Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Mea Culpa

By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

On Shavuos we read Megillas Rus. Many commentators speak of the connection of this megillah to the days that commemorate the receiving of the Torah. Based on an unfortunate experience this past week, I thought of a new explanation.

The megillah opens with the words, “Vayehi b’yimei shefot hashoftim - And it happened during the period that the shoftim ruled over the bnei Yisroel.” We are all familiar with the way the words of the posuk are juxtaposed to portray the period of time in which the story with Naomi and Rus took place. “It was in the days that people judged their judges.” It was a period of a certain sense of anarchy because people in those days were cynical about their leaders and mocked their decisions.

Chazal are teaching us that cynicism is not a middah consonant with kabbolas haTorah. Chazal are hinting that because the people didn’t respect the shoftim of the day, and because they mocked them and were negative and cynical, they suffered hunger and pestilence and had to move about in order to seek improvement in their income and status.

A message in Megillas Rus - and one of the reasons we read it on Shavuos - is to teach us that a prerequisite for becoming a ben Torah is to be non-judgmental about leaders. Ikrei emunah, as well, are not matters to mock through derisive sarcasm.

Our generation is blessed in many ways. The Olam HaTorah is growing by leaps and bounds. More people than ever have dedicated their lives to Torah study. Mitzvos which once required mesiras nefesh are now easily observable, and difficulties in matters of kashrus and shemiras Shabbos are things of the past.

But there are still aspects of our lives which can use some improvement. Foremost among them are the levels of cynicism and negativity which are too prevalent. The way we treat each other at times leaves much to be desired.

When we approach kabbolas haTorah and wonder what we can do to become true bnei Torah, it would seem that we should be working on our bein adam lachaveiro and the lens of leitzunus through which we view our world.

A negative aspect of cynicism and mockery was brought home when an advertisement unfortunately slipped through our system and appeared in the paper last week. Some things are just beyond the pale, and that ad was beyond the pale. Basic sacred concepts such as naaseh venishmah are not to be profaned with leitzunus. An ad which does that should not have been printed.

When Chazal teach that middos are a prerequisite to learning Torah, it is not just a nice drasha. Cynicism and mockery of Torah are not acceptable and should not be tolerated. An advertisement which utilizes such methods to sell a product has no place in our paper.

This paper began a lonely journey twenty-one years ago, and with many doses of mesiras nefesh, under the guidance of gedolim, set the standard which, for all practical purposes, changed what we bring into our homes. Publications which were considered to be the ‘norm’ are now non-entities. Ideas which crept into our machaneh are now kept out. And by and large, you can depend on the Yated to provide you with a magnificent variety of divrei Torah, musar and hashkafah thoughts, combined with a high level of news coverage on an intelligent level and free from the pollution which engulfs our world.

But we are not perfect. We are human. We all make mistakes. Regretfully, something was printed which shouldn’t have been. That doesn’t mean we have changed our standards and it doesn’t mean we are for sale. It means that though we are all working for the same cause, something slipped through. Regrettably, when involved in such a mammoth undertaking, there are oversights. Everyone makes mistakes, except those who do nothing.

As an am kadosh, we are commanded to behave differently than the ‘Yosef bashukah.’ As recipients and bearers of the Toras Emes and Toras Chesed, we have to cleave to the values that have helped us endure the dark exile surrounded by the ‘Yosefs bashukah.’

The words of Rav Yosef recounted in the Gemara Pesachim (68b), are often quoted to convey the extraordinary spiritual power of the day. On Shavuos, Rav Yosef would partake of a meal consisting of the finest meat. He explained that, “Ih lav hai yomah dekagarim kama Yosef ika b’shuka - If not for this day, there would be no difference between me and all the other Joes in the street.”

Rav Yosef was saying that the study of Torah is not just an intellectual pursuit. It transforms those who absorb its lessons and strive to make themselves into better and holier people.

