Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Pinchos Is Eliyohu

By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

At the conclusion of Parshas Balak, we learn that following the episode with Balak and Bilaam, the Bnei Yisroel began to sin with the daughters of Moav. A nesi bais av committed his sinful act with a daughter of the leader of Midyan before Moshe and all of the Bnei Yisroel.

The entire nation stood around weeping, at a complete loss. Hashem was about to send a plague as punishment for the crime when Pinchos arose from the crowd.

He was the sole individual who was not confounded by the unprecedented outrage - the only one who remembered the halacha and knew what had to be done. Even as cynics mocked him and he himself was unsure of the outcome his act would produce, Pinchos ignored the scoffers and sprang forward, plunging a spear into the bodies of Zimri and his partner.

He thus stopped the already devastating plague and brought a swift end to yet another inglorious chapter in our people’s history.

Parshas Pinchos opens with Hashem telling Moshe Rabbeinu, “Pinchos the son of Elozor the son of Aharon the Kohein turned back G-d’s wrath from the Bnei Yisroel with his act of kana’us, and He did not destroy the Bnei Yisroel in His anger. Therefore, say [the following]: Hashem is bestowing upon Pinchos his covenant of peace. He and his children who follow him shall be privileged with the covenant of kehunah forever.”

By following the dictates he had been taught by Moshe Rabbeinu and intervening in a machlokes, Pinchos merited the blessing of eternal peace. The man of peace is not necessarily the one who sits back passively and does nothing. The one who sits on the sidelines weeping as evil rears its ugly head and seems to triumph is not promoting peace; he is encouraging evil.

Pinchos is deemed worthy to bear the torch of kehunah and carry on the tradition of Aharon Hakohein, to be an oheiv shalom verodef shalom, because he put his own ambitions aside and rose to the challenge. Pinchos was given the eternal blessing of peace because he made peace possible in Yisroel by exterminating evil.

Pinchos halted the plague which had already killed 24,000 Jews because he had the moral courage and clarity to act when others were confounded and immobilized.

He didn’t let popular opinion deter him from slaying those who brazenly defied the Torah’s authority. He knew that an oheiv shalom verodef shalom sometimes has to act courageously, even if his actions invite misunderstanding and recrimination.

Pinchos knew that the cause of peace is advanced through fidelity to halacha. Shalom is achieved by pursuing shleimus, even if that involves sacrificing sacred cows and jeopardizing a career.

Shalom is rooted in shleimus; when everything is proper, when everything is complete and whole, then it is possible to also have shalom. If you are lacking in shleimus, if the state is not absolutely intact, then you cannot have shalom. Torah is the absolute truth. With it the world was created, and it serves as the ultimate yardstick in defining our behavior. If we stay true to it, then we will consequently be blessed with peace.

Pinchos passed this test and he was therefore singled out as being worthy of following in the footsteps of Aharon Hakohein, who exemplified the pursuit of shalom through the service of G-d.

With all of the countless misfortunes besieging our people as yechidim and as a klal, it seems at times as if we are living through a period of mageifah.

Perhaps what we need are more people like Pinchos in order to stop the plague in its tracks. We need people whose loyalty to Torah compels them to arise from the mourners who sit weeping and demonstrate by action what needs to be done.

There are no prophets among us and no one can say why specific tragedies befall us. But we are all aware of evils being perpetrated which nobody fights. We all know that most things are not b’shleimus in our world. We are all aware of people who suffer and urgently need someone to rush to their aid. Apathy and often fear prevent us from carrying out these missions of mercy and justice.

Despotic rulers count on the passivity and fear of the masses. Despots are experts in playing the game of brinkmanship and taking advantage of people’s reluctance to rise up against injustice, even in self-defense.

In our daily lives, we also confront people who abuse their position or our own good natures, to serve their own selfish, destructive ends. We must have the fortitude to stand up to them in the tradition of Pinchos. We must speak up when confronted with injustice.

We have to seek to achieve perfection in our personal lives and slay the demons which lurk inside our camp and in each one of us.

