Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Acheiving The Sukkos Joy

by Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

The days leading up to Sukkos are filled with lists. This one needs a new suit. That one needs a hat. We need another package of nails and one more two-by-four for the sukkah. From the kitchen, there are calls for more flour, eggs, chicken and meat. There is the urge to go out and buy more posters, signs and chains with which to beautify the sukkah we will be living in for a week. Way on top of the list of necessary pursuits are the Dalet Minim, the delightful search for the precious objects that we are commanded to hold on Sukkos.

Finally, it all comes together. The sukkah is up, food is cooking, the Dalet Minim are safely stored, and the magnificent artwork of children and ainiklach are displayed across the festive sukkah walls.

There is, however, one final ingredient necessary to bring everything together and make the holiday of Sukkos complete. Simcha is the super ingredient without which Sukkos is lacking.

Just as the choicest cut of meat will fail to cook even in the most expensive oven unless there is a fire, the various components of Yom Tov won’t accomplish their goals without the simcha that fuels them.

The Rambam at the end of Hilchos Lulav writes, "Hasimcha sheyismach ha’adam ba’asiyas hamitzvah ube’ahavas haKeil shetzivah bohen avodah gedolah hee - It is a great feat to achieve simcha when performing mitzvos…"

The state of simcha we are to attain during the yemei hachag is not reached by simply assuming a superficial smile and repeating clichéd platitudes about being happy and thinking positively. Rather, the simcha arises from the depths of a Jewish heart following the proper performance of the mitzvos hayom and an appreciation of Hashem who commanded us to perform them.

is present when one has achieved shleimus in what one is doing. When we perform a mitzvah in its entirety, an inner simcha that overwhelms all negativity is achieved. A love of Hashem sweeps over us and we attain the level of simcha that the Rambam describes as being an avodah gedolah.

writes on the posuk (Devorim 16:15), "Shivas yomim tachog laHashem Elokecha… Vehoyisah ach someiach," that vehoyisah ach someiach is not a commandment, but rather a guarantee. Apparently, the explanation of Rashi’s words is that if you follow Hashem’s words and celebrate the chag in an exemplary way, that itself will cause you to be in a state of simcha.

Look at those people who spent so much time going from place to place picking out their Dalet Minim. Watch as they recite Hallel, holding their lulav and esrog aloft. Their faces are radiant. You can see their intense spiritual joy. By watching them, you can see that they have attained the simcha described by the Rambam. Had you been in their sukkah the night before as they made Kiddush, recited the brachos of Leisheiv Basukkah and Shehecheyonu, and consumed the first kezayis [preferably a k’beitzah, see Mishnah Berurah 639, 22] of challah in the sukkah they worked so hard to put together, you would have seen an angelic glow on their faces.

is accompanied by a tangible simcha of so many mitzvos. How can you not be happy?

In the sukkah, we sit beTzilah Demehemnusah, in the Shade of Hashem. We perform His mitzvos and await the visit of the biblical guests. We are besimcha. We know that we are on a different plane, with a singular way of life and a set of goals totally unique from anything out there in the world outside of our sukkah.

The strength of the sukkah is not in its walls, but in the people inside it. We feel as safe in our sukkah as if we were in the teivah of Noach, because we look up and recognize that we are in the shadow of G-d’s glory. No harm can befall us as long as we appreciate what we have. A Jew who knows that he sits beTzilah Demehemnusah, performing Hashem’s commandments, cannot help but be happy. In the sukkah of an ehrliche Yid, that joy is almost palpable.

Rav Chaim Brim would recount an anecdote involving an acquaintance of his.

A Yerushalmi bochur learned in Bnei Brak, where he developed a close relationship with the Chazon Ish.

Following the Sukkos bein hazemanim one year, when he returned to Bnei Brak, the Chazon Ish asked him how his Yom Tov had been. Without waiting for an answer, he asked the young bochur, "Were you besimcha?"

The bochur didn’t answer.

The Chazon Ish gently grasped the boy by his shoulders and swayed with him. "How can someone not be joyous," asked the Chazon Ish, "when he says the words ‘Atoh vechartonu mikol ho’amim?"