The greatness of this day is that it celebrates this transformative force of the Torah on all aspects of our lives. If we remain with the same personality we possessed prior to our study, then we are just another Joe. If our limud haTorah falls short of changing us and does nothing for us, the day’s gifts have been wasted.

Torah is a Divine gift given to man, but it contains myriad obligations. The holiday and the accompanying joy are reserved for those who conduct themselves as Rav Yosef did, channeling their lives into a steady upward incline of elevated performance and accomplishments.

The posuk recounts that when Hashem appeared to the Bnei Yisroel and offered them the Torah, they responded in unison, “Naaseh venishmah - We will do and we will hear.” The Gemara in Shabbos (88a) cites Rav Simai’s teaching that when they answered thus, placing naaseh before nishmah, angels descended from Heaven and fastened two crowns on the head of each Jew, one for naaseh and one for nishmah. Rabi Elazar says that a bas kol rang out, stating, “Who taught my children this secret, which is used by the angels?”

Many commentators question what was so extraordinary about the words naaseh venishmah that the Jews were so richly praised for stating them. Many different answers are offered. Perhaps we can understand that the greatness of the response was that they understood that acting is of greater importance than listening. By placing naaseh ahead of nishmah, they demonstrated their understanding that Torah is not just an esoteric theoretical pursuit. They were stating that they understood that they had to make the performance of the Torah’s dictates their highest priority.

In addition, of course, they committed themselves to heeding the teachings of the Torah, poring over them and toiling to understand them. Torah study will be their most important pursuit in life; the nishmah will take precedence over all other occupations. But it will all be ancillary to the naaseh. The primary purpose of the Torah is for us to carry out its chukim and mishpatim. Other intellectual pursuits do not necessarily change the behavior of the person who engages in them. Their study does not improve a person’s character and make a better man. But the study of Torah must have a positive effect upon us.

When we proclaimed naaseh venishmah, we were saying that we were prepared to act like himmeldiker mentchen. We were prepared to act as people suffused with Torah and kedushah. We were prepared to obligate ourselves lilmod ulelameid lishmor vela’asos ulekayeim. We were prepared to be serious about Torah and our obligations.

Thus, the Jews were found deserving of receiving the Torah and declared to be on the level of angels who follow G-d’s word with steadfast devotion, without deviation or question.

At times, we lose sight of what our goals should be. We get so caught up with the difficulty inherent in the study and observance of Torah that we forget to apply its lessons to our daily lives and to become more cognizant of the others around us. We expect everyone to conform to our wishes, mimic our actions, and think exactly as we do. We become intolerant of other people’s feelings.

It is only when Hashem’s nation - the people who remain loyal to Him and his mitzvos - put their internecine squabbles and differences aside that we are worthy of being G-d’s nation. It is only when we stand together as one that we achieve our greatness and are able to overcome all who seek to drive us from the Tree of Life. It is only when we are mature enough and dedicated enough to own up to our mistakes and learn from them that we can attempt to achieve perfection.

If we recognize the greatness in each other, we can cross pollinate and enrich each other as Jews and as people. We grow, as we respect and learn from others.

Let’s treat all people the way we want to be treated, as Hillel the Elder told the man who asked him to teach him the whole Torah al regel achas. We are all familiar with Hillel’s response: “Mah de’aloch senei lechavroch lo sa’avid, v’iduch zil gemor - Don’t do to unto others what you don’t want done to you. As for the rest, go study.”

What was Hillel telling him? Is the Torah really only about ve’ohavta lereiachah kamocha?

Perhaps Hillel was teaching that the Torah is all about “talmud hameivi lidei maaseh,” Torah study which alters the way we behave, affecting positively the way we act. The basis of Torah is to know that its study has to affect our actions and the way we treat our fellow people. It is only after we accept this premise that we can set about learning. “Mah de’aloch senei lechavroch lo sa’avid, v’iduch zil gemor.”

