Living Emunah Podcast - Living Emunah By Rabbi David Ashear
Living Emunah Podcast - Living Emunah By Rabbi David Ashear
About Living Emunah Podcast - Living Emunah By Rabbi David Ashear
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The pasuk in the beginning of this week’s Parasha, Vayikra, begins with the words ויקרא אל משה – And He called to Moshe. The pasuk doesn’t say who was calling to Moshe. The Slonimer Rebbe said, it is to teach us it does not matter who is calling, because every call that a person ever gets is ultimately coming from Hashem. People are all just messengers. Only what Hashem wants to happen will happen and nobody else can ever say otherwise. Those who are in tune with this reality live their lives on a higher level. Even when interacting with people, they only see Hashem. Their hishtadlut is done focusing only on Him, although they may be dealing with His messengers down here. Yosef Hatzadik was on such a high level of bitachon , he wasn’t even shy to tell the person he was speaking to that he would just be acting out the plan of Hashem. This is how Rav Yosef Chaim Zonnenfeld explained the pesukim at the end of parashat Vayeshev . When Yosef interpreted the dream of Sar Hamashkim , he added at the end, כי אם זכרתני איתך – that he should remember to mention his name to Pharoah to get him out of jail. The conventional understanding in that pasuk is that Yosef was asking the Sar Hamashkim for a favor and, on his level, it was considered too much hishtadlut , and that’s why he got two extra years in prison. Rabbi Zonnenfeld, however, explained differently, because the midrash at the beginning of parashat Miketz praises Yosef for his steadfast bitachon here. He explained, those words כי אם זכרתני were not a request of Yosef, rather they were a condition of the fulfillment of the interpretation of the dream. Yosef told the Sar Hamashkim he would be taken out of jail and once again return to be the butler of the king, but it was all for one purpose- כי אם זכרתני – to mention his name to Pharaoh . Yosef saw that entire episode of this man getting thrown into jail and then having his disturbing dream with Yosef being able to interpret it, all as a means of Hashem providing him with the help he needed to get out of jail himself. And so Yosef told the Sar Hamashkim , “You see, this entire process of you being thrown into jail and you coming to me for the interpretation, was just כי אם זכרתני – for you to mention my name to Pharaoh .” However, the Sar Hamashkim was not a ma’amin in hashgacha pratit and surely did not want to feel that the circumstances of his life were just happening to help someone else and so he refused to mention Yosef’s name to Pharaoh at that time. Yosef was such a bote’ach b’Hashem , he wasn’t even embarrassed to tell the Sar Hamashkim the truth – that he was just a messenger. According to this explanation, when Chazal say because Yosef said the words כי אם זכרתני the Sar Hamashkim did not mention his name to Pharaoh , it wasn’t a punishment, it was a reality. The Sar Hamashkim was going to do everything in his power not to mention Yosef’s name, just so he wouldn’t feel like a messenger. This is the way it had to be anyway. Yosef needed to be separated from Yaakov, his father, for 22 years and if he would have gotten out at that time, it would have been two years too little. Yosef was absolutely right; the Sar Hamashkim was put into that jail just to eventually mention his name to Pharaoh , it just wasn't’ the time yet. When the time did arrive, two years later, Hashem made sure that Sar Hamashkim would mention Yosef, even though he himself didn’t want to. Every circumstance that a person finds himself in is just a manifestation of Hashem’s will for him. Our best reaction in all circumstances is to say, “This is m’et Hashem.” Our best hishtadlut when asking others for help is to recognize that they will only be messengers for what Hashem wants to happen. אין עוד מלבדו – there is nothing in this world other than Hashem. Shabbat Shalom
The Gemara in Masechet Shabbat speaks about different influences that certain stars and mazalot have in this world. However, someone who gets wrapped up in mazal is like a person who is inside a house and opens an umbrella over his head to protect himself from the rain. Hashem is the source of all influences. Nothing has power other than Him. He runs the world by spreading His influences through different channels, but as far as we are concerned, He is the only one that matters. And thus, the Gemara says, אין מזל לישראל – we are above mazal . With tefila and good deeds, a person can change anything. Hashem wants us to trust in Him and feel our security in Him. The pasuk says in Megilat Rut, ישלם ה' פעלך ותהי משכורתך שלמה מעם ה' אלוקי ישראל אשר־באת לחסות תחת־כנפיו – Rut’s rewards were going to be great, mainly because she came to seek refuge under the wings of Hashem. The midrash there speaks so highly of a person who is able to take his comfort in the fact that he has Hashem. A man told me, a few years ago, he was worth over $100 million. And since then, he has lost about 80% of his wealth. But rather than wallow in his misery, he decided to take refuge in the shelter of Hashem. He added two hours of learning to his daily schedule and walks around with the biggest smile on his face, knowing that he still has the same Hashem who is, was and always will be the One who supports him. Rav Shimshon Pinkus, zatzal , once told of two Avrechim , both with very large families, both marrying off a child. One of them was calm and cool while the other one was a nervous wreck. They both had similar financial situations, so it was strange that they were having such different reactions. Rabbi Pinkus asked the first one how he was so calm with all the expenses he was about to incur. The man replied, he has an extraordinarily rich uncle who sends him a blank check every time he has happy occasions. Whatever expenses need to be paid are always covered by that check. The Rabbi asked him who this uncle was and the man replied with a pasuk in Shir Hashirim , “ זה דודי וזה רעי - Hakadosh Baruch Hu, who has all the money in the world. He is the One who takes care of me. Whatever expenses I have, He always pays for them.” The Rabbi was extremely impressed with the first man’s level of bitachon . Then he went to the second man to try to give him chizuk . That man told the Rabbi, there is no way his income could possibly come close to paying for all the expenses he was going to have and he had no idea from where he would get the money from to pay for them. The Rabbi told him, there was once a man named Reuven who hired Shimon to build him a mansion right on the seashore. Shimon told him, “That would be impossible because the foundation by the seashore would not be able to support a mansion.” Reuven said to him, “What you are saying makes a lot of sense and I can’t really explain it to you, but come with me, I’ll show you my friend's mansion that was built right on the beach years ago and it is still standing strong today.” Said Rabbi Pinkus to that man, “What you are saying also makes sense. How could your meager salary cover all the wedding expenses? But the reality would prove otherwise. Every single day, dozens of people, exactly like you, make weddings and somehow they manage.” The reality is Hashem helps everyone. It may not make sense on pen and paper, but it doesn’t have to. Of course, we have to make our efforts to gather the funds we need, but we must do it with complete tranquility, knowing that Hashem knows what we need and that He will be the One that is going to help us.
