Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Great Stars

by Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

People all over are worried. They wonder how they will manage. How will they generate the income necessary to feed and support a frum family? They worry about paying their mortgage or rent, tuition, health insurance, and myriad other expenses.

People worry about their health. They worry about their children and about their parents. They fear what the future has in store for them. They worry about whether their children will be accepted into school. They worry about shidduchim.

People read the news and become disheartened and troubled. They worry about healthcare and the direction in which the country is headed. They worry about Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon. They worry that Israel will be attacked. They worry about brothers fighting each other in Eretz Yisroel, where the government is pushing ahead with a plan designed to weaken yeshivos and the Torah community. They worry about how it will all end.

People worry about machlokes and hope and pray that we will be blessed with shalom.

There seems to be no shortage of things to worry about. Merubim tzorchei amcha.

How can we overcome these fears? What can we do to improve our situation and make the world a better place for ourselves, our children and the people we care about?

There are some who have already given up and declared that our problems are unsolvable and that we should just worry about ourselves, aiming to get through the day.

Thankfully, there are many others who maintain their positive disposition and press ahead with fulfilling their obligations in this world, living positive, productive lives.

There are people all over who fit that description. They are the ones who get things done, not permitting apathy and negativism to thwart their drive. They remain motivated and focused on realizing personal and communal goals.

We all know them. They are the people who make things happen. We wonder what our communities, schools, yeshivos and shuls would look like without them.

When their ideas and plans are mocked, they push ahead. When they are told that their ambitions are impossible to accomplish, they forge ahead anyway, ignoring the naysayers. When defeated, they aren’t stopped. They regroup, strengthen themselves and try again.

Those are the types of people who attended the Sixth Annual Torah Umesorah Presidents Conference this past weekend. Jews from across the country, Canada and even a couple from Panama joined together to support each other and receive and provide inspiration to continue with their tasks. The energy and emotion of the people who aren’t deterred when doors are slammed in their faces were palpable. Intrepid pioneers who have built Torah in disparate cities such as Portland, Dallas, Seattle, Vancouver and Palm Beach Gardens sat alongside veterans from places such as Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Lakewood, Brooklyn and Monsey.

They were charged by Torah messages, inspired by moving addresses, and educated at workshops and expert panel discussions.

Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky encapsulated the weekend during his address at seudah shlishis, remarking that no one present had come for a vacation; it was too short a period of time for that.

Nobody had come for themselves. Everyone who was there had come for others. They came to be inspired in their missions of chinuch yaldei Yisroel. They came to learn how to better manage their schools and mosdos, how to market them, how to inspire others to become involved in spreading kedushah and teaching Torah in small towns and large cities, and how to pay for it all. They came to receive strength and succor for the battles they have to fight.

They came because despite all the obstacles placed in their way, they remain optimistic about the future. They know what their purpose in life is and they remain focused on realizing that goal. As the rosh yeshiva reminded his listeners, the children of Rav Chaim Volozhiner write in the introduction to his sefer that we were created to help each other. We were placed on this world to be “nosei be’ol im chaveiro.” Helping each other is a primary objective.

If we help each other, and if we unite for a common purpose and seek each other’s benefit, we are able to realize our potential and make the world a better place, both for others and for ourselves. If instead of concentrating on the negative, we work together to enhance our communities and spread goodness, we will light up the world like stars in the night.

At the beginning of Parshas Shemos, Rashi (1:1) says that the members of Klal Yisroel are compared to the stars of the heavens. Even though the Bnei Yisroel were previously counted, Parshas Shemos begins numbering them again, because they are as beloved as stars, which Hashem counts by their names.

Rav Leib Bakst zt”l, the Detroit rosh yeshiva, offered a classic interpretation of the comparison. When the world was initially created, the sun and the moon were of equal size. The moon was punished and its size was diminished. In order to comfort the moon, Hashem created the stars. Thus, stars were not created for their own benefit. Rather, their entire existence is to serve something else. The Jewish people, as well, were created to help each other. Therefore, they are beloved and compared to stars.

In this week’s parsha, Va’eira, we learn of the makkos with which Hashem struck the evil people of Mitzrayim. During makkas tzefardeia, frogs jumped into the Egyptian ovens, ready to bring about their own deaths.

The Gemara in Maseches Pesochim (53b) relates from Todus Ish Romi that Chananyah, Mishoel and Azaryah were inspired by those frogs and walked into a furnace, prepared to give up their lives al kiddush Hashem rather than bow to Nevuchadnetzar’s statue.

They analyzed the pesukim and concluded that the frogs could have fulfilled their obligation by simply hopping around Mitzrayim and making a general nuisance of themselves without entering the ovens and dying.

Chananyah, Mishoel and Azaryah said that although frogs aren’t obligated in the commandment of committing the ultimate sacrifice for kiddush Hashem, they did so anyway. Certainly, Chananyah, Mishoel and Azaryah, who are obligated to be mekadeish Sheim Shomayim, should be prepared to die al kiddush Hashem.

How are we to understand their assumption that an element of free choice was manifest in the manner in which the frogs carried out their shlichus? How were they permitted to draw a life-ending lesson from the actions of these short-bodied, tailless amphibians?

Furthermore, we learn that dogs were rewarded for their good behavior toward the Jews who were leaving Mitzrayim.

The posuk says, “Be a holy people to Me. Do not eat treifah... Cast it to the dogs” (Shemos 22:30). Rashi says that the Torah specifies that the forbidden meat should be thrown to a dog to teach that Hashem does not withhold reward from any creature. Since the dogs did not bark as the Jews escaped Mitzrayim (Shemos 11:7), Hashem said, “Give [the dog] its reward.”

The question, again, is that if an animal has no bechirah, why do we reward the dogs for having helped us in Mitzrayim?

A closer examination of the aforementioned Gemara in Maseches Pesochim may help us understand the lesson derived from the frogs, as well as the purpose of the rewards bestowed upon dogs.

The Gemara doesn’t actually say that Chananyah, Mishoel and Azaryah learned a kal vachomer from the tzefarde’im. The Gemara, in discussing the person named Todus Ish Romi, asks whether he was a gavra rabbah, a great man, or a baal egrofin, a tough person whom people feared.

The Gemara proves that Todus was a gavra rabbah because of the way he searched for the source of the mesirus nefesh demonstrated by Chananyah, Mishoel and Azaryah to be prepared to die al kiddush Hashem. Todus concluded that they derived their sense of obligation from the pesukim that describe the way the tzefarde’im went about their duty in Mitzrayim. He reasoned that if tzefarde’im, which are not commanded to be mekadeish Hashem, were moser nefesh, certainly we, who are commanded to be mekadeish Hashem, are obligated to risk our lives for that higher purpose.