This is what is meant by the Toras Kohanim at the beginning of Parshas Bechukosai. The posuk states, “Im bechukosai teileichu v’es mitzvosai tishmiru.” Hashem says that if we follow his chukim and mitzvos, all will be good. The Toras Kohanim, which is brought by Rashi, explains that the words v’es mitzvosai tishmiru mean that Hashem will bless us if we will toil in Torah in order to be able to follow its commandments. Ameilus baTorah is not sufficient if it is not animated by the intention to heed the Torah’s mandates.

During the Sefirah period, we have climbed the ladder of the 48 ways in which Torah is acquired. Most of the 48 requirements for having Torah listed in Pirkei Avos involve our actions bein adam lachaveiro.

Let us strive to seriously inculcate those attributes so that we can be zoche to kabbolas haTorah.

Chag Sameach. Ah gutten Yom Tov.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

An Orderly Count

By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

This week’s parsha of Bamidbar begins a new sefer in the Torah. The parsha discusses the commandment to count the Bnei Yisroel and the order of their encampments as they made their way to the Promised Land.

Chazal pre-ordained that parshas Bamidbar should always be read the Shabbos before Shavuos. Perhaps this is because of the unique lessons inherent in the mitzvah to count Bnei Yisroel that are particularly relevant as we prepare to culminate the Sefirah counting.

As Rashi writes on the first posuk, Hakadosh Boruch Hu counts the Jews because he loves and treasures them, much the way a person tends to count and constantly monitor his money and other valuable possessions.

The Gemara in Maseches Bava Metziah 21b, commenting on this universal tendency, writes that if you find money in the street, you can assume that the owner has already recognized his loss and given up hope of ever getting his money back. This is based on the principle that since a person values his money, he regularly taps his pocket to make sure he hasn’t lost his wallet. Rarely does it happen that an object as valuable as a wallet or checkbook goes missing without its owner instantly realizing it.

We don’t lose sight of things that are important to us.

While there are many millions of Jews, every person is special in his own right and this is why each and every individual is counted. No Jew should ever feel that there are enough Jews in the world without him and he is therefore superfluous. No one should ever feel as if he is a faceless statistic of no importance. No Jew should ever be made to feel as if the world would be better off without him.

Every person should be treated the way we would want others to treat us, because we are all created in the image of G-d and are all precious in the eyes of Hashem.

People tend to be quick to condemn without knowing all the facts and without taking other people’s feelings into account. One of the steps we must climb during this period of Sefirah is the one that demands that every person be treated with proper respect. This lesson is implicit in Hashem’s command to regularly count the Jewish people to make known their love and importance to their Creator.

Rabi Akiva had 24,000 students. The magnitude of their ranks might have been responsible for why these students didn’t feel an obligation to treat each talmid as indispensable. Since there were so many of them, their chashivus in each other’s eyes was diminished. Thus, they didn’t treat each other with the maximum respect.

Just a few short decades ago, our people were almost decimated, r”l. Now that we have been blessed with remarkable growth, we must still value our fellow Jews the way Jews cherished one another during those awful day of persecution.

Not many years ago, yeshivos went begging for students. Just because schools are now bursting with talmidim and talmidos doesn’t mean that we should take them for granted.

The parsha also discusses the order in which the Jews traveled and rested in the desert: “Ish al machaneihu, ve’ish al diglo…” If everyone stayed in their appointed areas and didn’t stray into territory where they didn’t belong, they would be blessed. “VehaLeviim yachanu soviv leMishkan Ha’eidus, velo yehei ketzef.” There will be no cause for Divine anger upon the Bnei Yisroel if the Leviim remain encamped around the Mishkan.

The ability to recognize your proper position in the constellation of Am Yisroel is vital to achieving greatness and Divine assistance. Every shevet and every person in the shevet had to line up in their designated areas. There was no room for deviation - for a person to imagine that he could do better for himself if assumed a position somewhere other than where his shevet and lineage dictated.

There is often the temptation to step out of bounds, to think that if we were only in the place occupied by Bnei Levi, we would be able to accomplish more. We would be able to explain to them where they are misguided, what they should really be doing and how they could do it most effectively. So we jump out of line and out of order, ultimately helping no one and dooming ourselves to failure.

