Wednesday, June 28, 2006


By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

One of the most baffling aspects of Parshas Korach is how Korach and his followers could have so deluded themselves as to believe they could overthrow Moshe Rabbeinu and Aharon.

They had just witnessed the disastrous fate of the meraglim who died in a divine plague for badmouthing Eretz Yisroel and inciting the people against Moshe and Aharon. Seeing their fate, shouldn’t Korach and his followers have known better?

The generation of the Midbar witnessed a continuous display of miraculous events under Moshe Rabbeinu’s stewardship. They all knew that Moshe led them out of Mitzrayim. All the yotzei Mitzrayim remembered the years of slavery and Moshe’s and Aharon’s face-offs with Paroh, which were followed by the makkos that wreaked destruction on their enemies.

In the desert they were sustained by a daily delivery of mon from heaven that provided for every member of the nation. The luchos traveled with them wherever they went, reminding them that Moshe had ascended to Shomayim for 40 days and nights before receiving the Torah. Every single Jew in the desert knew that the Shechina appeared to Moshe and spoke to him directly.

The Bnei Yisroel were thoroughly familiar with the two Divinely appointed brothers for years. They owed so much to their leadership. What made Korach and his followers think they could get away with something so outrageous as a direct assault on these exalted leaders?

Rashi on the first posuk of Parshas Shelach explains there is a lesson to be learned from the juxtaposition of the parsha of the meraglim with the parsha of Miriam; namely, that the meraglim should have taken to heart Miriam’s Divine punishment and refrained from slandering the land Hashem promised to the Jewish people.

And if the meraglim are labeled reshaim for not drawing that connection - although maligning a land is not the same as maligning a person - certainly Korach should have realized the danger of speaking ill of Moshe.

If Miriam, who merely gossiped within the family about her brother Moshe - without intending to hurt or undermine him - was harshly punished, who in their right mind would dare risk the fate awaiting someone who publicly slandered and rebelled against Moshe? Korach was not a fool - some even say he had ruach hakodesh - and neither were the members of the Sanhedrin who flocked under his banner. How could they have acted in such a manner?

We often see people we care about engaging in foolish and destructive behavior and wish we could say or do something that will stop them from hurting themselves. From previous experience, however, we know they won’t listen to reason.

Often, the truth is crystal clear for all to see. But that which is self-evident to the entire world is somehow not at all obvious to the actor on the stage. And no amount of elucidation will make it clear.

What could he be thinking to engage in such reckless, irrational behavior, you marvel. The answer is likely that the person was simply not thinking. His actions were divorced from the process of weighing, judging and reasoning things through.

Can it be that Korach, described as a “smart man,” didn’t think things through? It must be that whatever thinking he engaged in was corrupted by his craving for power. He was so jealous of his Levite cousins that his brain ceased to work the way it usually did.

His lust for power so overwhelmed him that he was blinded and became unable to realize what he was doing. He was able to win over followers because they were sucked in by the herd mentality and didn’t think either. Had they thought into it, they would have reached the same conclusion as the wife of On Ben Peles. She analyzed the matter carefully and came to the clear realization that her husband stood to gain not the slightest advantage from Korach’s rebellion. He would be the same Mister Peles no matter who won. She spurred him to this realization and thus he was saved.

It is such a simple deduction, that it is amazing that she was the only one who understood it. They were all so caught up in the moment that they stopped thinking and let their admiration for Korach’s oratory skills blind them. They failed to grasp that it really would make no difference to them who won the machlokes, but that didn’t stop them from jumping on the bandwagon and going along for the ride.

Rabble-rousers like Korach gain a following because people are vulnerable to manipulation, especially when the manipulator makes them feel important and smart. Picture Korach’s followers standing around sniggering as Korach confronted Moshe Rabbeinu with a cynical question designed to make him look foolish: Why should a tallis made entirely of techeiles need tzitzis? he asked. Picture the crowd snickering appreciatively at the brazen Korach.

You know the type; you’ve seen them in action. They sit around mocking everyone and anyone. Like buffoons they take turns ripping people. They laugh and giggle as they zing their one-liners.