The Gemara deduced from the lesson of Todus that he was a gavra rabbah, because if animals have no bechirah, it must be that Todus didn’t learn his kal vachomer from the way the frogs acted. Rather, he learned his kal vachomer from the way the pesukim describe their behavior.

From the manner in which the Torah detailed how the frogs swarmed to every corner of Mitzrayim, including the ovens, Todus determined that there was a lesson to be learned for all time.

From the fact that the Torah tells us to throw bosor treifah to the dogs and that the dogs didn’t bark as we left Mitzrayim, we deduce that the reason is to learn to be makir tov to those from whom we benefit.

A person who examines pesukim carefully, with the aim of deriving inspiration and moral teachings from the stories of the Torah, is a gavra rabbah. Todus was a gavra rabbah.

Likewise, one who enables others to learn how to be meitiv with each other can be referred to as a gavra rabbah, especially when coupled with ongoing mesirus nefesh.

Menahalim, principals, rabbeim, moros, school presidents, board chairmen and members, as well as the people who do chesed for the poor and the abused, and who help people pay their mortgages and tuitions, who go out on Hatzolah calls and who visit the sick and the lonely, seeking to do good, are gavra rabbahs. They learn from the Torah’s description of the tzefarde’im and from each other the obligation to be moser nefesh to be mekadeish Hashem with their every action.

A gavra rabbah analyzes the parsha and the briah and has the sensitivity and refinement to draw correct and positive conclusions.

Rav Chaim Kanievsky asks why the Torah recounts the reward that the dogs received for their role in Yetzias Mitzrayim, while there is no mention of any commensurate compensation for the tzefarde’im.

Perhaps we can answer that the action of Chananyah, Mishoel and Azaryah was their reward. Their mesirus nefesh was itself the greatest recompense. Any time anyone performs an act of kiddush Hashem because they learned a lesson from the frogs, that itself is a reward to those cold-blooded, scaly, vertebrate mekadshei Hashem.

The merits of people who follow our example and are hopeful, positive, giving and caring, teaching and spreading Torah, are accrued to us and are part of our reward for making the world a better place.

In Perek Shirah, where we are brought into the sublime world of creatures and the various odes that they sing to their Maker, we read the song of the tzefardeia: Tzefardeia omer, ‘Boruch sheim kevod malchuso le’olam vo’ed.’”

The small creature that teaches us a resounding lesson about the purpose of existence has a most fitting song. Those who follow its lesson, echoing its acts of mesirus nefesh, proclaim with their every action, “Boruch sheim kevod malchuso le’olam vo’ed.”

This is the lesson of Todus and this is the song of the tzefardeia. We are surrounded by a briah, a magnificent symphony called creation. Animals and people, the flora and the fauna, the mountains and the trees, they are all expressions of Hashem’s will, telling a story and demanding something from us. They all sing shirah. Instead of despairing about our condition and instead of thinking that what is transpiring is not part of a divine plan, we should maintain our faith, emunah and bitachon and always be prepared to sing shirah.

As long as there are people who learn and teach Parshas Va’eira, as long as there are people who learn Gemara Pesochim, and as long as there are people who seek to fulfill Hashem’s mandate to our people, there is hope.

As long as there are people who are moser nefesh every day to make the world a better place, teaching and learning Torah, and spreading goodness, kindness, love, care and concern, there is hope.

As long as we realize our obligation in this world, we cannot give up. We can never say that the situation is hopeless.

May we sing the song of the tzefardeia every day, living it, seeing it and feeling it. It endures forever and so shall we. Boruch sheim kevod malchuso le’olam vo’ed.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

True To Our Destiny

by Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

North Korea’s dictator died two years ago, leaving behind an untested, unlearned and unready young son to replace him. The dictator’s brother-in-law took the lad under his wing and taught him what he had to know to keep the country functioning under his rule. When the young man felt that he could manage on his own, he repaid his uncle for his kindness by having him shot. Then he erased his name from all official documents and photo-shopped his image out of government photos.

This happened last week, but it’s nothing new. Such has been the way of dictators as far back as this week’s parsha.

The posuk states, “Vayokom melech chodosh al Mitzrayim asher lo yoda es Yosef - A new Paroh arose over Mitzrayim who did not know Yosef.” Rashi quotes a machlokes between Rav and Shmuel. One explains that the posuk is stating that there was, in fact, a new king. The old Paroh had died and the newly appointed one did not know Yosef. The other opinion is that the Paroh of Shemos was the very same Paroh with whom we became familiar in Sefer Bereishis. Though he knew very well who Yosef was - after all, Yosef had saved his kingdom - Paroh acted as if he had forgotten him.

The posuk refers to him as a “melech chodosh,” because he pretended to have forgotten Yosef. He was the same king who had raised the profile of the talented, reliable, efficient young man whom he had discovered when the man offered a solution to his troubling dreams. Paroh promoted Yosef directly from the obscurity of prison to a public, high position in order to enable him to save the country. Thanks to his advice, Paroh’s monarchy was saved and his people lived through an awful period of hunger.

But as soon as Paroh thought that he no longer needed Yosef, he abruptly erased the accomplishments of the Jew who had made Mitzrayim into a world superpower and had established a system that filled its coffers.

There were too many Jews in Mitzrayim. They were smart and independent and Paroh began perceiving them as a threat. A way had to be found to curtail the Jewish growth and force the Jews to conform to the Egyptian ideas. There was a slight problem, though, because Yosef had saved Paroh and his country. The benevolent king couldn’t appear to be ungrateful. People would get the wrong idea and turn against him.

Paroh solved his problem by denying that Yosef had ever done anything for him. He craftily rewrote history and convinced the country that the Jew never contributed anything to the rehabilitation of Mitzrayim. With the aid of his bureaucrats, he launched a campaign to erase any memory of Yosef and any good feelings towards his Jewish brethren.

Asah atzmo ke’ilu lo yoda.” The Jews are discredited. It never happened. Who’s Yosef?

There are those who believe that the way to triumph over people who stand in their way is to isolate them. Then they demonize them and devise all sorts of arguments against them, until they succeed in turning public sentiment against them. After marginalizing their enemies, they are able to advance their own agendas.