An eis tzorah is a clarion call to us to do teshuva and help return the world to a condition of shleimus. Tragedy calls out to people of inner greatness to conquer the urge to remain passive. Instead, they take action, to return our world and our people to shleimus through Torah. The only way to merit peace and tranquility is by following the path of shalom and shleimus as defined in the Torah.

Pinchos lives on as Eliyohu Mevaser Tov, who will announce to us the arrival of Moshiach when enough of us follow in his path. That path was forged for him by his rebbi, Moshe Rabbeinu. In every generation, there are individuals who carry a nitzutz, a spark, of the neshama of Moshe Rabbeinu, who continue to light up that path. Let us seek them out, learn Torah at their feet, so that we may all merit to hear the call that the geulah sheleimah has arrived.

Every act we take to bring perfection to the world will bring us that much closer to the day when Eliyohu will announce that the golus has finally ended. May it come to pass speedily in our days.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Bad News Parade

By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

A parade of bad news has been emanating from the Mideast over the past week, and no one knows what to do about it.

Hamas has taken over Gaza, yet the peace charade continues. The bankruptcy of the Kadima party’s platform has been exposed for all to see. Yet, this week, Olmert still pressed on with a discredited “peace” agenda, as he met with President Bush and discussed how to cede the West Bank to Abbas and his people.

How difficult it is for people to admit when they are wrong.

Five years ago, President Bush laid out his plan for peace in Israel. The first US president to call for a Palestinian state alongside Israel, he called on “the Palestinian people to elect new leaders, leaders not compromised by terror. I call upon them to build a practicing democracy, based on tolerance and liberty,” he said. Of course, he added that the “Palestinian state will never be created by terror - it will be built through reform. And reform must be more than cosmetic change, or veiled attempts to preserve the status quo.”

Such lofty visions. Where did they lead?

Ariel Sharon spit in the face of everything his party stood for and pulled Israel out of Gaza, saying that it would bring the hoped-for peace with the Palestinian people. You didn’t need a crystal ball to predict what would really happen, but the people of Israel blindly supported Sharon in his venture. He formed a new party, Kadima, surrounding himself with people of Likud and Labor who supported his plan.

Sharon himself was plucked from the scene immediately following this disastrous move. His legacy was carried forward, however, by the inexperienced Ehud Olmert, a man blinded by his own ambitions and hubris.

Just as Ehud Barak’s unilateral retreat from Lebanon provided radical Arabs a base from which to attack Israel, so too, Sharon’s and Olmert’s withdrawal presented terrorists bent on Israel’s destruction a new platform from which to launch a jihad against Israel.

It’s not as if it was impossible to see this coming. Abbas is himself a farcical character. He is a useful idiot, used to foment the lie that there is a Palestinian peace partner. A lackey of Arafat, he did nothing to move his people towards peace and moderation. PA textbooks are still full of incitement to hatred. His government was corrupt and inept. All his negotiations with Israel were a charade.

As per the instruction of Bush and Secretary of State Rice, democratic elections were held in “Palestine” and Hamas was permitted to run, though it had not forsworn violence and refused to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist. Israel didn’t think Hamas would win anyway - another intelligence failure - and Rice posited that even if they did win, governing would force them to act responsibly and come around to the American position.

Needless to say, they were all wrong.

Needless to say, they won’t admit it.

Keeping The Farce Going

If they were honest leaders, with the best interests of their people at heart, Olmert, Bush and Rice would stand up and proclaim that their plan has been a failure, instead of trying to prop up what is so obviously a farce.

Olmert, who has the support of about 3% of Israelis, give or take a few percent, would proclaim the need to hold new elections, typical of how things work in that country. He would say, “Listen guys, I was swept into power to unilaterally disengage from the Arabs, but it isn’t working; it’s time to try something else,” and see what ideas people come up with.

The Americans, along with the freedom-loving countries of the West, would call on Israel to enter Gaza and wipe out Hamas before they establish another Iranian-Syrian terror beachhead from which to launch attacks on Israel and the West.

Bush would give one of his axis-of-evil speeches and add Gaza to his list of places that have to be purged of terrorism. As he said about Iran, Iraq and North Korea, “Either you’re with us, or against us, and they are against us.”

