Stories Of Greatness

The Accident

One of the first and most successful kiruv organizations in the US is Hineni, founded by the...

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Hashem sends us blessings every day, but unless we make an effort to look out for them and “see” them as blessings, we may not even realize that we are being blessed! In fact, the greatest blessing we receive daily is life itself. Rav Avraham Pam zt”l would say that when we wake up in the morning and say Modeh Ani, we should look at our breakfast as a s’udas hodaah (thanksgiving feast). By employing a singular term, “R’ei!” (See!), the Torah reminds us that each individual should see his blessing as an individual, and not as part of the klal, because everyone looks at life through his own individual lens. Since people don’t always realize the brachah they receive daily, it often gets misused, and that same brachah can turn into a curse (klalah).

The parshah speaks of the many battles that klal Yisrael fought. As they traveled through the desert, they were confronted by their enemies, time and time again. Tired, thirsty, exhausted from the weary journey through the desert, they had just been attacked and beaten by an implacable foe, Amaleik. They cried out to Hashem – they made a vow to the Lord – and He came to their rescue. Although the Canaanim were powerful, Hashem said, “Why should I trouble My children to besiege every city?” He gave all the warriors the idea to leave their cities, and they gathered in one place, where they were slain (Rashi).

In the years following the Churban Beis HaMikdash, many Jews continued to go up to Jerusalem to cry over its ruins. They gathered at the Kosel – testimony to the magnificence of the Holy Temple – and saturated it with their tears. The “Traveler from Bordeaux,” the first Christian tourist to record impressions of his visit to the Holy Land, visited the country about 250 years after the Churban. He wrote that Jews come to Jerusalem once a year, on the Ninth of Av. They cry and lament next to a stone that remains from the Temple. Close to one hundred years later, in 4993, a Persian tourist described thousands of Jews crying over the ruins of the desolate House during the holiday of Sukkos, in remembrance of aliyah l’regel.

Our Sages have gone into great detail to explain why Parshas Korach is juxtaposed to the previous parshah, describing the mitzvah of Tzitzis. About the tzitzis it is written, “You shall look upon them and remember all the commandments of Hashem and fulfill them.” Yet Korach did just the opposite; rather than look at the tzitzis and do the right thing, he looked ahead to the dynasty that would emerge from him and this caused him to sin. He even went so far as to scorn the mitzvah of Tzitzis by standing before Moshe Rabbeinu and inquiring: If a talis that is entirely composed of t’cheiles (bluish dye thread) cannot exempt itself from the obligation, how can four threads of t’cheiles exempt it? (Midrash)

The daughters of Tz’lafchad petitioned Moshe Rabbeinu for the right to inherit their father’s property in the Land of Israel. These five daughters argued that were they not to inherit, their father’s name would be lost forever to his tribe. Moshe took their case to Hashem. Hashem recognized the merit of their case. He told Moshe that their plea was just, and that they should be granted their father’s hereditary holdings. Rashi sums up this whole episode by quoting the words of the Sifrei: “This tells us that their eyes saw (the daughters understood the halachah) what even Moshe Rabbeinu did not see!”

Someone once asked Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg zt”l why he had such extraordinary self-sacrifice for the mitzvah of tzitzis. He answered very simply: “Chacham leiv yikach mitzvos” – The wise of heart will seize good deeds. (Mishlei 10:8) He would often cite the Gemara: “Grab and eat, grab and drink, for the World in which we are leaving is like a wedding” – Eiruvin 54a. He wanted to “chap” as many mitzvos as he could. When he was asked how he could wear so many pairs when they were so heavy, he would respond, “Would you have such a question if you would be carrying gold?” To him, his layers of tzitzis were layers of pure gold.