What causes such a lapse of judgment? It appears to come from a lack of humility and an overabundance of hubris; our self-importance gives rise to delusions that we belong where we don’t.

The ability to maintain proper order in our personal and communal lives is vital to being able to accomplish our own personal mission in life. This is one of the lessons of Sefirah. Counting the days during the Sefirah period provides us with the opportunity to inject proper order in our lives in preparation of Shavuos. Much as Rosh Hashanah is preceded by Elul, Shavuos is preceded by Sefirah, when we are given the opportunity to work on refining ourselves for the great day.

The day the Torah is given anew each year is rapidly approaching. Ever since the second day of Pesach, we have been marking off each day that passed since we sat at the Seder celebrating Yetzias Mitzrayim. The departure from Mitzrayim was the first step of the redemption process which culminates with Shavuos.

As we approach Shavuos, we need to assess how we measure up to the goals of Sefirah as spelled out for us by Chazal. Have we grown spiritually over this period? Have we improved our middos and the way we conduct ourselves in our dealings with our fellow Jews? Have we made ourselves worthy of accepting the Torah anew?

Sefirah is meant to be a process of growth and spiritual elevation. It is a reminder of the continuous opportunity for strengthening and deepening our yiras Shomayim and commitment to Torah, as we move along the path, one day at a time, from Yetzias Mitzrayim towards Kabbolas HaTorah.

True greatness is not something anyone is born with. It is acquired through hard work, dedication, unceasing study, review and practice. That is true of any pursuit, and certainly with regard to Torah. Before one can accept the Torah, before one can understand the Torah, he must attain a certain level of accomplishment in knowledge, in purity of thought and intention, and in his actual deeds.

Forty-nine rungs must be ascended, forty-nine gates of knowledge entered, and forty-nine days of Sefirah must have made their impact on one’s mind and heart before the journey’s summit is climaxed on Mount Sinai.

As the Am Hanivchar, we have to rise above the decadence, arrogance and falsehood that surrounds us. We have to work on purifying ourselves of the human failings that entrap us.

Before we can accept the Torah, we have to improve the way we deal with our fellow man and our relationships with family members, neighbors, employees and business acquaintances. We have to suppress our egos and physical drives; we have to properly organize ourselves on the personal and communal level. That is what sets us apart from the rest of humanity.

The summons to kedushah is forever before us. In countless ways, through every single day of the year, but never more explicitly than during the days leading up to Kabbolas HaTorah, the Torah is always calling upon us to heed our better nature, to perfect ourselves, so that we can ascend the mountain.

Let us demonstrate, with our personal behavior, that we have learned from what transpired to the talmidim of Rabi Akiva, that we have improved in the crucial areas in which they failed. From the kindness, respect and humility with which we treat each other, we can show that we are truly deserving of the Torah and are prepared to accept it.

Let us all make ourselves worthy, with Hashem’s help, of complete acceptance of the Torah and usher in the yemos haMoshiach, bimeheirah biyomeinu.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Keeping Hope Alive

By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

People expect to find quick and easy solutions to problems. They think that success can be won by sitting back and taking the easy way out. But it doesn’t work. There are no shortcuts. You can’t just sit down lackadaisically in front of a Gemara and expect to become a talmid chochom. You can’t accomplish something worthwhile unless you invest everything you are capable of into the challenge. Successful people have invariably worked long and hard and merited huge doses of siyata diShmaya to reach their pinnacle. Nobody who has made it in life has done so by being lazy.

That is the message of this week’s parsha of Bechukosai. The words, “Im bechukosai teileichu,” are illuminated by the immortal, oft-quoted words of Rashi: “Shetihiyu ameilim baTorah - That you shall study the words of the Torah with intensity.” Hashem tells us that if we want to earn his blessings, we have to work hard to study the Torah and follow its mitzvos.