And you wonder why they are so negative. What’s in it for them? Why do they derive so much pleasure from knocking others? The answer may be that they really are not thinking. Demeaning others is a form of recreation for them. Ignorant and unable to perform positively themselves, they raise their self-image a notch by treating with derision everyone who is more intelligent or talented than they are.

There is usually one person egging on the others, encouraging them to join him in destroying whoever his target may be that day. If these “bandwagon” fellows would stop and think, they might realize that their leader is motivated by simple jealousy. Maybe they would regret trying to emulate him and his negativity and choose instead to use their lives to spread goodness and kindness.

And it’s not only the silly and lightheaded leitzonim who engage in such behavior. At times, intelligent people err in judgment and jump to a wrong conclusion. They find it impossible to admit their mistake and continue down a slippery slope as they seek to justify their actions. It would be a lot easier to own up to the error, but instead their gaavah forces them to hew to a path which will doom them to failure. They lack the courage to return to the side of the truth. They flail about, critiquing their opponents, rather than taking the more prudent and honest course.

It’s easy to spot the tendency in others to shut down their thinking mechanism. But it’s a lot harder to see that same flaw in ourselves. So many times we get wrapped up in an issue to the point where we can no longer think objectively. So often we are so convinced that we are right that we don’t stop to consider the matter from another angle.

We make terrible mistakes because we suspend our judgment or we don’t think at all; we simply react. Then we compound the error by justifying ourselves. The human capacity for self-justification is boundless.

Before acting, we don’t seek out advice; we don’t discuss things with smart people because we are so brilliant. How many times would we be spared from later agony if we would have realized that teshua berov yo’etz, it never hurts to speak things through with someone we respect.

We get involved in machlokes where we don’t belong because we don’t think about the issues carefully nor do we consider the negative consequences, until it is too late. Then come the brilliant rationalizations that can turn an act of rishus into an act of tzidkus. People let their appetites for glory, power and money cloud their minds. Emotion takes over reason and thinking shuts down.

People are so busy with their lives that they don’t pause to pay attention to what they are doing. They are running all day; they are working till they have no strength to go on; they shop till they drop; their days are full of frenzied, non-stop activity. They leave no time to do any serious thinking, no time to ponder where all their running leads them. They forget what is really important in life; they neglect the ikar and are left with the tofel. We let emotions guide us instead of intellect and Torah.

There are so many aspects to life that merit serious analysis and attention. If we invested more thought into them, we might grasp that some of our actions are worthless or counterproductive, and switch course. And, conversely, we might realize which of our activities can, with more thought and concentration, earn us fulfillment and eternal reward.

Think about it.

Saturday, June 24, 2006


This week, in Parshas Shelach, we encounter the tragic episode of the meraglim sent by Moshe Rabbeinu to spy out the land of Eretz Yisroel, and the timeless lessons embedded in the story.

We would imagine that Moshe selected the best candidates for the mission, and in fact the posuk testifies that they were all great men. The mission ended in disaster, however, with ten of the twelve spies erring terribly, causing much pain and suffering to befall the Jewish people.

For all time, these individuals are remembered with derision. We wonder how handpicked messengers of Moshe Rabbeinu could have gone so wrong. How were they able to convince the entire nation that their trek to the Promised Land was doomed?

How was it that the people who experienced Yetzias Mitzrayim and Kriyas Yam Suf lost their faith? The very people who should have absorbed the lessons of the eigel and internalized the message of the slov, following their complaints about the mon, still doubted the ability of Hashem to fulfill his promise to them. How can we understand this?

The first Rashi in the parsha holds the key to understanding this enigma. Quoting from the Medrash Tanchuma, Rashi explains that the parsha of the meraglim follows the parsha of Miriam because Miriam was punished for the gossip she spoke about her brother Moshe and although these wicked people witnessed this, they failed to learn anything from it.

The common explanation of this is that witnessing the painful consequences of Miriam’s lashon hara should have deterred the meraglim from speaking lashon hara on the Land of Israel. Many commentators ask, how can one extrapolate from Miriam’s episode that speaking ill of a country is as sinful as speaking ill of a person?

