Thursday, January 30, 2020



           A couple gets married amidst tremendous joy and excitement. A few weeks later they have their first argument. The young husband leaves home to learn in his Kollel very upset. He thought married life would be blissful, and now just a few weeks after getting married they already had a major spat.
          The Mashgiach notices immediately that something is wrong. He approaches the young man and asks if he could help. When told him about the argument, the Mashgiach smiled knowingly and replied that on his way home, he should stop at the local florist, and buy his a bouquet of flowers, which he should present to his wife when he arrives home.
          The man did as he was told. When he walked into his house holding the bouquet, his wife’s eyes lit up and filled with tears. He handed her the bouquet and said, “the Mashgiach told me to give these to you!”

          Nine plagues ravaged Egypt, yet Pharaoh remained obdurate in his refusal to recognize G-d and admit to his folly and error.
          G-d informed Moshe, “One more plague I shall bring upon Pharaoh and upon Egypt; after that he shall send you forth from here... Please speak in the ears of the people: Let each man request of his fellow and each woman from her fellow silver vessels and gold vessels.”[2] Rashi comments, “‘Please speak’ is an expression of request. G-d said to Moshe, ‘I request of you Moshe to direct Klal Yisroel carefully regarding this (to ask the Egyptians for their wealth) so that that righteous man Avrohom should not say, "He (G-d) fulfilled the decree: “They will enslave them and they will afflict them”[3] but He did not fulfill the second part of the decree, “And afterwards they will depart with great possessions”.”
          Why would Avrohom particularly have a complaint if G-d had not fulfilled the promise about wealth? If G-d had promised it, every Jew should justifiably have the same complaint? In addition, why would G-d only fulfill His word so that Avrohom shouldn’t have a complaint; wouldn’t be expect no less from any honest person?
          Hashem had promised wealth to the children of Avrohom after four hundred years of slavery. The nation was now gearing up for the exodus one hundred and ninety years early. Therefore, G-d was justified in not granting the nation wealth at that time. If they had not yet completely fulfilled the prediction about slavery which was for four hundred years, they were not yet entitled to the fulfillment of the promises of redemption, which included leaving with great wealth.
          However, there was someone who would have a complaint. Avrohom Avinu dedicated his life to performing altruistic and selfless chesed. On the third day after his circumcision when he was a hundred years old and in excruciating pain, Avrohom sat outside in the unbearable heat searching for an opportunity to perform chesed. Such behavior was surely not mandated or expected. But Avrohom lived beyond expectations, always seeking to help others in any way he could.
          Therefore, Avrohom would reason that even if the nation may technically not have deserved the wealth at that point, since this was the time of redemption, G-d should grant it to them anyway. Since Avrohom lived his life beyond obligation, G-d should do no less for his progeny.[4]
          Perhaps this can also explain the words we recite each morning[5]: “You fulfilled Your word, for You are righteous. You observed the suffering of our forefathers in Egypt and their outcry You heard at the Sea of Reeds.” These words seem troubling - does G-d only fulfill His word because He is righteous?
          The truth is that at the time of the redemption, because the predicted years of servitude were technically not fulfilled G-d was not bound to take Klal Yisroel out of Egypt. But in His righteousness and love for His nation, He hearkened to their cries and did so anyway.
          Our mandate as the descendants of Avrohom is to perform chesed beyond the call of duty, even when inconvenient. Dovid Hamelech states, “Olam chesed yiboneh- A world of kindness you shall build.”[6] Similarly, the Mishna[7] quotes Rabbi Shimon, who described chesed as one of the three pillars that upholds the world. During the generation of Noach when the masses did not consider the feelings of others and did not respect their rights, the world could not endure, and had to be destroyed. Avrohom Avinu taught the world by example to be selfless and caring; he built a world of chesed.

          In the early years of the Lakewood Yeshiva a grandson of the Chofetz Chaim joined the Yeshiva. Some time passed and the Mashgiach, Rabbi Nosson Wachtfogel, noticed that the grandson often came late to davening or missed davening in Yeshiva completely.
          The Mashgiach called the bochur into his office and reprimanded him. "What would your saintly grandfather have said about this?" The young man replied, "Rebbe, I would love to come on time. But there is a woman with several children and every morning as I am about to leave, I hear her children crying. One needs a bottle, another needs help getting to school, and a third can’t tie his shoes. There is no one else to help her and I feel it is my obligation to assist. At times I can still make it to Yeshiva but other times it’s so late that I have to daven somewhere else completely."
          The Mashgiach was touched by his sensitivity. “Who is this woman? Is she a widow? Maybe I can help her too." "Chas V’sholom," replied the grandson, "the woman is my wife!"

          The Aizer Mekudash (55) explains that a Chupah is open on all sides is to symbolize the tent of Avrohom and Sarah which had openings on all four sides, as a sign to travelers that they were always welcome. The goal of marriage is to construct and foster a home built on the foundation of Avrohom and Sarah, with love and selfless devotion.
          The reality is that it is easier to perform chesed outside one’s home where people admire and compliment his kindness. In the privacy of one’s own home, no one is aware of what he does except for his own immediate family. No one is honoring us at a dinner or extolling our praises for making supper, bathing children, doing homework with children, driving carpools, shuttling children to appointments and various other never-ending events, patiently giving time to speak with a child (or spouse) despite having so much to do, striving to be a better parent, waking up for a crying child at 2 a.m. despite having a full schedule the following day, attending parent-teach conferences (that can be unpleasant or uncomfortable), or for shedding copious tears davening for our children. That’s exactly why the ultimate chesed is what we do in our own home. We need to remind ourselves that we are living lives of chesed, especially when it doesn’t seem or feel that way.

          Please speak in the ears of the people”
          “A world of kindness you shall build”

Rabbi Dani Staum LMSW
Rebbe, Heichal HaTorah, Teaneck, NJ
Principal, Ohr Naftali, New Windsor NY

[1] This essay was from the second year that I sent out Stam Torah in 2001/5761
[2] Shemos 11:1-2
[3] Bereishis 15:14
[4] I heard this idea from my rebbe, Rabbi Yitzchok Heimowitz
[5] In the paragraph of וכרות עמו הברית  at the end of פסוקי דזמרה, from Nechemia 9:8
[6] Tehillim 89:3
[7] Avos 1:2


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