We have no understanding of the true value of any mitzvah that we do. Furthermore, what we may think is our greatest deed may not be so, and what we may think is just a small deed could actually be our greatest deed. The Nachalat David told a story of a wealthy man who passed away, leaving a massive fortune to his children. One of his possessions was what was thought to be the most mehudar(beautiful) tefillin possible. They were priceless and the children began arguing over who would get them. In the end, they were given to a child who was turning bar-mitzvah age at that time, and he ended up using them for his entire life. On one occasion, this child was traveling on business and he got delayed and had to sleep there overnight. He did not have his precious tefillin with him. He was in a neighborhood with very few Jewish people. He was scheduled to arrive home the next day before sunset and would be able to put on his tefillin then, but he didn’t want to take the risk of missing a day. And so, he searched until he found someone whose tefillin he could borrow. Those tefillin barely looked kosher, but, under the circumstances, they would have to suffice. That evening, he got back home late and did not manage to put on his precious tefillin . When this man passed away many years later, he came back in a dream and told of one aspect of his judgment in Shamayim . He was told that for his entire life he never did the mitzvah of tefillin properly because his father’s tefillin that were presumed to be the most mehudar were actually disqualified. He couldn’t believe it. He thought he was doing the mitzvah the best way and, here, he never performed the mitzvah properly even once. But then, the Heavenly Court said there was one time when he was away and borrowed someone else’s tefillin . He worked so hard to get them, and those were kosher. The man was elated to see what that one time of putting on tefillin did for his neshama . He thought that was the worst way he ever fulfilled tefillin , and in actuality it was the best way he ever did the mitzvah. We should never underestimate the opportunities we get to do any good deed. Rabbi Nachman Seltzer told a story about a woman named Robin Mayerson who became religious later in life and got close to a certain rebbetzin . This rebbetzin encouraged her to volunteer for their local chevra kaddisha in Arizona where they lived. One day, Robin called an aunt of hers who lived in Las Vegas just to say hello and, unfortunately, discovered that her uncle had passed away that very same morning. She also discovered that her aunt was planning to cremate the body. Robin tried to persuade her aunt to give her husband a Jewish burial, but she wasn’t interested. Robin then called her cousins and tried to convince them. They told her they would consider it. Two weeks went by with no decision made yet. Robin decided to give her best hishtadlut . She called an organization, Chevrat Lomdeh Mishna , which arranges for Torah scholars to learn mishnayot for people’s neshamot . She also gave her credit card number to the Las Vegas cemetery, saying she would pay for the burial if they decided to do it. In the end, they opted for burial and Robin made flight arrangements to be there for the funeral. At the funeral, her aunt told her, “Robin, this is your doing. G-d is going to repay you.” Robin asked one of her cousins what was the catalyst which changed their minds to give their father a burial. He replied, his father came to him in a dream and said, “Get me out of here!” Those were the only words he said, but those words could not be ignored. Robin then asked what night that dream took place and was so happy to hear it was the very same night that she paid for the funeral and for the mishnayot to be learned for her uncle’s neshama . Later that year, Robin discovered she was expecting a baby. At that time, she was 44 years old. Amazingly, this baby was born two weeks overdue, exactly on the one year yahrtzeit of her uncle. She saved a soul and got a soul in return. After this, she created a website called peacefulreturn.org to educate people about the importance of proper burial. She also writes books and gives speeches around the world about the importance of kavod hamet . She is also the volunteer West Coast Director for the National Assosiation of Chevra Kaddisha. Her one deed with mesirut nefesh not only helped one Jew but spiraled into a lifelong mission of helping Jews with this very important mitzvah. Never underestimate the power of any mitzvah.
Rabbi Yitzchak Zilberstein told of a great talmid chacham that he knows who spends his days and nights engrossed in Torah study. This talmid chacham told Rabbi Zilberstein that at one point in his life, he wasn’t able to even afford to buy food for his family. And so, he poured out his heart to Hashem asking Him for parnasa . He asked Hashem to send the money, but he didn’t want it to come by finding it on the floor because he didn’t want to benefit from somebody else having to lose. He didn’t want to buy a lottery ticket because he held that playing the lottery in Israel was forbidden. He didn’t want to leave his studies to find a job, and so he said, “Hashem, I know You are unlimited and can send the parnasa in infinite ways. Please help me.” He did not tell Rabbi Zilberstein how Hashem sent him the parnasa , but baruch Hashem, he was able to continue learning with more than enough to support his family. Hashem can send parnasa at any moment, in any way, but it is up to us to believe that and pray with that belief. Rabbi Tzvi Nakar told a story about a couple, David and Shuli. David was learning in kollel , and they incurred numerous expenses after their second child was born. Their debt rose to 8500 shekels and although David was making major strides in his learning, the financial burden weighed upon him heavily and he was becoming distracted. They discussed the situation and David said, as a zechut to get more parnasa , he was going to learn an additional half hour to his already packed schedule. If that didn’t work, he was going to have to get a job. That same evening, he got to his kollel half an hour early and before he had a chance to even start, Naftali Rosenberg, an older avrech in that kollel , went over to him and said he owed him money. He explained, “Three months ago I was trying to buy an apartment in your neighborhood and you told me about a place you know of. I checked it out and it was perfect, but the sellers were asking too much. Last week they called me back, willing to give me my price and I paid the 850,000 shekels which I offered. I asked my rabbi if I should give you commission even though it is not your job and he said yes. So here is a check for the commission – 8500 shekels.” Look how Hashem gave this man parnasa . He made him aware of an apartment and then made the potential buyer for that apartment come consult with him first about where to get a place. This man is not even a real estate agent, and he earned commission by selling an apartment. A different pious man from Israel asked his Rabbi Rav Rothchild what he could take upon himself to improve in his avodat Hashem. His rabbi was of the opinion that using Jewish produced electricity was prohibited on Shabbat, and therefore, he told him to get a private generator. The pious man had a very large family and they lived on the bare minimum. He said a generator was way beyond his means. The Rabbi told him, “I guarantee that if you get one, Hashem will pay you back.” He then cited a Gemara which says any expenses incurred in honor of Shabbat are not included in the money Hashem allocates for an individual on Rosh Hashanah. He also quoted the Chazal which says Hashem tells us to borrow on His account for Shabbat and He will repay it. With that, the man borrowed the money and purchased the generator. The initial fee was 4500 shekels, plus 530 shekels per month. Total cost for the first year would be 10,800 shekels. That very same month, this man won the monthly raffle which is held for all the contributors to the weekly pamphlet called Iyun Haparasha . The prize was 12,000 shekels, which after the maaser came out to 10,800 shekels, just enough to cover him for the first year. When the story of this amazing hashgacha pratit got out, the donor of that cash prize was so moved, he said he wanted to give this man an additional 12,000 shekels. Hashem has infinite ways of giving people money. It is our job to believe in His abilities and ask for His help all the time.
The effectiveness of any tefila depends on the mindset of the one praying it. The more a person believes that he is talking directly to Hashem, the only One with any say regarding what happens in this world, the better his tefila will be. A person also has to realize how helpless he is without Hashem because the more he believes that he needs Hashem, the more help he’ll get. We say in Shema Kolenu , חוס ורחם עלינו – we want Hashem to have rachmanut on us. Rabbi Avraham ben HaGra explained rachmanut to mean, when no one else is having compassion on a certain individual, it arouses mercy in a compassionate person to be the one to want to help him. We are supposed to have the feeling that we have no one in the world to turn to for help other than Hashem. And then, He will have rachmanut on us. We also say that Hashem is שומע תפילת כל פה – He listens to every single person’s prayers, even someone on the lowest levels, and even someone of the lowest stature. The Midrash says the way of the world is when a poor man comes to speak to an important dignitary, he’ll usually get the run around and maybe one day he will get in to speak to him. But when a wealthy man comes, he gets in right away. When it comes to Hashem, everyone is equal to Him. The poor man can get in immediately and even the sinner can get in immediately. We are so fortunate that we can turn to Hashem for help at any moment and He can help us in the most wondrous ways. A man told me he was diagnosed with a certain form of cancer two years ago. They removed a very large growth from his intestines and felt confident that they got it all out. But after further research, they determined there must be something else inside of him hidden that caused that growth, which can at any time cause others. The plan was to take scans every few months and be on the lookout for it. At one point, they found a new growth but it was too difficult to get to. They were going to keep a very close watch on it. Recently, a new method was invented to go deep enough to test that growth to see what it is. When he went to the specialist who invented it, he took a scan in that doctor’s office and was told afterward that, unfortunately, the cancer had spread to his liver and it was diagnosed at Stage 4. The results were sent to his primary doctor who became very alarmed and ordered a full body MRI. The man said from all of the emunah lessons he has learned over the years he was able to remain at peace and he used the time as an experience to grow spiritually. His wife accompanied him to the MRI, which was supposed to take 30 minutes but ended up taking 60. Every time that machine beeped, his wife took upon herself another area in religion to improve on. By the time it was finished, she felt like a changed person and they both had a good feeling afterward. That was on a Friday. On Shabbat they were able to have complete menucha and enjoy Shabbat the way it was meant to be enjoyed. When they got those results on Motzei Shabbat , they were told, “it seems like a miracle took place.” The images showed that the liver was totally clean. The image that was taken the previous week by the other doctor’s office that showed the cancer in the liver was signed off by two different doctors at that time, before it was sent in to the primary care doctor, and now, they looked at it and it was totally clear. The man’s wife said, in order to minimize the miracle, Hashem went back and erased the growth from the other scan. Everybody was in awe. On Purim, this man prayed for hours, thanking Hashem for that miracle and asked Him for help with the other growth as well. He also spent much of that time praying for others. After Purim, the results from the new procedure testing the other growth came back. Everything was negative. He was declared completely healthy. Hashem could help us with everything, and our tefilot with that mindset, can do wonders.
