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Weekly Chizuk



A story told over by Rav Ezriel Tauber

Jonathan was a nice young man. He came from an assimilated and very liberal family in Connecticut. He was traveling around the world, seeing the sights in many countries. Along the way, he stopped off in Israel, just to tour and visit. At the Western Wall he bumped into the legendary Rav Mayer Schuster. Mayer Schuster was known for hanging around the Kosel, picking up Jewish teenagers, and inviting them to come to yeshivos for baale Teshuva to try it out for a time. Boy's schools, girl's schools.

So he convinced Jonathan to come and sit in on a few classes in Ohr Samayach. The class happened to be in Jewish philosophy given by Rav Cordoza. The boys attending were all beginner baale teshuva, college graduates. They were asking very intelligent questions, and every question had an answer. He was fascinated. So he stayed for the next lecture and the next lecture. Finally, he decided to stay. He put himself into his studies and was so impressed he committed himself to Judaism and became a baal teshuva.

He wrote a long letter home to his parents. "I've found my happiness, I've found my purpose. I'd like to stay here a while longer to learn." His parents were very fine people. Being super liberal, they wrote back, "As long as you're happy, we're happy. As long as you don't tell us what to do, we won't tell you what to do. We'll support you in your decision. As long as you've found your happiness."

He remained learning in Ohr Samayach for fourteen months. One day he received a letter from home. "Our dear son. You've been away for fourteen months. We are very supportive of you but we miss you and would like to see you. We want you to come home, stay for a month and then you can go back." Enclosed was an open round trip ticket.

He didn't have much desire to go home. He was enjoying his studies. And the trip would be very problematic. Kashrus, Shabbos, etc. And his parents didn't know from "A" about Judaism. But being a good yeshiva boy now he went to his rebbeim and asked what to do. His rebbes told him, "You should go home. It's kibud Av v'Eim, you have to respect your mother and your father. It's one of the ten commandments. Just as you have to keep Shabbos, so too do you have to respect your parents. You should go home. It's going to be difficult, but you're a Jew, you're religious. You do the right thing even if it is difficult. You'll make a little kosher corner in the kitchen. You'll keep Shabbos yourself. Just don't tell them what to do." So being a good boy, he followed the advice of his rebbes and went home.

A week later he showed up at the branch of Ohr Somayach in Monsey. Rav Tauber happened to be there and saw him. He was all pale and distraught. He looked like he was ready to collapse. Rav Tauber asked him, "What happened to you? What's wrong?"

"Rebbe, I have a few halachic questions to ask you." "What's the problem?"

"I have a problem. When I left my house fourteen months ago, my parents were happily married. It was a beautiful marriage with no problems. But in the fourteen months since I left my parents entered into this new open ended marriage concept. My father got hung up with a shikse. My mother got hung up with her boyfriend, a goy. They agreed to divorce each other and marry their new friends. They are very happy with the idea and wanted me to join them in their happy occasion and permit me to participate in their two weddings. However, they knew that if they would write me why they wanted me home, I wouldn't come. They knew my initial reaction would to be devastated that they're divorcing. But they wanted me home, so they wrote me that they just wanted me to come to visit. So I came home and found out, I just can't take it. It's devastating. There never was any problem. In one year's time their whole marriage fell apart. And my parents picked up on this. 'Jonathan, what's wrong with you? Why can't you accept what we're doing? You have to go to a psychologist. You have to be happy with our decision. What's wrong with you?' There's nothing wrong with me, there's something wrong with them. I just can't take it." But they insisted that he should participate in these weddings. He's getting married next week, and she's getting married two weeks later and that's the reason they brought him home, to participate in their weddings. "I just can't do it," he said.

"So what's the Halacha question you mentioned?"

"Tomorrow my mother is moving out of my father's house into her boyfriend's house. She asked me to help her move her belongings."

"So what's the question?"

