15 March 2018

Parashas Vayikra - LEARNING FROM THE “VOV”

LEARNING FROM THE “VOV”
By Roy S. Neuberger

This momentous Shabbos ushers in the Month of Miracles. 

We know that our lives are a series of miracles, but we need constant reminders. From the behavior of Am Yisroel in the Midbar we can see that it is possible to experience an earth-shaking miracle and then forget the memory shortly thereafter. 

I know this from my own life. I can experience the most dramatic and powerful simcha, illuminating like a lightning-flash the all-encompassing chessed of the Ribono shel Olam, and then, very quickly, become upset about all the problems I see around me. Why did I forget so quickly the “big picture” I just saw? 

Dovid Hamelech reminds us, “ivdu es Hashem b’simcha … serve Hashem with gladness.” (Tehillim 100) We cannot relate to Hashem unless we are b’simcha. If we realize that all His actions are l’tova, we are filled with simcha, because we understand that every event is good. 

Once a Rosh Yeshiva from Bnai Brak was eating a Shabbos seuda at our home. Somehow it happened – let’s skip the details! – that a tray of salad flipped over on him. I mean … he was covered with salad! Can you imagine the embarrassment! Although he was due to speak right after the seuda and had no other clothing, he minimized the incident, but my wife was in tears. 

Can you see anything good here? What good could come out of this “disaster?” Well, from this crazy incident we became extremely close friends of this Rosh Yeshiva! With him, I visited Rav Shach zt”l, Rabbi Shteinman zt”l, Rav Chaim Shlita”h and numerous other godolim with whom he was close. To this day, when he comes to America, he asks to stay at our home, and he jokes, “Spill more salad! Spill more salad!” 

“Gam zu l’tova!” (Taanis 21a)

This, of course, is a great lesson of Purim. Rabbi Binyomin Forst Shlita”h told me – on Purim – a beautiful vort: Yisro’s name was originally “Yeser.” A “vov” was added. Why a vov, of all letters? Because vov is a connecting letter. Yisro saw what happened in Mitzraim, what happened at Yam Suf and the defeat of Amalek. He connected all these events, and he connected them to the Existence of the Ribono shel Olam. As a result, he connected himself to the Torah!

At the end of Megillas Esther, there is a surprising possuk. “King Achashverosh levied taxes on both the mainland the islands.” (Esther 10:1) Excuse me! Achashverosh had just witnessed some of the most astounding events in history! After all these miracles, what was on Achashvairosh’s mind? Taxes! As Rabbi Forst says, he was nothing but a bureaucrat. No vov was added to his name! He did not connect! 

“The ironsmith makes his tool and … fashions [an idol] with hammers. He crafts it with all his strength. Though he may be hungry and without strength, he drinks no water and grows faint … and he will even make of it a god and prostrate himself …. The woodworker … cuts himself cedar trees…. He burns half in the fire [and] prepares meat to eat …. With the rest he makes a god …. He will bow to it … and say to it, ‘Save me!’ …. They do not know. They do not understand. A coating prevents their eyes from seeing and their hearts from comprehending.” (Yeshiah 44:12; Haftaras Vayikra)

My friends, we have to connect! 

At this miraculous season, we are midway between two cosmic yeshuas, the events of Shushan Habira andYetzias Mitzraim. In Achashvairosh’s kingdom, a powerful rasha threatened “l’hashmid, l’harog ulabed … to destroy, to slay and to exterminate all Jews, young and old, children and women ….” (Megilla 3:13) He could have done it, and he was about to do it, but his adversary, a quiet talmid chacham, prevailed. The rasha was hanged on his own gallows. The talmid chacham became prime minister in his stead and saved his people. 

In Mitzraim, when the Yidden were about to be destroyed, heaven and earth were overturned to save them. The entire civilization collapsed because of its hatred of the Children of Israel. 

In each case, the decree against us stemmed from our assimilation into that powerful foreign culture. In each case, Hashem saved His people just before our annihilation. In each case, the culture that sought to destroy us was turned upside down by the Hand of Hashem. 

This world is turning against us. We are increasingly isolated, increasingly beleaguered, increasingly challenged. We are attacked by Bnai Yishmoel and then attacked by Bnai Esav when we defend ourselves! Is this normal? Why is the world against us? 

Why was Paro’s Kingdom against our ancestors? 
Why was Achashvairosh’s Kingdom against our ancestors? 

The answer is so straightforward. Enemies attack because Hashem in His mercy is saving us from destruction! The world is against us because Hashem is getting ready to liberate us. “When the wicked bloom like grass and all the doers of iniquity blossom, it is to destroy them forever!” (Tehillim 92) But we cannot be liberated from a world to which we are attached! We have to sever our attachment to the world of sheker and attach ourselves to the world of Emes

“Do not be afraid and do not be terrified! Did I not tell you from before? … All who fashion statues are empty and their treasure will not avail….” (Haftaras Vayikra)

The Month of Nissan begins. We have to connect! The world is about to change. “Sing glad song, O Heaven, for what Hashem has done! Call out, O core of the earth! Break out, O mountains, in glad song. O forest and every tree within it, for Hashem will have redeemed Yaakov and He will glorify Himself in Israel!” (ibid)

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Roy Neuberger, author and public speaker, can be reached at roy@2020vision.co.il.
© Copyright 2018 by Roy S. Neuberger


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