The pasuk says at the beginning of this week’s parshiot , ויקהל משה את כל עדת בני ישראל – Moshe gathered the entire nation, men women and children, and repeated the commandments that Hashem gave him regarding the building of the mishkan . The Ramban explains, this gathering took place after they got the second set of luchot and Hashem made a new covenant with them that He would rest His presence amongst them and His love for them returned like it was before they did the sin of the egel . The sefer Imrei Yitzchak asked, if all that took place was that everything was going to go back to the way it was before they did the egel , why did they need a new gathering just to repeat all the details of the commandments again? Why couldn’t Moshe just tell the Jewish People we're continuing with the project as originally planned. The Rabbi answered based on the Gemara in Masechet Shabbat which says, when the Jewish People sinned with the egel , it was like a bride being unfaithful to her husband at their own wedding ceremony. In such a situation, it would be impossible for this husband to ever view that bride the same as he did before. Hashem, on the other hand, did something beyond nature. Even after the treacherous sin that His nation committed, once they had made teshuva , He loved them the same, just like he loved them before they committed that sin. And for that, Hashem wanted everyone gathered to publicize that He was going to reside amongst them just like He was going to before. As well,every single detail needed to be reaffirmed that it was going to take place with the same love. It is true that sin distances a person from Hashem, but fortunately for us, Hashem gives us ways to return to Him and have an even greater relationship with Him than we had before the sin. But we have to believe in Hashem’s mercy to take us back and we have to believe in our potential to get close to Him, despite our past deeds. Rabbi Nachman Seltzer related a story that Rabbi Roseman told him about himself. Rabbi Roseman was walking home one night from the yeshiva in which he taught and came across two boys standing on the sidewalk talking to each other. One of them, whose name was Shmuli, he knew, but as for the other one, who had long hair and was wearing clothing designed to draw attention, as were the assorted accessories that were on him, he did not know. Shmuli called the Rabbi to come over, mentioning that they were involved in a very important conversation regarding reward and punishment and free will. The Rabbi came and added whatever insights he could on that topic for the next 20 minutes. And then, as he was about to leave, he recalled how a few years earlier he gave a boy off the derech some encouraging words that made a huge impact on his life. And so, he did not want to let this opportunity go by without trying the same. He said to that other boy, Jake, “Before I go, could you please do me a favor?” Jake looked surprised and asked what the Rabbi needed. The Rabbi said, “Can you give me a beracha ? I see that you are going through a challenging time in your life and yet, you are still working very hard to figure out the proper direction to take. The value of this is tremendous. I really want a beracha from you.” Jake then rested his hands gently on the Rabbi’s head and gave him whatever beracha he could think of, and then they parted ways. Two years later, Shmuli got engaged and invited Rabbi Roseman to the engagement party. At that party, Shmuli was so excited to show Rabbi Roseman a good friend of his. He pointed to Jake, who was then wearing a crisp, white shirt and nice pants and a velvet kippah on his head. Shmuli told the Rabbi, the time that he asked Jake to give him a beracha changed his life. He was able to tap into the holiness of his neshama afterward and he made a complete turn around. Every Jew has endless potential for greatness. Hashem is yearning for everyone to get close to Him. Even if people have fallen in the past, they can still reach levels that are even higher than they could have had they not fallen in the first place. And therefore, everyone is encouraged, no matter what they have done, to come back and be close to Hashem. Shabbat Shalom.
Our parnasa is entirely in the hands of Hashem. It does not matter how much money a person has; without Hashem he has nothing. We are currently witnessing with our own eyes how it is possible for someone with even billions of dollars to lose access to his money in an instant. Hashem is in charge of a person’s finances, whether he has billions or whether he has just hundreds. And we need to realize this and depend only on Him. If a person is struggling in business, he must believe that Hashem could take him out of his struggles in the blink of an eye, no matter how bad the economy may be. A man told me, after finally getting a major order from a very large company, and producing the merchandise and shipping it here from China, that large company canceled the order. This was a major blow for this man’s business. He is a great ma’amin b’Hashem and did not get frazzled by it. He asked them if they would at least accept part of the order. They replied they have his competitor’s merchandise sitting on their shelves not moving and they couldn’t possibly add more of the same product. He then asked them if they would agree to take just 5% of the order to give it a chance. When they agreed to that, he said to himself, Hashem is in charge and if He wants my product to sell, it will sell right next to the competitor’s. A few weeks later, the large retailer asked him for another 10% of the order as his product was selling. By this time, the season was coming to a close, but the product kept selling. Then they asked for the balance of the entire order. And subsequently, they made an order for three times that original one for the upcoming year. It was the largest order this man has ever received. If Hashem wants a product to sell, it will sell. Rabbi Biderman told the story of a man in Israel who is learning full time and learned to be a sofer to bring in some extra income. However, he isn’t so savvy with the quill and is not able to write like other sofrim . He worked hours upon hours and finally completed his first project, a Megilat Esther , but no one was interested in purchasing it. His father, seeing his son down about it, told him not to worry, he would help him sell it. He gave the Megila to someone he knows who goes around the world selling Sifreh Torah , mezuzot and tefillin . He told him to try to sell the Megila for whatever he could get. The seller went to America and had an appointment there with a wealthy man to show him some Megilot . He knew the wealthy man wanted top quality and so he didn’t even bother showing him this Megila , written by an amateur. However, the wealthy man did not like any of the Megilot that he showed him and he saw that he was seemingly trying to hide one and asked him to see it. The sofer opened it up and the wealthy man said, “It is perfect. That’s the one I want.” And he paid $2500 for it. He explained, he wanted a Megila that did not look like it was printed by a computer and this was the only one that was sloppy and clearly showed that it was handwritten. If Hashem wants a sloppy Megila to be sold for top dollar, then it will be sold for that price. A rabbi told me, a poor widow asked him for immediate assistance with a bill that she owed for $6000. The rabbi, feeling her plight, made phone calls and raised the money for her. On the very same day, an anonymous individual paid an expense that this rabbi was about to incur. And it was exactly for $6000. Hashem is in charge of parnasa . We need to internalize it and pray and act with that realization.