"If someone is doing an evil thing, the wrong thing, you're not supposed to help that person. My mother is doing a terrible thing by moving in and living with a gentile. But on the other hand there's a mitzvah of kibud Eim, respect your mother. If the Rabbis allow me to help, I must help, even though I don't want it. Why? Because it says, 'respect your father and mother.' If there are no restrictions from the Torah then I must do what my mother wants even though I don't want it. It doesn't matter how much it hurts me, I have to follow what the Torah says."

This was an amazing statement. Fourteen month ago if his parents had told him something he didn't like would have said, "Get the hell out of here." Now, just because he became a religious Jew, he says. "I can't do just anything that I want. I have to follow the Torah. I have to do what the Torah wants, even if I don't want it." This was amazing.

That was one question. Then he asked his second question. "On Saturday my father is making a barbecue in the back yard in honor of his new fianc?e. What do I do? It's Shabbos, and outside in the yard. And I'm going to be sitting in the house and he'll ask me to please bring out the meat. It's Shabbos, I can't carry into the yard. And the meat is treif. And I'm helping him cook it. And it's for his shikse. What do I do here!"

So Rav Tauber brought him to the rabbeim at Ohr Somayach and they gave him advice how to handle the problems, and that he shouldn't be home on Shabbos. That Shabbos Rav Tauber had him as his guest in Monsey. He said to Jonathan, "I want to show you a beautiful thought. About a hundred years ago lived a great personality, Rebbe Zadok HaKohen of Lublin. He wrote very deep Chassidic seforim. There he writes that in the course of world history, which is 6000 years, there are 3 eras. First was the generation of the flood, the Dor Hamabul. It was the most corrupt and decrepit generation that ever existed. They stole, and killed, and raped, and had absolutely no inhibitions, and for that it had to be destroyed. There was an era afterwards that was the exact opposite: the generation that went out of Mitzrayim and received the Torah, thr Dor Hamidbar. They were the most beautiful generation that ever existed. They followed Hashem into the desert asking no questions with absolute blind faith. They relied on Him totally. They lived totally spiritually for forty years. They were the most beautiful generation, the exact opposite of the Generation of the Flood.

"The third era will be the generation right before the Messiah, the Dor HaMoshiach which is our era. In the Dor HaMoshiach the neshamos of the Dor Hamabul and the Dor Hamidbar will come down again in the process of reincarnation. The most beautiful and the most ugly generations are going to come back again and they are going to wage war one with the other. It will be a terrible and brutal war. But eventually the generation of the Midbar, the receivers of the Torah, will overpower the generation of the Flood and with that the Era of the Moshiach be ushered in. Then the full beauty of Hashem and His Torah will be manifested on the whole world. That is our era.

"This is amazing. Rav Zadok lived 100 years ago and he wrote about our generation." So I told him, continued Rav Tauber, "I have seen beautiful parents from the Dor HaMidbar who had children as corrupt as the Dor HaMabul. These children deteriorated so low they did whatever they wanted, both from the perspective of Torah, and from the perspective of Humanity. This, unfortunately, is very prevalent in our generation. I have seen many boys, baale teshuva, who have made a complete comeback, but their brothers and sisters are totally corrupt. They have no morals, they're dope addicts, you name it. They do anything they want.

But who ever imagined that we would see in our generation parents from the worst element who had a child who became a beautiful tzaddik. I say worst element, because when their son tried to do the right thing they wanted to send him to a psychologist. The most liberal parents, psychologists, and they couldn't understand the emotional feelings of their son why couldn't he attend such a wedding? Why can't he accept whatever we decide for ourselves? Such brutality. This is complete absence of morality. This represents the Dor HaMabul when everyone did whatever they wanted with no regard for any morality whatsoever. And these parents from the Dor HaMabul had a son like you from the Dor HaMidbar, who did teshuva and comes to ask whether or not he can attend his parents wedding against his will! He doesn't want to go, but he asks the question. And he willing to listen to the Torah even those he doesn't want to go! This is a sign that the Moshiach is very close.