When it comes to learning Torah, there are certainly no shortcuts to the goal of understanding G-d’s word. It takes intense effort and all-consuming involvement until the Torah touches your soul and enables you to become a true shomer Torah umitzvos and to merit the brachos hakesuvos baTorah.

This week, we celebrated Lag Ba’omer. In Eretz Yisroel, hundreds of thousands traveled to the kever of Rabi Shimon bar Yochai in Meron to daven at that holy site together with so many other good Jews. Those who didn’t make the trek built a neighborhood fire, which they danced around as they sang songs dedicated to Rabi Shimon bar Yochai and Rabi Akiva. The festivities injected a spiritual energy into the day.

Lag Ba’omer interrupted our mourning period. We took haircuts, shaved, trimmed our beards and allowed music to pump into our psyches once again. It’s almost as if, on a certain level, the mourning of the Sefirah period is over.

Why is it that the customs of mourning in commemoration of the passing of the talmidim of Rabi Akiva have so taken over Sefirah? Why is it that Lag Ba’omer has become a day widely celebrated, though it is in no sense a holiday?

Rabi Akiva was the greatest sage of his generation. It is said that he was the shoresh of Torah Shebaal Peh. The line of transmission of the Torah from Sinai to future generations ran through him and his students. When his 24,000 students were wiped out, it was a major cause of depression. How would the chain continue? Who would provide the light of Torah to future generations? How could they ever be replaced? How could a grieving people on the run from Roman persecution be consoled on the loss of so many great men so crucial to the spiritual survival of the nation?

The urge to say it’s all over must have been overwhelming. The less faithful and more pessimistic among them must have been ready to give up. But Rabi Akiva recovered from his devastating loss to transmit the Torah through a new group of five students. It was on Lag Ba’omer that Rabi Akiva began teaching Torah to these new talmidim. The seeds he planted that day, which ultimately produced the massive rejuvenation of Torah, are what we celebrate on Lag Ba’omer.

On this day we commemorate the renewal. We celebrate the determination. We cheer the cessation of the plague. We foresee the future bright with hope and determination.
As the centuries pass, and as the Romans of every period seek our destruction and annihilation, we look towards Rabi Akiva and Rabi Shimon bar Yochai for inspiration. We note how they looked the enemy in the face and persevered, thus ensuring that our nation and our Torah are alive and flourishing to this very day. In the wake of a tragedy which would have felled lesser people, Rabi Akiva strengthened himself and set about ensuring that the chain remains unbroken.

As the golus continues and our situation becomes more and more precarious, as enemies surround us within and without, we must not weaken in our devotion to Torah. Noting how many giants our people have lost over the past decade, we hear voices stating that we can never recoup the losses. We are doomed to mediocrity, they proclaim.

Lag Ba’omer rejects that hopelessness. It stands as a beacon and proclaims to one and all to never give up hope, to never allow the chain of greatness to break. The fires of Lag Ba’omer burn bright and call out to us that the future will burn brightly, the mesorah will continue uninterrupted, and our people can and will be great once again. Never give up and never despair.
The more our exile is prolonged, the more we turn to days like Lag Ba’omer for inspiration and encouragement, and the more popular their observance becomes.

But it is not enough to just light a fire; it is not enough to sing and dance. We have to be prepared to work as hard as Rabi Akiva did. We have to be prepared for the deprivation suffered by Rabi Shimon bar Yochai and his son Rabi Elazar. We have to be ameilim baTorah if we want to merit the blessings of rebirth and redemption.

Those fires have to burn through our surface laziness and morose feelings and spark within our souls a flame of holiness and dedication to the mesorah and to Torah. That way we will merit the realization of the prophecies discussed in the works of Rabi Shimon bar Yochai with the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, b’meheirah b’yomeinu. Amein.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Empires Rise and Fall

By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

Empires rise and fall, but no one thought that America would ever fall. This country represents the best that mankind has to offer. Never in human history has there been a country with the underpinnings of this great nation - freedom, capitalism, democracy - enshrined and exalted.