One of the great souls of Yerushalayim would offer a special, personal tefillah on Erev Shabbos: "Ribono Shel Olam, You have given me food for Shabbos and clothing for Shabbos. Now I ask You: Please give me Shabbos for Shabbos."

As we surround ourselves with the objects necessary to properly perform a mitzvah, we must ensure that we do not lose sight of the goal. We have to maintain our emotional involvement and experience the correct inner connection to the mitzvah. As Sukkos arrives, we ask that just as Hashem provided us with a sukkah, Dalet Minim, and many other blessings, so may He give us a taste of Sukkos for Sukkos, complete with genuine satisfaction and simcha.

People who merit being in Eretz Yisroel for Yom Tov make a point of participating in the Simchas Bais Hashoeivah celebrations at Toldos Aharon, at Yeshiva Meah Shearim, at Pinsk-Karlin, and at many other yeshivos, botei medrash and shuls across the country. There, they watch as people who have little by way of material goods, dance. Those they are watching probably do not have large sukkos or individual sets of Dalet Minim for each child, but what they do have is sublime Sukkos sentiment. They have the simcha that eludes people who are blessed with many more physical possessions than they have.

In fact, you should not have to travel far to experience that ecstatic feeling of joy. You can sense that joy in your local shul. You can feel it in your own home. You can experience it in your own sukkah.

On Sukkos, the sense of being chosen, loved, glorified and blessed with special mitzvos is palpable. Just as we lovingly and carefully select our esrogim, that is how Hakadosh Boruch Hu selected us. The Dalet Minim, we are taught, hint to the totality of Knesses Yisroel. He selected us, He cherishes us, and He lovingly protects us.

Appreciating being chosen and gifted infuses us with that vital ingredient of simcha, enabling us to march into the sukkah with happiness and enthusiasm.

There is still one thing that can dampen our enthusiasm: drops of rain on the very first night of Sukkos, a downpour that comes between us and our beloved sukkah, when, filled with holy anticipation, we just want to enter and make Kiddush.

The entire family peers longingly into the room they worked so hard to construct and decorate. Instead of being able to go inside and recite Shehechiyonu, thanking Hashem for enabling them to live for this moment and partaking of the requisite amount of challah before enjoying a tasty meal, they stand outside with long faces, hoping and praying that the rain will stop and they will be able to properly observe the mitzvah of sukkah.

Rain on Sukkos is distressing for a deeper reason than ruined meals and sukkah decorations. There is a Divine message inherent in the driving downpour. The Mishnah in Sukkah (28b) relates that rain on Sukkos is compared to a servant who pours a drink for his master, only to have the master throw it in his face.

(ibid.) explains that when it rains, it is as if the master is throwing water in the servant’s face. The Mishnah didn’t state what type of liquid was involved. What compelled Rashi to specify that it is water?

To address this question, we need to examine the deeper relationship between the Yom Tov of Sukkos and water.

The Yom Tov of Sukkos is intertwined with water. Back at the very beginning, there was conflict between the mayim elyonim, the higher waters, and their lower counterpart, the mayim tachtonim. The waters relegated to earth complained that the upper waters enjoyed closer proximity to the Master of the Universe. Hashem assured the lower waters that although they are distant, they would enjoy the unique and special merit of being brought on the mizbeiach on Sukkos. This is an explanation of the great simcha of nisuch hamayim, the distant waters coming from the lowest spheres to bring Him glory, are representative of a nation of fresh baalei teshuvah climbing the rungs back towards home.

say that one who did not merit witnessing the Simchas Bais Hashoeivah never saw true joy, because there is no joy quite like perfect teshuvah, something coming back to its source. At creation, all the waters were one. Then they were separated, and at the exalted moment of nisuch hamayim, they come back.

Perfect joy. The harmony of the cosmos.

There is a rabbinic dispute as to whether the mitzvah of sukkah is to remember actual sukkos in which the Jews dwelled as they traveled through the midbar on their way to Eretz Yisroel or if it is to commemorate the Ananei Hakavod that protected us during that period.

, clouds, are composed of water. But the connection goes deeper. Among the four annual judgment periods, the Mishnah in Maseches Rosh Hashanah lists Sukkos as the time of judgment for water in the coming year.

