GOOD MORNING! Two weeks ago on Tisha B'Av, my friend, Tuvia Chaim Ariel, passed away and was buried in Tekoah, a yishuv (settlement), in Israel. I have often said that coincidence is God's way of staying anonymous. The following event in his life might bear the accolade of "King of the Coincidence Stories."
Several years ago Tuvia Chaim made aliya and worked in a kibbutz factory that made baby formula powder. Due to an accident with a grinding machine, he lost his right leg above the knee. Undaunted, Tuvia Chaim studied and became a tour guide.
One morning he picked up a man from New York at Ben Gurion Airport to bring him to Jerusalem. The man was bedecked in gold chains and had an overbearing attitude. On the way to Jerusalem it became obvious to Tuvia Chaim that theirs was not a match made in heaven. Tuvia Chaim pulled the van to the side of the road and told the man that he would get him a different tour guide. The man responded, "Listen, you think I'm just your typical overbearing New York Jew with gold chains -- I paid my dues." The man then rolled up his sleeve to expose a tattoo from Auschwitz which ended with the numbers "7402". "I lost my mother, my father and all my brothers and sisters."
Tuvia Chaim looked at the man's tattoo and turned white. In the carpentry shop on his kibbutz there worked a man who escaped from Auschwitz, fought with the Polish partisans and later made his way to Palestine to join the Haganah. The man also had a tattoo on his arm -- a number that ended with the same last four digits of Tuvia Chaim's Social Security number and coincidentally his telephone number -- "7401".
"Did you have a brother named 'Zalman'?" asked Tuvia Chaim.
"Yes, but how could you know that?" replied the shocked man.
"Was he tattooed before you or after you?" persisted Tuvia Chaim.
"Before me, but why?" responded the puzzled man.
"I think your brother is alive," answered Tuvia Chaim and with that he made a U-turn on the old Jerusalem road and headed back to his kibbutz near Lake Tiberias to reunite the two brothers in what my friend described as "the most emotional, God-filled moment of his life."
By the way, the Torah teaches us that there is no such thing as a coincidence -- everything that happens to us in life is a message from the Almighty. It is our job to try to understand the message and to see how we can improve ourselves and come closer to the Almighty. May Tuvia Chaim's story bring us all closer!
Q & A: IF I DON'T KEEP ALL THE MITZVOT, IS IT WORTHWHILE TO DO ANY COMMANDMENTS?
In Judaism, every Mitzvah (commandment) is intrinsically meaningful, and every good deed will be rewarded, regardless of what percentage of the entire Torah is upheld. The notion of "If I can't keep the whole Torah, why keep anything?" is mistaken.
Judaism begins with the premise that there is no one who will be able to accomplish it all; every human being is fallible. Success in Jewish terms, therefore, means growth and effort. A person who makes a sincere attempt is a spiritual success, regardless of what he accomplishes quantitatively -- and he should take pleasure in that success. One is not a hypocrite if he does some Mitzvot; he is on a path of growth.
If you stumbled across a gold mine, would you refuse to take any gold simply because you can't take all of the gold now? Just one nugget can make you rich! Likewise, the Torah is a gold mine and each Mitzvah will enrich your life immeasurably. You gain in this world and the World to Come. And the next Mitzvah becomes easier to do. Once the door to a relationship with God is opened, the strength to continue comes more easily.
-- based on an essay by Rabbi Eric Coopersmith
Portion of the Week
This week is a jam-packed portion. It begins with a choice: "I set before you a blessing and a curse. The blessing: if you obey the commandments of God...; the curse if you do not ... and you follow other gods."
The portion continues with rules and laws for the land of Israel primarily oriented towards staying away from idol worship and the religions in the land. In verses 13:1-12 you will find the section that caused a missionary's face to blanch and silenced him from continuing to proselytize a renowned rabbi.
One of the indications of the existence and necessity of the Oral Torah -- an explanation and clarification (later redacted as the Talmud) of the written Torah (The Five Books of Moses) -- comes from verse 12:21 "You will slaughter animals ... according to the manner I (God) have prescribed." Nowhere in the Torah are we instructed in the manner of shechita, ritual slaughter. One might conclude that there was a very sloppy editor. Or -- one might conclude that there are additional teachings clarifying and amplifying the written Word.
The source of the Chosen People concept (14:1-2): "You are a nation consecrated to God your Lord. God has chosen you from all nations on the face of the earth to be His own special nation." We are chosen for responsibility, not privilege -- to act morally and to be a "light unto the nations."
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states, "After the Almighty, your God, shall you walk, and Him shall you fear, and His commandments you shall observe and to His voice shall you hearken, and Him shall you serve and to Him shall you cleave."
The Chofetz Chaim, Rabbi Yisroel Meir Kagan, notes that the Hebrew word for "after" is "acharei" which denotes a far distance. He asks, "Since this verse tells us to follow the Almighty, why didn't the Torah use a term denoting closeness since we should be as close as possible to the Almighty?
Rabbi Kagan explains that the Torah uses a term denoting distance to tell us that regardless of how far a person feels he is from the Almighty, he should never give up hope. With all of his power he should strive to come closer to the Almighty and he will find Him. Never despair and keep your focus.
CANDLE LIGHTING - August 25:
Jerusalem 6:36 Miami 7:30 New York 7:22
L.A. 7:10 Hong Kong 6:28 Singapore 6:54
Guatemala 6:01 Honolulu 6:35 J'Burg 5:34
Melbourne 5:35 Moscow 7:23 London 7:42
Atlanta 7:55 Montreal 7:29
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
If you wish to make an impact for one
if you wish to make an impact for a generation,
plant a tree;
if you wish to make an impact for an eternity,
educate a child.
Dedicated by...In Loving Memory of
a beloved human being