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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Bechukotai

Jun 1, 2024Parshat Bechukotai

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

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Rabbi Ephraim Eliyahu Shapiro

No Limits

A number of years ago, Beinish traveled to Los Angeles to receive a bone marrow transplant at the City of Hope hospital. He was told that he’d need to remain nearby the hospital for several months in case he needed to be called back for a check-up. In the meantime, two of his friends from back home in the East Coast flew out to visit and support him as he underwent a long period of recovery and recuperation. While Beinish, along with his friends, spent some quality time together, they discovered that there was a Jew from Jerusalem who was also at the hospital and scheduled to have a bone marrow transplant. They decided that they’d visit him together.

But when they arrived, it was too late. “He had the transplant a half-hour ago,” said the lead nurse. “At this time, he’s not able to see any visitors.” They had missed the window of catching him before he went in for the procedure.

About to turn around and head the other way, the nurse called out. “Wait,” he said, giving pause to the three men. “Can I ask for a favor?” The three of them glanced at each other. What favor could they offer the nurse? But they’d listen.

“I always tell the patient before the transplant begins what to expect. For about forty-eight hours afterwards, they won’t have much strength. They’ll feel very weak and lack nearly all their energy. Mostly, they’ll lie down without moving much. But I tell them not to worry, because this type of post-op recovery is normal.

“The thing is,” went on the nurse, “I wasn’t able to tell this to the man who came in today from Jerusalem, because he speaks Hebrew and I speak English. I didn’t know how to communicate this to him, and there was no one around who could interpret for me. But you three speak Hebrew. His wife is over there, and it would be important for her to know this information, so both she and her husband can be prepared.”

As the nurse stood talking to the three of them, from behind a glass wall in the distance, the men began observing an unreal scene. It was the man from Jerusalem who had just had the transplant a half-hour ago. He wiggled his feet off the bed, albeit slowly, stood up and grabbed hold of the IV pole, made his way to where his clothing was and put on his black hat, walked to the sink and washed netillas yadayim, and then got back into bed. Stunned, the nurse began mouthing aloud, audibly, “It’s not possible… It’s not possible!”

One of the three men, witness to the incredulous scene, approached the nurse. “Excuse me, but I’d say there’s one of two explanations. Either we just witnessed a one-in-a-million medical miracle, or, by your own admission and because of the language barrier, it was the first time you couldn’t convey to the patient what they wouldn’t be able to do. Maybe when you don’t tell somebody what they can’t do, they are able to do it.”

The nurse took such words to heart, and from that point on, never again so forcefully told a patient what they can’t do. There would be recommendations and precautions given, but nothing ever set in stone.

When you tell somebody their limitations and what they can’t do, it often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. They become unable to do it. But if you don’t tell someone what they can’t do, they might surprise you and accomplish the unexpected and the extraordinary.

The man from Jerusalem wasn’t told to expect staying bedridden for two days, and when he didn’t know what he couldn’t do, there were no limitations.

And he did the so-called impossible.

Rabbi Joey Haber

A Soul for a Soul

A relative of mine, who studies in a Kollel in Lakewood, personally told me the following.

Like many of his friends, he is married with a family, as is the case for those learning in Kollel. However, one of the other Kollel members had been married for five years and hadn’t been blessed with children. With the many other young men and women taking note of this, endeavoring in every which way to be supportive, encouraging and helpful to this young couple became a collective undertaking. Special efforts in davening and other forms of emotional support were extended in the hopes of easing the couple through their moments of challenge and eliciting Hashem’s blessing. Significant resources were similarly poured into being there for them, and this couple didn’t take it for granted by any measure. They knew how much everyone else around them was at their side and behind them.

In fact, the husband was so appreciative and good natured that after a member of the Kollel had their fourth child, he opened his home to the Kollel member’s family and hosted the Shalom Zachor on the Friday night before the bris.

The members of the Kollel absolutely loved this man, so much so that they decided to arrange for someone to make a visit to Rav Chaim Kanievsky zt”l and ask for a beracha. Entering Rav Chaim’s personal study, the circumstances were explained. Rav Chaim advised as such:

“Let all the friends gather for the purpose of helping one irreligious Jewish child obtain a Torah education. Since you are aiming to help this man and his wife bring a neshama into this world, do something middah k’negged middah, measure for measure. Help a child who is not religious receive a Jewish education, through which he will become religious. By doing so, you are enabling a neshama to return to Hashem, and through that, may Hashem grant this man and his wife the beracha of meriting to bring a neshama down to this earth. Do this, and watch what Hashem does.”

