Wednesday, November 09, 2005


Our generation has little patience to think things through and arrive at conclusions. We all seek simple solutions even for complicated problems.

Due to marked advances in science, medicine and technology, a process that may have taken months to accomplish can now be done in seconds. Ulcers used to require surgery; today people ingest a small pill. Diseases which used to wipe out entire populations are cured with a shot. Computers can make trillions of computations a second and solve problems man thought could never be solved.

Meals that used to take hours to prepare are now packaged in a box, ready to be popped into a microwave and in just a few minutes, to satiate the desires of all those who want it “now!”

News travels around the world in mere seconds. Leaders no longer have the time to stop and think before responding to a crisis. They are expected to come forward with instant answers to deep questions. America went to war in Iraq to rid the world of a dangerous and insane tyrant. Results didn’t happen as fast as they do in storybooks and films, so Bush’s presidency is said to be in crisis as people grow impatient with the war.

Within our own community, we are facing a crisis of another sort: shidduchim. Are we grappling with it as we should? People fish about looking for solutions as if expecting one to pop up. Life is not that simple. Problems that took years to develop, and are the accumulation of social, economic and a host of other factors can not be solved with the snap of the fingers.

Last week in this paper appeared one of the most touching letters to the editor in recent memory. It was on the topic of Shidduchim, written by an older girl who feels time is passing her by. Why must this young woman suffer so? Why is it that the shidduch system that determines our children’s futures and the future of our people remains so flawed, so fraught with pain and hardship? We read the letters, we hear the stories, and if we don’t have someone close to us in the parsha that we are worried about, we go on to the next topic.

The problem runs deep, with baffling complexity. Simplistic solutions will not do, catchy phrases will not solve anything. What is required is a thorough examination of the problem and then a serious analysis followed by viable solutions.

We each have to do what we can to bring about the day that all Jewish men and women find life mates without first coming to the brink of despair. We have to treat the problem as if it were our own personal burden and leave no stone unturned to help people find shidduchim.

It is hard and tedious work and many times huge efforts lead to only one meeting. Many times you are not rewarded for your efforts. You will talk and talk and try to set something up and you will get nowhere. You may even be rebuffed, rebuked, or ridiculed. Do not get disillusioned. Keep on trying; don’t quit until the job is done.

Someone wrote a letter to this paper stating that initially he was expressing exasperation at how much space and attention we are giving to the shidduch crisis. But after further thought, he was singing a very different tune. He began taking the matter to heart, and sat down with a friend to discuss what they could do and were very happy when they came up with some shidduch suggestions.

There is no magic pill, there is no databank you can go to and punch in a name and address and have a computer spit out the perfect match. You just have to keep plugging away and refuse to accept defeat.

If you see a successful person, know that he or she has labored hard for many years. They have cried themselves to sleep many times; at other times, they went for days without sleeping. They never ceased working, thinking, doing, moving and most important—refusing to let anything get in the way of their goal.

They davened as if their lives depended on it. They gave tzedaka, they helped other people. They ran around looking for segulos. And they worked and worked and worked until one day the brocha was fulfilled.

There are no shortcuts in life.

In parshas Lech Lecha we learn that Hakadosh Boruch Hu told Avrohom Avinu to leave his home and birthplace for a promised land. Avrohom received Hashem’s promise that he would be blessed in the new country. The posuk relates that following the command to leave his home, Avrohom took Sarai and Lot and the nefashos they made in Charan and they left for Canaan.

Lot’s shepherds were not able to get along with those of Avrohom Avinu, and Avrohom decided that they had to separate. He could not bear the thought of entering into a dispute with Lot, and told his nephew to choose the area where he preferred to live.

The posuk relates that Lot saw that the Kikar Hayarden was blessed with fertile abundance and he chose to move there. He was looking for the quick fix. He was looking to make a fast buck. It didn’t bother him that he would be living with the wicked people of Sedom. All he was interested in was making money. The dollar bills were dancing in his eyes as he surveyed the territory he had to chosen as his own.

He left the company of Avrohom, the holiest and kindest man alive, to go live among the most wicked and selfish people ever to walk the earth. He did not argue with Avrohom and pledge to keep his shepherds in line. As soon as Avrohom asked him to leave he was gone, off to the Kikar Hayarden where he thought he would be better off than living in close proximity to an honest and righteous man.

Avrohom had rules that Lot didn’t care for. He didn’t let Lot cut corners and he got upset when Lot fed off of other people’s property. Lot couldn’t wait to leave and join the rich and successful people of Sedom.

We all know the end of the story. Sedom was destroyed and its inhabitants and their wealth were obliterated. Lot was saved in the merit of Avrohom Avinu.

The solution to Lot’s problem would have been to plead with Avrohom Avinu for guidance and direction. The solution would have been to stay true to the principles taught him by Avrohom since they had lived in Choron.

We are all affected by outer appearances; promises of fame and glory tempt many people. The things we chase after may not be good for us, but we don’t admit that. We rationalize and fall prey to the lure of Sedom. The glitter dazzles us and blinds us to what lies beneath the veneer.

We look out at the beautiful foliage these days and comment on how gorgeous the trees are. All summer long they seem bland, they are all the same color. How boring. But with fall, the trees change to brilliant red and bright orange and yellow. Warm brown hues emerge and we are all taken by the blast of beauty.