Rice would get up and say that her roadmap is full of potholes and wrong turns and it is time to redraw the map to reflect the facts on the ground.

What are the odds that any of this will happen?

Last summer, as it appeared that Israel was winning in Lebanon in its war against Hezbollah, Iran and Syria, Condoleezza Rice proclaimed that the booms were “the birth pangs of a new Middle East.” How misguided she was. Since then, Israel was vanquished from Lebanon, Iran continues to progress towards becoming a nuclear power, Syria is getting stronger, and Hamas has thousands of rockets, guns and men poised on Israel’s southwestern border.

The Real Bully On The Block

The President’s war in Iraq is surging towards defeat, because he hasn’t taken on Iran and Syria, and for all his tough talk, he knows it.

His state undersecretary, Nicolas Burns, said last week that Iran is arming the insurgents who are killing so many American soldiers in Iraq: the Taliban in Afghanistan, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. No surprise there; everyone knows that to be true. What’s surprising, what is simply astounding, is that no one is doing anything about it.

Bush’s justification for going to war against Saddam was that the Iraqi ruler provided a base for terrorists to export terrorism around the world and thus had to be taken out. But why doesn’t this rational, clear-eyed assessment apply to Iran and Syria? Instead of addressing the crisis brewing there, the administration buries its head in the sand and attempts to engage in diplomacy. So America has joined with Europe in talking to Ahmadinejad, as he continues to pile up nuclear centrifuges.

We’ve got to admit that the president is preoccupied these days with other pressing matters. He is promoting a bill which is opposed by 85% of the members of his party and 69% of Americans.

So now, instead of facing the reality of what ceding land to Arabs leads to, Bush and the European Union are going to replenish Abbas’ weapons [which ended up in Hamas hands], flood him with money and pressure Israel to make more concessions to Abbas so that he can show his people that it pays to be friends with the Americans. He will then enter into a peace deal with Israel.

No one asks the obvious question of why Israel should make peace with a nation half of whose people are sworn to its destruction and who reject any and all peace deals signed by so-called leaders who don’t represent them?

So where does all of this lead?

As we enter into the month of Tammuz and the period of the year destined for bad things to occur, we have to take a deeper look into what is going on around us.

The world that defeated first fascism then communism is now threatened by Islamic totalitarianism. This has a special message for us as Jews.

To the extent that we recognize that all that transpires is by Divine decree and plan, Hashem watches over and protects us. The sefer Chovos Halevavos writes at the beginning of Shaar Habitachon that Hashem removes his protection from one who puts his faith in others and only protects those who place their faith in Him.

A Time To Cry Out

In Shaar Cheshbon Hanefesh, he writes that one who puts his faith in Hashem is rewarded. Hashem “opens his gates of understanding, reveals to him secrets of His chochmah, places an eye on him to guide him and will not abandon him only to his own powers and abilities.”

The Rambam [Hilchos Taanis] writes that it is a mitzvas asei to cry out and blow shofros for every tzorah which befalls the Jewish community. This is one of the paths to teshuva. When a tragedy befalls the community, every one must acknowledge that it is due to their sins. But if instead of crying out, they ascribe the threat facing the community to “the way the world works,” such an attitude is an outgrowth of the midah of achzorius and ends up deepening and multiplying the tragedy.

The entire purpose of tragedy is to inspire us to do teshuva.

The Ramban at the end of parshas Bo writes that the purpose of creation was for man to acknowledge that Hashem created the world and to serve Him wholeheartedly. This is also the purpose of raising our voice in prayer and the purpose of Batei Kenisiyos and the reason for the zechus of tefilah b’tzibur; to enable people to publicly gather and acknowledge their Creator.

We must realize, says the Ramban, that the foundation of the Torah is that everything that happens in this world is a miracle, brought about by Hashem. Nothing happens at random. Nothing can be attributed to the forces of nature or “the way the world works.”

Someone who doesn’t believe that has no share in Toras Moshe, the Ramban affirms. People who observe the mitzvos will succeed, and those who don’t will be punished with destruction.

