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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Re'eh

Parshat Re'eh

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Re'eh                                                                         Print Version
30 Av, 5782 | August 27, 2022

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein zt”l
The Master Key

The Kav HaYashar (Ch. 25) tells the following story:

There was once a miser who never wanted to give charity to anyone. However, even though he never donated even a penny, he held a job as a mohel and performed circumcisions free of charge.

One day, a man showed up at the door of this miser. “Would you be able to perform a bris milah on my son?” he inquired. “No problem,” the miser replied. And so, he gathered together all his belongings, and headed off on a three day journey through mountains and forests to the man’s home.

Finally, the mohel and father arrived at a home in the middle of the forest. Looking around, the mohel was taken aback to see mansion after mansion. The homes in this unknown town were magnificent. As the mohel stepped foot off the wagon, the father called out that he’d put his horses in the barn and be right over. “Please go ahead into the house and check on the baby.” “No problem,” replied the mohel, as he made his way to the front door and walked inside.

Making his way through the house, he arrived at what seemed to be the baby’s nursery. Giving a soft knock, he heard a voice from behind the door invite him in. It was the baby’s mother. “Thank you so much for coming to circumcise my son,” she said. The mohel graciously acknowledged the woman. “However,” she continued, “there is something important you should know.” The mohel presumed he was about to be informed about something relating to the baby. He was wrong.

“You should know that my husband is not a human. He is a destructive spirit.” The mohel, believing the woman, was thrown into a panic. “And not only is my husband a spirit, but everyone in this city is too.” The mohel was beside himself. What could he do now at this point? With this, the woman shared a piece of advice.

“If you don’t take anything from a destructive spirit, they will have no control over you. Don’t accept anything at all and all will be well. And please don’t tell my husband that I told this to you.”

The father soon thereafter entered the home, and informed the mohel that later that evening, he would be holding a pre-bris celebration with his close friends, and he’d love for the mohel should join. “To tell you the truth, it was a very long trip and I’m really tired. I want to go to sleep to make sure I’m awake and alert tomorrow when I perform the bris.” That was fine with the father, who bid the mohel a good evening and went on his way.

The bris the next morning went well, until the mohel was invited to the meal that was prepared in honor of the baby. “I really wish I could attend,” replied the mohel, “but last night, I went to sleep and had a terrible, frightful dream. I declared that today, in order to ameliorate the dream, I’d fast. I therefore won’t be able to participate in the meal, but thank you nonetheless.” The father decided to postpone the festive meal until the evening, in a clever attempt to force the mohel into joining, but then again, the mohel bowed out, explaining that he was still very exhausted from the long trip. 

But later that evening, as the father had imbibed himself with some wine and was in good spirits, he summoned the mohel. “Come with me to another room,” requested the father. The mohel immediately grew anxious. “There are three rooms I’d like to show you,” the father told the mohel. Nervously following behind the father, the mohel opened his eyes to the first room, which was full of gold. It seemed as if the room contained all the gold that had ever been lost or stolen. “Please take anything you want from here. After what you’ve done for me, coming all this way for my son, it would be my honor.” The mohel had no intention of taking a single item from the father. But he’d need to use another excuse to hide behind. “I’m as wealthy as you,” he said to the father. “Thank you, but I have no need for gold.” So on went the father to the second room.

Opening the door, the mohel saw a room filled to the brim with diamonds and jewels. “Take anything you want!” invited the father. “I don’t want anything!” the mohel firmly reiterated. “I don’t need any of this! I have enough money.” So on went the father to the third room.

Opening the door, as soon as the mohel’s eyes met the items, he turned white. The whole room was full of keys. Thousands of keys. Turning to the mohel and seeing him so shaken up, the father asked if everything was alright. “That keychain over there is mine. All my keys are hanging on it. How did you get that?”

“Every person who comes into this world,” explained the father, “is granted free will to choose the course of their life.” The miser turned his head towards the father, taking in every word. By now, it was clear to the father that the mohel knew who he was. “The first time someone asked you for tzedakah and you said no, you still had the key to undo your miserliness and create a new habit. But you continued to say no and no and no, and not give anyone any charity, and now you’ve developed an addiction to stinginess. It's not possible for you to be generous with your money at all. I have your key.

“What you see there hanging on that keychain are your keys. And that’s because you gave them up. I now have them.” The miser looked at the father, alarmed and unsure what to do or say. “However,” continued the father, “because you performed a bris milah for my son, I will give you back your keys.”

But the miser was smart. He remembered the words of the wife, “Don’t accept anything at all and all will be well,” and with that, he declined the father’s office. “You must be very close to God,” said the father. “No one knows that secret but us.” But the father had one other secret. “Let me tell you that since these are your own keys, if I give them back to you, it’s not as if you are taking something from me. They were your own, and accepting them from me will not cause you any harm. You can only be harmed if you take something new that is not yours.”

The miser returned to his hometown, and from there, completely turned his life around. He built a yeshiva, shul, initiated communal charity organizations and generously gave tzedakah for the rest of his life.

The story ends here. Now you’re probably wondering what relevance this has to your own life.

