might smoke and thereby break Shabbos. As soon as my father saw this, he realized that this elderly Jew was someone unique. He went over to him, asked for his name, and was told – Yankel Ochsencro. He then asked my father for his name, and my father told him, adding that he was from America. “America?” said Yankel. “Many years ago, I knew a young boy by the name of Arkale Svisletzer, and I heard that he went to America. Have you heard of him? What became of him?”

Immediately, my father knew. This was none other than the great Rav Aharon Kotler. My father began describing the remarkable effects Rav Aharon had already had on American Jewry. “How do you know him?” asked my father. “What made you ask me about him?” The man went on to explain.

“Decades ago, I was a butcher in Minsk and I wasn't able to learn exactly as much as I wanted to because I was busy in the butcher shop. I made up that for every kilo of meat that I sell, I would put a small coin in a jar, a coin that always seems inconsequential. And over the years, I had sold thousands upon thousands of kilos of meat, and therefore I had accumulated thousands upon thousands of coins. They were in a number of jars and I placed them in a wagon. And then I brought it through the streets to the local cheder, to the school where all the Jewish boys would study. I told the head of the cheder, ‘Here are thousands of coins. With this, I’d like you to send a couple of students to study at the great yeshiva of Slabodka.’ And one of the two boys that went was Arkale Svisletzer.”

My father stared at this elderly Jew, who was in part responsible for what became of the great Rav Aharon Kotler. His coins added up, little by little, and look how it affected the world.

Many years later, one of the other great, leading figures in America, Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky zt”l, went to visit my parents in Miami, Florida. On this particular visit, my father recounted this story about Arkale Svisletzer to Rav Yaakov. “Yes, yes,” said Rav Yaakov, “that’s exactly how the story goes. And I know … because I was the other boy.”

Rav Aharon and Rav Yaakov. World Jewry was changed because of Yankel Ochsencro and the coins he gave.
We must too believe that the small handful of actions we do can accomplish just the same – effect world Jewry. Forever.

Rabbi Ari Bensoussan
Under My Watch

Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l lived on the Lower East side of Manhattan and he was in his yeshiva, Mesivta Tiferet Jerusalem, where he was learning. All of a sudden, a man came running into the yeshiva and said, “Rabbi, we have to say Tehillim right away. A Jewish boy outside just got hit by a car. “How do you know he's Jewish?” asked Rav Moshe. “Because I saw a kippa right next to him,” replied the man. “Look, that's terrible, and we should say Tehillim either way,” said Rav Moshe. “But I just want to let you know that he’s not Jewish.” The man wasn’t sure how

Rav Moshe could be so certain that it wasn’t a Jewish boy.
The man went running back outside, and sure enough, he saw that it actually wasn't a Jewish boy. The kippa on the floor had blown off the head of another boy nearby. The man, without hesitating, ran back to Rav Moshe. “Rabbi, are you a navi (prophet)? How could you know this?” Rav Moshe explained. “If I was sitting right here and learning Torah right here, then a boy from my community is under my watch. And to a boy from my Jewish community, nothing bad could happen to him. The protection of the Torah spreads and extends to the community.”
But this wasn’t just the case with Rav Moshe Feinstein.

Over twenty years ago, I remember Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel zt”l’s response, amidst some incidents taking place in Israel and students wondering if they should return to America out of safety. Rav Nosson Tzvi, the Rosh Yeshiva of the Mirrer Yeshiva, came walking out of his house, all by himself despite his Parkinson’s, and noticed several boys standing outside. None of these boys wanted to be simply standing there, talking instead of learning Torah. Rav Nosson Tzvi, using as much strength as he could muster, grabbed onto the gate in front and started whispering something. None of the bystanders could tell what he was saying, but he clearly was.

That Friday, amidst one of his classes, he told all of us students, “That day I was outside and whispering … I was telling Hashem that the yeshiva is under my watch. As long as the students are learning Torah, this is my neighborhood and nothing bad can happen.”

A few weeks later, one Thursday afternoon, the building shook. A bomb had gone off not too far away. After we finished learning, we headed outside and saw the following: a hundred people in a circle around a car on fire, with the embers of the car still floating down from the sky. Everyone was dancing and singing.
As the story unfolded, it became clear what had happened. Someone placed a bomb on the car, just about a block away from the yeshiva. The person who set this bomb knew that, on Thursday, that block was at its busiest and was full of people. He packed the car with shrapnel and nails, and knew that anyone nearby would be hit.

And then the real stories began. The owner of the store on that block missed Mincha earlier that day, and it was getting close to sunset. He had to then daven Mincha and closed his store while he went to do so. While it was unusual, he asked everyone to leave. Along with this, there was another car parked, whose owner was a man who always went with his wife to deliver a package to a certain lady for Shabbat. Every week the wife spent some time with the lady whom the package was delivered to, while the husband was downstairs. That week, his wife said, “The lady would like to meet you. Could you come up this week?” The husband agreed.

Every person had their reason why they weren’t on the street that afternoon. But in Heaven, they knew that this was the street of Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel and nobody could get hurt.
Torah study provides protection. And those who study it do too.
We can all do it. And we can all be it.

Rabbi Yossi Bensoussan
G-d Runs the World

The Cohen family had come to see me, and we were discussing their adult son, Moshe, who was having a lot of difficulties in life and was getting distant from his parents. In the meeting, we spoke a lot about acceptance and understanding, and we came up with a game plan. But to be honest with you, it was a difficult one. It was going to cause them to change so much of what they've said and done until then, and they were nervous about it, understandably so. We debated the topic for a few minutes, and as it turned out, the Cohens left my office and I never heard from them again.

About a year later, I'm sitting in my office and meeting with somebody for the second time. Sure enough, about halfway through the meeting, my phone starts to ring. Normally, I don't have my phone on me during a meeting. But this time, I must have forgotten my phone in my pocket, and there it was ringing. I put it aside, but it didn’t stop. We soon thereafter ended our session, I looked at the phone and I realized that it was the Cohens from a year ago who just decided to call me now.
I call them back right away. Mrs. Cohen says to me, “I'm sorry I called so many times.” “Is everything okay?” I asked. “Yes, it’s just that my husband insisted he has to speak to you right now.” He then proceeded to tell me:

“Yossi, I'm not saying it's been an easier, but we've tried everything. About a month ago, I said, ‘Forget it, I'm just going with what you said, and let's see what happens.’ And now, I must say, I'm seeing a little bit of improvement. I'm seeing a little bit of something. He started to show an interest in being more responsible with who he is, a little bit better, a little bit healthier. And I just want to say, I know there are a lot of people who I’m sure can't pay you. They can't afford to come meet with you, and you can't give them sessions. So I want to sponsor one of your clients. I want to sponsor one person that you meet with who can't afford to pay.”

“That’s so kind of you,” I replied, and then, all of a sudden, I realized what he had said and I started crying. As soon as I hung up the phone, at that point, it was only me and Hashem in the room. I looked up and said, “We often think we are doing a big chesed, and it’s really You Hashem running the world.”

Because the boy who just left the room when my phone was ringing was … their son, Moshe. And right before he left, he reminded me, “I'm really, really sorry, but one day I'll be able to pay you for our meetings. Right now, I have nothing and I can't afford it.”

The minute he left, I got on the phone with his parents, and they said that they’d like to sponsor one of my clients. What they didn't realize is that it would be their own son.
G-d runs the world. He's really got it.

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