On Monday night, November 18, Rav David Yosef shlita, son of HaRav Ovadia Yosef zt”l, inspired and stirred a crowd at Congregation Ohr Natan. Rav Yitzchak Yisraeli, Chief Bukharian Rabbi of the United States and Canada, introduced Rav Yosef. The program was hosted by Chazaq.
Rav Yosef began with giving a brachah to Rav Yisraeli to continue in good health with all his important work on behalf of the Bukharian community. He also offered a brachah to Rabbi Nachum Kaziyev, the rav of Congregation Ohr Natan, and to Rabbi Ilan Meirov and for all the important work of Chazaq.
Rabbi Yosef stated, “Chazaq is the most important organization of the Bukharian community. They are bringing close to 1,000 children from public school to yeshivah. Our mission this year is that we will have more than 1,000 children transferred to yeshivah.”
Rav Yosef posed the following question: “It says, after the Akeidah, that the angel said to Avraham, “Now I know that you have yir’as Shamayim?” Now? Avraham at this point was 137 years old. He had done so many things demonstrating his fear of Hashem before this.
He recognized on his own that Hashem was G-d. He fought against idolatry in his own family and the world. He was willing to sacrifice his life and enter a fiery furnace because of his belief. Wasn’t this enough to prove that he feared Hashem? Rav Yosef pointed out that there is a whole page in the Torah devoted to the story of the Akeidah, while the story of Avraham sacrificing his life by going into the fiery furnace is not even mentioned in the Torah. We learn this story from the Midrash. So why would this story not be included in the Torah? He answered this question by explaining that, in the world, there are many movements that the non- Jews follow and which they would be willing to die for. For example, millions gave up their lives for the idea of communism and millions gave up their lives fighting against communism.
He then shared the story of Socrates who taught his belief in democracy, and the government thought it was dangerous and arrested him. There were protests and the government then said we will let you escape; but Socrates said, “No, I must stand up for my beliefs.” He was executed by the government for his beliefs. “So, even non-Jews, when they believe in something, they may agree to die for that belief.” Avraham was a great man. He believed in Hashem so he agreed to die for Hashem. The Torah doesn’t tell us about this because it is understood that men like Avraham would, of course, give up their lives for their belief. “The story of the Akeidah is not like that. It was against Avraham’s emunah.” Avraham knew that human sacrifice was a big sin according to the Torah. Hashem was telling him to do this. Avraham could have asked Hashem one simple question: Why? He could have said, “It’s against Your Torah. You promised that my son would have children and now he won’t. You asked me, the father, to kill my own son. Why don’t you do it? “Avraham could have many questions against this. Avraham didn’t ask any. He said that it’s the right thing to do. It’s the decision of Hashem.”
The Torah says that Avraham rose early in the morning to do this, which teaches us the idea of doing a mitzvah as soon as you can. We see from this that he slept the night before. “He had such strong emunah that that he knew if Hashem wants it, it’s okay 100 percent.” Rav Yosef imparted, “This is real yir’as Shamayim. It’s against your logic. It’s against your nature. You say, ‘Hashem, I follow you.’”
He taught that this is a strong message to us. When we are doing something and we receive a brachah from Hashem, we don’t ask Hashem, “Why did you give this to me; I don’t deserve it.” However, when Hashem gives us something that is not good – for example, we lose money or experience illness or death of someone close to us – then people say immediately: Why? He explained that we are allowed to ask why, but the why should not be directed to Hashem but rather to ourselves. We need to check ourselves. Many times when a person experiences something bad, and checks himself and does t’shuvah, then nothing bad happens to him. “People should complain against themselves, not against Hashem.”
Some say that the same way you recite She’hecheyanu, you should recite Baruch Dayan HaEmes. We don’t understand why Hashem does things. We live in a materialistic world. Hashem doesn’t have to report to us. We have to do cheshbon ha’nefesh.
He told a story of a mother who lost her son when he was 18 in a tragic car accident. The mother was broken-hearted and depressed and couldn’t leave her house. Someone asked Rav Yosef to see if he could help her. He went to speak to her. He cried with her, but then he said, “Who do you think you are? The souls belong to Hashem. He gives and He takes. It’s the decision of Hashem and we have to accept it. How can you complain against Hashem?”
This comforted her and she thanked him.
He ended with an incredible story that happened around 150 years ago in Germany. Reform Jews went to the government and had laws passed so there could be only Reform synagogues and schools.
A group of Orthodox rabbis met and chose Rabbi Dr. Marcus (Meir) Lehmann to go to meet with the Prime Minister in hopes of changing the law. They procured an appointment with the Prime Minister, Chancellor Otto von Bismarck who was known at the iron chancellor, for one p.m. on Tuesday. They would need to take an early train to make it to Berlin in time. The rabbis agreed to meet Dr. Lehmann at the train station in time for the early train so they would make the appointment on time.
The morning of the appointment, Rabbi Lehmann was about to eat breakfast when an old man came calling. He said he had an important question. The rabbi didn’t want to meet with him as he had to be at the train on time, but the man insisted it was a matter of life and death. The rabbi gave up his breakfast and sat with the man who began a long, drawn-out story about his life. The rabbi interrupted him. “I really don’t have time. I have to be at the train station.”
“No, I’m almost finished,” the man said. “Please, it’s a matter of life and death.”
The rabbi waited impatiently until the man finally got to the point. His daughter had given birth to a son named Shlomo who died after three days. Now a year later, she had a baby boy and the man wanted to know if they could name the baby Shlomo since he’d heard it isn’t a good idea to name a baby after someone who died young.
The rabbi was angry that the man had detained him for this question. He rushed out the door and called over his shoulder, “Don’t name him Shlomo.” The man ran after him and asked what they should name him.
The rabbi angrily replied, “There are so many names, Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, Moshe, Aharon.”
He hurried to the train station but he got there just as the nine o’clock train was pulling away. The other rabbis were standing there and they were extremely upset that he had come late and that they had now lost their opportunity to save the Jewish community.
Later that day, he heard someone calling that something had happened in the news. He called out the window to find out what happened and he discovered that the early train he was supposed to take that morning to Berlin had crashed and most of the people on the train were killed.
Later, he received a telegram from the Prime Minister stating that he was worried if the rabbis were okay. They sent back a telegram that they were okay and the Prime Minister gave them an appointment for the following Tuesday.
Rabbi Dr. Lehmann told the rabbis that they should tell him the truth of about how they had missed the train. So, he told the Prime Minister about the old man coming and how he had missed the train that day. The Prime Minister said this proves your G-d loves you. He then changed the law so that they could build and maintain Orthodox synagogues and schools.
Three years later, after a speech that Rabbi Lehmann had given, an old man came over to him with a three-year-old little boy. He asked the rabbi if he remembered him and Rabbi Lehmann said no. The man said, “I was the man who asked you about naming my grandson.”
The rabbi thanked him and told him what had happened that day. He said, “Your question was a matter of life and death: not yours – it was mine.” The rabbi asked the man what his grandson’s name was, and he replied, “Avraham Yitzchak Yaakov Moshe Aharon.”
“Why so many names?”
“That is what you told me that they should name him,” the man replied.
Many times, we don’t understand Hashem’s ways, but we have to bless Hashem and thank Hashem for the good and the bad.
Rabbi Yosef concluded with a beautiful brachah for the community to continue in good health, Torah, yir’as Shamayim, to have children who are holy, good health for everyone, parnasah, and abundance of blessing from Hashem. This shiur can be viewed on Torahanytime.com.