It is this art of discrediting that has been practiced against the Jewish people ever since our birth as a nation and continues through this very day. In our time, we constantly hear echoes of the Mitzri worry, “pen yirbeh,” and their solution, “havah nischakmah lo.” People say, “Let’s outsmart them and crimp their way of life.” In Israel, religious Jews are painted as useless parasites who suck the lifeblood out of the country. The media and compliant politicians don’t waste any opportunity to promote that narrative.

Last week, world leaders and tens of thousands of people converged on South Africa for the Mandela memorial. The Israeli prime minister and president chose not go, blaming security concerns. They were mocked. Some said that they didn’t go because Mandela supported Yasser Arafat and the PLO. Others had more sinister explanations. Yet, later in the week, their foresight was validated with the revelation that there was no one checking many of the people who entered the stadium, which held foreign dignitaries, including the current American president and two of his predecessors.

The world was astounded to learn that the person who was ostensibly displaying sign language for the hearing-impaired people in attendance and watching around the world was a fraud. He stood next to President Barack Obama and the other speakers for hours, gesturing with his hands, making believe like he was signing. Instead, he is a dangerous, mentally deranged lunatic. Yet, no one thought of checking his credentials. During the speeches, no one said, “Hey, this guy doesn’t know what he’s doing.” The security services who spend billions of dollars protecting this country and its leaders permitted the president to stand next to this man.

We live in a world where nothing is as it appears. We can’t trust anybody and we can’t assume that anything is what it appears to be.

Tens of thousands of rockets are pointed at Israel from Lebanon. Iran is dangerously close to acquiring a nuclear weapon with which to attack the Jewish state, with the acquiescence of the Western powers. The United States and the EU press the tiny state to capitulate to Palestinian conditions for a fictional peace. A historical snowstorm shuts down Yerushalayim, crippling the state’s capital city for days, and the country’s national and municipal leaders are exposed as unprepared and incapable of dealing with a natural crisis.

Yet, at a time like this, the country is engaged in a battle against the frum community. The Torah of Eretz Yisroel is under attack. We must recognize the physical and spiritual dangers facing our brethren and rise to the occasion, providing chizuk and support. Demagogues who either don’t know or conveniently forget their roots and the basis of our religion attack religious people and Torah as a habit. Politicians who know better, and who were placed in power by Torah leaders and maintained relationships with them, turn a blind eye to pleas on behalf of the olam haTorah, playing the “asher lo yoda es Yosef” game for political expediency.

We look around us and we read the news from Eretz Yisroel and we easily conclude that we live in strange, frightening times. We don’t know whom to trust and where to turn for moral support. So much of our world is shallow and empty. We must work hard not to become disheartened and apathetic. How do we proceed?

Eretz Yisroel just experienced a terrible calamity brought on by a few inches of snow. Yet, we confront snow regularly during the winter, and as much as it creates inconvenience and treacherous driving conditions, it doesn’t create a state of emergency. The difference between us and the Israelis is that we are prepared for the snow. The roads are treated to lower their freezing temperature so that it takes longer for the snow to stick. The tires on our cars are engineered to maintain traction in the snow. People know to stay off the roads, and those who drive have an idea of how to navigate in the snow. Municipalities send out plows to clear roads and maintain safe travel conditions.

The snow that falls here is the same as the snow that falls there. The difference is that for our Israeli brethren, even a few centimeters of snow is a major and rare occurrence. They aren’t prepared for snow like we are. They don’t know how to deal with it. Their tires don’t grip, causing them to slip and slide as they try to traverse historic hills.

Just as it is with snow, so it is with everything in life. If we are prepared and fortified, then we can succeed and progress. If we flail about, not knowing what we are doing, then we will fail.

Every week, we bid farewell to Shabbos with Havdollah. We light a multi-wicked, wine-stained candle and start thinking of the coming week. We proclaim, “Hinei Keil yeshuosi evtach velo efchod.” We don’t know what the week will bring, but we aren’t afraid, because we know that Hashem will be with us. As we leave the holiness and peace of Shabbos, embarking on a venture into the mundane, we are prepared for all eventualities.

We say to Hashem, to ourselves and our families that we are about to go out into the snowstorm that is life, but we do so armed with emunah and bitachon.

Later, at melava malka, we seek to further prepare for that transition. We sing “al tira avdi Yaakov. We say, “Fear not, Yidden. You are equipped with the strength and ability to rise above what is out there and still remain true to yourselves, to each other, and to the Torah if you remain loyal to the teachings and lessons handed down from avdi Yaakov.”

We proclaim that in order to successfully navigate the highways of life and plow ahead despite the storms that inevitably seek to block us, we have to follow the path of Yaakov and the other avdei Hashem. Only by following Torah and its mitzvos can we think of setting out on the road that is olam hazeh. Only by reinforcing our vehicles with Torah and mussar do we have the tread that is necessary to be able to move ahead and accomplish the missions we were sent here to carry out. 

The children of Yaakov stood out in Mitzrayim because “lo shinu,” they refused to change and adapt. Lo shinu - they remained loyal to the Torah that Yaakov had transmitted to them and that Yehudah had taught in the yeshiva he established. Lo shinu - they knew that everything else is transitory. Lo shinu - they knew what was true and what was lasting. Lo shinu - they knew what was false, fleeting and temporary, and they knew that to survive as a people in a different country, they had to remain steadfast in their dedication to Yaakov’s ideals.

People who live superficial lives are easily persuaded. They are easy prey for charlatans and con artists. Such people espouse little loyalty to ideas or values. They want to blend in and be popular. Their foremost concern is to be up on the latest trends and make sure to be with the “in crowd.” Because their views are not grounded in any reality, they are easily fungible. Everything about them is superficial and easily transformed. There is no core, depth or consistency.

The posuk in the first perek of Tehillim admonishes us to be as trees planted on the banks of rivers, with deep roots - entrenched shoroshim - linking us to Har Sinai and the greatest mortals the world has known. We are guided by their legacy and teachings. We have a rich mesorah. We drink from the palgei mayim of our timeless Torah, as did “avdi Yaakov.”

Despite their challenges and obstacles, the Bnei Yisroel in Mitzrayim lived with the ideal of “lo shinu,” remembering where they came from and where they were headed.

In the land of Paroh, this was so important. His leadership was based on fiction and false perceptions, as Rashi states on the words “Hinei yotzei hamoymah” (7:15). Paroh created a narrative about himself that anyone could have seen through had they cared enough to follow him around one day. No one did, because they were content to play along. They didn’t care.