The amount of chessed that this country performs is unprecedented, as are many aspects of the legal system, the business system, the educational system, the civil rights afforded to all and the ability for every person to be able to reach their ambitions unfettered.

We live in very dangerous times. In a mere few months, people have gone from having hope in this country’s ability to combat everything that is thrown in its path to a period of severe depression over our future. Many fear that the government has been taken over by radicals who are unable to correctly perceive the issues facing the country today, and equally clueless as to how to escape the mess.

Instead of offering serious, well-considered solutions, the leadership fights back with sound bite populist demagoguery, which does little more than gain a momentary elation and serve to further pour oil on the gathering fire which threatens to engulf the nation. Some have gone as far to propose that the United States has begun a precipitous decline.

The recent mark of 100 days of Obama served to help bring the spotlight on the change that has come to the White House and provided an opportunity to better examine what can be expected from this new president and his administration. And it is not all pretty.

During the campaign, there were indications that he would swing the country far leftward towards socialism. He vehemently fought against those charges and claimed that he would be post-partisan and will not govern as a liberal or a conservative.

His popularity remains high even as some are beginning to sour on his policies, yet some see strains of socialism in his actions and speeches and fear for the future. While engaging in sound-bite driven political rhetoric read off of his teleprompter, he drove America-firsters crazy with his apology tours offering up contrition for America’s past.

His plans for remaking the health care system strike fear into the hearts of people who study similar systems in countries where doctors and hospitals are government controlled. They fear that the new system, which is being hatched behind closed Democratic doors, will strike a death knell to the readily accessible medical care we have all become accustomed to in this country. It will create medicine by bureaucracy. The only definites about the plan are that it will not improve anything and will cost a lot of money.

That doesn’t seem to bother anyone in power, because the administration plans on raising taxes as much as necessary to pay for this plan and for its entire wish list. This bunch really believes they can pay for every liberal program by soaking the rich. They have been out of power so long that they are enthralled with the idea of finally being able to push through an entire gamut of leftist proposals which have been thwarted by political realities until now.

So far, the rich are in shock, having lost their ready access to power and not being able to counter the admini- stration’s agenda. They have been relegated to pariah status and vilified as the cause of the nation’s ills. But, taking money out of the pockets of people who are used to spending it is not a recipe for reviving a sagging marketplace. It would seem obvious that the more money allowed to remain in the private sector, the more capital there will be for a consumer-driven escape from recession. The more money there is, the more demand there is, the more products are sold, the more factories have to hum to produce them, and the more people are employed in production, distribution and sales.

If sales pick up and production picks up, employment will rise, taxes paid will increase and a healthy economy will take seed. That is the whole basis of capitalism and the premise upon which this nation has grown to be the most powerful and enduring economy in history.

When you rob people of incentive to be productive, and take their money from them to cover an ever expanding government; when you draw up legislation to stymie industries; when you demonize the rich and their businesses, you increase the chances that the economy will not prosper. In the history of humanity, there has never been a system that has rescued the masses from poverty as capitalism and free enterprise have. The idea of helping ordinary people by government dictate and largesse is flawed and proven wrong. The theory that everyone is equal and that all people should be doing the same thing and earning equal incomes, despite their talents and abilities, has much common appeal, but simply doesn’t work. Its implementation leads to stagnation and lack of desire to work and be productive.

Just last week, while announcing the forced bankruptcy of Chrysler, Obama illustrated what it is about him that makes people so nervous. He took a swipe at bankers and investors who had pumped money into the failing company and then had the nerve to demand an equitable distribution. “I don’t stand with those who held out when everyone else is making sacrifices,” he said. The “small band of speculators” he blasted are owed $6.9 billion by the smallest of the former big three automakers. The government offered them $2 billion in a restructuring, approximately thirty cents on the dollar. They turned it down.

A junior creditor, the auto-workers union, was given fifty cents on the dollar and a controlling 55% ownership share of the company, while the lenders were excoriated for seeking “an unjustified taxpayer bailout.” The fact that the unions contributed tens of millions of dollars to the Democrat party was not mentioned by the president.

