Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Making Impossible Possible

Thank you Malky for emailing this to me.

The Art of Making the Impossible Possible
By: Rabbi Avrohom Birnbaum

I am not a Satmar chossid by any means. I am far from it. Being stranded with some 80 Jews, among them several Satmar chassidim, atop Killington Mountain in Vermont last week, however, gave me eason to become a chossid of at least one aspect of their worldview, an aspect that I would like to share with my readers. Not just as a token of hakoras hatov to them for all that they did for my family and the 18 other stranded families, but rather because I think that there is much that we, as a community, can learn from them.


Boruch Hashem, our rendezvous with Hurricane Irene ended with our arrival home early last Wednesday morning, absolutely exhausted, but exulting in Hashem’s kindness after witnessing the absolute devastation and destruction wrought on the state of Vermont. It is impossible to describe what we saw as we left central Vermont, other than that it looked like a war zone. Roads were literally “bombed” out, with massive chasms along both sides of every road, and ripped-up, twisted pavement and metal guardrails spilling into raging rivers. We drove in the middle of those roads on what had once been the two yellow lines, terrified that one wrong move, one turn of the wheel or shifting of the already puckered pavement, would bring us in direct contact with those raging rapids.

We saw houses and cars floating downstream. It was heartbreaking to see local residents sitting outside what had once been their houses or farms, shell-shocked as they watched their possessions, their life’s work, literally swallowed up before their eyes. They were helpless. Nothing they could have done would have prevented that.

Kol Hashem shover arazim!


Let us, however, return to our Satmar friends. They were by no means the majority in our group. They were just a few families, but as soon as it became clear that the situation was dire and it was conceivable that we would not be leaving for a few days, they sprang into action.

While the rest of us were engaging in hand-wringing and speculation as to what our plight would be and when the authorities would release us, they were working the phones.
“Look, we don’t have enough food,” one of them told me. “We have to figure out a way to get food flown in. We can’t very well let families, especially families with small children, have little or nothing to eat.”

About two hours later, while I was contemplating how to stretch some oatmeal and peanut butter to last a few days, they told me with a sense of pride that “by tonight, a helicopter would bring us ‘kol tuv.’” That is exactly what happened.


How did they do it?

It was a combination of factors. Perhaps the first crucial factor was a deeply ingrained devotion to chessed. They have been hardwired to do whatever possible for those in distress. It is their default button, almost part of their very DNA.

The second factor is a different approach to life and serving the public than that which we are accustomed to. The basic working premise that my new found Satmar friends displayed as soon as the problem crystallized was, “There is a solution to the problem.” End of sentence.

We will solve the problem with Hashem’s help. The question is only how and how much money and work it will involve.

Their phone calls led them to the Chesed Shel Emes organization, which has connections to the Coast Guard and FEMA. They worked government channels and got permission to fly to Vermont and land a helicopter on Killington Mountain. When it became clear that they could not get a government helicopter, they simply paid for a private one.

How did they accumulate enormous amounts of food in a matter of hours?

Simple. Chaverim of Kiryas Yoel and others circulated numerous businesses in Kiryas Yoel, Monsey and Brooklyn, seeking donations. The special Yidden, the proprietors, gave beyad rechavah, with a generous

“People are stuck? Of course we will help them!”

Again, their hardwired DNA kicked in.

The entire effort, from beginning to end, was donated. Chessed Shel Emes, Reb Isaac Lieder and Chaverim did not ask for a penny. They did not want anything in return. They just saw a need and filled it. They transformed what we saw as impossible to possible. Why? Because for them it was never impossible. The question was not, “Can we do it?” but rather, “How can we do it?”

About 40 miles away from us, there was a frum camp that was also stranded for two days due to Irene. Although the camp was not a chassidishe one, they, too, were eventually in contact with Chessed Shel Emes as well.

According to Rav Yaakov Yosef Rosenberg of Chesed Shel Emes, if not for the fact that they got out the next morning, Chessed Shel Emes would have brought them food too, no questions asked.


The reason is that their default button is set to make possible the impossible. Those communities have entire networks of organizations in place to help with such eventualities.