He also teaches that the hidden miracles that occur daily are more evident when you examine the actions that affect the entire community. As the posuk says (Devorim, 29:23-24), “And the nations of the world will say, why did Hashem do this to the Holy Land? And they will answer, because the Jews let go of the covenant that was made with Hashem, the G-d of their forefathers.”

Says the Ramban, this is foretelling that the destruction of Eretz Yisroel will be understood by the nations as a punishment for the Jews forsaking the Torah.

Unprecedented Grief

Rav Chaim Vital in his peirush on sefer Tehillim writes that the final golus will be golus Yishmael. The exile that will take place under the Yishmaelim will be worse than any previous golus. The Yishmaelim will go from being tent-dwelling desert nomads to ruling over the entire world and Israel, and they will cause us unprecedented grief. They will seek to wipe us off the face of the earth, and without Divine intervention, they would be able to implement their murderous designs.

At that time, we will cry out to Hashem and he will hear our cries and prayers. Hence the name Yishmael, composed of the two words, Yishma and Keil - Hashem will hear, according to the Pirkei D’Rabi Eliezer (32).

What is happening now with the offspring of Yishmael is pre-ordained. In order for us to prevail over Yishmael, we must raise our voices in prayer. His name does not hint that if we are strong and battle him with chivalry, we will defeat him. His name does not hint that if we engage him in diplomacy, we will outwit him. His name proclaims that the only way to defeat him is through tefillah.

We can sit and pontificate all day about what Bush did wrong and how Olmert missed the boat, and it won’t make any difference. Everything that happens is from Hashem, and especially when dealing with Eretz Yisroel, about which the posuk (Devorim 11:12) states, “Eretz asher Hashem Elokecha doreish osah tomid einei Hashem Elokecha boh m’reishis hashanah v’ad acharis shanah.”

The Gemorah in Avodah Zorah (2b) states that at the end of time, when Moshiach comes, the nations of the world will stand up and protest the punishment they are about to receive for their treatment of the Jews. They will all proclaim that everything they did was only to benefit the Jews and their service of G-d and Torah.

Persia’s Pivotal Role

The Gemorah says that Poras - Persia - will cry out that everything they did was to help the Jews. We built many bridges, conquered many towns and waged war, they will say, to enable the Jews to learn Torah.

We understand the grounds for claiming they built bridges etc. to enable the study of Torah, but how does waging war help the Jews learn Torah? Perhaps it can be understood to mean that they waged war in order to scare the Jews into doing teshuva and returning to Torah study.

Poras, Persia, is the present day state of Iran. When the ruler of that country rises up and repeatedly proclaims publicly to the entire world that he intends to wipe Israel off the face of the earth, who in their right mind would doubt that he means to do just that? When he continues his maniacally feverish race to arm himself with nuclear weapons to carry out his bloody intentions, should we sit by and wait to be attacked?

We must raise our voices in passionate prayer that Hashem spare us from his evil intents.

We should use every opportunity to study more Torah and create more zechuyos for our people.

When we read what is transpiring in Eretz Yisroel, we must think of the pesukim that describe what will happen if the people of the land engage in immoral Sodomite and Canaanite behavior as the posuk clearly states [Vayikro: 20, 22], “Velo suki es’chem ha’aretz…”

Engaging in deviant activity and flaunting it in public can, G-d-forbid, trigger suffering and pain for our people.

Last year, those who flaunted their wickedness were also planning a march in Yerushalayim, but Hezbollah’s bombs, which began raining down on Israel mere days before Shiva Asar B’Tammuz, changed that.

Let us rededicate ourselves to Torah, arm ourselves with the weapons of the spirit bequeathed to us by of B’nei Avrohom, Yitzchok v’Yaakov, and pray that Tammuz this year will be turned into a month of celebration, with the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu. Amein

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Blinding Ego

By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

One of the most difficult aspects to understand in Parshas Korach is how Korach and his followers could have so deluded themselves to believe that they could overthrow Moshe Rabbeinu and Aharon Hakohein.

All of Bnei Yisroel 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 succession of supernatural events as they traveled under the leadership of Moshe Rabbeinu. 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, followed by the makkos which wreaked destruction on their enemies.