But it doesn’t last long. The colorful exhibition is a signal that the end is coming. The brilliant red means that the leaves are about to fall off and die; and be swept away to eternal oblivion.

As long as the leaves are green, we know that they will live and endure. The bright ostentatious colors are a sign that they are about to meet the fate of Sedom and all Lot’s friends and neighbors there.

The next time you hear people around you proclaiming their solutions to all of life’s problems, don’t be taken in by what they have to say. Remember that it doesn’t work that way. Remember Lot and the Kikar Hayardein.

Don’t just dispense flippant advice. When you hear about someone in need, don’t just give eitzos, share the burden. Shed a tear or two, and be mispalel for them. Follow up. Call a week Later. A month later. A year later. Jot the problem down in your calendar, daily planner or even your palm pilot and instruct it to pop up at you at regular intervals.

A friend of mine who had a child who was ill a number of years back told me that the greatest chizuk he had was when total strangers approached him to say they had heard of his plight and davened for him.

He remembered how much chizuk he drew from their phone calls following up on his child’s progress—months, even years after the initial diagnoses.

It so easy to forget about other people’s pain, but we dare not take the easy route.

The next time someone tells you they can make you a 100% return on your money guaranteed, run the other way. Remember Lot and the Kikar Hayardein.

If you want to be successful at what you do, and if you want to really solve pressing issues of the day, know that you have to work real hard at it.

A story bearing out this truth concerns two successful businessmen from a small shtetel who had a financial dispute. It happened that they were near the city of Tizmenitz where Rav Meshulom Igra, one of the generation’s foremost geonim, was Rav. Rav Meshulom was known across Europe for his genius in Torah and halacha as a kadosh v’tahor m’rechem blessed with a brilliant and sharp mind.

The two baalei din came to the gadol hador with their shaaloh. He heard the two sides and paused to consider. After a while, he admitted he was at a loss and that he did not have an answer for them. It would take him several days to decide the dispute.

Having no choice, the two men went back to their shtetl. They decided that since the great rabbi was stumped, they had nothing to lose by asking the klein shtetl rav to decide for them.

Upon hearing the complexity of the matter, the Rabbi turned white. He was afraid to say that he had no idea how to rule — after all, such a response could cost him his job — so he asked the men to return at the end of the day. He had no clue what to do but hoped that somehow he would find a resolution to the complicated problem.

He opened his sefer Tehilim and began to pray. He cried bitter tears and begged the Ribono Shel Olam to help him and save his job. He feared that if he could not pasken the shaaloh, he would become a laughingstock. Not appreciating the complexities of the matter, the ignorant baalei batim would fire him.

After several hours of prayer he went to his bookshelf and randomly pulled out a dusty old sefer. He noticed that it had a section on Choshen Mishpot and turned to it. His prayers were answered. The mechaber of that obscure teshuva sefer discussed the very same situation which stumped him and successfully resolved it.

Full of joy and thanksgiving to the G-d who saved his job and kept him from disgrace, the rabbi presented his answer to the disputants. They were duly impressed with their rabbi’s acumen and gladly accepted his solution.

At the prescribed time, the two returned to Tizmenitz and to Rav Meshulom Igra. He told them that he had spent much time over their dispute and had finally arrived at a solution. To their amazement the great gaon had the very same response as their own rabbi back home. And their rabbi had produced the answer in a matter of a few hours.

They told this to Rav Meshulom who immediately demanded, “Take me to your rabbi, I must meet him. He must be a great gaon. I must make his acquaintance.”

The men took Rav Igra to their village and brought him to the home of their rabbi. The Rabbi opened his door and was shocked to see Rav Meshulom Igra standing at his doorstep. He was even more stunned when Rav Igra began heaping praise upon him, announcing, “It is an honor to meet you!”

The rabbi was confused. “Why do I deserve such honor? I am but a klein shtetel rav - a simple small-village rabbi?”

Rav Igra explained that indeed it took him days to resolve a matter which the rabbi solved in a few hours. “If you are such a gaon that you can solve that shaaloh so quickly, I had to meet you,” he declared.

The humbled rabbi welcomed the Torah giant into his home and explained to him what happened. “I cried out to Hashem for hours to help me find the answer and then I went over to the seforim shrank and min hashomayim, the answer fell into my lap.”

Upon hearing the tale, Rav Meshulom Igra became agitated. “You davened for an answer?” he rebuked him. “You cried?” “Veinen? Veinen kenen mir aleh. Davenen? Davenen kenen mir aleh!” I can also cry, I can also pray. Indeed, the Ribono Shel Olam responded to your lofty Tefillos, however, I came searching for a gaon to speak to in learning and I didn’t find one.

“Men darfen hureven!”

Our job is to toil, to work hard, to study and study and study some more; to concentrate as hard as we can. We have to break our heads to come up with solutions.

Our job, too, is to plug away and give it all we got. Of course prayer is essential and tears help. But if you want greatness in Torah or in any other endeavor, you have to couple fervent prayer and emotion with blood, sweat and tears.

If we want it to be real, if we want it to last, if we want to be the best we can be, there are no shortcuts. Whatever it is we are engaged in, if it is worth doing, it is worth doing properly; and if it’s not worth expending the effort to do it right, it’s not worth doing at all.

Hureven, hureven, oon veiter hureven.


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