GOOD MORNING! This week I share with you three stories ... and one question.
Several years ago I was in Prague eating at the King Solomon restaurant with a friend. The only other diners were a couple sitting near us. I kept staring at the man - he looked just like a friend from Singapore who had passed away recently. Frankly, it was spooky. Finally, I asked him, "Excuse me, where are you from?" "Milan" the man replied. That didn't help. "Were you born in Italy?" "No," the man responded, "Afghanistan." Bingo! "By chance is your last name Khafi?" "Yes! How did you know?" And I explained my relationship with his brother and expressed my condolences over his loss.
Second story: Two years ago I assisted in a wedding on Grand Cayman Island. The limousine brought me to the Marriot Hotel from the airport. While checking in, I noticed that the manager's last name was "Schwartz" and thought to myself "Amazing! In the middle of nowhere and here is a fellow Jew!" So, I asked him, "Where are you from?" He answered, "From a little place near Los Angeles, Santa Monica." Something started swirling in my head like a little red flag... and the next words out of my mouth were, "And how's your older brother, Marc?" The fellow looked up. His eyes bugged out. His jaw dropped. He stared at me and asked, "How could you possibly know that?" I didn't respond - kind of enjoying the dramatic moment. He looks down at his computer and starts repeating my name - first then last, first then last - and finally exclaims "Kalman Packouz! I haven't seen you for over 40 years!" When I was in high school I was president of District 4 AZA; my vice president was Marc Schwartz. This was his younger brother, Steve. How did I know? Whenever someone asked Marc, "Where are you from?" Marc would invariably answer, "From a little place near Los Angeles, Santa Monica." When Steve used the same response, somewhere deep in my brain a little voice said, "Aha!"
Third story: A few months ago I was talking with an 800 booking number to make a reservation for our winter vacation in Orlando. While the fellow is looking for prices and space I asked him, "Where are you located?" He replied, "In Bend. It's a little town in Oregon." And I pedantically responded, "I know Bend! It was originally named 'Farewell Bend' by the pioneers who were able to ford this shallow part the Deschutes river." "Wow! How did you know that?" the fellow asked. I replied, "I grew up in Beaverton, Oregon." "Funny" says he, "I grew up in Beaverton, Oregon!" "I graduated from Beaverton High School!" "Funny" says he, "I graduated from Beaverton High School." "I graduated in the Class of 1968!" ... and lo and behold, he says, "I graduated in the Class of 1968!" And for the next half hour we caught up on the last 40 years and many of our classmates. What is the chance of dialing an 800 number and getting 1 out of 450 classmates you went to high school with out of 307 million people in the United States? (But neither that nor the following 2 questions are the question I want to ask!)
Are these encounters more than coincidences? Is each one a bit of a miracle? The Ramban in his commentary on Noah explains that really everything is a miracle. However, miracles fall into 3 categories: (1) "An Open Miracle." (2) "A Hidden Miracle." (3) "Nature." From the Almighty's "point of view" they are all the same. The difference is our perception. When we get habituated to a miracle we call it "Nature." When it is a coincidence, it is a "Hidden Miracle." And, when the sea splits ... now that's "An Open Miracle!"
If truth is stranger than fiction, it is because it has a better Author. Our Torah teaches us that the Almighty loves us and has a personal relationship with each of us. Everything that happens to us is carrying a message from the Almighty to help us fulfill our mission in life and to perfect our character and soul.
So, here's the question: What's the message? What am I suppose to learn from encounters of this nature? There is an old Jewish saying, "If one person calls you a donkey, ignore him; if two people call you a donkey, buy a saddle!" If the Almighty is giving me the same experience again and again - what is the message that I am not getting? It is possible that these meetings and communications are setting up events and connections for the future. It is possible that there was something I was supposed to initiate at these junctures.
Ultimately, we are finite and the Almighty is infinite. It is impossible for us to fully comprehend the depth of His messages to us, but there is always a lesson. Some say that "coincidence is God's way of staying anonymous." I say "Coincidence is God's way of saying 'I Love You and Don't Forget that I am Here With You!' "
For more on "God's Messages" go to ShabbatShalomAudio.com!
Torah Portion of the Week
The Torah continues with the laws of physical and spiritual purity. The focus of this portion is upon tzora'as, a supernatural physical affliction sent to warn someone to refrain from speaking badly about others. The disease progressively afflicted home, clothes and then one's skin - unless the individual corrected his ways and followed the purification process stated in the Torah.
There are two types of speech transgressions: 1) Loshon Hora (literally "evil tongue")- making a derogatory or damaging statement about someone even though you are speaking the truth. 2) Rechilus (literally "tale bearing") - telling someone the negative things another person said about him or did against him. Check out http://www.chofetzchaimusa.org for daily lessons in Shmirat HaLoshon, proper speech - or ask at your local Jewish bookstore, JudaicaEnterprises.com or call toll-free to 877-758-3242 for books and tapes!
The second Torah Portion, Metzora, continues with the purification process for the metzora, the person afflicted with tzora'as and then the home afflicted with tzora'as. The portion ends with the purification process for discharges from the flesh.
* * *
based on Love Your Neighbor by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah writes regarding one who is afflicted for speaking gossip or tale bearing:
"All the days the plague is in him ... he shall dwell alone; outside the camp shall his dwelling be" (Lev. 13:46).
What lesson can we learn from this?
The Sages said that since the metzora caused the separation of friends and the separation of husbands and wives, he should also be separated from others.
The isolation of the metzora gave him time for introspection. He could now recall the marriages and friendships his malicious gossip has dissolved. Removed from society, he would feel the mental anguish he caused others when his slander caused them to be ostracized.
From here we see that a person should learn from his own experiences the pain that others feel when they suffer. If anyone ever spoke loshon hora against you, you certainly did not like it. Remember those feelings and refrain from speaking against others.
CANDLE LIGHTING - April 16
(or go to http://www.aish.com/sh/c/)
Guatemala 5:58 - Hong Kong 6:25 - Honolulu 6:33
J'Burg 5:32 - London 7:40 - Los Angeles 7:07
Melbourne 5:35 - Mexico City 7:36 - Miami 7:26
New York 7:18 - Singapore 6:51 - Toronto 7:43
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
The difference between stumbling blocks and stepping stones...
is how you use them.
With Deep Appreciation to
Dan & Lillian Kamis
Rabbi Kalman Packouz
Click here for Rabbi Packouz's bio
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