On January 7, 2020, the boy who was chosen to enter a Jewish school to receive a Torah education began his studies at a yeshiva. And just under a year later—on January 6, 2021— this man and his wife had a baby boy.

My relative, at the time he related this story to me, said, “I’m now on my way to the bris, and Joey, I just needed to tell you this story.”

Hashem runs the world. That’s all there is to say. Every aspect and facet of it, calculated down to the smallest minutiae and precise detail.

Rabbi Shlomo Landau

The Ship of Shemitah

Less than twenty years after the founding of the State of Israel, from 1958 to 1959, it was time for a special kind of observance: Shemitah. All land throughout Israel would remain unworked, as per Torah law. At that time in Israel, however, aside from agricultural conditions being precarious, many farmers were not Torah observant. Shemitah was simply not on their minds, and letting the land lay fallow for a full year was not a straightforward matter. So with a shortage of fruits and vegetables coupled with limited Torah observance, adhering to the laws of Shemitah remained the practice of a select number of religious Jews.

During that same year, out at sea and miles away from the inland, there was a large cargo ship, full of produce, predominantly onions. For some time, it circulated near one of the Egyptian ports, its sights set on some Arab port miles away. The day they set sail toward their final destination, it was a beautiful day, the skies clear and sun ablaze.

But a few hours into the voyage, a horrific storm kicked up, blackening the sky and tossing the sea into a frenzy. The ship could only muster so much resilience against the torrential and merciless waters, the captain knew. If the sea would continue its violence, the ship would capsize and all would be lost, lives included. Turning to the captain for leadership and direction, he looked nothing but lost and undone.

Disoriented, the storm swept the ship along, though luckily it remained above water. Still, once the storm had abated, the ship was sailing in a direction the captain was unfamiliar with. Until he noticed it.

An Israeli port. Bad news.

Cargo intended on going to an Arab port was to steer clear of an Israeli port. It was not long after 1948, and residual waves of hostility still permeated the political climate between Israel and its neighboring Arab nations.

Before the captain knew it, Israeli port ships were eyeing and stationing themselves in preparation of whatever action could be anticipated from the enemy. The captain needed to act swiftly. And he did.

Lowering everyone onto emergency boats, the captain along with his crew abandoned the ship and took off, away from the Israeli port and as quickly as possible. They had no desire to wait around a second longer than necessary.

When the Israeli Coast Guard received intelligence and confirmed the situation at hand, they sped out to take a close look at the ship. It was, by that point, empty. No captain and no crew.

Drawing the ship into the port, they came to realize what exactly this ship had been carrying: thousands of pounds of onions.

Strange, you’d say, and of little use, for that matter.

But not that year.

That year, Israeli farmers and distributors had been able to obtain all sorts of fruits and vegetables to supply the larger Jewish community. But interestingly, there was one exception: onions. No one had been successful in locating a foreign distributor of onions from outside Israel to ship into Israel, and as such, there was a terrible shortage for Jewish households.

Until this boat “just happened” to find its way—without any effort of Jewish farmers or distributors in Israel. And there were enough onions to provide for all the Jewish families for the entire year of Shemitah.

So maybe the boat didn’t “just happen” to come floating into the land and hand of Israel. Maybe it was an open miracle.

I think that sounds more accurate.

Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser

Call of the Soul

Nachman, a nineteen-year-old boy, is one of eleven boys and girls in his family. If you’d sit down and talk to him, you’d discover that his life had been going well, with its relatively quiet peacefulness.

One morning, he awoke, the early morning sun only recently appearing in the sky. He looked aside, registering what time it was, and then his head hit the pillow. Like many other young adults his age, he had a hard time waking up in the morning. Sleeping in was a luxury, he knew, and at times he took to it graciously.

“All right,” he told himself. “I’ll sleep in a bit more, and later on I’ll head over to daven. I’ll hear the Torah being read and join in with the community then.” But as quickly as that thought soothed him and dipped him back into a quiet slumber, a second thought arose. “Today’s a very important day, a special today. There will be a lot of dancing, singing and celebrating at shul, and I should be a part of it. If I go back to sleep, I might wake up too late and miss it all. How could I lose the opportunity?”

