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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Emor

Parshat Emor

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Emor Edition                                                                         Print Version
13 Iyar, 5782 | May 14, 2022

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Mr. Charlie Harary
The Crusader

The first time I met Rabbi Wallerstein was right after smartphones had started becoming popularized, something which he was not in favor of. Realizing the impact that phones were having on individuals and families, he came up with an idea which he hoped would create awareness and change with the global Jewish community: Day to Disconnect. He said he would spearhead this project, with the intent for people to disconnect from their phones and related electronic devices.

I received a call shortly thereafter if I was interested in joining the campaign, to which I eagerly complied. I drove over to the Ohr Naava headquarters, and spent hours discussing methods that we could use to help people disengage from their phones in healthy ways, without the negativity. We hoped that by virtue of all those who participated, we would collectively reach one million total hours of disconnection so that families in turn could connect.

The campaign was set to kick off in just a few days, when something in the larger Jewish community occurred, and Rabbi Wallerstein strongly felt the need to take a stand, though it would be unpopular. The issue was completely unrelated to our campaign, except for the fact that it was coinciding in time.

An emergency meeting was set up. In just days, we hoped for Jews around the world to unite in disconnecting. We wished for Jews of all sorts to bind together and find connection and togetherness. But if Rabbi Wallerstein would publicly voice his opinion on this other, albeit unrelated issue, it would certainly cause upset for some, and perhaps jeopardize the campaign. Who could know how many people would say, “We don’t agree with him on that issue; there’s no way we’re joining the Day to Disconnect!” That was the concern. It was important that Rabbi Wallerstein not say anything if he hoped for the campaign to have everything working in its favor to be successful.
But Rabbi Wallerstein wouldn’t hear of it.

I was the new guy around Ohr Naava, and was told that perhaps a new face and new perspective would lead Rabbi Wallerstein to carefully deliberate on his options and best course of action, which for the campaign’s sake, certainly seemed to be not saying anything. I approached him and said, “Listen, I know the issue is wrong, but all this time and money has been spent on making this campaign successful and we are almost there. Can you beg out of the fight? Don’t take sides.” “But it’s wrong!” Rabbi said matter-of-factly.” “I know it is, and I’m all for that. But for the campaign’s success, this needs to be sidelined for the meantime. Can you just sit this one out and not voice your opinion?”

“Charlie…” he began. As soon as I heard those words, I knew I’d lost the battle. “You don’t get it. My father was a marine. When something it right, you fight for it. You don’t allow the noise to stop you from fighting for what’s right. I don’t care what happens. I don’t care what they say. That’s not my problem. It’s right. And if it’s Hashem’s honor that I’m defending, I don’t care if no one participates in a Day to Disconnect. I’m not sitting this one out.”
That’s who Rabbi Wallerstein was. He was a crusader for Hashem. He lived for Hashem.

One time I was sitting at a Chanukah event with him, and I got to speak before him, which is always a bad place to be. I got up and spoke about how the Chashmonaim were comprised of Kohanim, who spent their day and night in service of Hashem in the Beis Hamikdash. They were learned men and G-d fearing Jews. And yet, here they were chosen to fight the superpower that the Greek army was. You would imagine that the most physically strong and sophisticated of the Jewish nation would be chosen for this purpose. You would want to select the so-called Navy Seals to take on this job and mission. And yet the Kohanim were selected. Why was this done?

I went on to explain that this was the very miracle. Those who were not necessarily physically strong, but were spiritually strong, vanquished the Greeks. And that was the great miracle which the Jews experienced in relation to the war.

I finished my speech, and then took a seat. Moments later, there Rabbi Wallerstein was, up at the podium. Even before beginning his own talk, he said, “I want to begin by saying that I disagree with Charlie.” I began lowering my head. Here I had spent an hour building up my entire speech and driving home my point, and he upended it in one sentence. “Charlie, never underestimate a Kohen who’s on a crusade for Hashem.”

