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.


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