But the warmth of the blanket and softness of the pillow was just too overwhelming. It called him back into the ecstasy of pure relaxation, the thought of getting up weighing him down. Yet, just as compelling as that voice was, the voice of reason, of rising above the comforts of his body and listening to the calling of his soul, coaxed him to push himself. He could get up, if he only wanted to. It was possible. Very possible.

And he did. That day, the body lost, the soul won. Nachman threw off the covers, and ran to shul.

That day was Simchas Torah.

As he sat in shul, he heard his name being called. He was anticipating it, and on cue, he rose and walked to the bima to receive an aliyah.

And then it happened. It wasn’t expected, it wasn’t welcomed, but it occurred, all at once, and with a riveting shock.

An explosion set off a shockwave of tremor, a moment of terror gripping those in shul. A missile had landed there, in Netivot, its effect making its mark.

A few minutes later, Nachman’s sister came racing into the shul, her eyes scanning the crowd for Nachman. Motioning to him, she urged him to run home.

As they neared the house, they both began to feel that unwelcomed pit in their stomach. The smell of smoke and gunpowder surrounded them, as if in a black cloud, and as they inched closer and closer home, the smell only grew more intense. And then it came into full view.

The missile had shattered the roof, falling through the top floor and landing on the bottom. Examining the scene more closely, Nachman and his sister realized that the missile had originally fallen into Nachman’s room. The entire room was incinerated.

Yet, amidst all the rubble and ash, Nachman’s eyes zeroed in on one corner: where his bed had been situated. Now, all that remained of it was ash. It had been reduced to nothing. The bed in which he had battled the call to remain fast asleep, cocooned in the comfort of its covers, was no longer. He could only imagine what would be of him had he turned on his side, turning a deaf ear to the call of his neshama, and drifted back to sleep.

The merit of his victory over his challenge, the merit of choosing to daven and dance on Simchas Torah, and the merit of being called to the Torah and receiving an Aliyah spared him.

Sometimes, one struggle is all it takes to save a life.

Rabbi Fischel Schachter

The Apartment in Tveria

The raffle was scheduled and the stakes were high. It was for an apartment in Tveria, and it was new and beautiful. A perfect place to be.

Honest individuals were behind the scenes, overseeing all the operations of the raffle, alongside the close and careful guidance of a rav. A good deal of money was being exchanged, and it was not something to handle lightly.

As it happened, however, the last day before the raffle, the system failed and the credit card system was unable to process any payment. Without any alternative, the operators were forced to take down the credit card numbers manually.

When it came time for the drawing, they asked the rav if they could postpone it. After all, many of the payments didn’t go through. But the rav said no. “If you said the drawing would be today, it needs to be today.” “But what if we pull out a ticket whose payment didn’t go through?” they asked next. To that, the rav advised as such. “Call the person and don’t tell them that they won. Just say, ‘Your payment didn’t go through. Can you please resubmit your credit card?”

Sure enough, they pulled out a ticket and it was someone whose payment didn’t go through. So they dialed the number of the man who had won, all unbeknownst to him. “What do you want?” asked the man on the receiving end of the call. “Well, you gave us your credit card. Do you mind giving us the number again. Somehow, it didn’t go through.” The man didn’t like the sound of that. “I’m not giving you the number again!” The operator did a double take, calming their voice. “But, sir, you already gave us your number. We’re not scamming…” But the man was already onto his next point. “I didn’t say you’re scamming! I want to tell you something. The only reason I bought the ticket was because that day I had to fight a parking ticket, and I thought, ‘Okay, I’ll be nice to Hashem and I’ll donate some tzedakah, and hopefully I’ll win the lottery.’ But I lost the fight with the judge, and he penalized me even more! So forget it. If my credit card didn’t go through, forget it. I’m not giving it to you a second time. And don’t call me again!”

So they pulled out the next ticket, and the next person won the apartment in Tveria.

Very often, we make a kabbalah (commitment). We accept something upon yourself, and we expect the world to work out just fine. But the Ba’al Ha’Tanya tells us otherwise. Very often, you’re going to make a commitment, and it looks like you’re being slapped in the face. Then you say, “Well, Hashem, you don’t want my commitment? You know how hard it was for me?”

Don’t make that mistake. There is a beautiful apartment waiting for you. Besides for the one down here, it’s the palace up there. And when you’re in the mood of slamming down the phone, the chances are, right there lie the keys.

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