They were like the Democrats who still support Obamacare. When it was unveiled, it was touted as a plan that would revolutionize healthcare in the most advanced country in the world and make it affordable for all. Promises were made right and left. “You will be able to keep your doctor. Your insurance payments will fall. Your coverage will vastly improve.” All the promises made have been shown to be untrue. Yet, the party sticks with it, the president promotes it, and it remains the law of the land.

The posuk states repeatedly that Paroh was unable to redirect his life even in the face of the makkos, because Hashem hardened his heart. However, the posuk doesn’t say that the hearts of the country’s citizenry were hardened. Why did they not do teshuvah? Because their blissful, superficial lives, under the rule of an all-powerful king, would have been jeopardized had they confronted the truth of their leader and their condition. They didn’t wish to be confronted by the truth, so they adapted and concocted new stories to bolster the old narrative.

They were like the chaff, blown about, representing nothing and standing for nothing. They were a nation of sheker. They were happy and comfortable with the lie they lived. Life was good.

It was in the climate of Mitzrayim, ruled by fiction and dominated with lies, that the People of Truth distinguished themselves, a goy mikerev goy standing tall, a nation of truth and destiny.

Today, however, we see too many people who are unsure of their identities and who are insecure about their destinies. There are too many who are rootless and guided by superficiality; gullibly chasing whatever seems appealing, without any examination. We see vacuous people without values, living selfishly and hedonistically, covering their impulses with a fig leaf of religiosity.

Instead of seeking to blend in, we should look to stand out and stand apart. The truth must be our guide and protecting it our concern. Nothing should be able to divert us. We have to be honest with ourselves, confront our imperfections, and overcome them. We must set goals for ourselves and our personal development, never resting from laboring in the pursuit of excellence and G-dliness.

As we study these parshiyos of geulah, we should rededicate ourselves to living lives of truth and being true to ourselves and our destiny.

We must not be impressed by the allure and glamour of fleeting beauty and popularity based upon superficiality and fallacy. We have to remain a people of depth and intelligence, of loyalty and determination. Just because everyone we know does something doesn’t mean that we should be doing it too. We should learn more Torah and do so with greater depth so that we can better appreciate our way of life. We should learn halacha to ensure that we are living proper lives. We should learn mussar to keep us faithful to decency and goodness.

We should think about how our forefathers would perceive our conduct. If we feel that our actions will bring us closer to the geulah, then we should continue with them. If they don’t measure up, we must be honest enough with ourselves to recognize the error of our ways.

We are in golus, with our keepers plotting against us, but we are a nation of survivors. If we stand tall, remind ourselves who we are and what we stand for, and work together to build a brighter future, we will merit to be brought home.

There are many people, causes and parties allied against us. If we recognize the strength and power that we possess, we can rectify that which needs correcting and reinforce that which requires strengthening.

Together, we can bring the geulah. Together, we can bring salvation to those who suffer. Together, we can overcome the demagogues who demonize us.

Let us not be like the people of Mitzrayim and leaders blindsided by predictable storms. Let us fortify ourselves as did the “Bnei Yisroel haboi’m Mitzroymah eis Yaakov.” May we merit hearing the fulfillment of Hashem’s promise of “pakod pokadeti” very soon, in our days. Amein.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Believe In Them

by Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz


Parenting has become a big industry. People are confounded and confused about how to raise their children. They need not look further than this week’s parsha, where Yaakov lovingly explains, praises exhorts and admonishes his sons. Successful parenting requires all of those responses in measured doses. In order for life skills to be properly conveyed, children must be disciplined and taught respect, responsibility, fidelity to Torah and moral principles. The question is how that is best accomplished.

In Parshas Vayigash, we learned of the reunification of Yaakov Avinu and his beloved son Yosef after a multi-year separation that began when he was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers. Although Yaakov had been told that Yosef was killed by wild animals, he continued to believe that one day they would meet again. As he struggled to maintain his dignity and fidelity in a foreign land, Yosef’s ability to remember his father’s love provided him with the strength necessary to persevere. 

The Torah (Bereishis 46:29) describes their meeting. Yosef traveled to Goshen, “vayeira eilov, and he appeared to him, fell on his shoulder, and wept.” Rashi explains that when the posuk says “vayeira eilov,” it means that “nireh el oviv,” Yosef appeared to his father.

The Sifsei Chachomim explains the depth of Rashis explanation. When Yaakov came to Mitzrayim, he went directly to Goshen, where Yosef had selected for him to live until the hunger would pass. Upon his arrival, Yosef went there to visit him. Thus, it was Yosef who was going to show himself to his father.

The posuk still needs explanation. What does the Torah want us to learn from stressing that Yosef went to show himself to his father?

Perhaps we can understand that although Yaakov was happy that his son had survived the years of separation, he may have been apprehensive that Yosef had assimilated into the Mitzri culture. Additionally, it was possible the kavod of being a ruler had gotten to his head and the angelic son he remembered and loved would have changed so much that he wouldn’t recognize him.

Yosef respectfully traveled to Goshen to appear before his father and to show him that he was the same Yosef Hatzaddik that Yaakov had remembered. “Beloved father, it is I, your son. The exile and years apart did not take a spiritual toll. Ani Yosef, I am the same Yosef you sent to find my brothers many years ago on that fateful day when I disappeared.”

Yosef’s resolve not to disappoint his father motivated him to remain loyal to Yaakov’s teachings despite all that befell him. The knowledge that his father believed in him empowered him. He wanted to ensure that he wouldn’t betray his father’s faith in him.

Bearing this in mind creates difficulty understanding the pesukim in this week’s parsha which relate (47:29-30) that when Yaakov felt his strength ebbing and his life drawing to a close, he called Yosef to him and asked that he not be buried in Mitzrayim. Yaakov didn’t act the way you would think a loving father approaching death would when making a request from a loyal, powerful son.

He didn’t tell him, “Don’t bury me in this country.” He didn’t say, “I want to be buried in Eretz Yisroel near my parents and grandparents.” He said to his most beloved son, “If I have found favor in your eyes, please give me your hand and do me a tremendous favor and don’t bury me in Mitzrayim. I [wish to] lay with my fathers, take me from Mitzrayim and bury me [next to] where they are buried.”

Rav Gamliel Rabinowitz says that we learn from this the way a parent should deal with children. A father should not make unrealistic demands of his children. When parents require a favor from a child, they shouldn’t mandate it, even though they have the right to. They should explain to the child what it is that they need done and why. Yaakov gently asked Yosef if he thought he would be able to honor his request, which he calmly explained.