עולם חסד יבנה . Hashem built a world to bestow kindness upon His creations and, therefore, every time we do chesed with others, we are emulating Hashem. And just like Hashem’s chesed knows no bounds, our great Rabbis understood there is no end to the amount of chesed that we could do for others. The Gemara says, Rav Pereda had a student that he taught each lesson to 400 times. I’m sure the Rabbi could have used that time delving into the deepest parts of the Torah, but he understood the value of תורת חסד – teaching Torah as a chesed . The Gemara says one time the student was distracted and when he didn’t understand the lesson after the 400 th time he was being taught, the Rabbi patiently taught it to him an additional 400 times. Rav Pereda did this purely for the sake of Hashem. There was no fanfare and nothing he was getting in return. Hashem appreciated his efforts so much that He sent a Heavenly voice to offer Rav Pereda as a reward for his efforts either 400 additional years of life or to bring his entire generation with him to Olam HaBa . And being the selfless individual he was, he chose Olam HaBa for his generation. When people do chesed l’shem Shamayim , although they don’t expect anything in return, Hashem pays them in ways they could have never imagined. A young man who we’ll call Eddie told me that growing up he wanted to be with his friends in the summertime who all moved to a different city for that time period. His family did not relocate for the summer which left him without friends. One of his friends stayed with his grandfather, who we’ll call Mr. Cohen, for the summer. And he asked his grandfather if he would mind if Eddie stayed with them as well. Mr. Cohen said he would be more than happy to host Eddie for the summer. And so it was. For six summers in a row, Mr. Cohen took Eddie into his home and treated him no differently than his other grandchildren. In an amazing display of hospitality, Mr. Cohen provided for all of Eddie’s needs each of those summers. Eddie told me he got so close to Mr. Cohen that he started calling him Grandpa like the rest of his grandchildren. Fast forward ten years. Recently, Mr. Cohen was experiencing kidney failure and was in great need of a kidney donor. The word went out amongst his community and hundreds came to take swabs to see if they would be a match. When Eddie heard of the pressing need of Mr. Cohen, he immediately went to find out if he would be a match. And he was told that he was actually a perfect match. Without Mr. Cohen knowing, Eddie informed the organization Renewal that he wanted to donate his kidney to save Mr. Cohen’s life. All Mr. Cohen was told was that a match had been found and they scheduled a day for the transplant. After it was finished and everything went well, baruch Hashem, Eddie went into Mr. Cohen’s room to visit him. When he walked in, they told Mr. Cohen that it was Eddie who had donated his kidney, and Mr. Cohen was in tears. Eddie said, “Grandpa, I was so happy to do this!” and they hugged each other. For years, Mr. Cohen had been doing a chesed purely lishma , to help a young boy who wanted to have a good time in the summer, and little did he know that this was going to be the boy who would be a perfect match for him when he needed a kidney. Eddie felt so much hakarat hatov to his “Grandpa” that he was truly happy to donate that kidney. Whenever we do chesed for others, we are emulating Hashem. The more chesed we do, the holier we become.
Chazal tell us, לא מצא הקב"ה כלי מחזיק ברכה לישראל אלא השלום– Hashem did not find a vessel which is able to hold His blessing to us other than peace. Hashem has endless blessing that He is yearning to bestow upon us, but we need to have the right receptacle to receive it. Being in an argument with another person or bearing a grudge or refusing to speak to someone all damage the vessel that Hashem uses to pour His blessings into. Which means, a person may be praying for something that he wants day after day and Hashem has heard his tefilot and is ready to give him what he is asking for, but the only thing that is stopping it is that he doesn’t have a receptacle to receive it in. The receptacle that we need is called shalom – being at peace with others. A woman who works with couples having trouble with fertility told the following story. She had been working with a couple that was married for a few years and no one could figure out their problem. Medically speaking, everything was fine. At the same time, she was working with a different couple with the same issue. No one could figure out what was wrong with them. Being that she dealt with dozens of couples, she did nothing to make any connections between these two couples. However, over the course of a year, she saw so many similarities between them, she couldn’t help but think maybe one had to do with the other. One day, she received a phone call from the wife of one of those couples and immediately, when she hung up, the wife from the other couple called. This was too much for her and so, uncharacteristically, she asked that woman if she happened to know the other couple. She said yes, the wife of the other couple was once engaged to her husband and she broke it off. The fertility expert asked her if she knew if that other woman ever apologized and asked for forgiveness. She said her parents apologized but her husband still had hard feelings. The fertility expert then called the other wife and told her she may have discovered what the problem is, and she proceeded to tell her how damaging it is when people bear a grudge. She recommended apologizing herself until she received whole-hearted forgiveness. She followed the advice and shalom was made. Within the year, both of these couples were zocheh to have their first child. Amazingly, a couple of years later, the exact same thing happened again with two other couples. Both of them did not have any major issues and no one could understand why they weren’t conceiving. She investigated and found there was an issue between the two husbands who were not on speaking terms. Once again, she played the role of mediator and was able to get them to make peace. And once again, within the year, both of those couples were holding their own babies. There is nothing that can hold blessing other than shalom . It is definitely worthwhile for a person to humble himself and ask forgiveness from anyone who may be angry at him, or to forgive those who may have harmed him. It will make him a receptacle for blessing and it will bring Hashem so much nachat ruach .
When Sarah Imenu was told by who she thought were three wayfarers that she was going to have a baby at the age of 90, the Ramban says Hashem expected her to fully believe that it could happen, because he writes, it is an obligation for every believer in Hashem to believe that He could do anything, no matter how unrealistic it seems. It is with that in mind that Chazal have taught us that even if a person has a sharp sword on his neck, he should still hope to Hashem for salvation. There is no such thing as impossible and we have seen with our own eyes countless examples of Hashem’s amazing yeshuot . A woman told me she had two babies eleven months apart right after she got married. Then, two months after her second baby was born, she discovered she was expecting a third. Her first two pregnancies were very difficult, not to mention her hands were full with two little ones at home. And so, she couldn’t imagine going through it again, but she strengthened herself and prepared to do whatever job Hashem was asking her to do. At the five-month sonogram, the doctor discovered an enormous mass on the baby’s neck. He said the mass was the size of the entire head. He told the woman the best-case scenario, which sounded very grim. His professional advice to her was to terminate the pregnancy immediately. She consulted with rabbis and then, heroically, decided she was ready to do whatever Hashem wanted and if this is what He wanted, she was going to continue with it. When they did a sonogram in the eighth month, it showed that the mass became so large, it was as big as the baby’s entire body. Her doctor told her the chances of the baby’s survival were very slim and if she wanted to continue the pregnancy, it would have to be with the special children's hospital that he recommended. She called the rabbi who was guiding her and told him of the new information. The rabbi told her she was going to see yeshuot . And she should continue with happiness and, if need be, go to whatever hospital this doctor was suggesting. She went there a few weeks later, already in the beginning of her ninth month. They did a full day’s worth of testing on her, and, at the end of the day, a team of doctors came into her room, asking if she knew of the baby’s status. She told them she knew about the large mass and that when the baby would be born, they would have to put a trachea, followed by a surgery to remove the mass. They told her that was no longer a possibility. Unfortunately, it got much worse. The mass got so big, it started eating away at the baby’s head. At this point, the baby had only one eye and no nose and a portion of the head was missing. They told her they needed to schedule an emergency C-section and there was no longer any chance for the baby’s survival. The only goal in the C-section was to save the mother, but they would not deal with the baby at all. She said, “What if the baby looks like it could survive?” The doctors said, “It’s impossible. We’re not treating it.” She said, “I have hope. Could you please try to save him?” The doctor said, “My nickname is Hope. They call me Dr. Hope. I’m telling you, there is no hope.” With that, they scheduled the C-section for two days later. For the next two days, she cried over and over to Hashem, asking Him to please show everyone that there is a G-d in the world. The woman called the rabbi in tears and the rabbi, once again, reassured her that everything was going to be okay and gave her chizuk to continue on with strength. He said, “Don’t give up on Hashem now. It doesn’t matter what the doctors say, it’s all Him. אין עוד מלבדו .” She went in two days later for the C-section. And when they took the baby out, they just threw it on the mother without cleaning it or caring for it. She held her newborn and looked at it and saw a beautiful baby with two eyes and a nose and a mouth. She said, “Look! He has a face.” But the entire team just stood there with their arms folded saying, “There is nothing we can do, he’s not going to make it.” Then a nurse approached holding a large needle to give the baby morphine to put him to sleep. “Please don’t touch my baby!” She yelled. “Please, Hashem, save my son!” She said Shema Yisrael out loud and then she said, “ ה' הוא האלוקים !” And then, “ אין עוד מלבדו !” And then she said out loud, “There is a G-d in this world! Please, Hashem, show them who You are!” Everyone just stood there in silence. Meanwhile, the baby was breathing on his own now already for ten minutes, despite the enormous mass coming out of his neck. They kept telling her, any minute the breathing is going to stop, and he is going to pass. Then the baby opened his eyes and she yelled, “Please help!” But they all had strict orders not to touch the baby. Then the baby started making noises and cried and they realized there was potential for survival. They quickly called in the surgeon who was utterly shocked. He said he never saw a teratoma of that size before. And he couldn’t believe the baby was breathing. Babies with teratoma’s a quarter of that size generally don’t make it, and this baby was still breathing on his own. He said, “I am proud to say that I was wrong and now we are going to do everything in our power to save him.” They performed a surgery a few days later and successfully removed the mass. Baruch Hashem, they eventually released this baby from the hospital, who is now at home with his family. Everything is possible because Hashem runs the world and nothing is beyond Him. It is up to us to always believe in His salvations.
