Friday, May 28, 2010


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Rabbi Doniel Staum, LMSW

Rabbi, Kehillat New Hempstead

Social Worker, Yeshiva Bais Hachinuch

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My Rebbe, Rabbi Berel Wein shlita related that there was a woman who survived the horrors of the Holocaust and the Concentration Camps, but lost everything including friends and family. For years she would go through the trouble of peeling vegetables and cooking up a pot of soup every day. Then when it was finally ready she would angrily spill it down the drain to ‘spite G-d’ for all the pain and agony she had suffered.

Rabbi Wein commented that although some would say her act was an act of brazenness, he would view it from a different perspective. Despite all that she had gone through she still maintained her unwavering belief that everything that occurred to her was the Hand of G-d. She was angry at that Hand but she knew, unquestionably, that it was all G-d’s work!

After the Torah was given with all its pomp and grandeur, it was finally time for the nation to travel forth from Sinai. But from that point onward there seemed to be one tragedy after another. The gemara says that when the nation departed from Sinai they did so “like children running away from school”1. They were afraid that more laws and restrictions would be imposed upon them. Shortly after, a group of complainers aroused tension and unrest among the masses, igniting G-d’s wrath. A fire raged within the camp causing much damage.

When that debacle concluded another tragedy occurred. “The rabble that was among them cultivated a craving, and the Children of Israel also wept once more and said, ‘Who will feed us meat?’2” They complained that the manna was trite and unfulfilling, and they desired real food. That event too ended in severe tragedy with many dying a horrible death.

Rabbi Yecheskel Abramsky zt’l was once asked the following question:

Our forefathers who witnessed the exodus, revelation of Sinai, and the omnipresent miracles in the desert were known as the “Dor De’ah – Generation of knowledge”. There never was, or will be, a generation that had such a deeply rooted connection with their Creator as that generation. Every single member of that generation merited being a progenitor of the eternal Chosen Nation. Yet when studying the events that transpired throughout their forty year sojourns in the desert there seems to be a glaring lack of faith and connection with G-d. If they were indeed so connected how could they complain and fall prey to sin repeatedly?

Rabbi Abramsky answered by relating that one year during the reading of Megillas Esther on Purim, Rabbi Abramsky noticed a young boy who did not shake a grogger when the name of Haman was read in the Megilla. Later on he asked the boy why he didn’t make noise like all the other boys his age. The boy replied that he did not have a grogger. When the Rabbi asked him why not, he replied that he was an orphan and had no one to ask to procure a grogger for him.

Rabbi Abramsky explained that the greatness of that generation was that they truly felt that G-d was their father who cared about every petty detail in their lives. Therefore, as soon as there was anything in their lives that bothered them they turned to their Father and voiced their dissatisfaction. Thus it was their incredible faith and connection with G-d which caused them to subtly lose perspective and complain to G-d inappropriately. In other words, it wasn’t a lack of faith that caused them to sin, but an overwhelmingly stark realization of their connection with G-d, albeit which caused them to forget their boundaries.

Rabbi Abramsky added that when the nation gathered en masse to donate materials for the construction of the Mishkan the verse says3, “The Children of Israel brought a donation to G-d.” The Torah is testifying that when they brought their donations to Moshe it was solely “for G-d”, i.e. without any ulterior motive. They were not interested in personal fame and honor, only the honor of G-d.

The greatness of that generation was their deep-rooted knowledge that G-d is truly our loving Father. They understood that when one has complaints or doubts in lives, ultimately the only One who can help is G-d.4 To them it wasn’t mere polemics; they lived with that realization!

Some years ago a young yeshiva student wrote a letter to Rabbi Shimshon Pincus zt’l. The boy wrote about certain serious issues that he felt were impinging his growth, and he turned to Rabbi Pinkus to solicit his advice. Rabbi Pinkus’ response is characteristic and legenendary5:

“To the precious student…

“I received and read your letter. I must say that I have not reached a level where I can give advice to people, telling them exactly what to do. However, I will reply and respond to your remarks according to my limited understanding.

“It seems to me that you are trying very hard to grow in Torah and Yiras Shamayim (Fear of Heaven) and that you are certainly fulfilling your required efforts and hishtadlus in this regard. However, you now find yourself in a position where you simply need help from outside. The logical explanation for this is simply because all lofty and spiritual pursuits require special assistance above and beyond our physical capabilities. Therefore, I am providing you with the name and address of someone who can surely help you.

