title.jpg (23972 bytes) subscribe

Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues


"And Ya'akov obeyed his father and mother and went to Paddan-aram" (Bereishis 28:7).

We can easily imagine what our Patriarch Ya'akov was probably thinking as he left his parents' home. He had just risked his life to obey his mother and receive the coveted Blessings from his father. He had been promised an abundance of success, spiritually and materialistically, in this world and the World-to-Come. And yet the reality was that he was now going into exile; away from his land; away from his family; a fugitive trying to escape the wrath of his brother Eisav who wanted to kill him. His beautiful world of Torah, mitzvahs and holiness was being exchanged for the profane world of his sly uncle Lavan from whom none of us would buy a used car. At that moment, everything seemed very bleak; the antithesis of those very blessings Ya'akov had just received.

But the fact is that precisely in that situation his entire, glorious future was shaped. There he married his four wives who bore him the twelve tribes of Israel. And there he herded the sheep of Lavan who, Kabbalists say, later became the reincarnated souls of the Israelites who received the Torah on Mount Sinai.

What we must learn from this is that often when things look the worst, it is really the beginning of Hashem's salvation. Just as a seed in the ground first deteriorates before it brings forth blossoms and fruits so, too, we sometimes have to hit rock bottom before we begin to grow and be successful. The problem is that we are nearsighted and only focus on the problems confronting us. That's when we have to muster up our faith in Hashem and try to look beyond the dark clouds towards a brighter tomorrow.

A student of mine, Nachman, once passed a burning house and ran to see if he could help. A large family lived within, and in the confusion of escaping the flames, a young child had been left behind without the parents realizing that he was missing. Nachman found the boy standing at the door of the house, only a few steps away from safety; but he had stopped dead in his tracks because, in order to escape, he had to run through the fire which was burning in front of his terrified eyes. Nachman told the boy to come to him but he would not budge. He could not see the haven ahead; it was being blocked by the hell before him. Only after much encouragement did Nachman succeed to get the child to run through the flames into his arms where he was safe to continue his life and build his future.

One of my mentors, Reb Tuvia Goldstein z"l, told us about the time he and his yeshiva colleagues were transported to Siberia by the Russians, during World War II. Some of the students succeeded to jump off of the train into the nearby forest. Those who remained onboard were so jealous of those who had escaped. But years later they found out that the next day the cursed Germans arrived and killed everyone they found in the forest, including those refugees. "We, on the other hand," Reb Tuvia used to say, "had a very difficult time in freezing Siberia, but we lived through it, thank G-d, and went on to raise our families in the free, post-war world."

Reb Daniel Hirsch brought to my attention a great story in a fantastic Hebrew book called She'ifos, which means "aspirations." It is a book full of encouragement and motivation and everyone should try to read it.

Rabbi Moshe Sherer z"l was the Director of Agudas Yisrael of America for many years and fought many political battles for the benefit of Orthodox Jewry in the USA. He was once asked how it was that he never seemed to despair or give up hope, even when everyone else felt that the particular cause they were fighting for was surely lost. He answered by telling a story his mother had told him when he was a child.

Little Moshe was very sick and his body was burning with fever. His mother rushed to call a doctor who examined him and wrote a prescription. "This medicine is very expensive," the doctor told Mrs. Sherer, "but it is the only thing that can save your child's life!"

A mother will do anything to save her child, but sometimes it is just not within her power to do so. She searched the house and scraped together every last penny she could find, but she knew that it was not enough for even half of the cost of the precious elixir. Sitting and crying next to her ailing son's bed, while praying and saying Tehillim (Psalms) to the Healer of all Flesh, she suddenly received inspiration and courage to try to accomplish the impossible. She headed to the pharmacy and found, to her delight, that the owner was not there. She explained her plight to the pharmacist on duty who agreed to prepare the formula for her for the small amount of money she possessed. Fifteen minutes later she was on her way home; the precious potion in her hand. She thanked Hashem for having mercy on her and on her son and prayed for his speedy recovery among all of the sick in Israel.

But her euphoria was short lived. Making her way through the "sea" of thousands of people rushing home after a long day's work, she was pushed, inadvertently, by some careless person. The bag with the cherished bottle fell out of her hands and the jar smashed immediately upon making contact with the concrete. Mrs. Sherer was shocked and devastated. Her only hope to save her precious child lied, useless, at her feet. She felt utterly lost. Mustering up her last drops of strength and courage, she returned, embarrassed, to the pharmacy. This time the owner was there. She sobbed so much as she told him her story, that he could not understand what she was trying to tell him. Finally she controlled herself long enough to explain what had occurred and she begged him to give her another bottleful, in return for which she would come every night and clean his store for free.

The pharmacist took the bag from the unfortunate mother and began to examine its contents. Suddenly he exclaimed, "Madam, Angels are protecting your child! Angels, I tell you." The startled and despondent mother did not comprehend what he was talking about and just stared at him. Trembling, he said to her, "The pharmacist who prepared this formula for you made a terrible mistake in one of the ingredients. Had you given this to your son, he would probably not be alive by now. Please accept my sincere apologies and let me prepare it for you properly - at no charge, of course." The fellow prepared the prescription carefully, all the time muttering to himself, "Angels…Angels protected this child."

Many years later, Mrs. Sherer told this story to her son. "You see, Moishie" she said. "When that bottle broke, I was on the brink of despair. I saw only darkness, with absolutely no hope of survival. But I soon learned that precisely those moments which I had thought were the gloomiest, were actually the beginnings of Hashem's salvation."

"From her I learned," said Reb Moshe Sherer, "never to lose hope. Even at the very last moment, Hashem can suddenly save us from harm. We must never lose faith in Him - never."

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel