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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Shavuot Edition

Parshat Shavuot Edition

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Shavuot Edition                                                                         Print Version
6 Sivan, 5782 | June 5, 2022

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Yoel Gold

The Mysterious Sefer Torah

Stuart Mintz was born and raised in Cleveland in the 1950s. For the first 35 years of his life, he had no connection to his Jewish heritage and was not really interested in pursuing anything other than his bar mitzvah. As soon as he was done with his bar mitzvah, he was basically done with his Jewish education.

But in 1988, Stuart and his friends were offered a subsidized trip to Israel, and they decided to take advantage and go. They arrived very early Friday morning, and before they knew it, Shabbos rolled around.

Stuart found himself wide awake very, very early in the morning. But there was nothing to do. Everything was closed down. You couldn’t get a taxi. You couldn’t get a bus. Stuart and his five other friends couldn’t figure out what to do.

One of Stuart’s friends then suggested, “You know, why don't we go synagogue hopping? Let's check out some synagogues in the area. “Go to synagogue?” I asked. “Today is not Yom Kippur or Rosh Hashanah.”

They all walked out of the lobby and started walking the streets of Jerusalem. They walked for fifty minutes, passing by dozens of shuls, until suddenly they came to a white building, a big shul with its windows open. Stuart could hear people from the inside davening. He turned to his friends and said, “Why don't we walk into this shul and check it out?”

That was the very first time Stuart walked into an Orthodox shul, so much so that Stuart and his friends were saying, “We don’t want to look like tourists. Let's go upstairs.”

They got upstairs and Stuart leaned over the balcony and what he saw left an indelible impression on him. For the very first time, he saw people around the bima, wrapped in prayer shawls and with white beards, an old ancient Sefer Torah open before them. They were reading from it. Stuart thought to himself, “Wow, if I can go back into time, 2,000 years ago, I would see the exact same sight. A bunch of old men reading these exact words in this exact order, at this exact time of the day. That's why we as Jews are still here today.”

It was that moment that became a turning point in Stuart’s life. He realized how little he knew and how much more he wanted to know, grow and connect to his heritage.

Ten years after he was already shomer Shabbos, he was sitting at the table with his father and mother over a Shabbos meal.

Stuart’s father turned to Stuart and said, “Stuart, I don't know if I ever told you the story about your grandmother while you were in the hospital when you were a baby.” Stuart was born with a certain blood condition that threatened his life, and was hospitalized for many weeks when he was born. His grandmother was home in Cleveland, when she heard a knock on the front door. She opened the door and saw this young rabbi who introduced himself as Menachem Mendel Taub, who later became known as the Kaliver Rebbe. He was originally from Hungary, had survived Auschwitz, and had come to settle in Cleveland, where he opened a shul and was now looking to buy a Sefer Torah.

Stuart’s grandmother asked, “How much is the Torah? What is it going to cost?” “$3,500,” the Kaliver Rebbe said. My grandmother looked back at the rebbe and said, “If you promise to do a special Mi She’berach for my grandson, Stuart, who is sick – Yisroel Eliezer ben Zev – I’ll buy you that Torah.” So Stuart’s grandmother wrote a check to this young rabbi for $3,500. The Kaliver Rebbe must have said the Mi She’berach, because Stuart survived.

“Dad,” asked Stuart, “whatever happened to that sefer Torah?” “The rabbi with a number of his shul members made joint aliya to Israel and took everything, including the Torah.” At this point. Stuart couldn’t believe his ears, thinking to himself, “Wait a second, there was a Sefer Torah in Israel ten years ago that changed my life. Is it possible that the Torah being read at the time which started this whole process was the Torah that my grandmother actually bought? In my mind and heart, Stuart knew that it was the Torah because it made no sense that this would have happened to him any other way.

The Torah says, “Eitz chaim hi l’machazikim bah – The Torah is a tree of life for anyone who supports it.” Anyone who connects to it, anyone who learns it, thrives in life. Many years ago, was originally from Hungary, Stuart’s grandmother decided to support the Torah by giving $3,500 to the Kaliver Rebbe, and that saved Stewart's life twice, once physically and once spiritually.

Connect to the Torah, learn it and support it. Because ultimately, you will realize that it will support you.