The pasuk says in this week’s parasha, Ki Tisa , הודיעני נא את דרכיך ואדעך למען אמצא חן בעיניך – Moshe Rabbenu asked Hashem to show him His ways so that he could know Him better and thereby find favor in His eyes. The goal of every eved Hashem is to find favor in Hashem’s eyes and the more we know about Hashem the better we will be able to do His will and thus find more favor in His eyes. The Gemara says, one of the questions Moshe Rabbenu was asking Hashem here is why do we sometimes find a tzaddik suffering and a rasha prospering? The Chovot HaLevavot in the Shaar HaBitachon writes regarding this question, there is no one answer that fits all. Every single tzaddik who ever suffered had a different reason why he needed that suffering. And every rasha who ever prospered had a different reason why he needed to prosper. And therefore, we can never know why any particular person is living the life that he is living. However, there are endless reasons why Hashem would act in this way and the Chovot HaLevavot in perek 3 gives us some of them. One thing he says is eye opening and can definitely give people chizuk to overcome this very difficult part of life. He writes, one of the reasons Hashem would give a rasha tranquility is to test everyone else, to see who is really a faithful servant to Him. If someone sees the rasha prospering and says, “That’s not fair,” or, “Good people always finish last, so why bother?” Then he is not a ne’eman . But if someone would say instead, “I know Hashem is the fairest Judge and everyone will get exactly what’s coming to them.” And despite the challenge, he rises above it and continues clinging to his service of Hashem, then he will be called a ne’eman and will be rewarded so greatly because of it. And even though, currently, Hashem makes it look like things are not fair, in actuality, they are as fair as can be. The rasha may have done some good deeds that Hashem is rewarding now and the consequences for the bad will come later. And a tzaddik may have done things that require atonement that Hashem is giving him now so he can be ready for the ultimate rewards in the Next World. This is one of the most difficult questions in life to deal with, but as always, Hashem is acting in a way that will give us the greatest opportunity to rise to the highest levels and earn more rewards. When a righteous individual prays day and night for something that he needs so badly, but does not receive what he is asking for, and then he sees someone else who never prays receiving that very same request he has been asking for, it is a major test in his emunah. When a person is honest in business, constantly battling to do what is right to honor Hashem yet he struggles with parnasa , and then he sees someone else who is dishonest making more money than he knows what to do with, that is a big test in emunah. When a girl dresses and acts in the ways of modesty and goes through the dating process the way Hashem wants, and still hasn’t found her zivug , yet others who completely ignore the ways of modesty get married with ease, that is a very big test. On this we say וצדיק באמונתו יחיה . To be faithful despite these enormous tests is a very high madrega . These people are the ones who are going to bring Mashiach . They will be rewarded for every moment that they were able to have emunah. Everything is happening the exact way it is supposed to. We only gain by doing right and although it might not appear that way, one day Hashem will show us how fair and righteous He was always acting. For now, it is up to us to remain ne’eman . Shabbat Shalom.
Someone who internalizes the principles of emunah and lives his life accordingly will find so much of the worry and stress that plagues people slowly dissipating. He knows every moment of his life is so carefully planned by Hashem. He knows whatever is meant for him to have he will get. He knows no one can take anything from him or harm him if it’s not the will of Hashem. And he knows everything Hashem decides for him is always the best possible outcome that could happen. A woman who has been working on her emunah for the past couple of years told me how much strength it has given her. She said, “Very often we find ourselves in situations which are shared by many people and we feel like we are part of a global crisis. We tend to succumb to the situation by reasoning that we are just a victim of the crisis, whether it be a shidduch crisis or a housing crisis or a getting accepted into yeshiva crisis and so on. We need to remember that each and every person is an only child to Hashem, who has a different plan for every single person.” Recently, she started falling prey to that conventional thinking as her family became one of the thousands in the housing crisis, unable to find a decent living quarters for an affordable price. They prayed and hoped to find a suitable place to live in that they could afford, despite real estate agents telling them that they were being very unrealistic. Baruch Hashem, they are blessed with a large family and live in a highly sought after neighborhood for a number of years. One day, their landlord said he needed them to vacate as soon as they could because he wanted the apartment for his own family. Moving to another neighborhood was not an option, due to family obligations and work considerations. Then, one Monday morning, she saw an ad for an apartment that sounded just right. After speaking to the owner, her optimism increased. The location, the size, and the price were just what they were looking for. Her and her husband’s schedules were completely booked for the next few days and so she figured she would call back to schedule a viewing later in the week, but the next day the ad was gone and she had misplaced the phone number of the landlord. It appeared that someone else beat them to that apartment. They consoled themselves with the thoughts that no one could ever take something from them if they were destined to have it and, if they didn’t get it, it was for sure for their best. For the next two months, they were unable to find anything suitable. Then, one day, she received a call from a friend who said someone in a class she goes to mentioned that she has an apartment that she is looking to rent out. The description sounded exactly what they were looking for and the address rang a bell. She took the phone number and set up a meeting to see it. The apartment was perfect and they agreed to take it on the spot. After signing the lease, they couldn’t help but ask the owner if this was in fact the same apartment that was advertised in the local paper a couple of months before this. The owner said indeed it was. People came to see it then but were turned off by the condition of the apartment. He decided to remove the ad and do renovations before showing it again. Just as they were completing the renovations, his wife told her close friends only about it because they wanted people with close references. And that is how they got this apartment. The woman said, “We thought that the perfect apartment slipped out of our hands. Little did we know, Hashem was not only holding it for us, He was fixing it up and making it ready for us to move into without us having to do anything.” The struggles of life can get stressful, but the more emunah a person acquires, the better he will be able to perform as he goes through them.
