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.

When Rav Yisroel Spira zt”l, the Bluzhover Rebbe, was forced to relocate from Istrik, Poland, to Lvov, it was then under Soviet rule. According to Soviet practice, each person was to be employed in a productive job; otherwise, he was classified as a parasite and was liable to be exiled to Siberia. There were no exceptions. All chasidic rabbis had to find productive positions in the Communist utopia and were forbidden to use the title “Rabbi.”

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 following story was related by the rabbi of a large and prominent congregation. He remarked that one does not realize the power of one’s words and their effect on others, and often even a small and innocent comment can generate shockwaves and repercussions that last for days, months – even generations to come.

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.

The amazing aspect of Yaakov’s preparation to meet his brother Eisav was his calm and calculated approach. He was well aware that his brother intended to do him harm, but rather than lose control, Yaakov came up with a plan. His every move was coordinated in a methodical manner, which eventually led to a peaceful and successful reunion.