Why, when you are a recipient of their chessed, do they give you the feeling that they are happier to be performing the chessed than you are to receive it?

Perhaps the answer lies with the great gaon and tzaddik, the Satmar Rov, Rav Yoel Teitelbaum zt”l. One of the foundations that he literally hammered into the mindset of his chassidim is that chessed must be done, no questions asked.

It does not matter who the recipient is or if his ideology is different or even opposed to yours. If he is a fellow Yid, you must drop everything to help him. The Rebbe insisted that young children and bochurim go around collecting funds for tzedakah so that they will understand how it feels to collect and they will be imbued with a culture of giving. There is still no Bikur Cholim organization that can compete with the size and scope of the Satmar Bikur Cholim. That deeply ingrained feeling of responsibility for Jews, especially Jews in difficult situations, is where so much of their creative energy is channeled.

The amazing results, as well as the contrasts with other cultures, are clear.


Even with regard to mosdos and educational institutions, Satmar, as one of the fastest growing populations, possesses many of the same demographic challenges that other frum communities experience. They have a burgeoning population and the mosdos have a hard time keeping pace with the demand for classroom space. Again, the question is not, “Can we keep up?” The answer is already a resounding, “Yes!” The only question is, “How will we do it?”

Recently, a friend related how a family he knew moved to a certain New York community and the school that he wanted would not accept his son, not because he was unqualified, but because there was no space. The child was out of school for the first few weeks. He tried everything, but all doors seemed closed. Eventually, someone put him in touch with a principal of a Satmar school.

“Your child is out of cheder?!” he asked incredulously. “Come down right away!”

The father came down with his son and the principal greeted the child with a wide smile.

“Hello Moishele!” he said.

Without even going to his office, he walked Moishele to a classroom, opened the door, and exclaimed, “Kinderlach, there is a new yingele in cheder!”

He did not even check if there was an extra desk in the classroom. That detail could be worked out later. First and foremost a child had to be in cheder. Only later did he accompany the father to the office and take down his information.

To that menahel, the question was how, not if. Perhaps it is time to emulate this Satmar approach to public service and chessed. Perhaps it is time to train our youth - and adults – to give unconditionally, to love to give, to desire to give, to take pride in giving.

You don’t have to be a Satmar chossid to be a chossid of Satmar chessed. Let’s try it!

You don’t have to be a Satmar chossid to be a chossid of Satmar chessed.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

So as not to Embarrass...

I posted this a while back. The message and lesson you can take from it is so, so important.

I got this email a while ago and I think this story really teaches us an important lesson in how to treat other people.

By: Rabbi Pesach J. Krohn
At a recent Sheva Berachos party for a newly married couple held at the Mir Yeshiva in Jerusalem, a groom told a story that astounded the guests.

The young man had a stellar reputation as one who always did the right thing; hence his tale of something that happened in his youth was startling. His interpretation of what transpired made the evening memorable.

In his talk, the groom thanked the family that hosted the Sheva Berachos, and spoke glowingly of his parents and his bride's family. He spoke about the significance and responsibility of marriage, sprinkling his words with biblical verses and teachings of the Sages. Finally he said he wished to speak of "a turning point" in his life.

It happened when he was in fifth grade. A classmate, Naftali, came in one day showing everyone an expensive new watch he had just received as a gift. His mother had warned him not to take the watch to school lest it get lost or broken, but he disobeyed. He wanted to show the fancy new watch to his friends and classmates. At recess, with everyone running out to play ball, the boy took off his watch, and left it on his desk, so there would be no risk of scratching or breaking it during recess.

When he returned to class after recess, the watch was gone! He let out a hysterical shriek. How could he come home without the watch? His parents would punish him severely. There was no consoling the boy as he cried, begging his rebbi (spiritual mentor) to help him find the watch.

The rebbi , who had been standing in the hallway for most of recess, was quite sure that no one had entered the classroom since recess began, neither the custodian nor boys from another class. His instincts told him that it was a boy in his own class who had probably taken it on the way out or in from the playground.

The rebbi got everyone's attention and said, "I know that it may have been tempting for someone to take Naftali's watch. We all saw that it was very beautiful and quite expensive. However, we must get the watch back to him. Did anyone here take it by mistake? And if yes, would you like to return it?"