In a stark moment, unseen in modern times, the president of the United States forced a private company into bankruptcy so that the government, unions, and a foreign company can take over the company and seek to remake it in the politically correct image. The company would begin producing energy efficient cars that the marketplace has determined people don’t want and companies haven’t been able to make money on. Global warming will be cooled and prosperity will reign.

It remains to be seen how hard the administration will push Israel to enter into a failed peace process with neighbors bent on its destruction. As soon as their leftist agenda is implemented domestically they will turn their moral relativistic eyes towards Israel, forcing the Jewish state to capitulate to neighbors bent on their destruction. The administration which has apologized to Europe and Latin America, and reached out to despots, cannot be assumed to appreciate the fine points of history and facts relating to the Israel – Palestinian conflict.

We need not give up hope and become despondent. People who are quick to think that the world as we know it is coming to a sputtering halt should be reminded that as bad as today’s economic situation is, and as fearful as the political situation seems, the 1970s was much worse.

There was Richard Nixon, Watergate and Nixon’s ignoble resignation from office. People stood on long lines to buy gasoline for their cars when the Arab oil-producing states embargoed shipments of oil to this country in the wake of the Yom Kippur War. America lost the war in Vietnam and Communism was on the march. The Shah, America’s ally in Iran, was let go and forced into exile. The American embassy in Teheran was overrun and one hundred people were held hostage there for over a year.

The people punished Gerald Ford, no great genius, for pardoning Nixon by electing someone even less intelligent than Ford as president. Carter was a four-year disaster. The Republican Party was down to 12 governors, 38 senators and 144 Congress members.

That all changed with the arrival of Ronald Reagan. So have no fear. Hashem, not man, runs the world. While we don’t always understand all of Hashem’s moves, we do have faith that in the end it will all be for the good.

We live through a period in which historic occasions take place so often that we have become jaded to the realities of what goes on around us. But history is written almost every day, whether we recognize it or not, and it behooves us to take notice from time to time.

We need to be more cognizant of what transpired in this country. The great dream of many of this country’s citizens has been realized. People whose ancestors were slaves never gave up the hope of overcoming their oppression and rising from the meager existence they were forced into. The slaves built the White House, and now one of their own has inherited the right to not only live in that house, but to rule the country from there.

We must be grateful to live in such a land, where the son of an African man, with skin of a different color, has earned the respect of much of the country and world. A man so different from those he grew up with generates an excitement in his leadership on a level never before felt in this country.

Our people were enslaved, tortured, pillaged, robbed and victimized by every form of hatred and pain that is humanly possible, yet with the help of Hashem we still stand. We merit living in a country that doesn’t look at our yarmulkes and doesn’t pay attention to our funny sounding names as it offers us every freedom to which human beings are entitled to.

We have no excuse for not rising to realize the potential with which Hashem blessed us. We can be anything we want without anyone being able to stop us. We are not locked into a ghetto and relegated to menial occupations. We must take full advantage of the opportunities available to be all we can be, to help all those who are around us, to offer leadership and support to those who struggle, and to do all we can to fortify and strengthen our communities.

On the power of his rising oratory, a young senator captured the imagination of a nation, traveling through its states preaching his gospel of inclusive government, by and for the people. He promised to right all the wrongs, fix the economy, win the war, and everything else that people think is wrong with the country.

Though there are gathering clouds and raging storms on the horizon, this descendent of Americans who have been in this country for over four centuries possesses the potential to restore the confidence to people confronting the country’s financial condition. We wish him well and we wish that he treat our people well in this country and in Eretz Yisroel.

We pray that he maintain the historic close relationship this country has with Israel and not engage in policies that would negatively impact those we care so much about.

We pray that he be the messenger who will unite all and return prosperity and peace to this great country, the strongest, most prosperous and free on earth.

We learn the lesson of the greatness inherent in every man and will work harder to realize ours and our historic destiny.