The Acharonim ask that if we are judged for life on Rosh Hashanah, shouldn’t that judgment include how much water we will be blessed with in the coming year? After all, man cannot live without water.

The answer given is that we are judged on how much water we will be granted, but if we are later found unworthy, that water comes to earth in the form of floods and in places and times when the rain is not needed.

The Chofetz Chaim would tell of a simple peddler who eked out his meager living by traveling from one hamlet to another with his wares piled high on a sled. As long as the snow was plentiful, his old, tired horse was able to easily pull the sled. One year, though, the snow melted early and the sled was stuck.

The simple Jew raised his eyes to a nearby mountain, its peak topped with a beautiful cap of white snow. "Ribono Shel Olam," sighed the Jew, "all that snow that You created You put up there, on top of the high mountain. Can’t I get just a little bit of it here so that my sled can slide on?"

The Chofetz Chaim would use this parable to explain the posuk in Tehillim which states, "Ach tov l’Yisroel." Dovid Hamelech asks for only good for Klal Yisroel. The Chofetz Chaim explains that the request is that the bounty and shefa that come to the world should be directed towards Klal Yisroel, so that they can benefit from the blessings.

The judgment for water that the Mishnah tells us takes place on Sukkos is to determine whether the amount of water that was decided upon on Rosh Hashanah will bring blessing where we need it or if it will fall in desolate, empty areas.

On Sukkos, we daven for blessed water that will fulfill the mandate of mayim chaim, representing chessed and rachamim, Hashem’s great mercy.

Coming on the heels of the yemei hadin, Sukkos represents our first test to determine how we made out in our din. We are joyous and hopeful that by the end of Yom Kippur, we successfully repented for our sins and earned Hashem’s mercy. We anticipate the Yom Tov as well as the yom hadin on mayim, confident that we will merit more joy and success, waters of bounty and purity.

And so, when rain falls on Sukkos, it’s an indication to us that we may not have earned the middas hachessed. If the rain falls on our cheftzah shel mitzvah and we are prevented from carrying out the tzivuy Hashem, we see that as a bad portent for the coming year, because it hints that the water destined for us might not fall at the desired location and time.

Hashem commands us to sit in the sukkah: "Lemaan yeidu doroseichem ki basukkos hoshavti es Bnei Yisroel behotzi’i osam mei’eretz Mitzrayim - So that your future generations will know that I placed the Jewish people in sukkos when I took them out of Mitzrayim."

If it rains on the Yom Tov of Sukkos, it is as if there is a Heavenly proclamation that our service is not appreciated.

But this, too, is a chessed, because the window is still wide open. Mayim, which represents chessed, is poured at us in a fit of anger, kevayachol, to encourage us to rectify our ways before Hoshanah Rabbah, so that we will merit a year of proper blessing, proper rainfall and life.

With this idea, we can understand as well why one who sits in the sukkah as rain is falling is termed a hedyot, a fool, by Chazal. Rain on Sukkos is a message to us that we must work harder to find favor in the eyes of Hashem. We are in danger because our teshuvah and avodah during the Yomim Noraim were not sufficient. Someone who ignores that message is a hedyot. The proper response is sadness over being turned away and engaging in teshuvah in order to be welcomed back in the Tzilah Demehemnusah. There is still time to complete the teshuvah and still an abundance of Divine favor to tap into. Don’t just sit there. Do something! To ignore the call of the hour represents simplicity and a lack of understanding.

The posuk in Parshas Ki Savo (Devorim 28:2) states,

"Uvau alecha kol habrachos ha’eileh vehisigucha - These blessings will come upon you and they will reach you." Meforshim explain the double lashon, stating that it is not sufficient to have a flow of brachos directed at us. They have to reach us, overtake us, and saturate our homes and lives.

The judgment of Sukkos decides how the brachos of Rosh Hashanah will rain down on us. We hope that we will be so fortunate as to merit vehisigucha,that they will reach us. We hope that the snow and rain will fall where we can benefit from them.

When speaking at sheva brachos, Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky would often say that the teaching of Chazal that a chosson is forgiven for his sins is a condition to his mitzvah of simcha. One who carries the burden of aveiros cannot be happy.

