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Lech Lecha

We tend to take things for granted, not realizing that every good thing has its roots in some good act which preceded it and every bad thing is a result of some bad act which caused it. For example, when we see that some woman was privileged to have a son who is a great Torah scholar, we may be envious and wish that our children would be the same. However, we should realize that this woman, or, perhaps, her husband, must have done something great in order to deserve such a special child. Perhaps by emulating their acts, we can merit similar reward in this world and in the World-to-Come.

In this week's parashah, we learn that our Patriarch Avraham was very concerned that there be no strife between him and his nephew Lot. "And there was quarreling between the herdsmen of Avram's livestock and the herdsmen of Lot's livestock ůSo Avram said to Lot - 'Please let there be no strife between me and you, and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen, for we are kinsmen'" (Bereishis 13:7-8). The Torah wants peace and harmony among us and commands us to try our utmost to avoid conflict and disunity. Often that is quite difficult to accomplish but one who overcomes all obstacles will be blessed profusely. Indeed, the Talmud (Chulin 89a) declares that the very world exists in the merit of one who controls himself and is silent during times of quarrel.

The following inspiring story should serve as a good lesson for all of us.

Most of us were born in the Technological Age and witness, practically day by day, as more and more devices are developed to make the complexities of life easier and easier to deal with. But some of us remember how our parents, or grandparents, had to struggle with challenges which today are as simple as pressing a button. For example, automatic washers and dryers make laundry day a cinch. But it was once a formidable task which took at least a full day of tiring labor. When it was all over, the housewife needed and deserved a good rest. But not always was she granted that respite. In a Jewish neighborhood in Europe, about ninety years ago, a woman spent many hours doing her laundry. Actually, there was not really that much to do, since she and her husband had not yet been blessed with a child, although they had been married for many years. But whatever there was had to be washed and scrubbed by hand, and that was no easy task by any means. Finally, when the clothes were spotlessly clean, the young woman tied two long ropes from one end of the courtyard to the other and hung her wash upon them. It was no easy job for a woman to do and she was grateful that she only had to do it once a week.

Suddenly, to her horror, she was attacked by her downstairs neighbor who decided, for some unknown reason, that the laundry disturbed her freedom to walk through the courtyard which they both shared with other neighbors. It did not take long for her to decide to take matters into her own hands. Rather than discuss her complaint with her neighbor, she simply took a pair of scissors and cut the two ropes, bringing all of the clean laundry tumbling down into the mud.

The shocked housewife wanted to pour out her wrath upon the insensitive, wicked neighbor but she decided to overpower the burning sensation growing within her and avoid squabbling at all costs. She silently gathered all of her clothes, washed them all a second time, and found some corner where she could hang them up to dry without anyone even imagining that they were being disturbed by them in any way.

That evening, when her husband came home from the Beis Midrash (study hall where people learn Torah), the exhausted housewife, who was still quite unnerved, wanted to tell him what had transpired earlier that day. But once again she decided to make a super-human effort to control her natural instincts and did not let her Yetzer Hara (Evil Inclination) persuade her to speak lashon hara (slander) against another Jewish woman; even one who had caused her so much unnecessary anguish. She did not say a word about the incident and kept her pain to herself.

Later that night, a frantic knock was heard at their door. The housewife opened it up and was startled to meet her wicked neighbor face to face, and expected to hear some more of her groundless complaints. Much to her surprise, the neighbor began to cry and begged her to forgive her for the thoughtless act she had performed that morning. "I have already received my just punishment," she explained. "My young son suddenly came down with a very high fever, and I realize that I am the cause of it. Please forgive me with all your heart and I will never do anything like that again," she pleaded.

The righteous woman did not take revenge nor did she even take the opportunity to reprimand her neighbor who, probably, had done many other things to disturb her. She forgave her from the depths of her heart and soul and even wished a speedy recovery to the sick child.

One year later, this wonderful woman was privileged to give birth to a remarkable son; one who lights up the world with his ingenious Torah knowledge. He is none other than the Posek Hador (the Halachic Authority of the generation): Hagaon Harav Yosef Shalom Eliashiv, shlita!

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel