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Sazria - MetzoraDuring these days of the Counting of the Omer, we observe a period of mourning for the 24,000 students of Rabi Akiva who all died during this timeframe. The Gemara tells that they were punished for not honoring each other properly. Although it was certainly something very minor - even the Gemara calls it "lack of honor," not abuse, G-d forbid - something so small that even their mentor, Rabi Akiva, didn't notice and never reprimanded them for it; even so, they were gravely punished. Hashem expects more from people who are great and He is very strict with them; especially when it concerns matters between man and his fellow man.
We are expected to learn from mistakes, those of others as well as our own, which is why the Sages tell us all of these stories in the first place. Consequently, during the days of Sefirah ("counting"), it is customary to give special attention to our dealings with other people. On a religious radio station in Israel, an hour a day is dedicated to discussing these matters, with participation from the listeners as well. Last week, a woman sent in a fax telling her personal experience and what she gained from being nice to someone else.
"I went to the Kosel HaMa'aravi (the Western Wall) to pray," she wrote. "It seemed to be a nice day, but I obeyed my mother and took along an umbrella. Sure enough, while on the bus, it began to pour. By the time I arrived at the Holy Wall, I found it almost empty, due to the inclement weather. I, however, was able to pray calmly, under my umbrella.
"Suddenly I noticed a woman praying with lots of devotion, in spite of the rain which was falling on her head. I thought to myself, my umbrella is big enough to shelter two people at the same time. I am going to stand next to her and hold it over both our heads so that we can both pray undisturbed. And so I did.
"After we both finished our prayers, the woman thanked me profusely and we began shmoozing. She told me that she was from abroad and had come to Israel to visit her son who is learning in yeshiva here. One thing led to another, and, to make a long story short, her wonderful son and I just got married!"
King Shlomo taught, "Cast your bread upon the waters, for you shall find it after many days" (Koheles 11:1).
And while we're on the topic of shidduchim (matches), there is a shidduch between a fabulously wealthy family from Bnei Brak with a desperately poor family from Jerusalem which made everyone wonder which shadchan (matchmaker) even dreamed of suggestion this odd match. The answer, of course, is the Matchmaker of all matchmakers: Hashem Himself. The amazing story is recounted in Aleynu Lishabeach, by Rabbi Yitzchak Zilberstein, shlita.
The son of the poor family was waiting for a bus in Jerusalem, when he noticed a suspicious looking suitcase. Afraid that it might be a terrorist's bomb, chas veShalom, he quickly stepped away from it. But then he realized that it had not been there when he arrived and he was positive that all the people who had come and gone, while he was there, had been religious Jews. So he approached the suitcase and carefully opened it. To his great shock, it was filled with packages of bills of large denominations; totaling many tens of thousands of dollars. He decided to wait for a while while guarding the find; just in case the rightful owner returned to look for his great loss. When no one showed up, however, he took it home and showed it to his father.
His father immediately prepared "lost and found" signs and sent his sons to hang them up at the bus station and all around the neighborhood. Sure enough, a few hours later someone from Bnei Brak answered the call and was able to prove, through reliable simanim (marks of identification), that the suitcase belonged to him. The man expressed his profound appreciation and explained that he was on his way to pay for an apartment which he had purchased in Jerusalem. No reward was accepted since it is a mitzvah to return a lost article and we await our proper reward in the World-to-Come.
A few days later, the rich man revisited the poor family and asked to speak to the father again. He explained that the apartment he had bought was for his daughter who had recently reached marriageable age and was soon to begin "going out on shidduchim."
"When I told my wife the story of the suitcase," he continued, "she immediately began making inquiries about your son and was told that he is among the very best in his yeshiva, and the kind of true talmid chochom (Torah scholar) with exemplary character traits we are looking for for our daughter. So I come to you today as a 'shadchan' to suggest to you our own child. Let them meet together and decide for themselves if this is a marriage which was clearly made in Heaven."
The father agreed and several days later a plate was broken at the young couple's engagement celebration!
Shema Yisrael Torah Network