No one stirred as the boys nervously glanced around to see if anyone was admitting anything. The rebbi waited a few moments and said, "I guess I have no choice. I am going to ask all of you to stand up front, facing the wall and I am going to go through your pockets to see if it's there. But I am giving you one more chance to admit that you may have taken it by mistake. Look, it can happen. Someone just wanted to admire the watch so he may have picked it up and then inadvertently put it into his pocket."

Again no one said a thing. The rebbi called up the boys and asked them to stand against the wall and not to turn around even for a moment until he gave them permission. The groom's face turned red as he explained what happened next.

"I was the third boy in line. Once everyone was in place he started going through the pockets of every boy, and he found the watch in mine. I had been hoping against hope that he wouldn't find it, as I planned to return it to Naftali after school. However, now the rebbi had the culprit. I was shaking as I waited for him to shout at me, or express glee that he found it.

"Instead he continued checking every single boy! When he finished searching the last boy, he said, 'You all can go back to your seats. I have the watch.'

"As I walked back to my seat I had to hold myself back from crying. I understood what the rebbi did and how he saved me from being embarrassed. He had continued the search so no one could figure out who had taken the watch. As we sat down he didn't even look my way so no one could possibly have any inkling who the guilty party was. He resumed teaching. I decided then and there that someday I would like to be like him."


The groom, a rabbinical student in one of the world's most prominent institutions of higher Jewish learning, indeed became a wonderful person because his spiritual mentor protected his dignity and afforded him honor back in the fifth grade. With that gesture, the rebbi laid the foundation for the validation of a student in a new generation so that he eventually would do the same for his children and disciples.

Rabbi Paysach J. Krohn is a world famous inspirational lecturer and author of, among others, the just released In the Spirit of the Maggid: Inspirational stories that touch the heart and stir the spirit, from where this story was adapted.

I think this is so amazing! We see how careful we have to be with other peoples feelings! Just because someone did something wrong, that does not give you an excuse to yell at them, accuse them in public or embarrass them. Here you see a shining example of a rebbe who, instead of hurting his student's feelings was ultra careful!

I think that a very important thing when giving mussar to someone who did something wrong is not to speak to them in public! The shabbos table is not the right time/place to tell your kids that they did something wrong. If someone in the family needs to be spoken to about something they did, it should be done in private, in another room, away from all the siblings...this way, at least they have their dignity!

Right now, b"h, I am not in that stage, so it is easy for me to talk. B"h, Shalom Baruch doesn't know how to upset me much (besides for when he wakes up at 3, 4 and 5 o'clock in the morning or like yesterday when every single diaper of his was dirty - ok, I wasn't upset, just frustrated!). But I do hope that when he does grow up and I have something to tell him about his behavior or something he (or his siblings iy"h) did that upset me [me? get angry?! NO WAY! lol] , I remember this important lesson: Don't embarrass your child in front of other children! If you need to speak to them about something they did, take them into another room and...speak calmly!

I left this last part in this post because it's the way it was originally written but let me just tell you, kids can do a lot to test your patience. This lesson is so important. When a child does something wrong, it is bad enough that they got you upset. They know they upset you. They don't need you to yell at them or embarrass them in front of the rest of their family. Take them to another makes such a difference!

Friday, November 18, 2011

When No One Sees

I got this email and wanted to share the message with all of you.

Some thirty years ago, in a school on New York’s lower East side, a Mrs. Frankel gave an arithmetic test to her third –grade class. When the papers were marked, she discovered that twelve girls had written the same wrong answer to an arithmetic problem.

There is nothing really new about cheating on exams. Perhaps that was why Mrs. Frankel didn’t even say anything about it. She only asked the twelve girls to remain after school.

They did, with fear in their hearts, for they knew Mrs. Frankel wanted to discipline them. They were right, but only in part. Mrs. Frankel asked no questions. She said nothing. She gave no punishment.

As soon as she was alone with the guilty pupils, Mrs. Frankel wrote on the blackboard the twenty-one words above.

The measure of a man’s real character is what he would do if he knew he would never be found out.

That’s how she expressed herself.