The Tchebiner Rov explained that this is the reason why Sukkos, with its special obligation of simcha, is celebrated after Yom Kippur. Following the day of forgiveness, we are able to carry out the mitzvah of being besimcha.

We come into Sukkos fresh and pure, determined to stay holy and clean, enjoying the full simcha of a Yom Tov that celebrates our redemption from the mire and morass of cheit.

It is no secret that we celebrate Sukkos this year under a cloudy sky. Winds of war and uncertainty are blowing very strongly. The enemies of the Jews fought very hard on Rosh Hashanah, as they do every year, for permission to destroy us.

We hope that the merit of our Torah, avodah and gemillus chassodim, coupled with our teshuvah, tefillah and tzedakah, were ma’avir the ro’a hagezeirah, and that we were chosen by Hashem to be granted a year of good health and happiness.

In the times of the Beis Hamikdosh, Sukkos was a Yom Tov that benefited not only us, but all the nations. The Gemara in Maseches Sukkah [55b] describes how various korbanos brought throughout the Yom Tov would benefit the umos ha’olam, each korbon bringing sustenance to another nation.

The Gemara says that the enemies of the Jewish people should have realized how much they were harming themselves by destroying the Bais Hamikdosh. When they destroyed the mekor habracha, they essentially cut off their own flow and the mizbei’ach which forgave them for their sins.

Rav Chaim Kanievsky applied this Chazal to the realities all around us when he recently remarked that the politicians and activists determined to do battle with the yeshivos don’t realize how much they depend on those very yeshivos they are trying to close down. They are unaware of how much bracha and protection the Torah affords them.

Age-old lessons, still not learned.

We, who appreciate the birchos hachag and Atoh Vechartonu live in the sukkah for seven days and become so ingrained with the inherent simcha that Sukkos engenders that when it is over, we celebrate Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah.

The customs of singing and dancing that we celebrate on Simchas Torah are not Biblical or Talmudic in origin. If you delve into the seforim of the poskim in an attempt to trace the roots of our celebration, it becomes apparent that the holiday was actually created by the Jewish people.

Over the course of many centuries, ehrliche Yidden channeled their overflowing simcha with the Torah into the rich display of joy and festivity that became the hallmark of Simchas Torah as we practice it today.

After living in the sukkah and reigniting our faith in the Almighty as we inculcate the lessons of the Jews who followed Hashem into the midbar, we reach a state of spontaneous ecstasy that carries us through the oncoming winter season and the continuing exile.

We celebrate the Atoh Vechartonu and the fact that Hashem gave us the Torah.

May all the nights of Sukkos be balmy, all its days sunny, and all members of our nation happy and joyful.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Lefichoch, The Rambam’s Wake-Up Call

by Rabbi Pinchos Lipshutz

There are various reactions to the sound of the shofar’s cry. The sensitive soul hears several messages as the plaintive sound forms a song like no other. It is a tune of triumph mixed with recollection and tones of introspection.

The Rambam, who compiled and clarified so many of the halachos that govern our lives, heard a unique message.

In Hilchos Teshuvah (3:4), he writes, "Even though tekias shofar is a gezeiras hakosuv, there is a hint to the reason, for it is as if the shofar is saying, ‘Uru yesheinim misheinaschem. Wake up you who are asleep and in slumber. Search through your actions and do teshuvah. Chizru beseshuvah vezichru Borachem.’"

The Rambam then quotes from the Pesikta: "These are the people who get caught up in the havlei hazeman and forget the truth, spending their years with useless silliness and emptiness. The shofar calls out to them and says, ‘Look inside your souls and improve your ways, and let each one of you leave behind his bad way and improper thoughts.’"

Then the Rambam writes, "Lefichoch, therefore, every person should see themselves during the entire year as if they are evenly divided between being zakai, innocent, and chayov, guilty. Every person should view the world the same way."

Meaning, if he commits one sin, he will have caused for himself and for the entire world to be guilty. If he does one mitzvah, he will have ensured that he and the entire world are found innocent and he will bring about salvation for everyone.

"This is what it means when it says, ‘Tzaddik yesod olam.’ The tzaddik himself is the foundation of the world because he has caused the entire world to be judged positively and to be saved."