In the desert, they were sustained by a daily delivery of monn 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 from between the keruvim.

The members of Bnei Yisroel were thoroughly familiar with the two Divinely appointed brothers for so many years by now. 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 Moshe and Aharon?

Rashi on the first posuk of Parshas Shelach explains that 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.

You would imagine that if the meraglim are labeled resho’im 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 slanders and rebels 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 so brainlessly?

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 this person and no amount of explaining will help.

You wonder, what could he be thinking to engage in such reckless, irrational behavior?

The answer is likely that the person’s ego prevailed and his thinking process was taken over. 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 Levi cousins that his brain ceased to work the way it usually did.

His lust for the limelight so overwhelmed him that he became blinded by its glare and was unable to recognize that he was digging his own grave. He was able to win over followers because they were sucked in by the herd mentality and didn’t think either. Had they thought about what they were doing, they would have reached the same conclusion as the wife of On Ben Peles. She analyzed the matter objectively and came to the immediate realization that her husband did not stand to gain the slightest advantage from Korach’s rebellion. He would be the same On Ben Peles no matter who won. She spurred him to this insight; thus he didn’t join the machlokes and was saved.

It is such a simple deduction. The thing that is actually amazing is that she was the only one of the bunch who understood it. They were all so caught up in the moment that they stopped thinking and became intoxicated by Korach’s oratory. They failed to grasp that it really would make no difference to them who won the machlokes, but Korach made them feel good as he played to their egos. They enjoyed as he poked fun at the people in power. It justified their existence to berate the people who actually made a positive difference in the lives of the members of Klal Yisroel.

Rabble rousers like Korach gain a following because people are vulnerable to manipulation, especially when the manipulator makes them feel important and smart. Korach’s followers stood around smiling 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. A person might have spent his entire life in selfless public service and then along comes a cynic and humiliates him publicly. The person is caught off guard and can’t respond. He stands there with his mouth agape as the vacuous buffoons applaud their leader.

And you wonder why they are so negative. Don’t they realize all the good this well-meaning person has done all the years? Why knock him down? What’s in it for them? Demeaning others becomes a form of recreation for them. Ignorant and unable to perform positively themselves, the only way they can enhance their own self-value is by treating with derision everyone who is more intelligent or talented than they are. The leaders are quite often motivated by simple jealousy.

It’s easy to spot the tendency in others, 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 may make terrible mistakes by suspending our better judgment or not thinking at all, and just reacting. Then we compound the error by justifying ourselves. The human capacity for self-justification is boundless.

Too often, we are like Korach, getting caught up in a machlokes where we don’t belong. Our egos push us there and then, as we start failing, we begin rationalizing and suspend all rational thinking.

People let their appetites for glory and money cloud their minds. Emotion takes over reason and thinking shuts down.

Moshe was the most humble of men, seeking nothing for himself. Aharon was the ultimate man of peace. Yet the jealous leaders mocked them and turned their own people on them with simplistic attacks on the greatest of men to ever walk the planet.

Beware of the polished speaker who goes after the man whose actions speak louder than his words. Beware of joining the group which finds fault in everyone all the time. Look to follow people who are optimistic and seek to build you up, not tear you down. Real leaders optimize their followers. They seek to maximize their opportunities and potential so that they can lead productive and meaningful lives.

A proper leader provides goals for his people to reach. He motivates them to strive higher and higher. He encourages them to dream of attaining mighty feats. He encourages them to be courageous in following the truth and fighting for it. He sets out for them right and wrong in clear terms and teaches them how to tell them apart. He lifts people up and encourages his followers to do the same.

He spends his life helping people grow and accomplish through acting selflessly.

An imposter will rip people down constantly and encourage his people to be negative and cynical. He won’t provide them with legitimate goals and will rob them of any sense of accomplishment. A wanna-be will concentrate on destroying respect for authority so that he can rule over his minions.

Korach lies in the ground screaming, “Moshe emes v’Soraso emes,” but his spirit lives on in the hearts of malcontents who deride everything good. Beware. Stay away from them.