I don’t know about the other eleven girls. Speaking for myself, I can say it was the most important single lesson of my life.

My life happens to have been live up till now in a time of fear, uncertainty and danger. It is good of course, to learn from history that all times have been full of fear, uncertainty and danger. But a person wants more than that; he wants tools to work with, sign-posts to guide him, yardsticks to measure by.

Thirty years after being introduced to the above words, they still seem to me to be one of the best yardsticks I have ever met. Not because they give as a way to measure others, but because they give us a way to measure ourselves.

Few of us are asked to make great decisions about nations going to war or armies going to battle. But all of us are called upon daily to make a great many personal decisions. Should the purse, found in the street, be put into a pocket or turned over to the police? Should the extra change you received at the grocer’s be forgotten or returned?

Nobody will know. Nobody except you, but you have to live with yourself, and it is always better to live with someone you respect, because respect develops confidence, and confidence is a great weapon, especially in times of fear, uncertainty and danger.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Carpenter

Once upon a time, two brothers who lived on adjoining farms fell into conflict. It was the first serious rift in 40 years of farming side-by-side, sharing machinery and trading labor and goods as needed without a hitch.

Then the long collaboration fell apart. It began with a small misunderstanding and it grew into a major difference and finally, it exploded into an exchange of bitter words followed by weeks of silence.

One morning there was a knock on the older brother's door. He opened it to find a man with a carpenter's toolbox. "I 'm looking for a few days' work," he said. "Perhaps you would have a few small jobs here and there I could help with? Could I help you?"

"Yes," he said. "I do have a job for you. Look across the creek at that farm. That's my neighbor. In fact, it's my younger brother! Last week there was a meadow between us. He recently took his bulldozer to the river levee and now there is a creek between us. Well, he may have done this to spite me, but I'll do him one better. See that pile of lumber by the barn? I want you to build me a fence an 8-foot fence -- so I won't need to see his place or his face anymore."

The carpenter said, "I think I understand the situation. Show me the nails and the post-hole digger and I'll be able to do a job that pleases you."

The older brother had to go to town, so he helped the carpenter get the materials ready and then he was off for the day. The carpenter worked hard all that day -- measuring, sawing and nailing. About sunset when the farmer returned, the carpenter had just finished his job.

The farmer's eyes opened wide, his jaw dropped. There was no fence there at all.

It was a bridge .. a bridge that stretched from one side of the creek to the other! A fine piece of work, handrails and all! And the neighbor, his younger brother, was coming toward them, his hand outstretched..

"You are quite a fellow to build this bridge after all I've said and done."

The two brothers stood at each end of the bridge, and then they met in middle, taking each other's hand. They turned to see the carpenter hoist his toolbox onto his shoulder.

"No, wait! Stay a few days. I've a lot of other projects for you," said the older brother.
"I'd love to stay on," the carpenter said, "but I have many more bridges to build."

What message can you take from this story?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Mother's Tears

This was posted before and has a very powerful message.

Yair Eitan’s father ran a produce distribution business in Northern Israel. When Yair was old enough, he began driving the delivery truck. One of his regular deliveries was at Yeshivah Lev V’Nefesh, whose student body was primarily comprised of baalei teshuvah. Yair’s parents had carefully shielded him from his religion; his upbringing was strictly secular.

The joy and excitement Yair saw within the yeshivah walls aroused his curiosity. He allowed himself to be drawn into conversation with a few yeshivah students. On his third trip there, Yair was already sitting down for a few minutes to sample Torah study. When Yair finally told his parents what he had discovered in the yeshivah, his father became enraged.
"No son of mine is going to become a backward, bearded chareidi! You are no longer to deliver to that route and you are forbidden to visit that yeshivah, or any other yeshivah, ever again!"

Yair knew that one must obey one’s father, except when a parent explicitly commands a child to disobey the Torah. He continued to clandestinely visit the yeshivah. But his father found out, and he reacted violently. Yair, however, was determined. He inquired as to other available yeshivos, left a note wishing his parents well, and left without revealing his destination.