The Rambam’s words are often repeated and analyzed, especially at this time of year, by people seeking to do teshuvah. His teachings are so direct and touching, deeply affecting every person who studies them. But more than that, he codifies and organizes for us the teshuvah process so that we are able to progress along the path to achieve absolution of our sins, refinement of our neshamos, improvement of our character, and, most all, perfection of our shemiras hamitzvos.

While studying this halacha of the Rambam, a few questions developed that prevented me from going further.

Why does the Rambam use the metaphor of sleep for people whose time is consumed with trivialities? They are not asleep. In fact, they appear to be very much awake. Perhaps he should have referred to them as wayward, lost, or confused people who are wasting their lives away. Why is their condition referred to as slumber?

Furthermore, how does the second part of the halacha follow the first? Why does he say that lefichoch, because people while away their time, man should therefore view himself and the world as having an equal number of merits and sins - chatzi chayov and chatzi zakai - and thus seek to perform a mitzvah in whose merit he will tip the scale towards zakai and bring salvation to himself and to the entire world? How does the way we view the world follow the admonition regarding those who are asleep behavlei hazeman?

The transitional word, lefichoch, indicates that there is a connection between the call to arise from our slumber and the mandate to see oneself as chatzi chayov and chatzi zakai, perched on the dividing line between the abyss of evil and the path leading to eternal life. What is the connection?

The words of the Rambam, whose every nuance and hint reflect truth, require explanation. Are we in fact asleep? What is the meaning of the repeated references to slumber?

The story of Yonah Hanovi, which we read on Yom Kippur, provides us with a strong allusion of what the Rambam means when he uses the word slumber, nirdom. Yonah sought to escape from following Hashem’s directive. He fled to a ship that was to take him to a far-off land. But Hashem caused a stormy tempest at sea, and the ship was rocked about and threatened to break apart. Everyone aboard began to panic, throwing all non-essential items overboard as they fought for survival.

With the ship rocking to and fro and commotion all around him, Yonah went to his room to take a nap, as if nothing was happening.

The captain finds him and is incensed. He calls out to Yonah, "Mah lecha nirdom? What are you doing, sleeper?"

How can a person be comfortable and lie down at a time when the entire boat he is on, with all of its passengers, is at risk of sinking? The waves are lapping at the ship, threatening to rip apart the vessel. It should have been almost physically impossible to lie on a bed comfortably in the midst of a storm as described in the posuk.

The captain was thus infuriated at Yonah. "Mah lecha nirdom?" he said. "What is with you, apathetic person? How can you be so indifferent to reality? How can you ignore what is transpiring around you? Kum kera el Elokecha. Quickly, pray to Hashem that He save us all from certain death."

The posuk in Shir Hashirim (5:2) states, "Ani yesheinah velibi eir…" Rashi explains that the verse is referring to the era of the first Bais Hamikdosh, when Knesses Yisroel, sedate and serene, slackened off in their avodas Hashem. They no longer felt that they were under pressure. Everything was going well for them and they became like a sleeping person who slowly relaxes his limbs.

We see from these pesukim, and others, that when the metaphor of sleep is used, it is indicative of a person who is apathetic and has ceased to feel the pressure to do and to be, to produce and to accomplish.

To be asleep means to be oblivious to what is going on around you. It means to be blind and deaf to the realities and opportunities inherent in every moment and, most of all, to the potential that lies dormant within.

There are certain societies that seek to force everyone into conformity, suppressing human growth and ambition. When segregation ended in this country, a civil rights leader said that he could forgive white people for oppressing the blacks, but he couldn’t forgive them for making the black people believe that they deserved to be oppressed. Much worse than the actual discrimination was the altered self-perception it generated.

Human potential is infinite. Man has the ability to reach great heights and accomplish greatness.

The greatest tragedy is when a person becomes unaware of, or indifferent to, his own abilities and value.

The rebbe of Lechovitch would remind his followers of their potential by quoting the familiar posuk, "Lehodia livnei odom gevurosav," simply translated to mean that Hashem makes His own strength known to man. He would offer an allegorical explanation and say that the posuk is stating that we praise Hashem Who, in His kindness, He informs man of his own strengths and abilities.