Perhaps we can understand this by examining the root of lashon hara, commonly understood to mean gossip. The roots of this sin, however, are far more destructive than gossip would appear to be at first glance.

At the end of Parshas Beha’aloscha (12:1-2), the posuk states that Miriam and Aharon spoke about Moshe concerning his wife. “And they said, ‘Did G-d only speak to Moshe? He also spoke to us!’” The posuk does not tell us what they said about his wife, but it says that they minimized their brother’s greatness. They compared themselves to Moshe, as if to say, “What’s the big deal? Who does he think he is? G-d also talks to us; He doesn’t just talk to him.”

That is the essence of lashon hara - minimizing the accomplishments of other people. People will admire someone for being special or having accomplished something good and one fellow will come by and throw a damper on it by saying, “What makes you think he’s so great? He’s really no different than you and me. He also has failings, don’t be taken in. Don’t think that what he did is so exceptional.”

These kinds of disparaging remarks lower esteem for the person. They discourage people from carrying out good deeds by casting those deeds as insincere or politically motivated. A mesaper lashon hara cools off people’s enthusiasm for a fellow Jew by casting aspersion on his motives and downplaying his accomplishments.

Such a person is an “equal opportunity” destroyer. He will wreck anyone’s reputation, if only to justify his own incompetence and lack of accomplishments.

The meraglim should have learned from Miriam what happens to someone who disparages greatness and minimizes it. They failed to learn that negativity and cynicism are not compatible with greatness. They should have seen that such activity is not sanctioned and is frowned upon by Hashem. For even if the facts are true, since it diminishes the subject’s esteem in another’s eyes, he has committed lashon hara.

At the root of lashon hara is a desire to destroy the respect one person holds for another.

At times, lashon hara is an attempt to devastate a relationship, as, for example, when a person tells someone else that his friend acted in a way that is detrimental to the other party’s interests. The intention - and effect - is to drive a wedge between two people.

The one who initiates the conversation and mocks someone else makes his partner in the crime feel as if it is acceptable to knock the other person. Had the baal lashon hara not come along, the first party would have continued believing that his friend was beyond reproach, but thanks to the belittling remarks from the baal lashon hara, his friend is knocked down a few rungs off the high pedestal upon which he formerly stood. The second fellow now feels comfortable chiming in with deprecating remarks of his own.

And thus begins the chain of evil which is at the root of the churban Bais Hamikdosh and the reason we have not yet merited to be redeemed.

[The Gemara in Yoma, 9b, states that the second Bais Hamikdosh was destroyed because of sinas chinom, commonly translated as unwarranted hatred. The Gemara goes into a discussion which is not relevant to this column. It cites, as an example of sinas chinom, people who ate and drank together and acted friendly towards each other and then stabbed each other with the daggers of their tongues. The Chofetz Chaim, in his introduction to his sefer Chofetz Chaim, writes that this refers to lashon hara. It is thus evident that sinas chinom and lashon hara both have at their core a baseless jealousy and hatred which seek to separate people from each other and negate their positive attributes. They both have the same outcome, as well, and lead to divisiveness and churban.]

If you read the first Rashi in Parshas Shelach carefully, you should have a question. You will notice that Rashi refers to the episode of Miriam and Aharon talking ill of Moshe as “the parsha of Miriam.”

Shouldn’t it be called “the parsha of Miriam and Aharon?” The pesukim in Parshas Beha’aloscha (12:1-2) state clearly that both of them spoke ill of Moshe: “Vatedabeir Miriam V’Aharon b’Moshe… Vayomru…” Why, then, is it referred to as the parsha of Miriam?

Rashi (ibid) states that Miriam’s name is quoted in the posuk prior to that of Aharon because she was the one who initiated the conversation.

Perhaps, since the root of lashon hara is that it seeks to minimize the accomplishments and positive attributes of another person, the one who began the conversation is singled out as the key perpetrator, since he is the one who opened the door to a negative portrayal of the person.

Therefore, it is referred to as the parsha of Miriam and the Torah relates that Miriam was punished and does not discuss whether Aharon, too, was held accountable. Aharon and Miriam were tzaddikim on a high level of avodah and it is not for us to criticize them or their speech or actions. The Torah relates what took place only in order for us to learn from the episode to avoid the temptations to diminish anything.