The Torah commands children to honor their parents, and the obligation to do so is one of the underpinnings of Yiddishkeit. But no one should be taken advantage of, not even a child. We should treat children the way we want to be treated and be considerate of their needs and feelings.

At the end of their meeting, Yaakov bowed towards his son, displaying respect for the royalty. Rashi quotes the Gemara (Megillah 15b), which states, “Taala be’idnei sagid leih - When a fox rules, bow to him” (Bereishis 47:31). He also comments that Yaakov was thankful that Yosef remained righteous, despite what had transpired to him.

As a father, Yaakov endeavored to see the good in his child. He didn’t question whether it was proper for a father to bow to a son, but paid the customary honor to Yosef’s position.  

Children who are treated justly recognize what is expected of them and seek to ensure that the confidence in their abilities and loyalty is not misplaced. When they have to be disciplined, they are better able to accept the tochachah, knowing that it emanates from parents who love them and want the best for them, not merely from doctrinaire elders who possess a need to dominate and control.

The sefer Minchas Shmuel writes that his rebbi, Rav Chaim of Volozhin, said that in our day, in order for tochachah to be accepted, it has to be delivered calmly and softly. Someone who angers easily and speaks harshly is freed from the obligation of hocheiach tochiach, rebuking those who act improperly. [See similar quote in sefer Keser Rosh, 143.]

The greatest gedolim served as the conscience of their generations. They saw their main responsibility as being the ones to motivate their students and followers to grow in Torah, avodah and middos tovos. They demanded excellence and total dedication to the goal, yet they were loving and realistic, helping their students climb the ladder to greatness one rung at a time.

A prominent mashgiach was visiting Rav Elozor Menachem Man Shach when the elderly rosh yeshiva’s young grandson came into the room. Rav Shach offered the boy a candy, asking him if he preferred a green, yellow or red one. The boy considered the options carefully and happily chose the red one.

The rov turned to Rav Schach. “Rosh Yeshiva,” he said, “with all due respect, aren’t you encouraging the child to become like Eisov, who saw everything superficially? Why is choosing a red candy over a green one and making the distinction important, different than Eisov asking Yaakov to ‘pour me this red soup’?”

The rosh yeshiva smiled. “You need to understand the mind of a child,” he said. “A child sees the world on a shallow level. He has not yet matured to the point where he can see deeper than the color of a candy. He inhabits an imaginary world. To him, the color of candy is very important. Eisov was already a grown person, yet he maintained a child-like superficial view of the world.”

Rav Shach looked back at the contented child. “He is doing exactly what he should be doing. Remember, he is just a child.”

Our great leaders, inhabiting the peaks of spiritual grandeur, never felt too high to look down and see the struggles of a child.

When Rav Eliyohu Eliezer Dessler moved to Eretz Yisroel to assume the position of mashgiach in Ponovezh Yeshiva, he sought to admonish through giving chizuk.

Talmidim who visited him the first Chol Hamoed that he was there were amazed by the reception they were afforded. “What an honor that you came,” Rav Dessler said to his teenage visitors. “I have special wine that I only take out for important guests.”

He made them feel important, and they returned the favor, raising themselves to be worthy of his respect and doing their best not to upset him.

Once, talmidim behaved in a way that demanded rebuke. The owner of a nearby makolet complained to Rav Dessler that bochurim were not paying their bills and that he was feeling the pinch. Rav Dessler delivered a shmuess, discussing the severity of the middah of selfishness and the importance of behaving with honesty and integrity. He didn’t mention anything about the bills at the makolet. He didn’t have to. Everyone knew what was expected of them and modified their behavior accordingly.

A teen-aged talmid had questions on emunah and his bais medrash rebbi feared that he was becoming at-risk. On Purim, he brought the boy to Rav Shach, asking the rosh yeshiva if he could answer the boy’s questions. Rav Shach told the boy that there were many people coming and going and it wasn’t a good time to engage in discussion. “Why don’t you come back over the Pesach bein hazemanim? Then we’ll have time and the ability to discuss your questions.”

When the boy returned to yeshiva after bein hazemanim, his rebbi asked him if he had returned to Rav Shach. “No, I didn’t,” he answered. “When we were there on Purim, through his conversation with me, he surreptitiously found out where I live. He came to my house twice. I couldn’t believe it. He said that we made up to meet, so he came to me because I hadn’t come to him.”

“Did he answer your questions?” the rebbi asked.

“He didn’t have to. I never asked them. The fact that Rav Shach troubled himself to travel to me in Tel Aviv changed everything for me.”

This boy’s life was turned around when he saw that Rav Shach believed in him and cared about him and the direction in which he was headed.

This is the lesson that Yaakov Avinu taught when he bowed to his son. He recognized the long journey that Yosef had taken through the impurity and moral depravity of Mitzrayim, emerging pure. Hu Yosef she’omeid betzidko.

Yaakov was inspiring us to view children with appreciation for dealing with their challenges and for their accomplishments.

It is difficult to be a young person. Youngsters have long, hard schedules, days that start early and end late. They are surrounded by multiple nisyonos, often with challenges that overwhelm adults, yet much is expected of them.

Most people have an innate desire to do well, grow, prosper and be successful in what they are doing today and in life in general. As we arm them with the tools they need to make it in these trying times, we have to let them know that we believe they have what it takes to make it. 

Since the time of Adam and Chava, temptations have been ever-present. Subsequent to their failing, life has been rough. To succeed at anything, we have to work hard and endeavor to enable the yeitzer tov to overpower the yeitzer hora. We have to be seriously motivated in order to overcome life’s tribulations. As we grow and mature, we are expected to derive that strength on our own from studying Torah and mussar, and through our avodah and tefillah. But the younger people among us, who are the future of our nation, need the older ones to pave the way for them, lovingly demonstrating and teaching how it is done in order for them to be motivated.

Chinuch is all about transmitting our heritage to the next generation in a way they can understand and appreciate. We begin when they are in their youth by lovingly explaining the mitzvos and setting a fine example for them to follow.

When Yaakov became ill, Yosef brought his two sons who were born in golus Mitzrayim to their grandfather for a final brocha. Yaakov opened the conversation by telling Yosef that he knew he was upset with him for not burying his mother in the Meoras Hamachpeilah. He explained with great reverence to Yosef that he had done so “al pi hadibur,” in accordance with Hashem’s will. He then upset Yosef by blessing the younger Efraim before Menashe. Not always does a parent accede to the wishes of the child. Not always does the child get his way.