“They call Him G-d.

“He is very strong, since in truth, He created everything! I also know with certainty that He loves you personally very much, and that He especially desires that you should turn to Him. You will have no problem finding Him, since He is everywhere, in the simplest form of understanding. In fact, even now as you read this letter, you can simply turn to Him.

“I write this because many people mistakenly think that this understanding is only attained through Prayer, good deeds, and exalted levels…. This is all true. However, it is not the main requirement. Rather, the main requirement is to understand that G-d is not a “concept”, Heaven forfend. Rather, G-d is real, alive, and eternal and we can forge a personal relationship with Him!

“The more that we realize this, the more we will turn to Him - and the stronger our relationship with Him will become. We will simply share our problems with Him and ask Him to help us over and over…

“If someone will give you different advice it is a waste of your time to pursue it. Simply turn to the One who can truly help you (Hashem Yisborach) and grab hold of Him and never let go until you achieve that which your heart desires!

“I sign with honor for a Ben Torah who is searching for the truth, but simply doesn’t know where to look!

----Shimshon Dovid Pincus”

It should be noted that Rabbi Pincus did not merely preach these ideas. He lived them every day of his life.

There is a story6 told about a couple who lived in Ofakim7 who were not blessed with children. Years went by and despite all their efforts they still did not have a child.

One day the man approached Rabbi Pinkus and cried bitterly as he poured out his heart before him. Rabbi Pinkus replied that he was going to pick him up that evening to take him to a special place to daven.

The man wondered what kind of mystical and holy place Rabbi Pinkus knew of that he was going to take him to in the dead of night.

That night Rabbi Pinkus borrowed his neighbor’s car and, around midnight, drove up to the man’s house and picked him up. They drove out of Ofakim into the nearby desert. After driving for some time they came to a deserted area. Rabbi Pinkus told the man that he should get out of the car. Then he looked at the befuddled young man and said emphatically, “It is night and it is dark and ominous! Don’t look for a road to take you home because there is nothing out here. Now it’s just you and the Master of the World! I am leaving you here and I will return. Do not speak to G-d, don’t cry, and don’t pray. Rather scream out to G-d! Pour out your heart and soul and bessech him with prayer. In that way you will receive the slavation you seek. I will be back in a half-hour.” With that Rabbi Pinkus drove off into the night.

He returned a half-hour later and gazed at the shaken young man’s face. “I’m sorry; I see that you have not cried sufficiently. Cry! Beg! Speak with G-d and tell Him your request!” With that he again drove off.

About an hour later he returned again. This time he noticed that the man’s clothes were drenched with sweat and tears. Rabbi Pinkus smiled, “This is what I meant. You will see that your prayers will be answered.”

Today that young man is the father of a beautiful family.

The Gemara8 says “Anyone who has no wisdom, it is forbidden to have mercy on him.” Rabbi Shimon Schwab zt’l explained9 that this surely does not refer to someone who lacks intelligence or is mentally lacking aptitude. Rather it refers to one beset by travails, disease, and difficulties who does not consider that it is G-d who is behind everything that is transpiring to him. If a person obudrately refuses to acknowledge that everything that occurs in his life is a message from G-d, he misses the whole point of his suffering and therefore does not dersve the mercy of others.

The personages mentioned in the Torah may have been cuplable of various sins (on their level), but they remain our foremost role models, because they understood how to live a life of connection with their Creator. Ultimately the struggle and pursuit incumbent upon every one of us is to live by their example. To truly believe and internalize the notion that G-d is our father and king, and only He has the ability to truly grant us our needs and desires.

“Who will feed us meat?”

“Our Father in Heaven”

1 Shabbos 115b
2 11:4
3 35:29
4 Their ‘sin’ was that on their great level they should have presented their complaints in a more refined and respectful manner.
5 The letter is printed in the original Hebrew in Nefesh Shimshon (Igros Umichtavim). Please note that the translation is not my own. I am grateful to whoever it was.
6 Quoted in ‘Rabboseinu Shbadarom” a biography about Rabbi Pinkus, page 144
7 the community where Rabbi Pinkus was the Rabbi
8 Sanhedrin 92a
9 Commentary to Yeshaya 27:12


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