The downfall of the meraglim, who were handpicked by Moshe for this shlichus, was their failure to learn this lesson not to belittle and badmouth. They badmouthed the Land of Israel which Hashem had praised. They said it was an “Eretz ocheles yoshvehu,” it eats its citizens. Then they said that the people who live there are very strong and would cause problems for the Jews upon their entry into the land. They said the fruits there were too large for people to carry home and eat.

They minimized the greatness of the Land and the promises of Hashem. They drove a wedge between Moshe and Am Yisroel. They caused the nation to have doubts about the greatness of G-d and whether He could bring the Chosen People to the land of milk and honey He had promised them since the days of the Avos.

For all eternity these individuals will be referred to as reshoim.

Such acts are similar to the acts of Amaleik, a nation held up as a paradigm of evil because, as the posuk relates, “Asher korcha baderech,” they caused the Jews to lose their enthusiasm on the way to Eretz Yisroel. After Matan Torah, when all the nations of the world saw the splendor of Hashem and feared Him, Amaleik attacked us. Amaleik tried to dissipate the fear of Hashem that had begun to spread across the world. They tried to show that G-d could not really protect the Jewish people.

Their crime emanated from the same shoresh as the crime of lashon hara and thus they both cause churban.

To reinforce the concept that lashon hara and Amaleik are rooted in the same shoresh of evil, perhaps we can cite the Gemara in Maseches Megillah, 13b, which quotes Rava as saying that there was no one who knew [how to speak] lashon hara as Haman did. This arch villain minimized to Achashveirosh every positive attribute the Jews possessed. As is well known, Haman was a progeny of Amaleik and he was well-versed in that evil nation’s ways.

Haman said that the Jewish people are “mefuzar umeforad bein ha’amim.” He sought to bring out that the Jews lacked unity.

Another indication of this idea is evident in the peirush of Rabbeinu Bachayei on Chumash. In Parshas Shemos (2:14) the Torah relates the first episode involving Moshe and Doson V’Avirom. Moshe saw the two of them fighting and said to them “Rasha lomo sakeh rayeicha.” To which they responded, “Who made you for an ish, minister and ruler above us? Will you kill me the way you killed the Mitzri?”

Moshe Rabbeinu responded by saying, “Now the matter is known.” Rashi brings the Medrash which explains the statement to mean, that now Moshe understood why the Jews deserved to be enslaved. Rabbeinu Bachayei, quoting the Medrash takes it a step further and says that the reason they were in Mitzrayim and not yet redeemed was because they had amongst them baalei lashon hara.

But they had not told lashon hara, they did share with anyone the information they had that Moshe killed the Mitzri, they let Moshe know that they had witnessed what he did, why is that referred to as lashon hara?

It may be that Moshe Rabbeinu’s comment was going on their statement questioning Moshe’s standing, “Mi somcha l’ish…” It was their attempt to minimize him and his greatness, to which Moshe was referring when he said that the reason they were still in Mitzrayim was because of lashon hara. Bitul is a cause of golus and impedes geulah.

Lashon hara is compatible with destruction, for that is ultimately what it leads to - churban. Constant bitul leads to churban. As long as we are divided among ourselves and cynical of each other’s motives, we cannot live in peace with one another or with anyone else. We are mefuzar umeforad bein ha’amim as long as there is peirud between us, and there is nothing that causes peirud as does lashon hara.

At times, relationships dissolve because people falsely accuse each other or impugn one another’s motives. The Yeitzer Hara always seeks to drive a wedge between people and break up friendships, as Chazal state, “Letaavah yevakeish nifrod.”

Different guises are employed, always with the same end goal. At times, we are at the receiving end of someone’s pure act of chesed, and the response should be one of immense gratitude, but too often it is not. Too often, the Yeitzer Hara lulls us into a negative mode of thought in which it is easier to be critical instead of grateful.

To effect peirud and assuage our feelings of guilt and inadequacy, he causes us to cast doubt on others’ accomplishments and good deeds on our behalf. Instead of returning the favor, we begin to develop a dislike for them.