Recognizing the accomplishment of successfully raising children in exile, Yaakov blessed Yosef that from that day onward, every time a father would bless his sons, he would say, “Yesimcha Elokim ke’Efraim vecheMenashe - May you grow as the two sons of Yosef, who persevered despite the many challenges, becoming as great as the shevotim who grew up in Yaakov’s home.” 

May we merit with Hashem’s help, as Yaakov did, children and grandchildren who make us proud.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Peaks and Valleys

by Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

The letter was a perfect introduction to this week’s parsha.

The writer is a leading activist for Lev L’Achim, working day and night to uncover the dormant sparks within the souls of our secular brethren in Israel. He works with single-minded focus, because he knows that with enough work and dedication, he will succeed, as he has repeatedly.

He read in this column last week about the young boys who had joined a Lev L’Achim afternoon program in Ashkelon, a town negatively impacted by the military unrest of four years ago and its effects. Ashkelon, in the line of enemy fire, faced a difficult situation. The schools, stores and restaurants were all closed as Operation Cast Lead was being fought in nearby Gaza. The streets were deserted and bomb shelters became people’s homes as the general mood of the populace was depressed. Lev L’Achim created youth centers where there was food, games, conversation and shiurim for the bored teenagers.

In time, the war ended, but the boys didn’t want to let go of the club, so they continued coming. The Lev L’Achim volunteers offered them warmth, encouragement and friendship. We described how these boys developed a tremendous thirst for learning Torah, and in time, a group of them completed a masechta. The siyum was held at the home of Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman. The elderly gadol was moved by the sight. One of the boys asked for a bracha that his own parents should weaken in their resistance to his learning, describing how he had to fight to learn Torah. We wrote last week how Rav Shteinman used the experience to explain the words “al hamilchamos” which we recite in Al Hanissim. He said that they refer to the gratitude we must have for the battles of life, the trials and challenges we face that call forth for reserves of fortitude and courage.

So my friend wanted to fill me in and apprise me of the post-siyum follow-up.

“You wrote about the young man who asked the rosh yeshiva for a unique bracha. I thought you’d want to know that this week, that young man, Roi Bitton, went to learn in Yeshiva Shuvah Yisroel in Tel Aviv. I know you would be thrilled to know that he joins other boys from that Ashkelon group, Iti Nagar, Adir Mulai, Eliyahu Levi, Yaakov Cohen, Chai Bitton and David Bouskila.”

The letter was a microcosm of our history, the highs and lows, the mountains and valleys, the clarity afforded only in hindsight. Dark as things were then, that’s how bright they are now for this young man. Four years later and we already merit to see the next chapter.

We kindle lights in the hearts of people, never knowing whether they will take hold and whether the fire will flicker and burn brightly or be extinguished by the stormy winds. We do our thing. We do what we can and we hope and daven. We know that one day the flickering flames will all join together and cause a great fire of emunah, bitachon, Torah and avodah to spread like wildfire across the land. We do what we can to cause that day to rapidly approach as we await the fire of revelation and redemption. 

Until that day, sometimes we hear news that is too difficult to bear. Life throws us awful twists and we think that ovdah tikvoseinu, all hope is lost. We feel beaten, overwhelmed and devastated. At times like that, Yosef calls out to us and says, “Al tei’otzvu! Do not become despondent! It’s all for good. People may mock you, knife you in the back, take advantage of you, and question your abilities and stability. Don’t give up. Al tei’otzvu. Maintain your faith and you will be able to overcome your adversary, even if he is more powerful than you. It may take time. It may seem a Sisyphean task, but ultimately you will succeed and Hashem’s kindness will become apparent to you.”

The Chofetz Chaim would relate a parable about a visitor who came to town and had an opinion about everything. On Shabbos, he went to daven in the big shul. As the gabbai dispensed the aliyos, the visitor sat in his seat in wonderment.  The man who was obviously the most prominent in town was passed over, as was the person who had all the marks of a senior talmid chochom. Finally, the flabbergasted guest approached the gabbai to question his choices. The seasoned veteran smiled patiently, saying to the man, “You’re here for one week and you have opinions? Stay here a few weeks, maybe longer, and you’ll begin to understand. As for the aliyos, the g’vir has yahrtzeit next week and will get his aliyah then. The talmid chochom made a simcha last week; he and his family all had aliyos. Everything I do has a cheshbon, but in order to appreciate what I do, you need to stay here longer to appreciate it.”

The Chofetz Chaim would conclude by saying, “Ich bin shoin an alter Yid. I have been around this world for a long time and I am just beginning to perceive the small things that are evidence of the plan with which Hashem runs the world. Sometimes you have to wait fifty years to watch things come full circle. ”

The narrative in this week’s parsha reinforces this bedrock of our faith.

In the previous parshiyos, we read the sad account of Yosef being sold into slavery by his brothers. They crafted a story for Yaakov Avinu, showing him Yosef’s garment soaked in the blood of a goat, and told their aged father that his most beloved son had been killed. Yaakov, as Chazal tell us, refused to accept their story.

In time, hunger hit the land and the brothers were forced to travel to Mitzrayim in search of food. While there, they were confronted by the viceroy, who seemed intent on preventing them from obtaining food. He threw one obstacle after another in their path, making their lives miserable.

At the beginning of this week’s parsha, Yehudah recounts their conversations since they had been coming to Mitzrayim to purchase food for their large family. He retold that the minister had asked whether they had a father and a younger brother. He said that they explained that their father had already lost one of the two sons from one of his wives, and if he would lose the second, he would surely die. The food minister didn’t care and forced them to bring their young brother if they wanted additional food. When they brought their brother on their return visit, he was taken away. Yehudah recounted how brokenhearted their father was over the loss of the older son and how they could never face him again without taking the young son back home with them.

When it seemed that a head-to-head battle was imminent following Yehudah’s powerful argument, the minister who had seemed determined to cause them maximum anguish suddenly sprang forth and said to them, “Ani Yosef. I am Yosef.” He then asked them, “Ha’od ovi chai? Is my father still alive?”

Yosef’s question was, in fact, an answer. He was aware that their father was still alive, as that had been a central point in the brothers’ arguments during their prior meetings and in Yehudah’s arguments to him. He was in fact answering Yehudah, “You claim to be so concerned about your father’s welfare? Where was your anxiety and concern when you pulled a young boy away from his doting father, selling him into Egyptian servitude?”

