A prominent rosh kollel in Jerusalem once came to discuss a pressing matter with the renowned tzadik and Rosh Yeshivah of Porat Yosef, Chacham Rabbeinu Yehudah Tzadkah zt”l. At present, he explained, his kollel was being housed in one of the large synagogues in the city and the avreichim were learning well. The problem was that a number of the synagogue’s gabbaim were threatening to evict them from their sanctuary on the basis that they were tracking dust and dirt into the synagogue every time they walked in, and the gabbaim had no intention of cleaning up each day after the young men. The rosh kollel was in a bind, for he had no other place to go – were they to be asked to leave.

“Rabbi Elazar said: The light that the Holy One, blessed be He, made on the first day of Creation was not that of the sun but a different kind of light, through which Adam could observe from one end of the world to the other. But when Hashem looked upon the generations of the Flood and the Dispersion and saw that their ways were corrupt and that they might misuse this light for evil, He arose and concealed it from them, as it is stated: “And from the wicked their light is withheld.” And for whom did He conceal it? For the righteous people in the future, as it is stated: “And Hashem saw the light, that it was good” – and “good” is referring to none other than the righteous people” (Chagigah 12a).

Aside from the horrendous loss of life the Second World War dealt our people, another disastrous effect of the Holocaust was, for a large portion of survivors, their loss of faith. After what they had been through, they became disenchanted and threw off any semblance of their Jewish past and their lineage. One such man survived World War II in body, but not in spirit. He was “angry” with G-d and vowed to shake off anything to do with religion. After some time in a DP camp, he boarded a ship that brought him to New York, and he settled in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn. He soon married a similarly disenchanted woman and started a family. They had a son who was the apple of their eye, but they were careful to raise him without anything resembling Yahadus: no bris milah, no Shabbos, no Torah!

One of the most renowned traits of the great Volozhiner rosh yeshivah, Rav Naftali Tzvi Yehudah Berlin zt”l, otherwise known by the acronym of his name, Netziv, was his intense diligence. Even as a teenager, he developed a reputation as a tremendous masmid. He studied Torah with great fervor, and it was this trait that enabled him to acquire universal renown. Still a boy, at the age of 11 he was sent to study at the famous Volozhin Yeshivah, where Reb Itzele Volozhiner zt”l, the Rosh HaYeshivah, took him as his son-in-law at the tender age of 13 years old. The Netziv came to live in Volozhin, and there he once again isolated himself in incessant study and made his nights into days of Torah study. Truly extraordinary stories are told concerning his diligence in study. For example, when he felt sleepy, he would put his feet in a bucket of cold water to continue studying.

The Midrash (T’hilim 37) describes the famous meeting between Avraham Avinu and Malki-Tzedek (found in next week’s parshah). Chazal teach that Malki-Tzedek was in fact Sheim, the son of Noach, and he told Avraham that it was in the merit of tz’dakah (charity) that they survived in the ark.

The problems facing a fellow Jew are our problems, and the tears streaming down their faces are just as real to us as they are to them. If we are looking for ways to repent our sins with a complete t’shuvah and herald the holy day of Yom Kippur when we reunite with our Father in Heaven, this is where we must begin. We reach upwards by reaching outwards.