When we see people take public stands on issues facing our people, and when we see people rise to assist the downtrodden, the abused, the poor, and tzaddikim or talmidei chachomim in need of assistance, some of us are quick to attach impure motives to their acts of tzedakah and chesed. We do that to calm our pangs of guilt; we sit by and do next to nothing. We do that because Amalek has not yet been totally destroyed and some of his poison is still around, infecting us.

The cheit of the meraglim’s lashon hara caused the Jews to wander in the desert for forty years; our chatoim of lashon hara have caused us to wander even longer. Let us all be more careful about how we speak. Let us seek to look at our friends and people we come in contact with b’ayin tovah. Let us try to attach laudatory motives to people who rise to aid the community.

Let us eradicate any remnant of Amaleik from among us so that we can merit the rebuilding of the Bais Hamikdosh and the geulah shelaimah bimeheira. Amen.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

Look around you at the people who have used their lives to make an enduring difference. Examine some of the people who have really made the world a better place and see what is different about them. Taking a careful look, you will often discover an ordinary person, with one difference: he stuck his neck out and worked to right wrongs. He saw a vacuum and sought to fill it.

With dogged determination and persistence, he fought off the urge to pull back and give up. He ignored the nagging voices that said it couldn’t be done and dug deep into the recesses of his soul to find the strength and succor to accomplish his mission.

People like this refuse to be discouraged by those who advise them that their goals are impossible to attain.

We often hear such an individual being praised for “accomplishing the impossible,” almost as if he pulled off something supernatural, against the natural order. The truth is that the person may have indeed gone far beyond the norm in dedication, sacrifice and commitment.

But that is not what brought him success. He tasted success only because the Divine hand enabled him to do so, or else it truly would have been impossible to achieve what he did.

Anyone who walks this earth with his eyes open is aware of the Yad Hashem that touches us every moment of our lives. We see siyata diShmaya constantly. We work hard to accomplish our goal and then Hashem takes over.

Every person was created to carry out a shlichus, mission, in life. Those who succeed are the ones who don’t let anything deter them for long. With faith in the One Above, they ignore the difficulties that would throw off lesser men. They continue their hishtadlus with the knowledge that Hashem will assist them and take over for them at the proper time.

This week’s parsha of Beha’aloscha offers a paradigm of how man’s wholehearted efforts to be makadesh shem Shomayim elicit Divine favor. The parsha discusses the mitzvah of lighting the menorah. The first Rashi on the parsha explains why this mitzvah follows the recitation of the korbanos the nesiim of the shevotim brought to inaugurate the Mishkon in parshas Naso.

Aharon Hakohein was upset that he had no part in the chanukas hamishkon. Hakadosh Brouch Hu told him, “Shelcha gedolah m’shelohem,” your share is greater that that of the Nesi’im, “she’atah madlik u’meitv es haneiros,” because you set up and light the wicks of the menorah.

The second Rashi explains that the word beha’aloscha indicates that the kohein kindles the wick until the fire rises by itself, “ad shet’hay shalheves olah m’eilehu.”

The kohein is commanded to clean out the vessel and light the menorah, but he is told that in the end it will light by itself. It is his duty to be meitiv, which also can be translated to mean doing good with others; indeed, Aharon Hakohein was an oheiv shalom verodeif shalom. A kohein who is meitiv, who is prepared to reach in and do the dirty work, will merit that G-d will help him and the light will be lit by itself, if he just carries out the initial steps of lighting it.

The kohein is told that if he does the initial hishtadlus and has the requisite belief and commitment to actualize his shlichus, he is promised that the task will be completed by Hashem.

Shelecha gedolah m’shelohem. Thus, the act of kindling the Menorah is greater than the korbanos the Nesi’im brought for the chanukas hamishkon. The avodas hahakrovah was not done by them, and in fact, with the exception of Nachshon ben Aminodov, they didn’t pay for their korbanos, but rather the money was raised by each individual sheivet for the korban their nosi brought.

Such a donation to the Mishkon does not have the same everlasting impact as the hadlokah and hatovah performed by the kohein himself, as he was waiting for the shalheves to be oleh m’eilehu.