Rabbi Wallerstein was a Kohen who lived on a crusade for Hashem. We don’t have that so much today. We live in a time where we want people to like us. We are worried if our kids will get married, will we have enough income, will this and that be okay. We play chess in our minds and make calculations. Every time we make a move, we consider what that will lead to.
Rabbi Wallerstein lived a life composed of three simple words: “Nafshi cholas ahavasecha – I burn with fire for You (Hashem).” It wasn’t a matter of calculating if doing something was right would lead to a certain outcome. If it was right, it was right. Period. If it was what Hashem wanted, that would be done. He was on a crusade for Hashem.

I remember sitting with him on many occasions for hours and him saying to me, “Charlie, how do we get more people to realize how much Hashem loves them. What do we need to do? What do we need to say?” His whole life was a crusade, because if you thought for a moment that Hashem is not in you, it hurt him. When you live with and for Hashem, you push through walls.

I was once in Los Angeles with him on an Avinu Malkeinu tour before Rosh Hashanah. We spoke, then ran to the airport and caught a red eye to Chicago. We landed, went to daven, and then had some time until we would speak later that night. I returned to the hotel, rested, caught up on some emails and prepared what I would be saying later that evening.

Rabbi Wallerstein and I saw each other later that afternoon during Mincha. “How did your day go?” he asked. “Good, thank G-d. I prepared my speech and I’m ready to go.” I then turned to Yanky Elefant, executive director of Ohr Naava, and asked, “How was your day?” “Exhausting,” he said. I wasn’t sure what he meant. “What did you do?” I inquired. “Rabbi Wallerstein had forty-eight appointments.” I still am not sure how that is possible.

But it must be that when nafshi cholas ahavasecha, when your heart and soul burn with love of Hashem and His children, there is nothing that can be done to make you tire and turn away. It’s possible if you’re on a crusade for Hashem. He burned with love for Hashem with such fire and passion that he saw no wall, no barrier between him and what needed to get accomplished. Nothing would stop him for what he thought Hashem wanted of him.

Every second that we think and feel this way, we find potential inside us that enables us to be stronger. Whenever you see a wall, you realize that it’s not a wall. It’s an opportunity that you can push right through and achieve great things.

If I were sitting right now with Rabbi Wallerstein and would ask him, “What should I tell them? What should I tell everyone I speak to?” I believe he would say, “Tell them how much Hashem loves them.”

Over the course of the next weeks, we all will hit a wall in life. It may in a variety of areas in our life. When you do, before you say, “I can’t,” think of Rabbi Wallerstein and just keep on walking. Don’t turn around. You can’t hold back, you think, but just keep on holding back. Keep on moving, keep on going. Because if you do, you will achieve the greatness destined for you.

Rabbi Yisroel Majeski
I’m Not Giving Up

My first Pesach program I spent with Rabbi Wallerstein in Arizona, I received a call from someone I was vaguely familiar with that her sister was coming over Chol Hamoed to join the program. I took in the news, and planned on finding the right time to have a brief conversation with her. I eventually did, though she sat still, with her eyes looking down. I knew that she was going through a difficult time.

Years later, I called the girl and asked if she could go back to that Pesach program and share with me some of her experiences with Rabbi Wallerstein. She told me the following.

“I was feeling extremely empty in my life, and knew that I needed to get away from my family and my home. I was in eleventh grade and took a flight to Las Vegas and found two Jewish couples I could stay with. No one knew where I was, except my sister. My sister didn’t know what to do, so she called Rabbi Wallerstein.

“I then received a call from a man who introduced himself as Zecharia Wallerstein, but I had no idea who that was. ‘What are you doing in Vegas’? he asked me. ‘Who are you?’ I shot back, and with that, I hung up the phone. But Rabbi Wallerstein wasn’t going to give up easily. He called me back and said, ‘Listen, I’m booking a flight right now for you to Arizona, and you’ll come to my Pesach program and spend the rest of time here.’ ‘You’re crazy!’ I said. ‘I’m not going anywhere. I came here to get away from everyone and everything, and I’m not going to your program.’ But Rabbi still wasn’t stopping. He called back yet again.

‘Listen, you’re with people who your family is not comfortable with, and you need to be elsewhere. You need to come here.’ Rabbi told me that he’d take steps to make sure I wouldn’t remain where I was, which I didn’t think he’d do, but he actually did. So, with his insistence, I took the ticket and got on the plane. I figured I’d go there for a few days, make Rabbi happy and then leave.