We all are born with keys. Keys that give us access to open doors in our life and accomplish. But there can come a point where we lose that key. We develop a habit of stinginess and can no longer access feelings of generosity; we create a chaotic lifestyle and can no longer harness self-discipline and control our impulses; our temper runs unfettered and we cannot regulate it. Our lives begin to spin out of control.

This story tells us the way back in.

If you’ve lost control about some part of your life, perhaps to a point of addiction, how can you gain your keys back? You don’t plan on coming across a destructive spirit any time soon, so how can you regain your footing and get your life back in order?

The answer is that Hashem holds the master key. You may have lost your own key, and thereby be unable to access your previous lifestyle of health and equanimity, but you can always, always reach out to Hashem. And Hashem holds the master key, which can open any door. Pray to Him and turn to Him, and with that, He’ll hand you the master key to any door you need to open in your life.

Rabbi Shlomo Farhi
One Page

Rav Shlomo Freifeld was a great Rosh Yeshivah. And on one occasion, as he was giving a talk on the very first day of yeshiva, he told the boys how important it was to actually have knowledge of Torah. In his imitable way, he conveyed that we all want to be good Jews, but we need to know what Judaism is in order to do so. We need to take the opportunity to reach out, to learn, to go on our journeys, to educate ourselves. We've got the feeling. We've got the bug. We've seen what it is. Now, let’s learn about it. Let’s know about it. Isn't that what we do? Once we see we like something, we engage in it. We make that decision to step across into something that's unknown and try it out. So Rav Shlomo challenged the boys on the first day. “I want you to finish this mesechta (Tractate).” Everyone was excited and ran out.

And there was one boy sitting in the back and the Rav Shlomo could see that he was depressed. He walks up to him and says, “Is everything okay?” “Can I speak to you in your office, please?” the boy responded. “Of course,” Rav Freifeld said. The boy walked in and took a seat. “You know, you talked about how important finishing the mesechta is. Every word you said and the more you explained how important it was, the worse it hurt. All my friends are going to finish the mesechta, but I'm dyslexic and I can barely read. There's no way in the world that I can do this thing that you said is so important. What about me? What am I supposed to do? What am I worth?” Rav Shlomo was nothing if not a big heart, and said, “You're right, come see me tomorrow, I want to think about it.”

 The boy left upset, humiliated. Now someone knew his secret.

He returned the next day and Rav Shlomo has this big smile on his face and said, “I got you something.” And he gave him a gift-wrapped portfolio. The boy tore it open. And it was a beautiful leather-bound Gemara, the one that they were studying.  

But Rav Freifeld had torn out all the pages of the Talmud except for page one. And then he bound it beautifully like a new Gemara, “Here’s your mesechta,” he said. “Go finish it and make a siyum with us.”

Who does that? Maybe we would have said, it'll be good enough. Whatever you do, finish as much as you can. Who takes a page? Who goes to a leather binder? Who has it bound? A son of Avraham, who wants every single person, no matter what they look like, to feel like they're part of everyone else.

And how much that meant to this boy, we all can feel.

Rabbi YY Jacobson
The Gift of Silence

The Romans and the Greeks used to mock the Jewish people. One of the things they mocked was the day of Shabbos. They attributed it to Jewish laziness. In fact, the Gemara says that Haman told Achachverosh that the Jews always have an excuse not to go to work. First it’s Shabbos, then it’s Pesach, then it’s Sukkos. They don't want to work. Whoever heard of a day off? The Romans couldn’t understand it, nor could the Greeks. What's this day of no work? Why are you so lazy? Get your act together.

There was once a great pianist and one of his colleagues asked him, “I don't understand why you have become so much more successful than I? We both read musical notes. I know how to play those notes, I think just a skillfully as you do. What's the difference between you and I?” The man looked him in the eye and said, “The difference is in the pauses. It's in the pauses between the notes that makes all the difference.”

Anyone who has mastered the art of communication, music or other forms of art knows how important the pauses are, That silence has a thundering depth to it, because it's the silence that captures the depth and the meaning that cannot be articulated in the word. Shabbos is the pause between the notes. It's what the Romans and the Greeks did not understand. The Jewish people obtained the gift of the pause. The gift of silence. The understanding that it's in the pauses of life that we find the ultimate meaning of life. It's the pauses of life that give life its richness, its flavor, its delight, and its depth.

Rabbi Label Lam
Masterpiece in Progress

Last week, somebody sent me an incredible statement from the Arizal. He says, “Those things that come to you with ease define your mission in this world, and those things that you find most difficult is what you are here in this world to fix.” I then forwarded it to a friend of mine, who asked me, “So which do you pursue?” I asked my wife and she said, “The first one you pursue and the second one pursues you.”

How true that is.

This gives strength to yet another phrase that I've come to adopt now as a constant companion. “I can be both a masterpiece and a work in progress at the same time.”

It's almost Elul now, and it’s not too soon to get a jump start, We all know that Elul stands for, “Ani Le’Dodi V’Dodi Li,” I am for my beloved, and my beloved is for me.” The implication of that statement is that we need to make the first move.

Now, whenever I've had a chance to sit with a couple that's experiencing a strain in the relationship, I always ask, “Do you know what's on the top of your partner's list?” And with a little bit of thought, they figure it out.

So maybe it's time to sit with a piece of paper and to think, What would My beloved want me to begin to improve?

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