GOOD MORNING! What can you do to ensure that you have a portion in the World to Come? A wagon driver, a simple man, once asked the Chofetz Chaim, Rabbi Yisroel Meir Kagan, this question. The Chofetz Chaim -- the greatest rabbi of his generation -- advised him, "Start a gemach, a free loan society." (The word "gemach" is an acronym for the Hebrew "gemilut chasadim" which translates as "doing deeds of kindness.") In Pirke Avos, Ethics of the Fathers 1:2, the mishna (teaching) states: "Shimon HaTzadik (the righteous) used to say that the world stands on 3 things: Torah, Prayer and Deeds of Loving Kindness."
The Talmud, Yevamos 79a, tells us that the Jewish people are known by 3 traits: merciful, morally sensitive and doers of kindness. How one expresses those qualities is only limited by his or her imagination, creativity and sensitivity to others' needs.
Usually when one thinks of a Free Loan Society, he thinks of an organization which loans money interest free (the borrower gives monthly post-dated checks and has two guarantors). In South Florida, for instance, there is the Hebrew Free Loan Association, 305-933-1187 or HebrewLoan.org. (You can be a part of this mitzvah and every loan they make by sending a contribution to: HFLA, POB 630362, Miami, FL 33163). This fits right in with the highest level of Maimonides 8 Levels of Tzedakah (righteousness ... philanthropic assistance to others) -- to help a person before he becomes impoverished -- with a loan or by finding him a job or a business deal. Their motto: "To give people a chance to stand with dignity on their own two feet."
In Jerusalem there are literally thousands of Free Loan Societies. They even publish a directory! If one is having a simcha (a joyous celebration -- an engagement, a bris...) there are gemachs to borrow tables and chairs and even dishes and silverware! If it is Shabbat and the pharmacy is closed, one can go to a medicine gemach. Imagine the joy of being able to borrow the right power tool. The former mayor of Jerusalem, Uri Lopiansky, started his career helping people with a gemach, Yad Sarah, for medical equipment including beds, wheel chairs and oxygen machines. Yad Sarah grew to a multi-million dollar institution helping people throughout Israel ... and Uri Lopiansky was drafted to be on the Jerusalem City Council where he eventually became mayor!
Bridal gowns are very expensive. One can borrow a gown, pay for tailoring, wear it, have it cleaned and return it. The Bridal Canopy is run by Rebbetzin Leah Tolwin, in Detroit. People come from all over the Mid-West. She has several hundred gowns including Mother of the Bride and Bride's Maids gowns. Stores, manufactures and brides donate the gowns. (If you are interested in starting a bridal gemach, you can call Rebbetzin Tolwin at 248-424-9244 or write her at LTolwin@aish.com).
In Pirke Avos, Ethics of the Fathers 4:21-22, the mishna (teaching) states: Rebbi Ya'akov (Jacob) said: "This world is compared to a corridor before the World to Come; prepare yourself in the corridor in order that you may enter into the banquet-hall." He then continues and says, "Better one moment of repentance and good deeds in this world than all of the World to Come; and better one moment of spiritual pleasure in the World to Come than all of the life in this world."
If one wants to talk about ultimate pleasure, it is in the next world. If one wants to talk about the opportunity to fulfill the Almighty's will, make the world a better place and perfect his own character, then this world is the place. In the next world there is no opportunity to do mitzvot (the Almighty's commandments) or to work on perfecting oneself or the world. What better way to have pleasure in this world and the next than to help others by starting a Free Loan Society?
The Almighty, Himself, says about Abraham, "I have loved him because he commands his children and his household after him that they keep the ways of the Almighty to do righteousness and justice..." (Genesis 18:19). If you would like to know more about what the Torah teaches about kindness and how to help others, I highly recommend the classic and essential book Ahavath Chesed (Love of Kindness) by the Chafetz Chaim available at your local Jewish bookstore, at JudaicaEnterprises.com or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242.
Torah Portion of the Week
We left off last week with Joseph's pronouncement that he was keeping Benjamin as a slave for stealing his wine cup. Judah steps forward to challenge the decision and offers himself as a slave instead of Benjamin. Joseph is overcome with emotion, clears the room of all Egyptians and then reveals his identity to his unsuspecting brothers.
The brothers are shocked! They suspect Joseph's intentions, but accept his offer to bring the extended family to Egypt. Jacob is initially numb and disbelieving of the news, but becomes very excited to see his son.
The Torah recounts the 70 members of Jacob's family which went down to Egypt. Jacob reunites with Joseph, meets Pharaoh and settles with the family in the Goshen district.
During the famine, Joseph buys up all of the property and people in Egypt for Pharaoh with the grain stored during the seven good years.
* * *
based on Twerski on Chumash by Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, M.D.
The Torah states:
"Then Judah approached him (Joseph) and said, 'If you please, my lord, may your servant speak a word in my lord's ears' " (Gen. 44:18).
What did Judah intend to do?
Judah indicated that he wished to speak very softly, virtually whispering "a word in my lord's ears." What was the purpose of that? Furthermore, why does the Torah bother to tell something that does not appear significant?
The Torah is coming to teach a lesson in communications: If what you have to say really has merit, speaking softly and gently will enable you to be heard. Shouting is a giveaway that your argument is weak; the other person will tune you out and just think of his rebuttal.
King Solomon says, "The gentle words of the wise are heard above the shouts of a king over fools" (Ecclesiastes 9:17). A soft voice can actually drown out a shout.
Judah believed that his argument for the release of Benjamin was very convincing. In order to impress Joseph that what he was about to say was valid, Judah said, "I am going to say it to you softly."
CANDLE LIGHTING - December 30
(or go to http://www.aish.com/sh/c/)
Guatemala 5:25 - Hong Kong 5:31 - Honolulu 5:41
J'Burg 6:45 - London 3:41 - Los Angeles 4:35
Melbourne 8:27 - Mexico City 5:50 - Miami 5:23
New York 4:19 - Singapore 6:50 - Toronto 4:31
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
The tongue weighs hardly anything,
yet so few people can hold it...
With Deep Appreciation to
Ms. Marilyn Frid