In last week’s parsha [7:9], we learned that the Bnei Kehos weren’t given wagons to assist them in carrying the keilim of the Mishkon throughout the Midbar as were the Bnei Gershon and Merori. The posuk states regarding the Bnei Kehos, “Avodas hakodesh aleihem bakoseif yiso’uh.” Since they were given the job of carrying the aron, mizbe’ach, shulchan and menorah, they had to carry them on their shoulders, as the sanctity of these objects did not permit them to be placed in wagons for transport.

Chazal say that “Aron nosei es nosav,” the aron carried those who carried it. Thus, even though the Bnei Kehos place the aron on their shoulders to transport it, carrying it did not require more than the initial effort of lifting. Following that initial exertion, they were in fact assisted by Hashem; the heavy keilim they shouldered actually carried them.

Those who endeavor to accomplish and spread holiness in this world and are prepared to do the heavy lifting are granted heavenly assistance to complete the task.

The fact is that although our efforts contribute very little to the actual results, there is a factor we do control. Our mesiras nefesh plays a major role in evoking siyata diShmaya.

A modern-day analogy crystallizes this message.

There was once a king who erected an edifice one hundred stories high. To mark the completion of the building, the king announced that it would give him great satisfaction if his subjects would honor him by walking up the steps of the building from the bottom to the top, or as high as they can physically go.

The big day arrived and it turned out to be a scorcher. The temperature in the stairwell topped 90 degrees and very few people managed to walk more than a couple of floors. After all, they reasoned, there is no way we are going to make it to the top so why exert ourselves just to reach the fourth or fifth floor?

One devoted subject of the king persevered. He felt that if his stair-climbing would be meaningful to the king, then he would climb stairs until his legs gave way. He barely made it to the eighth floor. On hands and knees he crawled to the ninth. Using a reserve of energy he didn’t know he possessed, he pulled himself up step-by-step till he reached the tenth floor.

And it was there that he discovered the end of the stairwell by a doorway marked “Express Elevator to 100th Floor”.

When we serve the King of all kings with mesiras nefesh, He knows how to get us to the top floor without requiring us to walk even a single step more than we are able.

This point is highlighted in the historic saga surrounding the flight of the Mirrer Yeshiva from the Polish town of Mir, hours before it was occupied by the Germans in 1939. Every talmid was focused on packing his few meager belongings and catching the train to Vilna, newly incorporated as part of Lithuania, then under the Soviets. All except one.

One talmid could not bear the thought of leaving behind the vast treasure house of seforim that comprised the famed “AZAT”, the ‘Ezras Torah’ Library of the Mirrer Yeshiva. This bochur devised a plan. He circulated among the other talmidim and asked each bochur to take along at least one or two volumes. Thus, many rare editions of the seforim so integral to the learning of a Yeshiva Gedola were saved.

The talmidim did not know what lay before them. They did not know if they would escape the long arm of the Nazi death machine. But for as long as they would survive, the “AZAT” of the Mirrer Yeshiva would survive, too.

One might question the practicality of this effort. Here was a Yeshiva headed for Vilna, the Torah capitol where they had plenty of seforim. What possible tachlis was there to burden poor refugees with additional baggage?

The historic salvation of the Mirrer Yeshiva, whose talmidim went on to play key roles in the Torah renaissance after the war, is well known. The Yeshiva escaped from Lithuania and crossed Russia via the trans-Siberian railroad. From Vladivostok they sailed to Kobe, Japan and eventually found refuge in Shanghai, China.

Needless to say, there were no seforim waiting for the Yeshiva in Shanghai. And in wartime China, the Jewish refugees could not even dream of printing seforim. At that time, printing in Europe still meant setting type by hand. Even if they could find a printer who could set type in Hebrew, the cost of publishing sifrei kodesh would be astronomical.

Those single volumes saved from the Mirrer library were thus the only seforim available. Thanks to the mesiras nefesh of one talmid, helped by many friends, there would be at least one copy of each of the major seforim the Yeshiva would require.

