DAILY DVAR TORAH FOR MONDAY
A rabbi in Dallas receives a phone call from a man wishing to make a contribution to his synagogue. They meet. The rabbi gives the man a tour of the synagogue and tells him of the educational programs for the community. The man gives the rabbi a check for $2,000.
The rabbi is puzzled why the man -- Jewish, but clearly not Jewishly well-educated nor observant --wanted to make a contribution to his synagogue. The man replies in a thick Texas drawl, "Rabbi, recently I was in Jerusalem at the Western Wall. There I saw a man praying with such fervor, such concentration ... I was moved to the depths of my soul. I wanted to express how moved I was, but I didn't want to insult the man by giving him money, so I decided that when I got back to Dallas I would make a contribution to a synagogue where that man would feel comfortable praying."
The donor continues, "When I returned to Dallas I went to the kosher bakery and described the man I saw at the Wall --- the long black coat, the broad black hat, the sidelocks -- and asked where a man like that would feel comfortable praying; Rabbi, they told me your synagogue! So here I am."
The man and the rabbi become good friends, they study together from time to time, and they share in each other's family's Simchas, joyous occasions. Over the years the man and his extended family become major supporters of the synagogue and its efforts for Jewish educational outreach.
Here comes the interesting part! The Jerusalemite returns from praying at the Wall. His wife asks him, "So, nu, Berel, how was your day?" And Berel replies, "Nothing unusual." Now imagine, after the proverbial 120 years, Berel passes on to the next world. He's greeted in Heaven with the spiritual counterpart of a brass band and a ticker-tape parade and is ushered into the presence of the Almighty! The Almighty says to Berel, "Berel, I heartily commend you on what you did for educating the Jewish people in Dallas!" Berel, who never in his life ever left the Holy Land, stands in bewilderment and replies... "What is Dallas?"
Like all good stories there is a lesson here for us! Each and every one of our actions has ramifications and impact far beyond our limited ability to know in this world. Therefore, we should always think twice if we are about to forego an opportunity to help someone or about to do something which would best be left undone. On a deeper level, even those actions which we do not even think others notice or care about, can have significant consequences -- in this world and for the next.
No wonder our Sages tell us in Pirkei Avos: "Pay attention to three things and you will not transgress. Know what is above you -- the Eye that sees, the Ear that hears and all your actions are recorded in a Book." The battle for life is the battle for awareness!
The Torah states that in giving Judah (Yehuda) his blessing, Jacob said, "Yehuda is a lion's whelp. From the prey, my son, you have gone up." (Genesis 49:4) Rashi, the premier commentator, tells us that Yehuda elevated himself by two actions -- (1) he stopped his brothers from killing Joseph and (2) he publicly embarrassed himself to save the life of his former daughter-in-law, Tamar. Why is it important for us to know how Yehuda behaved in a praiseworthy manner?
Yehuda is the progenitor of the tribe from which came the future kings of Israel. It was precisely because of these exhibitions of character that Yehuda merited this honor and responsibility. In Pirkei Avot, Ethics of the Fathers, the question is asked, "Who is the mighty person?" and answered, "He who rules over his own desires." Such a person is worthy to rule over others because he will rule over them with the same righteousness as he rules over himself.
In saving Joseph, he ruled over himself not to be influenced by the other brothers who wanted to kill Joseph. In saving Tamar, he did not let personal pride stand in the way of doing the right thing. The ability to rule over one's own passions makes any person a true king.
by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin