Thursday, July 25, 2019



           Rabbi Eliezer Silver zt”l[1] was a brilliant scholar, who spared no effort to help fellow Jews and to preserve traditional Torah Judaism. He was the President of the Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the United States and Canada and one of American Jewry's foremost religious leaders. He helped save many thousands of Jews during World War II.
          In 1907, Rabbi Silver and his wife immigrated to the United States. They settled in New York where Rabbi Silver first became a garment salesman and then sold insurance.
          That same year, he accepted his first rabbinic position in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. At the time the community of two thousand had an eclectic mix of outstanding scholars and ignorant laymen.
          One of the members was a scholar who had studied under the Netziv in Volozhin. The man was very particular on many areas of halacha, yet he did not observe Shabbos.
          The young rabbi connected with his congregants and helped them grow spiritually. When they completed their first tractate together, he arranged a lavish siyum to celebrate the accomplishment. The Volozhiner scholar was most impressed with Rabbi Silver and became an ardent supporter for the rest of his life.
          Rabbi Silver related that his years in Harrisburg provided him with tremendous opportunities to learn and to write his Torah thoughts.
          The simpler members of the congregation were very bothered by the fact that their young rabbi was always immersed in study. They felt that if they hired a rabbi who was purportedly a brilliant scholar, he should already know everything, and shouldn’t need to always be studying.

          After Moshe confirmed that the daughters of Tzelafchad would receive a portion in Eretz Yisroel, he decided that the time had come for him to seek his own needs. The Medrash[2] relates that Moshe requested that one of his own sons be his successor as leader of the nation after his passing. G-d replied, "Your children sat and did not engage in Torah study. Yehoshua served you and gave you tremendous honor. He would wake up early and stay late in the Bais Medrash. He would set up the couches and spread out the mats and serve you with all his strength. Therefore, he is worthy to take your place as leader after your passing." G-d then instructed Moshe to prepare Yehoshua for the nation’s leadership after his passing.
          If Moshe's children were not worthy to lead Klal Yisroel, how could Moshe have thought that one of them should be his successor?
          Nachlas Eliezer explains that undoubtedly, the children of Moshe were on the same spiritual level as Yehoshua. Still, Yehoshua was more worthy of leadership.
          When one recites a siyum upon completing a tractate of Gemara or Seder (order) of Mishnayos, he declares, “We express gratitude before you, Hashem, our G-d, and the G-d of our forefathers, that You have established our portion with those who dwell in the study hall, and have not established our portion with idlers. We toil and they toil; we toil and receive reward, while they toil and do not receive reward."
          It doesn’t seem to be true that “they toil and do not receive reward”? Would anyone work if he wasn’t receiving remuneration?
          The Chofetz Chaim related a parable about a king who hired a simple yet experienced shoemaker to design and make him shoes for his daughter’s upcoming wedding. It was a tremendous honor, and the shoemaker understood the gravity of the responsibility. Every nobleman and aristocrat would be in attendance, and the king expected the shoes to be regal and perfect.
          The shoemaker worked diligently on the shoes, sparing no effort, and working vigorously well into the night. Every stitch was sewn with precision.
          A few days before the wedding the king returned for his new shoes. The shoemaker pridefully showed the king one shoe which the king happily admired. It was truly magnificent and met his highness’s standards. But when the king asked for the second shoe, the shoemaker apologized and said he needed another two weeks. All color drained from the king’s face. Two weeks? The wedding was three days away. But the simple shoemaker insisted that there was no way he could have it done in that amount of time. The king controlled his rage, as he turned around to leave.
          The foolish shoemaker asked the exiting king when he could expect payment for his efforts? At that point, the king lost his temper. “Payment?! I should have you killed for your insolence and for failing to fulfill your task. You get paid when you meet demands. It would have been better if the shoe was less perfect, if I would at least have two shoes. But now I have to wear old shoes to my own daughter’s wedding. Be happy I’m allowing you to remain alive!”
          The Chofetz Chaim explained that that people work so they will get paid, which is contingent upon their fulfilling their task. No one gets paid for their effort; payment is for production. It is only in the world of spirituality where reward is granted for effort, not for results.

          There is an old saying that “G-d doesn’t count the pages, only the hours.”[3]
          Similarly, the Mishna[4] states: “Lefum tza'ara agra - Commensurate with the gain is the reward."
          In the world of truth what matters is not how much one has accomplished, but how much effort one expended. It is that investment which effects internal change, and that is what counts in heaven.
          Nachlas Eliezer explains that the sons of Moshe were undoubtedly great scholars. In fact, they may have even been more knowledgeable and more scholarly than Yehoshua. However, great as they were, they could have reached greater levels.
          Yehoshua on the other hand, was constantly at his Rebbe's side, always seeking to grow and enhance his spiritual level. Therefore, Yehoshua was more worthy to be Moshe’s successor than Moshe’s own sons.
          There is an often-quoted statement from the Chida, “אין לך דבר העומד בפני הרצון - there is nothing that stands before want/desire.” Simply understood, it means “where there is a will, there is a way”. The problem is that although that may be an inspiring statement, it’s simply not true. There are many things a person may truly desire yet will not be able to achieve or have.
          The P’nei Menachem of Ger[5] related the following explanation from his father, the Imrei Emes[6] of Ger: The Chida didn’t mean that one can achieve or ascertain anything that he wants badly enough. Rather, he means that although one cannot get whatever he wants, he has the ability to desire whatever he wants. Nothing stands in the way of desire! One can always yearn for greatness and higher levels.

          Rabbi Avigdor Miller zt”l notes that results and accomplishments are solely in the Hands of Hashem. Our role is to make the right choices and to desire the correct things:
          “Suppose a person has no desire for anything good. He’s missing out on the most important part. If he’s a poor man and thinks that he can’t build yeshivos, and so he forgets about it. He doesn’t even have any interest in building a yeshiva. He is losing out because the whole success in life is the desire to want to do it, even though he can’t. That’s why we ask in our daily prayers, that the Bais Hamikdash be rebuilt. This is a very important tefillah. We desire the Bais Hamikdash. We can’t do more than that right now, so Hashem gives us a reward for desiring it. People think that desire is a waste of time, but that’s the biggest possible error...
          “Rav Yisrael Salanter was once seen talking to an old man for a long time and explaining to him the importance of creating a kollel where married men could sit and learn. Rabbi Salanter’s students assumed that the old man was wealthy. When they found out that he had no money, they asked why he had wasted his time on a poor man, he replied that the old man can want a kollel. We see how important it was to get an old man to merely desire a kollel. That itself was an achievement - planting into somebody’s heart the desire to do good, even though he cannot do it.
          “This is a tremendous lesson for us. A person can build the Bais Hamikdash in his heart. He can build yeshivos in his heart. He can do all good things, as long as he makes up his mind that he’d like to do it.”[7]

          In life, our responsibility is not to live up to anyone else's expectations or standards, but to desire and strive to be all that we can be with the G-d-given talents we have been endowed with. That barometer is very personal.

          “We toil and receive reward”
          “Nothing stands before desire”

Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW
Rebbe/Guidance Counselor – Heichal HaTorah
Principal – Ohr Naftoli- New Windsor

[1] 1882-1968
[2] Bamidbar Rabbah 21
[3] Quoted by Pele Yoetz, os lamed, Chesed Le’alofim 1
[4] Avos 5:26
[5] during a hesped for Rav Leibel Levin zt”l
[6] Rabbi Avrohom Mordechai Alter
[7] Ohr Avigdor - Chovas Halvavos p.325


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