In this world, there are wicked people. They appeal to you to join their team and win you over with charisma and empty promises. You don’t realize it until later, but they really couldn’t care less about you, or anyone else. All they want is to advance their own personal career.

They look at everyone they encounter in this world as someone who can help them make more money and become more powerful. Once they have no use for them anymore, they spit them out and go on to the next guy.

We need to pity such people and make sure we don’t fall into their clutches. We have to remain faithful to our true leaders and teachers and be strong and not let ourselves be manipulated by their sweet talk and promises.

We have to hew to sifrei mussar so that we are driven by our seichel and not by our gaavah; so that Torah remains our guide in all we do and we don’t get swept up by the havlei hazeman. Torah is the tree of a productive, content, happy life. All else is but temporary glitter sure to tarnish. They sparkle and tempt us, but we must remember that in the end they will lead to destruction and churban.

Let us learn the lessons that Korach and his followers didn’t learn until it was too late.

Moshe emes v’Soraso emes.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007


By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

Several years ago, I wrote an article about a man I had met who had fallen on hard times. Thanks to our wonderful, generous readers, we raised some $40,000 for him and his family. He came to visit me last week, and he still needs our help.

Let me remind you about him and his story. He is a well-known Yerushalmi baal chessed, whose face is familiar since he has appeared in many news photos of bomb scenes. He is one of the first responders, rushing in to help deal with the wounds and pain of terror victims.

Flashed across the world, a picture of this man clutching a wounded baby in his arms epitomized the struggle between goodness and humanity and the forces of evil.

I was speaking with him about his experiences at bomb sites and how he deals with the mental anguish. It was a matter-of-fact conversation. There were bombs going off every other day at that time and we were talking about the inherent difficulties. He was saying how he had learned how to live with the horror he was confronted with at that time.

He spoke like a veteran. He’d been through so much and seen so much grief and tragedy that he had acquired a certain detached resignation.

In the course of our conversation, not aware of the emotions I was stirring up, I asked him what he does for a living. He shrugged me off and changed the subject. But I really was curious to know what this person did when he wasn’t occupied with his demanding chessed work. So I came back to it and asked him again. Had it not been so late at night, I might have picked up the cues and dropped the subject. But as it was, my senses were dulled, so I persisted. To my amazement, I saw tears well up in his eyes. I knew that meant trouble.

This tall, strong man, bedecked in a bekeshe and shtreimel, choked up, unable to control his emotions. He could talk about bombings without crying; he could recount unspeakable acts of terror without breaking down, but when pressed to discuss how he makes a living, he was unable to hold in his despair.

I took him to a side room, and said, “Okay, Reb Yid, tell me your story. Maybe I can help you.”

When you speak to people about the matzav of people from our community in Eretz Yisroel, right away they say, “Let them go work; let them get a job.” Try raising money for a kollel family that is struggling to make ends meet. Certain people will help you, while others will shrug you off and say, “Why can’t he just go work? Why do they need so many guys in kollel anyway?” And then they say, “Let them go find a job.”

Listen to this man’s story.

He married over 20 years ago and immediately went to work. As a Shomer Emunim chossid, a kollel lifestyle wasn’t part of his upbringing. For almost two decades, he held various well-paying jobs. He was a good provider, bringing home a decent salary, living in a modest apartment and making ends meet. One of his many acts of chessed is that he has an open home and provides Shabbos meals for yeshiva bochurim and those in need.

Then the intifada came along. The economy went into a tailspin. His hours got cut. And cut again. And again. And again. He switched jobs. The same thing happened. He switched again. The same thing happened. The economy was grinding to a halt and it was getting harder and harder to make ends meet. He got a job in a yeshiva and then the yeshiva ran out of money.

This conscientious father and husband, who worked hard at whatever decent jobs he could get so that he should not have to depend upon other people, was left unemployed.

He desperately wanted to find a job - any job, but there were none to be found. He had exhausted every possible avenue, to no avail.

That evening, years ago, he looked at me and I looked at him. What could I say? What words of comfort and hope could I offer?

I offered to take him home with me to Monsey. I said, “Stay over the night in my house, and tomorrow I’ll go around with you. I can’t guarantee how we’ll make out, but we’ll try. We’ll knock on the doors of generous, good-hearted people who have jobs and ask them to help you out.”

