Thursday, May 12, 2011

BEHAR 5771

Rabbi Doniel Staum, LMSW

Rabbi, Kehillat New Hempstead

Social Worker, Yeshiva Bais Hachinuch

Sign up to receive Stam Torah via email each week go to:


BEHAR 5771


The Gold family was sitting shiva for their revered father, Mr. Jack (Yaakov) Gold in October 1976. Rabbi Yaakov Pollack, Rabbi of Congregation Shomrei Emunah in Boro Park and a Maggid Shiur at Yeshiva University, entered the house and sat down. He said to the mourners, “You’re probably wondering why I came to be meanchem avel1 Avie Gold, son of Jack Gold, when neither of them ever davened in my shul. I’ll explain it to you by relating the following story:

“Many years ago an Orthodox Jewish man was driving in Queens near a Jewish cemetery when he noticed an elderly lady standing under a bus shelter. He pulled over and asked her in Yiddish where she was heading. She answered that she was going home to Brooklyn, and she told him where she lived. He replied that he was heading to the same neighborhood and he would be happy to drive her home.

“During the drive to Brooklyn she explained that she had yahrtzeit and had come to the cemetery to daven. She had been waiting for the bus to take her home. They cordially conversed until he dropped her off in front of her home.

“Almost a year later the man called the elderly women, “Since we both have yahrtzeit on the same day and we live so close to each other I’m going to pick you up on the yahrzeit and we’ll go to the cemetery together, and then I’ll drive you home.”

“The scene repeated itself for a number of years until the elderly women passed away.

“Before she died, the women mentioned the story to her son and told him the name of the man who drove her to the cemetery every year on the yahrtzeit.

“The elderly women in the story was my mother, and the man was your father. So when I heard he passed away I came to express my gratitude and to tell you how special your father was.”

The mourners were moved by the story, but they realized that the story was far greater than he had realized because their father had not lived anywhere near her, nor did he have yahrtzeit on the same day as she did.

It is one thing to do a chesed for someone one time or to do a chesed when it is convenient. But for a person to go a few hours out of his way every year for a stranger demonstrates incredible selflessness. And what’s more amazing is that he never told anyone – not even his own family – about the story. Were it not for the fact that Rabbi Pollack told the Gold family the story no one would have ever known. If Jack Gold did such a clandestine chessed, there must have been many other stories that we will never know of2.

“If your brother becomes impoverished and his means falter in your proximity, you shall strengthen him – proselyte or resident – so that he can live with you.”

The gemara3 quotes Rabbi Yitzchak who said, “Anyone who gives a perutah (small copper coin) to a pauper is blessed with six blessings… and anyone who comforts him with words is blessed with eleven blessings.4

Why is one who encourages a poor person considered so much greater than one who actually gives money to a poor person?

Rabbi Yisroel Yaakov Lubchansky zt’l explained that time is the most precious commodity we possess in the world. Time contains potential and opportunity for anything we want and hope to accomplish.

Someone who is willing to give up of his precious time to lend an ear and to give his attention and heart to another has given away of his most precious commodity in the world, and that is the highest level of charity.

When Moshe Rabbeinu ascended Sinai the Torah states, “Moshe arrived in the midst of the cloud and ascended the mountain; and Moshe was on the mountain for forty days and forty nights.”

Ibn Ezra comments about those forty days in which Moshe did not eat or drink that “this was a great wonder; there was none like it before.”

Although Moshe’s ascension to heaven and his abstention from eating and drinking for forty days was surely a great miracle, was it greater than the miracles in Egypt or at the Splitting of the Sea?

Rabbi Chaim Kreisworth zt’l5 explained that during those forty days Moshe became a quasi-angel, and that is why he did not need to eat or drink. During that time he did not have the challenges and struggles of this world because he was living an ethereal existence. However, if he did not have the struggles of this world he also could not obligated in the daily performance of mitzvos as they apply to mortals. He could not receive reward for his actions because he did not have to overcome his free choice in order to perform them.

The fact that Moshe Rabbeinu, who understood the unimaginable reward for the performance of every mitzvah better than anyone else, was willing to give up forty days of that reward so that he could learn and teach Torah to Klal Yisroel is absolutely incredible. It is about that uncanny altruistic sacrifice that Ibn Ezra writes was a greater wonder than anything that occurred until then.

One of the hallmarks of our Torah leaders is their profound understanding of the value of time. They are people who optimize their every minute and never have enough time for Torah study and their other various efforts on behalf of their people. Yet perhaps the most common feeling expressed by those who have the opportunity to spend even a few minutes with such leaders is an awed appreciation of how he made them feel special. “He spoke to me like there was nothing else in the world that mattered, like my issue was paramount in his mind.”

Rabbi Reuven Feinstein shlita related that he once came to discuss a pressing matter about the yeshiva with his illustrious father, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein zt’l. Before he had a chance to begin a well-dressed woman entered Rabbi Moshe’s office and began pouring out her troubles. It was quickly apparent that the woman was deranged. She related to Rabbi Moshe her harrowing experiences with aliens pursuing her. After a half-hour Rabbi Reuven prepared to stop her for his father’s sake. Rabbi Moshe stopped him and said, “Zee hot keinem nisht ihr ois tzuheren azeleche zachen – She has no one who will listen to her tell of such things.”

She continued talking for an hour and a half and only stopped because it was almost nightfall and that was when the aliens came out6.

This all from a man who literally valued every moment of his life.

“You shall strengthen him”

“Anyone who comforts him… eleven blessings”

1 “Console the mourner”
2 I am deeply grateful to Rabbi Noach Sauber (a rebbe and mentor from Camp Dora Golding) who related this story to me. I am particularly grateful because Jack Gold is my great-uncle (father’s mother’s oldest brother). I verified the details of the story with my cousin, R’ Avie Gold, a noted member of the staff of Artscroll publications.
3 Bava Basra 9b
4 Tosafos note that one who gives a pauper both money and encouragement merits all seventeen blessings
5 Quoted in Ohel Moshe (Rabbi Moshe Sheinerman)
6 From “Reb Moshe” by Rabbi Shimon Finkelman


Post a Comment