Rebbetzin Chaya Sora Gertzulin


“Good things come in small packages”. While Megillas Rus contains only four chapters, it speaks volumes.

Shavuos is “Z’man Matan Torahseinu, -- Holiday of the Giving of the Torah.” The Book of Rus is read on Shavuos. What is the connection between the two?

Her heart filled with love and enthusiasm, Rus converted and accepted upon herself a Torah life. Come Shavuos, we renew our commitment to our beloved Torah, with the hope and prayer that our observance of mitzvos never becomes routine – same old, same old. We take a lesson from Rus, to whom Torah was new, beloved and special.

Shavuos is also the birthday and yahrtzeit of Dovid HaMelech, King David. Rus merited to become an “Eim b’Malchus – Mother of Royalty”, the great-grandmother of Dovid HaMelech. We honor Dovid’s memory by reading about his lineage on Shavuos. Rus’ story is one that transcends time, a story we can all relate to. It opens with the word “Vayehi – And it was”. A word that tells us a tragedy is about to occur. A time of Oy Vey! There was a famine in Eretz Yisroel. The earth was dry and parched. Food was a scarce and hard to come by.

We are introduced to Elimelech, who lived in the town of Bais Lechem. The Midrash tells us that he was the “Parness HaDor – the Philanthropist of the Generation”. All eyes turned towards Elimelech. Surely, he would find room in his heart to help the hungry.

People came from all over the land, knocking on Elimelech’s door, hoping that he will take them out of their misery, and help put food on their tables. But it was to no avail. The door was locked, the windows shuttered. The house was dark. Elimelech was gone. He had picked himself up, and together with his wife and sons abandoned their hometown.

How ironic. Elimelech was from the city of Bais Lechem, meaning “House of Bread”. It was known as a community of givers, who understood the pain of the less fortunate, ready to share their “bread” with the hungry.

Of all places, where does Elimelech end up – Moav. Moav, a nation known to be just the opposite. The same Moavite people about whom the Torah tells us “…Asher lo kidmu eschem balechem u’vamayim baderech b’tzeischem miMitzrayim – They did not greet you with bread and water on the road when you were leaving Egypt”. (Devarim 23:4)

We tend to think of challenges as handicaps, disabilities, a lacking in one’s life. But Megillas Rus teaches us otherwise. Even one’s G-d given gifts of talent, intellect or – as in Elimelech’s case – prosperity, can be challenging. What we do with the blessings in our lives is our test. Will we share with others, will we utilize them to better our world?

That was Elimelech’s test. Would he be there to give strength and support to his people? Will he rise to the occasion?

Elimelech imagined one person after another asking for help. How could he possibly assist so many? Rather than trying, he skipped town, travelling to a place where he would fit right in with a people who lacked compassion for the hungry and indigent.

Time passes. Elimelech, who broke the heart of so many, dies a broken-hearted man. He failed not only his people,  but ultimately, his family and even himself. Naomi, his widow, remains in Moav with their sons. The boys marry Moavite princesses, sisters Rus and Orpah. Tragedy strikes yet again. Both sons pass away, childless, leaving Naomi alone with her two daughters-in-law.

News that the famine ended reached Naomi. It was time for her to return to her land. Naomi implores her daughters-in-law to remain in Moav, to return to their mother’s home. She understood that life in Israel may be difficult for them.

After many tears, Orpah decides to remain in Moav while Rus – despite Naomi’s cajoling to do likewise – insists on joining Naomi on her trek back home. The Megillah shares with us Rus’ beautiful words, emanating from her heart. “Where you go, I will go… Your people are my people… Your G-d is my G-d…” (Megillas Rus 1:16).

Together, Naomi and Rus make the long journey back. It wasn’t an easy trip. Just think. Today, we take an airline trip, sitting in a comfortable seat, yet it knocks us out. In contrast, Naomi and Rus crossed a hot desert, without any GPS to guide them, or rest areas along the way. But there was no complaining, no begrudging their difficult journey.  They had each other, and it was enough.

Rus gave Naomi the ultimate gift. She gave of her very being. She showed kindness, respect, love and understanding, staying by her mother-in-law’s side. For Rus, it was a journey to the unknown. Would she ever be accepted by the people of Bais Lechem? Would she ever remarry? Where would her new life take her? Rus left everything she knew behind, and was ready to live a Torah life.