The pasuk says at the end of parashat B’shelach that Hashem is at war with Amalek מדור דור – in every generation. And Chazal tell us that this war will last until Mashiach . When Hashem performed the great miracles at Yetziat Mitzrayim , He wanted the world to know that He did not just create it, but is actively involved in everything that goes on in it. All the nations of the world got the message except for Amalek who attacked the Jewish People and succeeded in casting doubt on the fact that Hashem runs the world. Hashem said that His Throne will not be complete until the memory of Amalek is eradicated. One of the ways in which we could fight this battle is by recognizing the extent of how much Hashem is involved in the world and in our lives. The pasuk says in parashat Terumah והקימות את המשכן כמשפטו– there was a command to erect the Mishkan according to what is just. The Yerushalmi asks the question, is there justice by planks of wood? And the Gemara there answers, yes because each plank was placed in a certain spot and that would be its permanent spot. Later Rabbis explained, being in the South represented wisdom and Torah, while being in the North represented wealth. Even the inanimate planks of wood were governed by a special plan of Hashem of where each one needed to be for its purpose in the world. As the generations progressed, our understanding of the extent of Hashem’s hashgacha has become greater and greater. The Baal Shem Tov taught us that Hashem is involved in the exact location that every single leaf which comes off every tree falls to. Every granule of sand on every beach is placed in its location b’hashgacha pratit . And if this is how it is with inanimate objects, imagine how far Hashem’s hashgacha extends in our lives. Rabbi Menashe Reizman gave a few examples to help us understand better the extent of it. When a person goes over to a tissue box and takes a tissue to blow his nose, and then 20 minutes later, someone else takes the next tissue, it was because it was determined in Shamayim that the first tissue, which had a certain spark of kedusha that was compatible with the first person’s shoresh neshama specifically needed to be taken by him. And the same applied for the next person. When someone goes to the grocery store and has a selection of 50 bottles of milk to choose from, Hashem guides the person to pick the one that specifically his family needs to drink. We know an animal gets elevated when it gets slaughtered properly and is eaten with the right beracha and used to nourish a person performing Torah and mitzvot. When a person goes to the butcher and selects a package of meat, it is all done b’hashgacha depending on which piece of meat is fit for him and his family, depending on the tikkunim that need to be made in it. Some people like spicy foods, some sour, some sweet. Every person’s taste buds were given to him b’hashgacha , according to what he needs to eat in his lifetime. Hashem is infinite. It doesn’t take any more effort on His part to keep track of all of these fine details. And when we recognize how much Hashem is involved, even in these seemingly insignificant parts of life, it’ll help us if we ever begin to question the bigger things. Why did that person get the job and not me? Why did that person get the house and not me? How much more so are our jobs and homes determined by Hashem, based on each person’s purpose in the world. Every single individual has a unique mission and one person’s mission has nothing to do with the other’s. It is only Hashem guiding each person to what he needs to fulfill his purpose. We must strengthen our belief in Hashem’s hashgacha and eradicate all of the ill effects of what Amalek was trying to accomplish. We are now in the days that are auspicious for geula and Chazal tell us it will be in the merit of emunah which brings about our ultimate redemption. May Hashem help us believe in His involvement in every aspect of life.
Our Rabbis teach us that Purim is one of the holiest days of the entire year, even greater than Yom Kippur. It’s a day when our tefilot mean so much and can accomplish what would normally take much longer to accomplish. It’s a day of elevating the physical, which is even more spiritual than abstaining from the physical. When the Beit Hamikdash stood, people were able to fulfill the positive commandment from the Torah of eating the meat of a korban . The meat was imbued with sanctity and, when the person ate it with the right intentions, it sanctified and purified him. When we take food and say a beracha on it and consume it during a seudat mitzvah, we become elevated from that. All the more so on the holy day of Purim. If we celebrate it properly, we can become so kadosh . The great Rebbe, Rav Mordechai m’Nadvorna shared with us a secret that he learned from Shamayim in his sefer Razah d’Uvda . There he writes, if he would have known how much Hashem appreciates us bringing joy to others on the day of Purim, he would have left all of his other holy services on that day and spent more time spreading joy to others. We can only imagine how great each of the Rebbe’s avodot on Purim were, spending so much time on tefila , reading the entire Tehillim with tears, reciting the Megilah with such devekut to Hashem, giving mishloach manot and matanot l’evyonim with all of his great kavanot and eating the seuda in the most spiritual way possible. But when he found out how important it is to bring joy to others on Purim, he would have limited those holy avodot to spend more time making other people happy. If we analyze the mitzvot of the day, most of them are all about caring for others. Mishloach manot is about giving gifts to our friends to enhance our relationships with them. We do it by making our friends feel special by sending them a gift. Matanot l’evyonim is meant to lift the spirits of the poor people, giving them what they need and thereby bringing them joy. Having a seuda and inviting family and friends and all different types of guests is meant to bring joy to all of those who attend. This is the essence of the mitzvot and we can take it further on our own, cheering up people who are down and giving chizuk to people who could use it. Spreading love and happiness on this day is such a holy endeavor. This will not only bring joy down here, it will bring joy to the Upper Worlds as well. Give mishloach manot to people who will appreciate it the most. Give compliments to people. Give berachot to people that they should have yeshuot and simcha . This, says the Rebbe m’Nadvorna, is the main avodah of the day which will bring Hashem the most nachat ruach . May Hashem help us fulfill His will the best way possible and have the most elevated Purim possible. Purim Sameach !
Chazal tell us, when Esther was told by Mordechai to go to Achashverosh, she said the mizmor Tehillim of למנצח על איילת השחר . As she was walking towards Achashverosh’s chamber, she passed through a room with all of his idols and the Shechina departed from her. Then she said the words, Hashem, why have You left me? The Midrash says, she was alluding to the fact that when Sarah Imenu was taken to the house of Pharaoh , Hashem struck Pharaoh’s entire household with a plague until he released Sarah. Hashem did not allow the wicked Pharaoh to come close to the tzadeket Sarah. And here, Esther, who was also a nevia and a tzadeket , did not receive the same Divine intervention and did not have any miracles done to be saved from Achashverosh. Imagine a woman with so much kedusha being taken by this man who was filled with tumah . Esther was sure Hashem was going to save her, but it didn’t turn out that way. Not only that, even after the Jewish People were saved through Esther’s petitioning of Achashverosh, she still had to remain with him after that. She had to sacrifice her family life, no children that she would be able to bring up על התורה ועל העבודה. In the beginning of the mizmor , she called Achashverosh a כלב , asking Hashem to save her from the impure dog. But later on in the mizmor , she changed and called him a lion. What’s the significance? The sefer Kiymu v’Kiblu explained, Esther understood she had to sacrifice herself to save Klal Yisrael, but at the same time, she felt it was not in the optimal way, being that she had to be married to this goy. But for Hashem, that wasn’t enough. He wanted Esther to completely nullify herself to His will. If this was the way that Hashem wanted it to be, she was supposed to say, “this must be my avoda ,” and as long as it had to continue this way, she was to fully and completely accept that that’s what she was supposed to be doing. She ended up coming to this conclusion on her own. She switched and called Achashverosh a lion instead of a kelev , which showed a major difference in her attitude and understanding of what was going on. In the end, the child they had, Daryavesh, was instrumental in building the Second Beit HaMikdash. The ways of Hashem are completely beyond us. How could it be that Hashem would want such a holy lady to have to live in such tumah ? This is not for us to understand, but it is for us to know that any situation that Hashem puts a person in, it’s in order for him to fulfill his mission in this world. That is what he needs. If someone has been trying to get married for years without success, he or she may be thinking to themselves, how could that be good? Doesn’t Hashem want a person to be married? Doesn’t it say it in the Torah? Or, if a couple has been trying for years to have children without success, they may have those exact same thoughts. It is true that it is hard to fathom if Hashem commanded something in the Torah, He would prevent a person from having it, but we must constantly remind ourselves, we are not able to understand Hashem in this world. But we do know, if despite our efforts things stay the same, it definitely means it is the will of Hashem for it to be like that. It is obviously for our greater purpose of achieving what we need to achieve in this world in order to live on in eternity in Olam HaBa . The more we are willing to serve Hashem from the places He puts us in, the greater our avoda will be considered and the more nachat ruach we will bring Hashem.
