FEBRUARY 20-21, 2003 29 SHEBAT 5764
"If he cries out to me, I shall listen for I am compassionate." (Shemot 22:26)
Hashem is the ultimate in mercy and compassion. He responds to all who cry out to him. We, His people, learn from Hashem to be merciful to all who cry out. Rabbi Y' Silberstein tells a story and a message for us. One day the Rabbi met a gentile in the city of Netanya in Israel. He knew him from Switzerland, and the man told the Rabbi that he was in dire need of medical treatment. The Rabbi took him to the well-known Laniado Hospital in Netanya. The patient was treated and released with a clean bill-of-health. The Rabbi was particularly happy about this case. Here was a gentile who didn't even live in Israel, was treated in a Jewish hospital and left with a wonderful feeling of good health. This was important because it fulfilled the vow of the founder of the hospital, the Klausenberger Rebbe z"l.
Years ago, when the Rebbe was a young man, he suffered under the rule of the Nazis. One day, the Rebbe was caught committing a "heinous crime." He was wearing his tefillin. The brutes began beating him on his hand that wore the tefillin. They didn't stop until his hand was bleeding and injured. The Rebbe couldn't get his hand to stop bleeding. Hours passed as his hand kept oozing blood. He finally reached a place where the local gentiles made a bonfire to stay warm. The Rebbe requested if he could sit near the fire to warm his hand, hoping this would allow his hand to heal. However, they chased him away with their sticks, saying that this fire was not for Jews to use. Left with no choice, the Rebbe went into the woods to search for some healing. He found a certain type of leaf that he recalled promotes healing. He wrapped them around his hand and it healed. At this time, the Rebbe promised to Hashem that if he would survive the Holocaust in one piece, he would do his utmost to build a hospital. The first rule of this hospital would be that it would treat all people, both Jews and non-Jews. Ultimately, the Rebbe survived the Holocaust, but not before losing his whole family and his children. He established the Sanz Hassidic community with all of its institutions. One towering accomplishment is the Laniado Hospital in Netanya, whose policy is to treat all people.
Rabbi Silberstein concludes: This gentile from Switzerland, who received his treatment, brought to us the ultimate revenge. Our revenge against the Nazis is that we survived, but not only did we survive, we survived with kiddush Hashem, bringing honor to the name of Hashem. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah
"You shall not revile G-d, and you shall not curse a leader among your people." (Shemot 22:27)
Words are cheap, and emotions, at times, run high. We might accidentally say something that we regret later on. What we do not understand is that words have an effect and they might cause irreparable damage to another person, as the following story illustrates. A certain Rabbi in Jerusalem, a Slonimer hasid, did not have children for twenty-four years after his marriage. Ultimately, in a miraculous incident he and his wife were blessed with a child. He related that as a young man he was a student at Yeshivat Slonim in Jerusalem. The woman who came nightly to clean the floor would come with her children, who, because of their young age, could not be left at home alone. The children, of course, did not comprehend the importance of the Torah study that was going on in the bet midrash. Thus, the noise level of these children often disturbed those who were learning.
It happened that one night the noise level became intolerable for this young man, and he remarked to the woman that it would be a good idea for her to discipline her children. The woman who was beset with enough headaches remarked, "Would that you not merit to have the taste of tzaar gidul banim, pain of raising children." At the time, the young man felt that the woman was, in effect, blessing him to have an easy time raising his own children. Undoubtedly, this was her true intention. These words, however, were issued during a moment of anger and the effect was tragic.
Years went by. The young man forgot the incident. He met his intended mate, and entered into matrimony. They had a blissful marriage - except for one serious concern - they had not yet been blessed with children. They traveled all over the world in search of the doctor, the drug - the miracle that would grant them progeny. It was to no avail. They were rapidly approaching middle age, and no child.
For some reason, the man remembered the incident that had occurred many years earlier concerning the cleaning woman, her children, his derogatory rebuke and her response. Suddenly, he realized that what he had understood as a blessing was actually a curse. Immediately, he went in search of this woman. With luck, he was able to locate her. He quickly went to visit her, to beg her forgiveness for his impatience and for the impudent remark he had made many years earlier. She was happy to forgive him and even added that those wild children were today great Torah scholars serving in positions of distinction throughout Eress Yisrael.
Nine months later - twenty-four years into their marriage, they were blessed with a child. Jerusalem clamored; everyone was overwhelmed with excitement. They all took heed of the lesson: the impact of every single word, its far-reaching effect and consequence. No one meant any harm, but words were said, and the consequences had taken effect. (Peninim on the Torah)
"They saw a vision of the G-d of Israel, and under his feet was something like a sapphire brick." (Shemot 24:10)
The Midrash teaches that during the slavery in Egypt, Hashem placed a brick under his throne to always remind him, so to speak, of the suffering of the Israelites who were being forced to build with bricks. Obviously, Hashem does not need any reminders, but we must view his actions and learn from them. We should learn from this to try to feel the suffering of others and do our best to continually recall their pain. By the same token, we must feel the joy of our fellow man when he experiences a joyous occasion.
Question: Do you know someone who has been suffering through a prolonged ordeal? When was the last time you asked him how he's doing? When you get an invitation in the mail, do you say, "How nice! So-and-so's son is getting married next week!" or do you say, "Oh, great! Another wedding! Maybe we'll just go show our faces and leave early"?
Question: Why do some of the blessings of the haftarah contain prayers for redemption and for the coming of the Mashiah?
Answer: The haftarah originated in stressful times for our people. Therefore, there are prayers for the redemption, to stress that the difficult times will someday end. (Excerpted from Siddur Abir Yaacob, published by Sephardic Press)
This week's Haftarah: Melachim II 11:17 - 12:17.
The regular haftarah for Parashat Mishpatim is from Yirmiyahu. It tells about King Sidkiyahu, who proclaimed freedom for all Jewish slaves. The first concept in the perashah also deals with the laws regarding Jewish slaves.
Since tomorrow is Rosh Hodesh, we would usually read a special haftarah known as "Mahar Hodesh - tomorrow is Rosh Hodesh." However, since this week is Shabbat Shekalim and a special maftir is read, we read about King Yehoyada, a righteous king who did away with the idols that the people had been worshiping. He instituted a system to collect funds for the repair and fortification of the Bet Hamikdash. This section refers to the half-shekel contribution that each person was required to bring every year, which is also the theme of the special maftir that we read this week.
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