Several years ago, while teaching the story of Rus, I was asked a thought-provoking question. “How could Rus leave her mother for her mother-in-law? After all, her husband died, and there weren’t any grandchildren to build a strong bond between the two.”

I explained that while Rus truly loved and admired Naomi, her journey was motived by a desire to grow. A journey of discovery. A journey of reaching new spiritual heights, connecting with HaShem and His Torah. A journey she felt compelled to embark on.

The Megillah doesn’t share with us any deep religious, spiritual or philosophical discussions between Rus and Naomi. But it was how Naomi lived her life that inspired Rus to be a part of Am Yisroel. Rus understood that it was the ethical and moral teachings of the Torah that guided every facet of Naomi’s life. A life that Rus wanted for herself.

Megillas Rus is a book of life wisdom. It portrays Elimelech, a man who was a leader, a mover and shaker, whose decision to leave Bais Lechem, affected not only himself but his children and those around him. In contrast, we learn of Rus, who although being Moavite, rose above the lifestyle and comfort zone she had been raised in, to become a paradigm of kindness. A Mother of Royalty. A woman whose choice not only changed her life, but that of her future generations.

To paraphrase the words of R’ Zeira in Midrash Rabbah 2:14, “Why was the Book of Rus written? Though it is not a book of laws or commandments, it is a book that teaches us the rewards for acts of loving kindness.”

Rus – a book of contrasts. A book teaching us that decisions matter.

Rabbi YY Jacobson

Stars and Sand

There’s an interesting law in the Talmud recorded in Tractate Shabbos (23b) by the great Talmudic sage, Rava. If you have ten Jews who all want to light the Chanukah menorah, but they don't have ten menorahs, what can they do?

Let’s say they take one bowl, fill it with oil, and they place inside the bowl around and around ten wicks, and then they kindle these wicks. Can we say that all of these ten Jews have fulfilled the mitzvah of lighting the menorah? In a classic Talmudic distinction, Rava says, it depends. If you place a vessel over the bowl so that each of the ten wicks emerges independently, it's perfectly fine. Each one of them fulfills the mitzvah. But if the bowl is filled with oil and the ten wicks are just left open and there's no utensil covering it, then nobody fulfilled the mitzvah. The reason is because, from a distance, it seems like just one large bonfire. The ten people didn't do the mitzvah, and not even one person did the mitzvah, because you're supposed to kindle a flame, not a bonfire.

This articulates a profound message in Judaism. There is the light that we generate together as a collective nation. It's the value of family, of community, and as Hillel says in Ethics of the Fathers, “If I am only for myself, then what am I?” We all need attachment. We all need connection. And together, as a collective group, we create something incredible that we cannot create on our own.

But there is another element too in Judaism. And that is to recognize the indispensable contribution of your soul, of your life, of your mind, of your body, of your unique gift. Each and every single one of us is an indispensable note in the Divine Cosmic Symphony.

The day you were born is the day G-d said that the world is incomplete without you, without your unique energy and creativity. It goes back to the genesis of our history. G-d always promises our patriarchs, beginning with Abraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, “I'm going to make your children like the stars of heaven and like the sand of the sea.” The commentators ask that there's a lot of sand on the beaches, but you can't compare the number of grains of sand to the number of stars. The number of stars exceed the sand! So once G-d tells Avraham, “Your children are going to be like the stars of heaven,” isn't it redundant and anticlimactic to say we're also going to be like the sand of the sea?

But the answer, of course, is that stars and sand represent two different qualities. One grain of sand is pretty valueless on its own. But when you bring together many grains of sand, you create a phenomenal beach. That's the power of unity.

With stars, it's very different. Stars are individualistic. Every star shines on its own. And when stars collide, they destroy each other. So G-d tells Abraham. “Your descendants are going to have a dual quality. They're going to be like the sand of the sea, but like the stars of heaven. They're going to cherish and appreciate the power of community, the power of oneness, the power of cohesion, like the sand of the sea.

But they're also going to possess the quality of being like the stars of heaven. Every single one of them casting a unique light to illuminate our planet, to illuminate our lives.

Every one of us was born an original. We must make sure that we don't die as copies.

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