Over the course of the past two weeks, I have listened to many inspiring lectures trying to make sense of and to relate to the tragic stampede that killed and injured so many of our people. Almost all the droshos made it quite clear that we can’t understand these tragedies as anything other than the hidden hand of Hashem. Several speeches also tried to focus on suggested areas relating to our personal growth that are certainly pleasing to Hashem. The two areas of focus I heard were firstly for us all to relate to our Judaism in a meaningful way, rather than just “doing” Judaism in a perfunctory manner, at times devoid of any meaning and without careful thought. The second was to realize that we all need to be careful about caring and working with each other for our own sakes and for the sake of our communities.
Rabbi Yissocher Frand shared an insightful thought on this topic. Enjoy!
The Midrash gives a parable in this week’s parshah:
There was a king who wanted to build a palace and scouted around for an appropriate site. He went into one city after another, but in each city the people ran away from him, indicating they did not want the palace in their town. Finally, he came to an almost-deserted town, and the few people there graciously and gratefully accepted the king’s offer to build a palace in their town. The king said, “This is the place where I will build my palace.”
The Midrash explains the parable. When Hashem wanted to give the Torah, He went to the sea and to the mountains, but they both ran away. He then came to a desolate place (Sinai), which accepted Him with open arms, and Hashem gave the Torah in a desert. What are our rabbis trying to tell us with this parable?
Why didn’t those cities want the king’s palace? Because they knew that building the palace in their cities would impact their lifestyle. They had certain ways of doing things; they had certain customs. They knew that building a palace in their city would mean changes for them. The ghost town knew that it had nothing. They were saying, as it were, “Remake us. We have nothing anyway! We want you! We’ll accept you and we’ll take with your palace all the changes that accompany it!”
If one wants to accept Torah, it is best to be like a desert – ready and open with no baggage. Torah takes root in a person who says, “Change me.”
One of the most interesting aspects of Providence is that there is a culture of growth that is shouting, “Change Me!” where the focus is on personal growth and the growth of our families. I attended the levayah, funeral, of Mrs. Taitelbaum’s father, and on a Sunday afternoon there were over ten families represented at the levayah in New York. I was talking to a local benefactor who has a particular interest in funding chessed opportunities. I explained to him the amazing work of our Bikkur Cholim organization and the many associated acts of chessed. He was wondering where the office was that prepares and organizes all this chessed. I told him that it was in the kitchens and living rooms of a few people and that many local families participate in preparing meals for families in need with little or no warning – and that this just scratches the surface of the local acts of chessed.
I can’t help but imagine the impact this chessed has up in Heaven. In a time when there is so much division, we all gain tremendous merit through achdus, caring, and giving to each other. This type of achdus screams, “Change me!” and changes us and the way we live and care for each other. As we all get ready to celebrate the Yom Tov of Shavuos, it is with the goal of taking the school and moving it from “good to great” and enhancing the spirit of achdus in all that we do daily. I thank the many lay leaders who dedicate so much of their time and effort to enhance the school and community.
Good Yom Tov,
Rabbi Peretz Scheinerman