The posuk relates that the brothers were unable to respond to Yosef - “velo yochlu echov la’anos oso ki nivhalu miponov.” They were speechless, embarrassed by this rebuke, devastated as the realization of what they had done sank in.

Yosef brought them close and told them not to be depressed or angry: “Al tei’otzvu ve’al yichar be’eineichem. It was to allow us to live that Hashem sent me here, losum lochem she’airis bo’oretz, to establish a place of refuge for us in this country.

“It wasn’t you who sent me here. It was Hashem. Don’t worry. All that has occurred isn’t because of your mistakes, but, rather, it was merely a chapter in a grand Divine plan. Al tei’otzvu! You were merely messengers, characters in a story written by the Author of creation. Now rush home to my father and tell him that I really am alive.

“You will then all return here with your father and your families, cattle and sheep. I will feed you and care for you so that you do not die of hunger in Canaan. Please tell my father of all the honor I have here. Tell him everything you have seen and rush back here with him.”

Yosef and Binyomin hugged and cried on each other’s shoulders. He then kissed the rest of the brothers and they cried as well.

The overwhelmed brothers returned home bearing news they knew would bring much joy to Yaakov. They returned home proclaiming, “Yosef is alive! Yosef is alive and he is a ruler in Mitzrayim.”

Surprisingly, when Yaakov heard that Yosef was alive and a ruler in Mitzrayim, he reacted differently and rejected the news. He didn’t believe it. “Ki lo he’emin lohem (Bereishis 24:26).

It seems inconceivable. Yaakov Avinu had refused to accept news of Yosef’s demise. Why would he not believe that Yosef was still alive? To compound the problem, the very next posuk, relates, “Vayedabru eilov es kol divrei Yosef asher diber aleihem… vatechi ruach Yaakov avihem.” When Yaakov heard all the words that Yosef had spoken, he was revived.

What was the reason for his initial doubt and what was it in the words they shared that convinced him?

Perhaps we can humbly suggest that the fundamentals of emunah were playing out here just beneath the surface. Yosef Hatzaddik had survived several miserable experiences that would have broken men smaller than he. Orphaned of his mother, he clung to his beloved father. Then he was cut away from his father and cast aside, despised and scorned. He fell deep, almost into the clutches of aishes Potifar, tested yet again. When he persevered in maintaining his integrity, he landed in prison. Things were dark. Life was bleak. There was little hope for a productive future or a happy ending to his saga.

Yet, when he was reunited with the shevotim who ruined his life, he promised that he bore them no ill will and had no hard feelings. He told them that there is a Master of the world who writes the script. “Al tei’otzvu,” Yosef said. “Don’t be depressed. He calls the shots, not you or anyone else. Life has peaks and valleys, but we never know which is which. What seems to be a curse is often a blessing and vice versa.”

The shevotim returned home, eager to share with their father that his beloved Yosef was alive. But they faced a dilemma. They had originally told Yaakov that Yosef had died. They had shown him as evidence his shirt which they had bloodied. “Tarof toraf Yosef. He was ripped apart, Chaya ra’ah achalasu. A wild animal ate him.”

Now, in order to tell Yaakov that Yosef was alive, they were forced to admit to their father what they had done. They had to tell him that they sold their brother to traveling merchants and created a story to fool him. They had to tell him that he was not really ripped apart by a wild animal, but that they had soaked his kesones pasim in the blood of a goat they had slaughtered to be able to create the fictitious event.

It was to this missing link in the story that Yaakov reacted. He was unable to accept that his own sons had sold Yosef, acting in a way that was so callous and filled with hatred. When the posuk says, “Lo he’emin lohem,” it means that Yaakov didn’t believe that his sons had been capable of such an act and refused to accept that version of the tale. It may have been easier to believe that Yosef was dead than to think that his own flesh and blood had sold him into oblivion and then lied to their father about what they had done. He couldn’t believe it.

Yet, what the brothers did next made all the difference. Following Yosef’s instructions, they shared with him kol divrei Yosef, the entire message that Yosef had shared with them - the reminder that we are but pawns in His hands and that actions that seem so destructive are actually the groundwork for construction.

They told their father Yosef’s message: “Al tei’otzvu ve’al yichar be’apchem ki mechartem osi heinah.” They told Yaakov that Yosef said that they shouldn’t be angry or depressed about having sold him. They told Yaakov that Yosef explained to them that Hashem had arranged for him to be transported to Mitzrayim so that he could establish a place of refuge where they would be able to live while hunger prevailed in their homeland.

The posuk relates that when Yaakov heard this, “vatechi ruach Yaakov,” he not only believed them, but upon hearing the lesson Yosef taught, his spirit returned. He was revived, because along with the good news came a message of chiyus.

Yosef’s message explodes with meaning and beauty. There are easier times and harder times, but it is always by design. The great mashgiach, Rav Yeruchom Levovitz, would say, “We are always in His hands. Amol di rechte hant, sometimes the right hand, un amol di linke hant, and sometimes the left hand, but He is always carrying us.”

Yosef taught the brothers an enduring lesson in emunah and how little we know and understand about what is going on. Yosef told the brothers that we are all like the visitor to the shul who felt authorized to give his opinions, not realizing that he had no concept or clue of the bigger picture.

This is the depth of the drama of these pesukim, the piercing truth of Yosef’s plea: Al tei’otzvu.

Jewish history is replete with souls planted in a location where they could best impact others. Sometimes, they had to be uprooted and replanted elsewhere, causing no small amount of hardship, but in the end, the Divine precision became clear.

There is a mesorah regarding the arba shvuim, the four captives. Four Rishonim, all great gaonim, were traveling to a wedding via Italy, when pirates overtook their boat and captured the passengers. The three gaonim, Rav Shmaryahu, Rav Chushiel and Rav Moshe (the name of the fourth is unknown), were sold into slavery and ended up in North African countries. Providentially, they brought with them the Torah of Bavel and laid the groundwork for the emergence of great yeshivos there.

No doubt they were despondent as they were viciously chained, but in time, they realized Who was really leading them along and the greater purpose of their suffering.

This was true in our recent history as well, as the Holocaust devastated the European Torah world. A few hardy souls were waiting in America to greet the limping remnant. Most of these European immigrants had come to America before the war because they were forced to, perhaps due to hunger or some other threat. In time, it became clear that they were sent there lefleitah gedolah.