Once on Erev Yom Kippur, Rav Shlomo Freifeld lifted the phone and called a wealthy man. "I want to ask you mechilah," the rosh yeshiva said. "You are capable of giving more tzedakah, supporting more Torah, and helping more people. It is my obligation to remind you of that responsibility, but because it is an unpleasant task, I was remiss. I’m sorry for not telling you who you really are and what you are capable of doing. Please forgive me."

The shofar tells us that we need to extricate ourselves from floundering in apathy and cold indifference. The Rambam says that this is accomplished by each person realizing how much latent strength he possesses and the difference he can make.

If you see yourself as perched on the red line, suspended between zakai and chayov, you recognize that the decision you make will define you.

The course of action you choose every time you do something is crucial. It is important. You are important. You can literally alter the course of history if you wake up and realize your own potential.

This is the force of that one word in the Rambam: lefichoch. Therefore. Once you wake up, you will perceive and appreciate just how much influence and power you have. You can literally tilt the balance of the world and bring it to its tikkun. But you have to wake up.

is a call to man to climb out of his little cave. It tells him to exit his self-imposed bubble and small shelter of selfishness and indifference. Lefichoch is a call to achieve.

The beginning of teshuvah is for a person to accept that he is important. One must realize that Hashem created him with a purpose and a plan. Until man accepts that he has a calling, he cannot truly serve Hashem. This is the depth of the fact that the two days of Rosh Hashanah take their place among the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah. They are two of ten days of repentance. Although we don’t say viduy on Rosh Hashanah, we reassert the fact that there is a King, and if He wants us here, there must be a plan for us. That is the start of teshuvah.

The posuk in Tehillim (89:15) that we recite during tekias shofar on Rosh Hashanah states, "Ashrei ha’am yode’ei seruah, Hashem be’Ohr Ponecha yehaleichun." Dovid Hamelech praises the nation that knows the teruah of the shofar. The Medrash (Vayikra Rabbah 29:4) asks why Am Yisroel is deserving of that praise. After all, the nations of the world also know how to blow a shofar.

Perhaps we can explain that while the nations of the world are capable of emitting sounds from the shofar, the second part of the posuk, "Hashem be’Ohr Ponecha yehaleichun," does not apply to them. They are able to produce a teruah, but because they don’t follow in the light of Hashem, they are unable to shake off their sheinah and tardeimah and thus remain mired in the havlei hazeman.

We, who follow the "Ohr Ponecha," the light of Hashem, are referred to as yode’ei seruah, because we know that the sound of the shofar is to alert us to follow that light. One who follows the light of Hashem cannot sleep. When the havlei hazeman draw the shades that block the light from reaching us, we become yesheinim. The shofar causes us to pull up those shades and then awaken and fulfill our purpose in life.

We become energized and engaged as we follow the lights of Torah and mitzvos. "Ki ner mitzvah veTorah ohr. We delve into Torah study day and night, as the posuk commands, "Vehogisa bo yomam volayloh."

The Zohar (3:18b) speaks of the merit of the yode’ei seruah, those who know the secret of tekias shofar. "Zaka’ah chulkhon detzadikiya deyadin lekavnah reusah lekamei mareihon veyadin lesaknah alma behai yoma bekol shufrah. Praised are the pious ones who know how to channel the awesome power of the shofar and to rectify the universe on the day of Rosh Hashanah through the sound of the shofar."

, the righteous ones among us, hear and understand the message of the shofar and utilize that knowledge to bring merit to the entire world, because that is the purpose of blowing the shofar.

The shofar reminds us of who we are and what we can accomplish. Each one of us has the ability to tip the balance of the cosmos and change the course of the world. The shofar tells a person that he is also a tzaddik, and the world is looking to him to utilize his potential to attain greatness and bring salvation to the world. A person who hears this message is a tzaddik in din. The Heavenly tribunal will pronounce him as zakai, and in his merit, those around him and the world will be saved.

After Yonah was brought out of his tardeimah, the winds continued blowing and the deadly waves crashed against the ship. The other passengers huddled together to figure out why they were being punished so. They asked, "Shel mi hara’ah hazos lonu? Who is the cause of these conditions that are affecting us so terribly?"

Yonah immediately responded, "Ki yodeia ani ki besheli hasa’ar hagadol hazeh aleichem. I know that I am to blame for what is happening to you."