His father searched for him and forced him to return home. Not only that, he blamed the Rosh Yeshivah of Lev V’Nefesh and filed charges against him of brainwashing his 18-year-old son and of engineering his flight from home. The trial aroused great interest, and the trial date found a packed courtroom eagerly awaiting to hear the proceedings. Yair’s testimony did not help the prosecution at all. Yair insisted that he had not been coerced to attend the yeshivah; it was of his own volition.

While Yair was recounting his story, the judge presiding over the case, an elderly man, seemed a bit distracted. He would intermittently take his eyes off the speaker to gaze intently at Yair’s father. When Yair left the witness stand, the judge announced, "I would like Mr. Eitan to step forward."

Yair’s father was surprised as he stepped up to the witness stand. The judge asked if he was of Eastern European descent, if his name back in Europe was perhaps "Stark". Mr. Eitan was clearly taken aback, and he stammered that the judge was indeed correct. "And are you originally from Pinsk?" asked the judge. Mr. Eitan nodded meekly.

The judge continued, "I remember you well. You come from one of the finest homes of pre-War Pinsk. Your father was a deeply religious and highly respected man. Your mother was renowned for her kindness. She would cook meals for the poor and the sick regularly. I remember well when, as an 18-year-old, you openly departed from your parents’ ways. When you publicly desecrated the Shabbos for the first time, your father aged overnight and seemed to be constantly in mourning. Your mother would shed a river of tears every Friday night when she lit the candles. I often wondered what became of all her tears. I’m not the most religious person, but I know that there is a G-d who runs this world, and I could not understand how the tears of so righteous a woman could be ignored in Heaven.

"Today my question has been answered. I see that her tears were not shed in vain. Today, almost 50 years later, her grandson has returned to the ways of his ancestors. Mr. Eitan, I’m sure you recall that on more than one occasion, friends of your parents pleaded with you that for your parents’ sake you should at least refrain from public transgression. As I recall, your response was, ‘I’m now eighteen and I make my own decisions. I can live my life any way I please.' And you dare to file charges because your eighteen-year-old son has returned to the ways that you abandoned?”

“Case dismissed.”

Friday, November 11, 2011

Say a Little, Do a Lot

I posted this thought last year and wanted to share it with you once again.

In this week’s parsha, Parshas Vayeira, we read about how Avraham told his guests, "I will fetch a morsel of bread that you may sustain yourselves." (Bereishis 18:5) but when it came to actually serving the food, he had a lavish meal prepared for the visitors. The Talmud (Bava Metzia 87a) illustrates here that "the righteous say little and do much." This is important in hachnassas orchim especially. Often when we invite guests we tell them how wonderful a time they are going to have and promise them things that in the end we cannot give them, be it our time, attention, food, drink or accommodation, through no ill will of our own. It is better not to promise too much comfort but then to provide more than we have promised. Not only did Avraham provide more than he had promised, he did everything himself and solicitously stood by his guests as they partook of the meal.

Lest we think that Avraham's treatment of his guests was something someone only on his level could achieve, we need not look so far back in time. A visitor recalls his visit to Reb Elyah Lopian after Tzom Gedaliah when Reb Elyah was already in his 90s.

"Reb Elyah's first question was whether I had eaten yet," recalls Mr. Jakobovits. "It was shortly after the end of the fast, and I told him in all honesty that I hadn't. He brought me into the dining room filled with bachurim. He sat at the head table, and sat me down next to him, while someone brought me a cup of coffee and something to eat. I chose not to drink the coffee right away.

"Seeing this, Reb Elyah rose from his seat and went to the other table to bring me some sugar. In his weakened state he could barely walk, but he brought the sugar and put some into my cup, although I certainly had not asked him to do this. Someone else could easily have seen to my needs, but Reb Elyah would not have allowed it. There was a chesed to be done, and he would not have allowed any physical difficulties of his own to prevent him from performing this chesed personally."
(Reb Elyah, Rabbi David J. Schlossberg, p.88)

There was a time I went away for shabbos and was told I will be staying in someone’s basement. Nothing more was said. When I got there, the place was set up so beautifully and so fancy! It looked like a hotel. There was a mini fridge in the closet with cold soda, the drawers were filled with Mishpacha Magazines to read, there were a few leather siddurim and leather krias shema cards in another drawer in the night table…I felt so important! I was treated like a queen and felt so special to have such a stunning place set up for me to stay at. This is the way to do this special mitzvah of hachnosas orchim – and without saying much. The hosts of this house truly epitomized “emor me’at v’asay harbei” – say a little and do a lot! Mi K’amcha Yisroel!!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Today - Rachel Imeinu's Yartzheit

This was posted more than once before and I wanted to share the same thoughts with you again.