My grandfather, Rav Eliezer Levin, was one of the many who survived what appeared at the time to be tragedy. He had taken a leave of absence for one year from his rabbonus in Lita when his relatives dragged him to America. Fearing for his life as the winds of war circled over Europe, they brought him here and arranged a rabbinic position in Erie, PA. Needless to say, he couldn’t adapt to Erie and wanted to return to his beloved Vashki and to his wife, children and baalei batim.

The thought of bringing his family to die a spiritual death in Erie frightened him. But he couldn’t return to his hometown. He had left his rabbinic position there in the hands of a trusted friend, who agreed to serve as rov until he would return from America. The friend would gain serious experience, aiding him in his pursuit of a position. However, when Rav Levin wrote that he was coming home to reassume the position, the friend was devastated. He said that he would never get another job and pleaded with Rav Levin to let him stay there, asking Rav Levin to find himself a different position.

Although it was his father-in-law’s position, which he had inherited and occupied for a number of years, Rav Levin didn’t have the heart to unseat the man from the job. Meanwhile, his family members secured a rabbinic position in Detroit for him. With no choice, he moved there and sent for his family. With their meager possessions and several of Rav Levin’s seforim along with kisvei yad of his father-in-law, the family set sail on one of the last boats to leave Europe before the war broke out. They arrived here just ahead of the destruction of Lithuania. The rabbi of Vashki and the entire town were wiped out. No one survived.

Rav Levin played a key role in establishing a Torah community in Detroit and actively assisted the roshei yeshiva of Telshe as they started their yeshiva in Wickliffe, Ohio, after being stranded here. His own children would emerge as prominent rabbonim and roshei yeshiva in this country, providing “michyah,” spiritual sustenance, “she’airis,” and “pleitah gedolah” as the generation faced starvation.

Examine the history of the rebirth of Torah in this country and around the world and you will find similar stories of people who had been doomed to living far from their homes, surviving the war and planting the seeds of a blossoming nation.

Rav Yechezkel Abramsky was a survivor of the Siberian wasteland and the fierce cold and hunger that was the daily lot of prisoners banished to that exile. He once shared the thought that had sustained him through it all. “I woke up that first morning and I thought, ‘I have no tallis in which to wrap myself, no Gemara with which to warm myself, and no Rambam in which to immerse myself. What is the purpose of my life today? I wake up and thank Hashem and say, ‘Modeh ani lefonecha.’ I am thanking Hashem, but for what? Because rabbah emunosecha. There is one mitzvah that they cannot take away from me, the mitzvah of emunah. Modeh ani, I thank You, Ribbono Shel Olam, because I can still sing the song of faith, even here. That’s all I can do, but it’s enough to give me life.’”

Rabbah emunasecha is the theme of this week’s parsha and Yosef’s enduring lesson. Whether in transit as a slave, in prison or on the throne, whether all is dark or light is everywhere, rabbah emunosecha. We thrive and rejoice for we believe that there is a bigger picture.

Stories of Hashgochah Protis abound. Tales are often told about a person being in the right place at the right time, thinking they are in the wrong place and bemoaning their fate, only to learn that fate had intervened on their behalf. The stories depict how the Divine Hand reached down from Heaven and plucked the protagonists from disaster, with neither their knowledge nor acquiescence.

We know stories of people who had thought their world was closing in on them and their life was ending, only to learn later that their salvation was cloaked in what at the time they perceived as torture.

But it is not enough to read and be reminded of those stories if we don’t realize that our entire life is comprised of stories such as those.

And when those awful times come, we have to hear Yosef as he calls out to us through the ages and says, “My brothers and sisters, grandsons and granddaughters, al tei’otzvu. Don’t despair. Don’t be desperate. Don’t think it’s all over. Never give up.”

When it seems as if the bad guys are winning, when you feel all alone, when your teacher or boss has screamed at you, or when you feel as if you’re at the end of your rope, know that it is not yet over and the plot can thicken and change. Sometimes it happens quickly, while other times it takes a while to see the sun behind the clouds. But you must know that it is always there.

Emunah and bitachon are our lifelines, motivating and driving us, lest we stumble and fall.

Every day, Eliyohu Hanovi would visit Rav Yosef Karo, author of the Shulchan Aruch and Bais Yosef. His teachings are recorded in the sefer Maggid Meishorim. The Bais Yosef writes in Parshas Behar that “the maggid,” as he referred to him, told him not to let a day go by without studying from the classic mussar work Chovos Helevavos, which reinforces concepts of yiras Hashem, emunah and bitachon.

This is both a religious obligation and good advice. One who is lacking in understanding these ideas becomes depressed and lost, misguided and misdirected in what can be a cruel and crushing world.

No matter what comes over us, we must remain positive and upbeat, full of spirit and moxie, with a burning desire to carry on in our missions in life without rancor and derision.

Dovid Hamelech says, “Aileh vorechev veaileh basusim.” Some trust in their tanks and some trust in their cavalry. “Heimah koru venofolu va’anachnu kamnu vanisodad.” They crumble and fall, and oftentimes when they go to battle, the weaponry they had worshipped fails them. Those whose lives are directed and guided by Torah and emunah will be able to rise and be strengthened, because their value system is not dependent on temporary, fleeting powers that can be, and are, susceptible to defeat.

Al tei’otzvu. No matter how daunting your challenge appears, it can be overcome.

The danger of entering a downward spiral and becoming entrapped in a lethargic state brought on by the maddening acts other people are capable of and an inability to escape their harshness, has ruined many people, thwarting their ambitions and hopes for growth and a better day tomorrow.

What they so desperately need is to hear the comforting, loving call of al tei’otzvu. Don’t pay attention to those who seek to suppress you and usurp your innate human desire for success. Ignore those who seek to make you small and gravitate to the ones who try to expand your horizons, sharpen your focus and broaden your vistas.

Don’t blame yourself for failure, al yichar apchem, and don’t let others pin blame upon you either. Know that you and every other Jew are blessed with the potential for greatness. Know that whatever happens is for a higher purpose than you can understand.

The posuk states that when Moshiach comes, hoyinu kecholmim, we will be as dreamers. The Slonimer Rebbe explained that the posuk refers to the “dreamer,” Yosef Hatzaddik. On the day of Moshiach’s arrival, we will all be as the brothers were when Yosef told them that their travails and suffering should be understood and perceived as causes for joy.

May that day and its revelations come soon. Until they do, al tei’otzvu.