Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues
" For the Children of Israel are servants to Me, they are My servants, whom I have taken out of the land of Egypt -- I am Hashem, your G-d" (Vayikra 25:55).
Living in a free, Democratic society, we sometimes forget that when Hashem took us out of Egypt, the House of Bondage, we switched from being Par'o's servants to Hashem's. We are expected to serve Him diligently and unquestionably, just as we served our oppressors. The only difference is that Par'o was a tyrant who demanded impossible things and punished us when we failed them. Hashem, on the other hand, never asks of us what we cannot do.
In volume two of his fabulous book, Bemechitzasam, Rabbi Shlomo Lorentz tells that when the Kapitshnitzer Rebbe ztvk"l came to Israel for a grandchild's wedding, he visited his relative by marriage, Reb Shlomo Zalman Auerbach ztvk"l. After the visit, they ordered a taxi but it was late in coming. Reb Shlomo Zalman, who was twenty years younger than the Rebbe asked someone to bring out a chair for the Rebbe. However, he refused to sit. When Reb Shlomo Zalman insisted, the Rebbe replied, "My father taught me to imagine that every move I make is being photographed in Heaven. All of my life, I've tried to stick to that simple rule. I ask you now," the Rebbe concluded, "How embarrassing will that shot look of me sitting and the Gaon, Reb Shlomo Zalman, standing next to me?"
Reb Shlomo Zalman was so impressed that, at every opportunity, he related that there is someone alive who never forgets that every move of his is "being photographed" by Hashem.
Bechukosei"If you will follow My decrees and observe My commandments and perform them. Then I will provide your rains in their time, and the land will give its produce and the tree of the field will give its fruit" (Vayikra 26:3-4). Rashi quotes the words of the Sages who interpret the phrase "follow My decrees" as meaning to study the Torah diligently.
The last passage in this week's parashah reads, "These are the commandments that Hashem commanded Moshe to the Children of Israel on Mount Sinai" (ibid. 27:34). This statement is meant to instill in us a definite, positive belief in what the Torah says, with no doubts whatsoever.
I remember the first time I went fundraising for my own Torah cause. I was a very young man, newly married, and I had re-opened the Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim of Suffern together with Rabbi Gershon Zaks z"l. Reb Gershon served as Rosh Yeshiva and I as Mashgiach. There was a group of young boys from Morocco in yeshiva and we were afraid that if they left the Torah atmosphere for the long summer vacation, they would become non-religious. But in order to keep them over the summer and learn Torah with them mornings and evenings, we had to provide some recreation for the afternoons. Since the yeshiva building was built on a large, wooded area, we discussed the possibility of building a large swimming pool to serve the purpose. I took it upon myself to try to raise the funds for this very worthy project.
I went to visit a philanthropist who, although he was an avowed Socialist, contributed a lot to charity, especially to the Mirrer Yeshiva which was run by Rabbi Moshe Mordechai Kalmanowitz zt"l. I came with my uncle, who was his friend, so he received me warmly, but when I began to explain why I had come, he got very upset. He said that he didn't see any value in learning Torah all day and to him it was a waste of time. When I showed him the picture of the campus and he saw all of the trees surrounding the building, he suggested that we let the boys chop them down and thereby teach them a trade which involves using ones hands rather than Capitalistic business expertise as they do in American universities.
I tried to debate with him but the more I said the more he snapped back with a tirade of heresy against Hashem and His Torah, commenting also on the tragic Holocaust. He peppered his attacks with his political, anti-American views too. I considered rending my garments as one must do when he hears blasphemy but I didn't know whether I was supposed to tear the right or the left side of my clothing.
Finally, I realized that the best thing to do is remain silent so I simply shut up and waited impatiently for him to finish his lecture so I could leave; obviously without getting any money from him.
When he finally stopped ranting and raving, he stood up, I thought to tell me goodbye. But, instead, he went into the next room and opened a drawer. When he returned, he told me to put out my hand and, with great satisfaction, he counted out five hundred dollar bills; a fairly large amount in those days. I was totally flabbergasted.
He then smiled at me and said, "I apologize for my disturbing words. Sometimes I like to talk like a heretic. With you and my Rabbi of the synagogue I can do so, because you debate with me. But with Rabbi Kalmanowitz I cannot, because he doesn't afford me the opportunity. For example, before Rosh Hashana he came to me for funds and he began his presentation by saying that the world is about to become 5,731 years old. I interrupted and remarked that scientists had recently found fossils which dated millions of years old. The smart Rabbi slammed his fist on the table and shouted, 'the world is 5,731 years old - not a day more nor a day less!'
"How could I argue with a man with such strong conviction?"
I left his home with a lot more than 500 dollars. I had learned a very valuable lesson in life: Don't be afraid to state your beliefs; loudly, strongly and unequivocally. Doubters will respect you more if you do.
Chazak, chazak venischazak.
Shema Yisrael Torah Network