The pasuk says that Amalek attacked the Jewish People when they were in רפידים and Chazal tell us the reason Amalek was able to attack was because רפו ידיהם מן התורה – the Jewish People became weakened in Torah. Rabbi Menashe Reizman quoted from the Shem M’Shmuel who said in the name of his father the Avnei Nezer that Amelek attacked around the 29 th day of Iyar, just about a week before the Jewish People received the Torah on Har Sinai. At that time, they were counting Sefirat HaOmer , they knew they were rising each day out of the 49 th level of tuma they had been in and they knew they were going to reach the highest levels of kedusha , so how were they able to become weakened in Torah at a time like that? The answer is because they didn’t feel any tangible change inside of them. They weren’t feeling more spiritual. More than 40 days of the counting had passed and yet they still felt the same as they did before. That caused them to become weak and that was how Amalek was able to attack. The Tiferet Shlomo writes the same thing is happening during this long galut . Without a question we are at the doorstep of Mashiach and when he comes, the Navi tells us, ישפוך ה' רוחו על כל בשר ונבאו בניכם ובנותיכם – Hashem is going to bestow His spirit upon us and our children are going to be nevi’im. We would think that at this time we should feel 99% of the way there, we should feel imbued with the spirit of Hashem, ready to receive prophecy. Yet, in reality, we don’t feel that way. The reason, he says, Hashem did it this way is because if we felt like the level we were actually on, it would take away our free will. The enjoyment from those feelings would make it too easy for us to choose good over evil. We are always going to have the Amalek inside of us saying, You’re not accomplishing anything. See, you don’t feel it. This attitude has caused so many people to become weak in their avodat Hashem. The Jewish People didn’t feel the growth that they had a week before Matan Torah , but how great were they in actuality? The following week they received the ultimate level of prophecy, they reached the ultimate level a person could possibly be on, hearing the voice, kavayachol , of HaKadosh Baruch Hu . They had a misunderstanding, they really were on a high level, it’s just that Hashem didn’t allow them to feel that way, so He could balance their free will. The same applies to us today. A person who is learning and growing might say to himself, I don’t feel any change. The Amalek inside of him is saying, you’re not growing, the Torah’s not affecting you. And because in reality the person doesn’t have the feeling he is looking for, he believes Amalek. We must strengthen ourselves and realize, every avodah we do is making us so great. We are rising higher and higher in anticipation of greeting the Mashiach . Specifically because we live in such a depraved world, it makes our avodah that much more valuable. If we stay the course, we will see how much of an effect Torah and mitzvot really is having on us. B’ezrat Hashem, we should merit that glorious day when the Mashiach will come and Hashem will rest His spirit upon us.
A person was saying, “I know how valuable tefila is and I want to utilize it to its fullest, is there anything I can do to improve the quality of my tefilot ?” The answer to that question is, of course there is. First of all, learning the kavanot of all the words will definitely make our tefilot better. As well, there are two practical steps that a person can take and begin implementing immediately to bolster their tefilot . The pasuk says in Tehillim, מהולל אקרא ה' ומן אויבי– David HaMelech said, I called out to Hashem in praise and then I was saved from my enemies. The Bnei Yissachar writes, based on this pasuk , that a person could accomplish even more in the first beracha of the Amida , with his praises, than he could during the request portion. Although we are not allowed to make requests during the first three berachot , a proper praise of Hashem can get our requests answered before we even make them. When a person says a praise of Hashem, no negative angel could protest and so that praise could never get blocked. And when a person really believes in the praise he is giving, it causes Hashem, kavayachol , to feel more of a responsibility to fulfill it. Hashem doesn’t have feelings like we do, but He wants us to relate to Him in ways that we are able to understand. Therefore we can offer a mashal to make it more understandable. If a mother praised her 6-year-old child for his ability to read very fluently, the next time that child reads, he is going to do his best to live up to her expectations of him and even try to outdo what he did before because he knows his mother believes in him, and he doesn’t want to let her down. When we say, for example, the words in the Amida , ורופא חולים – that Hashem heals the sick – and honestly believe that Hashem is the greatest doctor and can heal any person in an instant, that alone would arouse so much extra Heavenly mercy for Hashem to provide the healing. He would see that we honestly believe in His power and so to speak, kavayachol , want to live up to our expectation of Him. Additionally, somebody told me he went to see a rabbi to get a beracha and the rabbi knew things about him that nobody could possibly know. The rabbi told the young man a shortcoming of his and also asked him why he hadn’t given ma’aser on a large business deal that he recently made. The rabbi told him the exact amount of money that he profited from the deal. And the man was in awe. He said, “I was in such awe to be in the presence of that rabbi.” I began thinking to myself, Hashem knows everything about us. When we stand up to pray in front of Him, we shouldn’t have any less awe than that young man had in front of that rabbi. If we know who we are standing in front of, we would pray with so much more emotion. A prayer with real emunah that Hashem is right in front of us, listening to every word and can help us with anything we need, will make our tefilot infinitely greater. All it requires is a little bit of thought before we start. We need to use the power of our imagination to imagine that we are standing in the place of the Beit HaMikdash, right near the kodesh kodashim and we have a private meeting with the Melech Malchei Hamelachim , HaKadosh Baruch Hu there, Who is waiting to listen to our every word. If we can learn to praise Hashem with more emunah and have more of an awareness of what we are actually doing when we stand up to pray, it will make our tefilot so much more powerful.
It says in Megilat Esther, many goyim converted at that time, and it was primarily because they saw the clear hand of Hashem involved in saving His People. Amalek tried to convince everyone that everything is happenstance and Hashem showed his descendants so clearly that He is always involved. The very same gallows that Haman built to hang Mordechai on, he himself was hanged upon. The Gemara says Vashti used to humiliate the Jewish women by making them work on Shabbat without clothing and Hashem humiliated her when she was asked to come out, by Achashverosh, without clothing. We know Hashem is involved in everything, but when we see it so clearly, it gives us even more chizuk . Many years ago, Rabbi Yosef Bar-Shalom had his sixth child and lacked the funds to host a seuda for the brit milah. The plan was to bring the baby to the mohel’s home and conduct the brit there. The day before the brit milah, Chacham Ovadia Yosef’s Rebbitzen Margalit went to wish the new mother, her friend and neighbor a mazal tov . That’s when she found out that they weren’t making a seuda for the brit because they couldn’t afford it. When she got home she told her husband who said in reply, “We will take care of the whole thing. Rav Bar-Shalom is an esteemed talmid chacham and deserves our help. Please arrange for a respectable affair.” Delighted to help her dear friend, the Rebbitzen hurried back to share the news and Mrs. Bar-Shalom was overcome with gratitude. Chacham Ovadia also told his Rebbitzen to go to the grocery store to get them some refreshments for the reading of the Zohar that night, a Sefardic custom the night before the brit milah. When the Rebbetzin told the owner of the local market for whom she was buying the food, he apologized saying he couldn’t sell her the food. He explained, the Bar-Shaloms already owed over 3000 lirot . He said, “If you have money to pay for them, first apply it to their debt before making new purchases.” The Rebbetzin went home and told her husband what happened. He told the Rebbetzin to please go ask the grocer to come back to talk to him when he was free. The grocer immediately came when he heard that the Gadol wanted to speak to him. Chacham Ovadia Yosef asked him if the Bar-Shalom’s amassed their large bill by purchasing luxuries or just the basic provisions. He said the basics. Chacham Ovadia then said that Rav Bar-Shalom is a great talmid chacham who dwells in the tent of Torah night and day. They live with the utmost simplicity and are truly poverty stricken. “I would like to make a deal with you. If you forgo this debt for the sake of this Torah scholar’s learning, the holy Torah will safeguard you and Hashem will grant you a son who will illuminate the world with his Torah.” Although it was an enormous debt and the grocer really did need the money, with that offer he happily agreed. Not only did he forgive the debt, he also donated the refreshment for the Zohar that night. Chacham Ovadia Yosef then put both of his hands on this man’s head and gave him a heartfelt beracha that he should merit a son who would become a gadol b’Torah . Several months later, when Rav Yosef Bar-Shalom approached the grocery store owner to repay his debt, the latter nonchalantly replied it was all paid up and offered no further information. Several years later, Rav Yosef Bar-Shalom was appointed the Rav of the city of Bat Yam. Forty-seven years after the above episode, Mrs. Bar-Shalom had a glimpse of that grocer in a dream and panicked, recalling the huge debt that they accumulated during a difficult time in their lives which, to her knowledge, had never been paid. The next morning, she told her son Rav Eliyahu to go see if that grocer was still alive and repay the debt. After a lot of effort, Rav Eliyahu finally found the address of the grocer and went to his house. There, he found a very elderly man, weak and frail, lying in bed. Beside him sat a younger man who Rabbi Eliyahu immediately recognized as a former member of his community in Ramat Shlomo, a talmid chacham who was presently regarded as a gadol b’Torah . He soon discovered that this gadol was the son of the grocer. He asked the grocer how he merited such a child. The grocer then told him of the story of how he forgave the debt of a Torah scholar and Chacham Ovadia told him in that merit he would have a gadol b’Torah as a son, and it came true. Rabbi Eliyahu’s heart was pounding. He asked the grocer if he remembered the name of the talmid chacham whom he helped. He said, “Yes, Chacham Yosef Bar-Shalom.” Rabbi Eliyahu told the grocer that was his father and he actually came now to repay that debt. The grocer wouldn’t even take one agura , pointing to his son saying, “The debt has been paid in full many times over.” Rabbi Eliyahu then thought to himself about the wondrous hashgacha of Hashem. Several years before this, he was appointed to be a Rabbi in Ramat Shlomo and one of his responsibilities was to oversee the distribution of tzedaka funds that went to lomdei Torah . He noticed one particular avreich who displayed unrivaled diligence and love of Torah and was obviously destined for greatness. He made sure to give him extra money that would enable him to learn without distraction or worry. Not only did Hashem bless that grocer with a child who became gadol b’Torah , the son of the man whose debt he had forgiven was the one who enabled that child to learn with joy and serenity. The ways of Hashem are amazing and when we see them with our own eyes, it gives us so much chizuk .
