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GOOD MORNING! This fall Aish HaTorah will celebrate its 30th anniversary. From 2 apartments and 5 students in the Old City of Jerusalem, Aish has grown to a world-wide institution and a household word, yet it almost didn't happen. Here's the story:
A little more than a year after Aish started we needed to pay back a $10,000 loan. There was no need to worry because another person was going to loan us the money. The morning of the payback the person reneged on his loan - I figure he figured "they're borrowing from me to pay him back, what happens if they can't find someone to pay me back?" In any event, it was panic in the office striving to find a new loan before the 10 AM deadline.
Meanwhile, one of our students, Ben Karan, saw a couple looking at a map while he was on his way to class. He stopped and introduced himself and said, "I see you are trying to find a location. I live here in the Old City. May I help you?"
The couple said that they were trying to find the 4 Sefardic Synagogues. Benny responded, "No problem. I'm heading there now. That's where Aish HaTorah, the place I study, is located."
The couple asked, "What's Aish HaTorah?" And Benny explained, "Aish is a place where someone who is Jewish and comes from little or no background, but wants to learn about our heritage, can go to learn." The couple responded, "Fascinating! Can we stop there to see the place?"
Benny took them in and they talked with a number of the students about their background and their aspirations. They then turned to Benny and asked, "We really like Aish. May we meet with the head person?"
Benny then took the couple to the main office to meet Rabbi Noah Weinberg, the visionary and founder of Aish. After a half-hour discussion of the needs of the Jewish people and Aish's plan to create a world-wide outreach network to share the beauty and meaning of our heritage with our fellow Jews, the husband says to Rabbi Weinberg, "Rabbi, my wife and I are here in Israel as tourists. However, I am also a lawyer. Three months ago one of my clients, a woman, died. As executor of her estate I am directed by her will to give $10,000 to any Jewish educational institution of my choice in Israel. How do you spell the name of your institution?"
And that's the way I remember the story. As my friend Jeff Forsythe says, "If truth is stranger than fiction ... it's because it has a better author."
However, I decided to call my old friend Benny Karan to verify the facts before sending out the fax (and email edition). "Yeah, sure I remember the couple. Sam Horowitz and his wife from Pittsburgh. After he wrote the check he said he needed just one thing, our IRS tax number proving that we're a non-profit organization. Funny thing was that we didn't have one. So, we never got that check. The $10,000 came from somewhere else to pay back the loan. Eventually, we got the IRS number, but we never got the $10,000 from the estate."
By telling the story, I had intended to wax how the Almighty runs the world and putting our trust in the Almighty is the right course of action for success in life and the solution to our problems. As King David wrote in Psalm 20:8:
"There are those who trust in chariots and horses, but we call out in the name of the Almighty."
And while the reality of the story isn't as dramatic and dynamic as I have been telling it for the past 30 years - and will now never make it into those wonderful books of stories of Divine Providence - the fact is that Aish was able to pay off the $10,000 owed at 10 AM that morning and has succeeded over many obstacles and challenges to build the world class organization that exists today with over 100,000 students in our branches and hundreds of thousands learning via aish.com!
Torah Portion of the Week
Acharei Mot includes the Yom Kippur service where the Cohen Gadol cast lots to designate two goats - one to be sacrificed, the other to be driven to a place called Azazel after the Cohen Gadol -the High Priest - confesses the sins of the people upon its head. Today it is a very popular epithet in Israel to instruct another person in the heat of an argument to "go to Azazel." (I don't believe the intent, however, is to look for the goat.)
The goat sent to Azazel symbolically carried away the sins of the Jewish people. This, I surmise, is the source of the concept of using a scapegoat. One thing you can truly give credit to the Jewish people - when we use a scapegoat, at least we use a real goat!
The Torah then proceeds to set forth the sexual laws - who you are not allowed to marry or have relations with. If one appreciates that the goal of life is to be holy, to perfect oneself and to be as much as possible like God, then he/she can appreciate that it is impossible to orgy at night and be spiritual by day.
The Torah portion of Kedoshim invokes the Jewish people to be holy! And then it proceeds with the spiritual directions on how to achieve holiness, closeness to the Almighty. Within it lie the secrets and the prescription for Jewish continuity. If any group of people is to survive as an entity, it must have common values and goals - a direction and a meaning. By analyzing this portion we can learn much about our personal and national destiny.
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states:
"Love your fellow man as yourself, I am the Almighty." (Leviticus 19:18)
How are we supposed to put this into practice?
The Talmud (Shabbos 31a) tells the story of a non-Jew who came to the great sage Hillel and said, "Convert me on the condition that you will teach me the entire Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel accepted his condition and told him, "What you dislike, do not do to your friend. This is the entire Torah."
Since Hillel was referring to the commandment of love your neighbor, why didn't he just mention the words of this verse?
Rabbi Yeruchem Levovitz explains that this is to teach us an important principle. From the words, "love your fellow man" one might think that as long as one feels the emotion of love towards others one fulfills this commandment. However, the truth is that just feeling love alone is not sufficient. Rather, this love must motivate us to do positive things for others and to refrain from any actions or words that could cause someone any pain or suffering.
The Torah definitely requires us to feel deep love for others in our hearts. Even more than that, our behavior towards others must manifest this love. Therefore, Hillel explained to this man that a basic Torah principle is that the same commandment which requires us to have a profoundly positive feeling for others also requires us to behave in an elevated manner in our daily encounters with them.
CANDLE LIGHTING - April 30:
(or Go to http://www.aish.com/candlelighting)
Guatemala 5:59 Hong Kong 6:31 Honolulu 6:37
J'Burg 5:20 London 8:03 Los Angeles 7:18
Melbourne 5:13 Miami 7:32 Moscow 7:48
New York 7:33 Singapore 6:49
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
The past is gone,
the future isn't here yet,
the present is but a fleeting moment ...
-- Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra
In Loving Memory of My Father