Yonah was a novi, surrounded by ovdei avodah zarah. Why did he so quickly conclude that he was the cause of the raging storm? There were no doubt other sinners on board, so what prompted his reaction?

It was because Yonah understood the lefichoch of the Rambam. He was a recovering nirdom. After accepting the mussar of the captain, he went further, as the Rambam prescribes, and looked at what was transpiring, as if he himself could bring about the necessary change and the yeshuah to the people on the boat, to Am Yisroel as a whole, and to the entire world.

I listened in on a shailah that was presented this week. A boy from out-of-town desperately wants to go to yeshiva. He is a special-ed student and the tuition is $30,000 a year. He wanted to go last year, but no place could be found for him, so he returned to his native city and attended public school. The only yeshivos that can accommodate him are in New York.

Finally, a yeshiva that would accept him was found, but he didn’t have a place to eat and sleep. He was planning on obtaining a small mattress and sleeping in a local shul - you read correctly -but he couldn’t find a shul to sleep in.

Beyond his learning difficulties, this is a normal boy. He desperately wants to be frum and attend yeshiva.

A question was posed by kiruv volunteers from Lakewood: What should they do for this boy? How much mesirus nefesh is demanded of them to see to it that this boy can stay in New York and attend yeshiva? They do all they can in their free time for kiruv, bringing people, young and old, closer to Torah and Yiddishkeit. They feel that if they can’t find this boy a proper place to stay within the next week, he will return home and be lost.

What would you answer them?

These are people who recognize that the future of the world is in their hands. As long as that boy doesn’t have a place to sleep, they can’t sleep. They are doing whatever they can to help turn the tide and weigh down the scales, so that the good outweighs the bad, and so that they and that boy and all of us will merit a kesivah vachasimah tovah.

Last week, a relatively small gathering of a few hundred people took place. From a Torah perspective, it was huge, because the gathering featured a guest list of individuals who embody the mandate we’re discussing. They live with the Rambam’s lefichoch. They are the roshei kollel of hundreds of kollelim across Eretz Yisroel.

The people who head the kollelim have risen to the moment, leading groups small and large, guiding yungeleit on the paths of Torah and avodah. The roshei kollel assumed the burden of continuing to pay the yungeleit the meager monthly stipend that enables them to continue to devote time, energy and heart to Torah. The people who gathered last week must travel, make phone calls, and write letters to keep their enterprises going, month after month. Anyone who has ever raised money, even for the most worthy cause, knows how disheartening it can be. All the more so when it involves leaving family and friends and traveling to an unfamiliar country, at the mercy of drivers, hosts and donors.

The roshei kollel often lack the connections and infrastructure they need, yet they forge on, determined to keep the song of Torah alive. These precious Jews are awake, and they live, day in and day out, with the truth of this lefichoch. The light of Torah motivates them and the Ohr Ponecha serves as their guide.

They face a difficult challenge. Thanks to Yair Lapid and his willing cohorts, the scanty government stipend yungeleit were receiving has been slashed. The food stipend for their children has been cut as well. Believe me, it isn’t melodramatic to say that there are many people who have stopped drinking coffee with milk, who are feeding their children dry cereal, and who are searching for any and all ways to get through the day without starving.

The aforementioned gathering, held simply to say thank you to the roshei kollel, and to empower and encourage them to continue on, featured words of chizuk from gedolei Yisroel, individuals who are themselves examples of man’s ability to transcend self-regard to accomplish great things.

This Rosh Hashanah, as we hear the sweet, moving song of the shofar, we can think of many role models, human beings who are attempting to realize their potential, rising up to confront the new challenges that keep coming our way.

We should all take a moment to look deep within our own hearts and determine if perhaps we are asleep, oblivious to the great things we could be doing, thereby, leaving our talents untapped.

May this year be the one in which we hear the lefichoch; shedding the cloak of apathy and indifference; rising above all that confronts us and the world; and bringing yeshuos to ourselves, our loved ones, and all of Am Yisroel.

May this be the year when the world is firmly pushed into the realm of zechus and we rejoice together on the greatest day, listening as one to the glorious sound of that shofar gadol that will usher us all home.

Kesivah vachasimah tovah.