The Chovot HaLevavot in the Shaar HaBitachon at the end of perek 3 shares with us life changing information. He writes that when a person is involved, whether mentally or physically, in trying to earn a livelihood, he is fulfilling a positive commandment from the Torah. When Adam HaRishon was in Gan Eden , Hashem commanded him to work the land and preserve it. That command, he says, applies to every single person as well, which obligates him to do something to make sure he has a livelihood. Yes, it is true what the Rambam says that anyone who wants to dedicate his life to the service of Hashem and learn Torah full time, has the right to do so. However, those who are going to work have an opportunity to gain Olam Haba in a way they never imagined. The halacha is that to get credit for a mitzvah, a person needs to have intent that he is performing the mitzvah because Hashem commanded him to. It is true that there are poskim who say when we do general mitzvot that are obvious why we are doing them, like putting on tefillin or shaking a lulav and etrog , even if we don’t have intent we still get credit. However, when it comes to mitzvot where it is not obvious that the reason we are doing them is because Hashem commanded us to, there, in order to get the credit, we must have the right intentions. With this in mind, the Chovot HaLevavot writes, when a person makes a hishtadlut to earn parnasa , he should have in mind that he is going to fulfill a mitzvah. And if he has this intention, Hashem will reward him for going to work. He will be rewarded whether or not he earns the money he was trying to earn and whether or not he completes the business deal he had been working so hard on. He will be paid for the intentions and the efforts. Which means, if a person went to work for eight hours with the right intentions, even if he didn’t earn a dime, he had a very successful day. He fulfilled this positive commandment all day long and will be rewarded for it for all eternity. You could have two people doing the exact same job and one cashing in on spiritual fortunes, while the other is missing out on that opportunity. It all depends on the person’s intentions. It goes without saying that the person has to have a job which Hashem approves of, in the right environment. Then the Chovot HaLevavot quotes the pasuk , יגיע כפיך כי תאכל אשריך וטוב לך – which means, if someone eats from his own handiwork, he is fortunate and it will be good for him. Our Chazal explained this double terminology. אשריך – בעולם הזה – he is fortunate in this world; וטוב לך – and it will be good for him – לעולם הבא – in the Next World. We understand why this is good for him in this world. We know Hashem could send a person his parnasa in infinite ways and it doesn’t necessarily have to come from his job. However, when a person is successful at work, and does earn his income from the place he’s putting his efforts in, there is a special enjoyment which will definitely enhance his Olam Hazeh . But what does that have to do with Olam HaBa ? Why will it be good for him there? According to the way the Chovot HaLevavot is learning, this person who goes to work with the right intentions, will be overcome with joy in the Next World, seeing how much reward he will be getting for something he was doing anyway. Our intentions make all the difference. If we view work as an avodat Hashem and do it the way Hashem wants us to, we will be rewarded for doing that avodat Hashem. Our greatest benefit from work, with this in mind, is no longer the money we earn from it, but rather the mitzvah we are earning from it. And if a person works with Hashem on his mind all day long and acts the way Hashem wants him to act and makes a kiddush Hashem, his rewards will be unimaginable. May Hashem help us have the right intentions and do everything l’shem Shamayim .
Rav Yosef Kahaneman, otherwise known as the Ponevezher Rav, told how once his yeshiva was in enormous debt and it was too great for him to carry. He traveled to Radin to ask the Chofetz Chaim for advice and get a beracha . The Chofetz Chaim told him, “Make sure your intentions are l’shem Shamayim , and then you will have a lot of Heavenly help and success.” On his way back, the Rabbi saw Rav Chaim HaLevy on the train and told the Rabbi of his plight. Rav Chaim said he had just finished a Din Torah with a wealthy family and they gave him 800 rubles as compensation, which was an enormous amount of money at that time. He handed the money to Rav Kahaneman and said, “Take it for the yeshiva as I do not want to benefit from money received for giving a Din Torah.” And just like that, the yeshiva was saved. Starting institutions, shuls and yeshivot is not easy to do, but if a person has the right intentions, Hashem will help him do it. Rabbi Gad Bouskila from Brooklyn told me he wanted to start a shul for the Moroccan Jews there in 1986. He rented a hall to host the tefilot for the Yamim Noraim and on Yom Kippur there were nearly 300 people in attendance. He told the crowd at Neilah of his dream to start a shul for them and, on the spot, they raised $250,000 for the project. He told them the name of the shul was going to be Netivot Yisrael, named for the Baba Sali, who is buried in Netivot and whose name is Yisrael. The Rabbi had passed away just a couple of years before that. Over the coming months, they managed to raise another $250,000 and they bought a property and started construction. They raised some more money here and there but, eventually, the money ran out and the builders were going to have to stop. They told Rabbi Bouskila it was going to cost them another $250,000 to finish the project, but the Rabbi had no one else he could think of to go to to ask for the money. One of his congregants mentioned he knew of a widow who was wealthy and never had any children. Perhaps she would be interested in dedicating the building in memory of her husband. That Rabbi contacted this woman, whose name was Mrs. Lottie Chappan. She was interested in the project, but requested a meeting with Rabbis and community leaders whom she respected to see if they would approve of the endeavor first. Rabbi Bouskila did as requested and made the meeting. The meeting seemed to be going very well, but then at one point, someone there suggested that the name of the shul should have her husband’s name in it, Max, if she would be the one to dedicate it. Mrs. Chappan loved the idea but Rabbi Bouskila said the name of the shul was going to be after Baba Sali, but he would gladly name the building after her husband. Mrs. Chappan then had second thoughts about going through with it and the meeting ended like that. Weeks passed with no progress raising money and the shul was at a standstill. Then, for the yahrtzeit of Baba Sali, the shul conducted a hilula . Rabbi Bouskila invited Mrs. Chappan to come and see what the shul is all about, perhaps she would reconsider. She said she would be happy to attend, but that day she wasn't’ feeling up to it and never made it there. The following day, Rabbi Bouskila went to her house to drop off a nice framed picture of Baba Sali to give her as a gift. When he showed her the picture, she was taken aback. She said, “Please tell me who that is.” The Rabbi saw that she seemed frightened and asked her if everything was okay. She said she has had multiple dreams with the Rabbi in that picture appearing to her telling her to sponsor the building. When she found out it was the Baba Sali himself, she immediately called her lawyer and told him to proceed with the contract she had made up to sponsor the building. In the end, she gave well over $300,000 plus she donated their first Sefer Torah . The names of her and her husband are prominently displayed on that shul building today. Rabbi Bouskila was, l’shem Shamayim , trying to open a shul for his community and Hashem helped him in a wondrous way.
Religion & Spirituality
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