Today, yud aleph cheshvan, is Rachel Imeinu's yartzeit. Here are two things I would like to share with you.

Why is Rachel the only one of the imahos that are called "Imeinu"? There's no Sara Imeinu, Rivkah Imeinu or Leah Imeinu? Why is she the lucky one to be called, OUR MOTHER?!
We all know, that Lavan fooled Yaakov and set up that Leah should marry him instead of Rachel. So what did Rachel do? She spared her sister major pain and embarrassment by giving over the simanim to Leah.

When she did this, not only did she give up her olam hazeh, that she would now have to be married to the rasha, Eisav, she also gave up her olam habah. At that point, she had no idea that she would still marry Yaakov. In her mind, by giving up the simanim, she was giving up her whole life - in this world and in the next!

The dream of every Jewish woman is to bring up a family. She wants to be a mother to her children so she can have a part in the future of Klal Yisroel.

When Rachel Imeinu gave the simanim over to her sister Leah, she gave up that dream. She gave up her whole future. She lost her chance to be a mother of the future generations. She would not be the mother of the twelve shevatim. She didn't know that in the end she would marry Yaakov and have a part in being the mother of two of the shevatim.
And that is why she is given the title of Rachel Imeinu. Since she gave up her dream to be a mother of Klal Yisroel, she is called by the beloved title of Rachel Imeinu.


Today is a very powerful day, a day when our tefillos can be accepted on a deeper level.
I remember learning the following in 10th grade from my teacher, Reb. Slomowitz…(b’shem omro, I hope it brings the geulah real quick because we really need it!)

When we speak about Rachel Imeinu, we say, “Kol B’ramah nishma…Rachel mivaka al baneha ki eineinu…” a voice is heard on high…Rachel is crying about her children…

The word mivaka seems to be grammatically incorrect. The definition of mivaka is to cause someone else to cry. The question is, why do we use this term for cry? If Rachel is crying for us on high, (as we know that Hashem says that her tears are going to bring the geula, not the tears of any of the avos) why is the term "causing to cry" used?! It should probably say, Rachel boche, Rachel "is crying" because she is constantly crying for us to come out of galus!

The answer is, that Rachel Imeinu is crying because we Jews are not crying! She is trying to get us to cry out of the pain of galus because we seem to forget where we are. Hashem puts us through so much pain and suffering in galus and our job is to cry out to Him and BEG Him to take us out! But instead, we try to ignore the pain we are in and try to run away from the pain using all sorts of escapes and distractions. We forget that we are in galus by making ourselves comfortable here. We try to enjoy life to the fullest instead of remembering that we are supposed to be davening to come out! What we have to do now is cry out to Hashem and beg and plead for Him to take us out!

Rachel is trying to get us to cry, to feel uncomfortable in galus! If we don’t feel like we are in galus and we don’t cry out to Hashem, then why should He take us out altogether?! If we are fine where we are, then why should anything change?! The only way to get out is by asking for it! And if Hashem sees we really want to come out, He will take us out!

And I’m telling you, when we come out of this galus, life will be so beautiful! Life will be soo unbelievable! We will live with total clarity and understanding of Hashem and His world and our job in it! We will feel what Torah means and realize how much we were missing out on beforehand!!

So take out your siddur, take out your tehillim or use your own words to BEG Hashem to bring us out of galus!

And THEN Hashem will tell Rachel Imeinu, “Minee koleich m’bechee v’einayich midim’ah,” Rachel, you can stop crying, because “v’shavu banim ligevulam,” Bnei Yisroel will return to their boundaries!

May we all have the zechus to see these very words come true!!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Feeling for Others

I wrote this last year and wanted to share it with you again.