A nice story, but one that left hundreds of talmidei chachomim with the prospect of gathering around a single Gemara, of having to wait in line for hours to study a single line of Rambam.

And then came the siyata diShmaya.

In the lawless international port of Shanghai, illegal trade thrived. One innovation, which allowed pirate publishing houses to sell copies of popular books without having to buy them from the rightful owners, was the invention of offset printing. Armed with nothing more than a single existing copy, these printers could produce duplicates at a fraction of the cost of conventional printing.

The Mirrer Yeshiva soon was supplied with enough seforim for hundreds of talmidim. For the five years of their exile in China, the Mirrer Yeshiva was not hampered in their Torah growth due to lack of seforim.

This remarkable episode offers a glimpse of how extraordinary mesiras nefesh triggers rachamei Shomayim, which in turn triggers undreamed-of yeshuos.

My dear friend, Rav Yosef Karmel, recently told me of a story which took place in the Israeli city of Modi’in, not far from the Torah city of Kiryat Sefer. It is a place where the forces of evil are especially hard at work and siyata diShmaya is especially needed.

In this town, where Tommy Lapid of Shinui and other secular activists long held sway, the founding of a Torah school, “Lma’an Achai”, was met with tremendous opposition. With no help forthcoming from the municipality, the school suffered. Finally, the decision was made to relocate the school to Kiryat Sefer for the rest of the year. This required a bit of traveling for the children and not surprisingly, one of the parents, a Mrs. Talkir, decided to pull her daughter out and enroll her in one of the local public schools.

The Lev L’Achim enrollment officer in charge of Lma’an Achai is Mrs. Tamar Zilberstein. She arrived at the Talkir home the evening before the switch was to be made and spent three hours cajoling and pleading with the girl’s mother, to no avail. Brokenhearted, Mrs. Zilber-stein returned home, arriving just in time to answer the ringing phone. It was her son calling from Bnai Brak where he learns in a prominent yeshiva. Mrs. Zilberstein confided in her son and poured her heart out concerning the impending enrollment of the young girl in Modi’in to a secular school.

Her son wasted no time. He immediately posted a sign on the yeshiva bulletin board asking for volunteers who would be willing to take upon themselves the study of additional pages of Gemara, as a zechus for the girl in Modi’in. Amazingly, by the next day, more than 1,000 blatt of Gemara were pledged.

In the meantime, Mrs. Talkir had appeared at the local Reform school in order to enroll her daughter. The leaders of this school had thwarted Lma’an Achai every step of the way. The secretary at the front desk informed Mrs. Talkir that they would be happy to have her daughter as a student. While she prepared the paperwork, the secretary inquired as to where the girl had been enrolled till now.

Upon hearing that she was a student at Lma’an Achai, she unexpectedly blurted out, “How could you take your daughter out of such a great school to enroll her here?” Mrs. Talkir was taken aback but quickly thanked the secretary for her candor and made her way to a local public school.

As she began her interview with the principal, the question regarding her daughter’s former school arose once again. “What!” exclaimed the principal, “You are taking your daughter out of Lma’an Achai? That is such a great school!” Mrs. Talkir had heard enough. She gathered herself together and bade goodbye to the principal. Moments later, she was on the phone with Mrs. Zilberstein, arranging transportation for her daughter to the new location of Lma’an Achai in Kiryat Sefer.

People who represent the enemies of Torah found themselves uttering words they never imagined they could say. It is obvious that a greater power was at work behind the scenes. People connected with this story feel that they were privileged to witness firsthand the power of mesiras nefesh; the koach of 1,000 blatt of Gemara. To behold such siyata diShmaya is to feel the Yad Hashem in our lives.

May we all be zoche to apply this valuable lesson to our own lives and merit boundless siyata diShmaya.

The only limits to what we can accomplish are those which we set by ourselves. If we let the forces of negativity and cynicism get to us, we will achieve as little as those who cultivate the negative forces. If we ignore the chorus of naysayers, there is no limit to what we can achieve to benefit our generation and generations to come.

Let us set out to be madlik and meitiv to the best of our abilities and then watch as the shalheves is olah m’eilehu. Our children and neighbors will bless us and our cheilek will be with Aharon Hakohein.