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The Bible introduces us to many fascinating and inspiring personalities, righteous men and women whose example of piety continue to guide and uplift us to this very day. There are some, however, to whom we can relate in an especially powerful way and whom we can truly strive to emulate.
During the past several weeks I have shared many of my own personal experiences and those of others. I am referring not only to my recent hospitalization following the breaking of a hip, but also to my series of articles on hashgachah pratis – events that befall us that can easily be attributed to random happenings but upon closer scrutiny and honest introspection testify to the ever-guiding Hand and mercy of Hashem.
Judaism holds that nothing happens by chance, that everything is orchestrated by Hashem. And so it was long ago on a Sunday morning, about a month after Pesach when my father ran an errand for his parents.
A week- seven days. That’s how long I spent in the dustbin of Jewish History that is Poland. I went there to learn about, and to see first hand, the country that housed the absolute horrors of the Holocaust, but I also went to see the places that had once housed such rich Jewish life. As such the trip focused, in my opinion, on three aspects of Jewish life in Poland: pre-war, the Holocaust years and then post-war.
There is a tradition from the Vilna Gaon that Milchemes Gog and Magog at the time of Moshiach will last only 12 minutes. In that short amount of time 1/3 of the world will be destroyed, 1/3 severely wounded and 1/3 will survive. Until recently this was incomprehensible - how could such destruction happen so quickly?
Here we are again – Shavuos, the yom tov commemorating the giving of the Torah, God’s greatest gift to mankind. If someone were to say to me, “It’s unbelievable that Hashem gave us His amazing Torah,” I would respond, “That’s the wrong way to put it. ‘Unbelievable’ means ‘not to be believed.’ The correct expression is, ‘It’s beyond belief’ – meaning more than belief. Hashem loves His charming nation beyond words.”
It’s refreshingly rare to welcome a new compendium on the targum of Megillas Shir Hashirim and Ruth (in one volume), just released by Rabbi Henoch Levine. This is the tenth volume in a series by the author, acclaimed for his expertise in targumic studies in general, and for his works on Targum Yonasan Ben Uziel Al Hatorah, in particular.
The Generation of the Wilderness was unique in the history of Israel, as Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, explains concerning the first verse of Bamidbar. Israel was slated for a special mission in the world, and this mission was begun with a special forty-year inauguration in which Israel gained an intense and unmatched closeness to Hashem.
The truth is sometimes unpopular or uncomfortable. Thus, people who wish to dismiss the Hand of Hashem from history and human affairs may be taken aback by the assertion of Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, based on the beginning of this parshah, that the suffering that befalls Israel comes for a Divine purpose. Rabbi Miller finds this purpose explicit in the opening words of Bechukosai, and observes that this “wish” (to dismiss the Hand of Hashem from history) is not a Jewish way of thinking.
Avraham Avinu packed up his belongings without saying a word and hastened to the Land, even though it was loaded with savage heathens, prostitutes, idol worship, murderers, and rapists, even though there wasn’t one synagogue, kosher butcher, or luxury villa to be found.
"In every generation they try to kill us, and the Holy One, Blessed Be He, rescues us from their hands." Every year, for centuries, Jews the world over say these words at the Seder. I paid particular attention this year as this phrase was sung by the golden-voiced Dudu Fisher, a chazzan and Broadway star, who led sedarim at Kutcher's Hotel in the Catskill Mountains.
My daughter, son-in-law and three children had reason to move to Buffalo, NY from Brooklyn this past summer. As we watched our grandchildren’s cute little faces peeled and waving through the back window, we knew we were in for a huge adjustment. We knew we would obviously miss them but we also were aware that we gave our children wings to do as they saw necessary (and they saw it necessary to drive seven hours away to their new home).
The following is one unique halacha that is associated with arayos (forbidden relationships): Concerning most aveiros, if one is put in a predicament where he must choose between saving his life and fulfilling a mitzvah he must choose to live and transgress the mitzvah. The Gemara says that arayos are one of the three mitzvos that are yehareg v’al ya’avor (one must allow himself to be killed so as not to transgress the mitzvah), along with murder and avodah zarah.
Our Mission: When it comes to Chesed the Jewish people are at the front of the line. We’ve tackled Chesed and everyone is aware of the unbelievable work and generosity that we are involved in. Now it’s time to take on a new, more difficult challenge: Middot (character trait).
Is it really possible for any self-respecting New Yorker to love parking tickets? I have seen those orange rectangular pieces of paper become the nemesis of society. As a result, those trying to earn a meager living giving out these tickets have become Public Enemy Number One. We view them as “out to get us,” deliberately attempting to make our lives miserable.
I’m learning to walk again. Every step is painful. I go with a walker. There is a security belt wrapped around my waist which the physical therapist watches carefully so that in case I stumble she will be able to catch me. As I make my way, the nurses and other health care personnel smile and congratulate me: “You’re doing wonderful! You’re doing great!”
In this week’s parshah the Torah teaches us which animals are kosher to eat and which are not. The Torah says that the pig, although it has split hooves, is not kosher since it does not chew its cud. The medrash on this pasuk says that the reason that the pig is called “chazir” is because in the future Hashem will return (lehachzir) the pig to Bnei Yisrael and permit it to be eaten.
Several weeks ago I started a series on hashgachah pratis, or Divine Providence. Every believing Jew knows that events do not just unfold randomly; the story I told of two brothers named Yaakov and Yedidya clearly testified to that reality in a contemporary setting.
“And Hashem told Moshe, lift up thy rod over the sea and divide it”... And Moshe ordered the sea to divide. But the sea refused. “Why should I obey you,” it said, “You are but a man born of a woman and besides, I am three days older than you, I was established on the third day of creation, and you were created on the sixth day.”
Historically, one of man’s greatest shortcomings has been taking credit for Hashem’s work. Only too often does a man find success and, in his arrogance, feel his power and his might created his empire. The Torah warns us, Remember: it was Hashem who brought all this to be.