In this weeks
parsha, Parshas Lech L'cha, Hashem told Avraham to leave the land he lived in and to go out and travel. Avraham, who excelled in the mitzvah of hachnosas orchim, hospitality, would now have to be a guest.

What can we learn from this?

The Torah isn't just a storybook - it is a guide for life. It is here to give us lessons on how to live life
today - here and now. It's not just nice stories about our ancestors and the things they did. There are practical lessons for us to be able to apply to our lives, so many generations later and we can learn them from studying the parsha. The Torah is eternal and the things written in it so many years ago still apply to us today!

Hashem wanted Avraham to experience firsthand what it's like to be a guest, a traveler, a stranger in another land so that he would be able to bring his
mitzvah of hachnosas orchim to another level. Avraham, who was a master host, the best you can get at treating guests needed to see what it's like to be a guest at someone's house so that he would get to feel the discomforts, the shyness, the awkwardness a guest feels when he goes to the home of someone he doesn't know. Then, he would be able to fulfill this mitzvah to the maximum.

And we see, in next week's
parsha, Parshas Vayeira, three malachim (angels) disguised as guests came to Avraham's house. He greeted them, welcomed them in and treated them in the best way possible, and he did this only after he himself was a guest, after he knew what it felt like to be uncomfortable in a stranger's house. That's when the Torah tells us how he fulfilled this mitzvah of hachnosas orchim.

We can take this to another level.

The best way to know how to treat others is by putting yourself in their shoes. Try to imagine what it's like to be in their situation. Then and only then can you really identify with what they are going through and treat them properly. When you hear that someone just went through something difficult, the way for you to truly feel with them and know how to help them is to try to picture in your mind what they are experiencing. Then you can try to help them out the best way possible.

It is interesting that many organizations were started by people who were in a situation and needed help. Once they realized what it was like to, for example, care for a sick family member without support, deal with the overwhelming feelings and needs of the birth of a special needs child, take care of marrying off children when there is only one parent to do the job, they decided to start an organization that would help others in the same situation so they could make it easier for them when they have to go through it too.

Many of these big organizations only started by people who felt a lack - and decided to do something about it!

So the lesson you can take from the
parsha is that just like Avraham had to go through the experience of being a guest in a stranger's home before he could fully appreciate and fulfill the mitzvah of hachnosas orchim, the way to feel for someone else is by putting yourself in their shoes. This way, you will be a better friend and a better support to those you know who are experiencing difficult times in their lives. And when someone you know is going through happy times, by you feeling with them and putting yourself in their shoes, you can really be excited for them and experience joy on a whole new level.

May you always be able to join in others simchas and happy times!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Don't Give Up

It's amazing how much you can learn from little kids.

I was watching my son play with his lego, making a huge tower, piece by piece. It kept on tumbling down. He's too young to make a tower that will stand for more than a few seconds. So every time it falls, he looks at me, we both say "oiy!" and he goes back to building it all over again.

And then it topples.


And he goes back to building his tall tower.

I was thinking about this while he was busy trying all over again.

How much does it take for us to give up?

How easy is it for us to stop trying?

If only we can learn from this.

Don't give up.

There is something very rewarding waiting for those who keep on trying.

It's hard to keep falling. It's hard to keep failing. It's hard to keep on going.

But if you give up...what are you left with?

Times may be hard but if you keep trying and keep building, even if that tower does tumble and doesn't last, you'll have become stronger, you'll have learned what it means to try again.

Certain things are not in our control. We would like them to be. We would like to be able to say that by such and such time this specific thing I wanted in my life will have changed. But it's not the case. There is Someone who runs the world. He knows what He's doing. He gives us hardships for a reason, even if we don't know what that reason is.

We build towers...towers of dreams...ideas...hopes...plans...

And then sometimes they crumble...

We crumble. But we can't let ourselves fall apart. We need to hold on strong to the fact that there is Someone who loves us and knows what's best for us...even when it's hard.

May you be able to hold on strong to Him, talk to Him and trust in Him, no matter what is going on in your life. Know that there is no one in the world more precious to Him than you. He loves you like an only child. There are some things you may not understand but what you must know is that He loves you and will never stop loving you.

Even when it's hard and you feel like you want to give up...