The following story is told about Rav Moshe Leib Sassover zt”l (early chasidic rebbe in 18th century Eastern Galicia, now in Ukraine), when he moved the first time from Sassov to the city of Apt. As Rav Moshe Leib and his family were traveling in their carriage, they came across two men in a horse and wagon. Rav Moshe Leib was told that this was a poor father accompanying his son who was getting married to the daughter of the shamash of Apt. He went out to greet them and was struck by the sad expressions on their faces. It didn’t take long for him to realize that the unfortunate man had no money for even the basic wedding festivities. Right then and there, Rav Moshe Leib decided to sponsor the wedding. He dressed the chasan in his own clothes, fed him from his own provisions, sat him in his own carriage, and sang and danced the wedding party into Apt. Eventually, the chasan’s family alighted from the carriage and joined them in their singing. As they made their way down the main street of Apt, throngs of passersby were pulled into the amazing celebratory circle of song and dance, until they reached the kallah’s house.

The winds of Enlightenment and Reform were overspreading Germany, threatening to swallow the hapless Orthodox communities that maintained their religious identities. Into this hostile environment, rose the great Rav Shamshon Raphael Hirsch zt”l, who fought back the taint of the secular invaders with the courage of a lion and the wisdom of generations of Torah knowledge. But even in his early days, Rav Hirsch was unsure of his true calling in life.

Ariel “Arik” Sharon was a famous Israeli statesman, former Prime Minister and retired Major General who served in the Israel Defense Forces for more than 25 years. In mid-December 2005, Prime Minister Sharon spent two days in a hospital after suffering a minor stroke, which doctors said caused no irreparable brain damage.

The Midrash teaches us that from the beginning of Sefer B’reishis until Parshas VaY’chi, the word “choleh” is not mentioned. It was Yaakov Avinu who asked Hashem to bring illness to the world. Yaakov requested of Hashem, as a show of mercy, to bring illness so that a person can put his affairs in order. Primarily, if a person dies suddenly, he will not be at peace without first having the opportunity to make proper arrangements among his children. Therefore, if a person has some time prior to dying, he can have yishuv ha’daas, a settling of his mind, surrounding his children. Yaakov’s request was accepted and, thus, Yaakov was the first person to become sick. But on occasion, finding out that one is sick can be a pathway to enabling the cure to come, too.

The seventh plague wreaked particular havoc on the fields of Egypt. The hail, a heavenly amalgamation of ice and fire, destroyed anything and everything that was left outdoors. This included crops, vegetation, and animals. However, the Torah makes specific mention of what was not destroyed. The wheat and the spelt that was left outside were not destroyed, since they are late in sprouting. Rashi cites the Tanchuma, which explains that it was a “pele” – a wonder – that these types were not destroyed. Why did the wheat and spelt deserve such a miracle? Rav Baruch Mordechai Ezrachi shlita explains that there was a lesson here for Pharaoh to realize: He should be flexible and yielding instead of brazen and impertinent – like the wheat and spelt whose flexibility in the fields allowed them to remain upright even as the devastating hail fell. The “pele” is a reference to the fact that a miracle was performed for Pharaoh to see, and he still didn’t want to recognize it.

It was the chasunah of a relative. A happy time, a special time, and Reb Anshel was filled with gratitude to be there. A retired businessman with a large and ever-growing family immersed in lives of avodas Hashem, Reb Anshel is known and respected in the Toronto community, and beyond. As a guest myself, I was also participating in the beautiful simchah. During the Chasan’s Tish, waiting for the badeken ceremony to begin, I noticed Reb Anshel coming out of the crowd, toward me.