He wouldn’t hear of it. No way. Beshum oifen, lo, lo, lo. “I can’t do it. I can’t bring myself to shnorr. My whole adult life I worked. I was a melamed. I was a rebbi. I did other things. I can’t lower myself to go begging.”

I tried to persuade him to change his mind. I said, “We’ll do it in a dignified manner. I’ll make sure you won’t get any bizyonos.” No matter what I said, he wouldn’t hear of it.

I told him that I write for a newspaper and sometimes have siyata diShmaya. Sometimes Hashem helps me and my articles are well received. I offered to write something on his behalf, to appeal for some help in getting him back on his feet. “Nobody will know who it’s for,” I told him. “You won’t be humiliated. Maybe Hashem will help and people will send in nice contributions.”

“I simply can’t,” he said. “I never shnorred in my life and I’m not going to shnorr now. Beshum ponim v’oifen, lo.” My heart went out to him. A decent, honorable person like this, brought to such straits!

I made one last try. “You know what, my new friend? Take my number, go home and think about it. If you reconsider, give me a call.”

Months later, he called. My heart sank at his words. His matzav had become unbearable.

“Reb Pinchos, I can’t go on anymore. I have hungry children. They have no shoes. I’m going to have to take you up on your offer - if it’s still good.”

At that time, I wrote about him, and you responded overwhelmingly to his plea for help. The envelopes poured in day after day and people blessed in this country sent in contributions to help this man and his family.

Several years have passed since then. Our friend tried his hand at many things since then. He tried to open businesses and nothing worked. Several people came to his aid and offered to invest with him to open a restaurant. He spent a year working on the project, researching pots, pans, ovens, stoves, suppliers and doing everything else that goes into establishing a proper restaurant. Finally, with everything planned out, he selected a location, his investors approved it and he was all ready to finally put bread on the table once again like a proud mentch.

But then someone opened a restaurant right next door to where his research indicated was the best place to open. He was crestfallen, but with emunah and bitachon carried on his search. He was sort of relieved when three months later the other store closed, as a result of a combination of high rent, competition and not enough business to go around. It was back to the drawing board, albeit without much success.

He finally found a job. He works all day and makes $250 a week, $1000 a month. That is sort of average for Israeli employees. Now how can a family live on that? How can he be expected to make ends meet? There is no way. What is a person to do? How can he hope to ever crawl out of his debt? How can he hope to ever live like a decent person on $1000 a month? How can anyone expect a family to live on that? There is no way.

Last week, this proud man came to see me. He is back in America reduced to trying to get people to let him in the door so he can plead his case. He has everything documented; who he owes and how much. He has his finances all figured out, but he never managed to crawl out from the mountain of debt he accumulated during the years he was out of work, and he is once more desperately trying to get it all together so he can go on living.

We helped him once before; he asks that we help him again.

How can we ignore his pleas? Our hearts must go out to him.

In this country, when we speak of economic difficulty, we are not speaking of a dire situation where masses of people from our community are living in abject poverty with not a dime, or shekel, of income.

Yes, there are needy people everywhere and people lose their jobs here, too. People struggle. There are many people who can use a helping hand. But on this side of the Atlantic, quite often, neighbors pitch in; family helps. There is HUD, welfare, Medicaid, food stamps and WIC. People collect unemployment and look for a new job. There are grounds to be optimistic. There are opportunities out there. It is not for naught that America is referred to as a land of opportunity. In Eretz Yisroel today, there is a lack of opportunity and for many people nowhere to turn. There is no way out. There are no jobs. There are no well-to-do friends and neighbors to take a loan from. There comes a time when the local makolet refuses to sell anything more on credit.

There comes a time when even strong, capable and dignified people crack under the terrible pressure and come knocking at your door for a handout. We all want to do something to help. This is our chance.

You can help this special person and his family by writing a tax deductible check to Beis Yosef Meir and sending it to me at 53 Olympia Lane, Monsey, N.Y., 10952.

May we all be blessed that we never become so desperate.