Elul - Does Anything Need Fixing?

You shall set up judges and law enforcement officials for yourself in all your gates. (Devorim 16:18)

The simple reading of this possuk describes the mitzvah to set up a legal system in every city. Rav Moshe Feinstein zt"l (Dorash Moshe) points out, however, that the word: "lecho (for yourself)," seems superfluous and disjointed. This 'society-type' commandment could have simply stated "appoint judges and officers." Why did the Torah add the word: "lecho"?

He explains that the Torah is teaching us a very fundamental concept. In addition to the need for society at large to have these shoftim and shotrim, each individual must be both a judge and officer over himself. "Lecho - for you." Over you. You must constantly oversee your own actions like a judge and making sure that they are what they should be. Secondly, you must also be a policeman to give yourself a ticket when you overstep your bounds.

Where should these judges sit? "B'chol sh'a'recha (in all of your gates)." The Shla"h Hakodesh writes that a person has seven gates: two eyes, two ears, two nostrils and a mouth which are the gates between the person and all that surrounds him. You should "appoint judges" on "all your gates," that all your senses should be led by the "judges" of your soul, the intellect of the G-dly soul with which one learns Torah. The Torah should control the functioning of one's sensory powers.

The way that these gates are used will either build or destroy the person. A person must appoint shoftim and shotrim to control the flow through these gates.

* * *

Rebbe Yaakov Yosef HaCohen (the Toldos) was standing together with the Baal Shem Tov discussing various thoughts in Torah (according to this version of the story, there are other versions involving other personalities). The Baal Shem expressed the belief that everything that happens and you notice it, is a message relevant to you. If something occurs in the world, and you become aware of it, that means that you are being sent a message from Heaven. The Baal Shem Tov added that this is true even if it seems to be very insignificant, and even if it seems entirely natural, still, since everything that happens in the world is ordained by Hashem, even your becoming aware of this event is also ordained by Hashem, so it means that it contains some message.

As they were discussing this concept, a gentile worker passed by and peeked through the open window and said, "Good Morning Rebbe, is there anything that needs fixing today?" He was a worker looking for a job.

"No, not today; everything seems to be in order," the Baal Shem replied.

The workman could not accept the answer, he needed work. So he blurted out, "Rebbe, if you look hard enough you'll always find something that needs repair."

The Baal Shem turned to Rav Yaakov Yosef and said, "Do you realize that we have just been sent a message from the Ribono Shel Olam. If you look hard enough, you can always find something that can be fixed up. Never think you're perfect."

Rav Yaakov Yosef was not ready to accept this idea. "If Hashem has such a lofty message, is He going to send it through a goyishe laborer? I can't accept that."

The Baal Shem Tov looked at him and retorted, "You can, you just don't want to."

Rav Yaakov Yosef left the Baal Shem Tov's house, reflecting upon the conversation. As he was standing there, a goyishe farmer passed by with a wagon load of hay. (Other versions relate this story happening to Rav Zusha.) As he drives by, a few bales of hay become loose and fall off the wagon. The goy stops his wagon and gets off and looks at Rav Yaakov Yosef and asks, "Can you help me lift these bales of hay back on the wagon? They're too heavy for me to lift."

Rav Yaakov Yosef replied, "I'm sorry, but they're too heavy for me too."

The goy looked at him and said, "You can. You just don't want to!"

That did it. He was convinced. A Heavenly message can come even through a goyishe wagon driver.

So when we hear the shofar we should realize that it is not just a musical instrument. It is not just a nice minhag. Hashem is talking to us, "Yidden, do Teshuvah!" Gut Shabbos!

Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff
4 Panim Meirot, Jerusalem 94423 Israel
Tel: 732-858-1257
Rabbi Parkoff is author of "Chizuk!" and "Trust Me!" (Feldheim Publishers), and "Mission Possible!" (Israel Book Shop Lakewood).
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