“I arrived at the Pesach program and I didn’t want to look at him, let alone talk to him. I was so angry at him. He gave me my own hotel room, but I still remained upset.

“Towards the end of Pesach, when I had settled in, he sat me down and began telling me about the Ranch. ‘You have to go to the Ranch,’ he said. It took me six months to finally make it to the Ranch. I got to the point where I realized that I needed the help. I was a mess at that time.

“But you don’t know how bad I was. I got kicked out of the Ranch. For that to happen, it must have been serious. The Ranch is a place filled with love and care, and to be asked to leave is no small deal. I was a troublemaker, though, but a leader as well. I would lead the other girls to follow what I was doing, and the Ranch couldn’t have it that I led the other girls to unsafe emotional places.

“So I went to a hospital for some time. Eventually I made it out, and I wanted to go back to the Ranch. But they said they were sorry that they weren’t equipped to deal with me. I called Rabbi Wallerstein and told him my predicament. There was another rehab that I wanted to go to, and so, Rabbi called them and talked to them about me getting in. But once they heard about me and what had happened, they didn’t accept me. I had been kicked out of a lot of places in my life, but when this happened, I had never felt so dejected in my life. I got kicked out of the Ranch and another rehab wouldn’t even take me in?

“I called back Rabbi Wallerstein and told him, ‘Rabbi, if you don’t get me into a place by tomorrow, it’s done. I’m going to go back to my old life.’ Rabbi then told me the following.

‘I’m going to get you into another place, and I’m not giving up on you, because you’re my child.’ He said those words and I can’t describe to you how it went straight into my heart. I knew he really meant it. The next day he got me into a rehab in New Jersey, and that’s when my life turned around. He has been there for me ever since. I have brought to him everyone I’ve ever gone out with, he calls me before every Yom Tov and always has a good word to say. Whenever I would call, he would say, “I’m so excited to hear your voice!” That’s a line a parent would tell a child.

But there’s something else to the story.

After she had told me everything, I asked her, “Can I ask you one question?” “Sure,” she said. “Who picked you up from the airport when you landed in Arizona?”

“Rabbi Wallerstein,” she said.

When you run a Pesach program, your head is somewhere else. There were so many people he could have asked to pick her up from the airport. But he went to pick her up, because when it’s your daughter at the airport, you don’t send someone else to pick her up; you do it yourself. Rabbi Wallerstein was known to have said that we must treat our Jewish children as our own sons and daughters. But it wasn’t just talk for him. He walked the walk. It was real. He lived that way.

When it’s your daughter, there are no excuses. You go the full length and do anything and everything to be there. Rabbi Wallerstein was such a man, and we must be that way too.

Rabbi Gamliel Rabinowitz
What Can I Do?

A person must ask himself, “What is my responsibility?” We praise a generous person who gives money to others, and it is honorable and to be recognized. But bringing a person close to Hashem and inspiring him in a spiritual life is eternal. It lasts for generation after generation. If you love another person, not only will you support others physically and financially, but also spiritually.

The Gemara tells us that Hillel obligates the poor to still give charity, even given their financial circumstances, because Hillel was poor and he still gave away generously. Rabbi Wallerstein obligates each of us to ask ourselves what we can do for others. That was who he was and it leaves us required to step up in our own lives with a feeling of greater responsibility towards Jews of all kinds.

I had the great merit to learn with Rav Zundel Kroizer for thirty years. Rav Zundel at one point traveled to Lugano, Switzerland to be the rav there. When I heard about this, I asked why he wanted to leave Israel to go there, and how he could do so. “I was at a gathering with other rabbanim,” he said, “and amidst our conversation, we decided that each of us needed to take something upon ourselves that would help Klal Yisroel. Some people from Lugano shortly thereafter visited me, and told me that they don’t have a rav. Knowing that I had just recently spoken with the group of Rabbanim and we had talked about each of us doing something for Klal Yisroel, I have decided to move there and become their Rav.”

Rabbi Wallerstein was such a person. He saw a need and he filled it. That is one aspect of his legacy and memory that we all must learn from and act upon in our own lives.

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