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Rabbi Doniel Staum - Parshas Beha'loscha 5777 "Who You Going to Call"
by Rabbi Doniel Staum, LMSW

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My Rebbe, Rabbi Berel Wein, related that there was a woman who survived the horrors of the Holocaust and the Concentration Camps, but lost everything, including friends and family. For years, she would peel vegetables and cook a pot of soup every day. Then, when it was ready, she would angrily spill it down the drain to ‘spite G-d’ for all the pain and agony she had suffered. Rabbi Wein commented that although her act seems like blatant brazenness, one can view it from a vastly different perspective: Despite all that she had gone through, and all of the horrors she had endured, she still maintained her unwavering belief that everything that occurred to her was orchestrated by the Hand of G-d. She was angry at that Hand but she knew, unquestionably, that it was all G-d’s work!

It was finally time for the nation to travel forth from Sinai. After all of the glory and greatness of what occurred at Sinai, from that point onward there seemed to be one tragedy after another. The Gemara says that when the nation departed Sinai they did so “like children running away from school”[1]. They were afraid that more laws and restrictions would be imposed upon them. Shortly after, complainers aroused tension and unrest among the masses, igniting G-d’s wrath. A fire raged within the camp causing much damage.

When that debacle concluded, yet another tragedy followed. “The rabble that was among them cultivated a craving, and the Children of Israel also wept once more and said, ‘Who will feed us meat?’[2]” They complained that the manna was trite and unfulfilling, and they desired real food. That event too ended in severe tragedy, with many dying a horrible death.

Rabbi Yecheskel Abramsky zt’l was once asked the following question:

Our forefathers who witnessed the exodus, revelation of Sinai, and the omnipresent miracles in the desert were known as the “Dor De’ah – Generation of knowledge”. There never was, or will be, a generation that had such a deeply rooted connection with the G-d as they did. Every individual of that generation merited being a progenitor of the eternal Chosen Nation. Yet, when studying the events that transpired throughout their forty year sojourns in the desert, there seems to be a glaring lack of faith and connection with G-d. If they were so connected how could they repeatedly fall prey to sin?

Rabbi Abramsky answered by relating that, one year during the reading of Megillas Esther on Purim, he noticed a young boy who did not shake a grogger when the name of Haman was read during the Megilla. Later on, he asked the boy why he didn’t make noise like all the other boys his age did. The boy replied that he did not have a grogger. The boy explained that he was an orphan and had no one to ask to procure a grogger for him.

Rabbi Abramsky explained that the greatness of that generation was that they truly felt that G-d was their father, who cared about every petty detail in their lives. Therefore, as soon as there was anything in their lives that bothered them they turned to their Father and voiced their dissatisfaction. Thus, it was their incredible faith and connection with G-d which caused them to subtly lose perspective and complain to G-d inappropriately.

In other words, it wasn’t a lack of faith that caused them to sin, but an overwhelmingly stark realization of their connection with G-d. The problem was that their stark understanding caused them to lose sight of proper boundaries.

Rabbi Abramsky added that when the nation gathered en masse to donate materials for the construction of the Mishkan the verse says[3]: “The Children of Israel brought a donation to G-d.” The Torah is testifying that when they brought their donations to Moshe it was solely “for G-d”, i.e. without any ulterior motive. They were not interested in personal fame and honor, only the honor of G-d.

The greatness of that generation was their deep-rooted knowledge that G-d is truly a loving Father. They understood that when one has complaints or doubts in lives, ultimately the only One who can help is G-d.[4] To them it wasn’t polemics; they lived with that realization!

Some years ago, a yeshiva student wrote a letter to Rabbi Shimshon Pincus zt’l, about certain serious issues that he felt were impinging his growth. He turned to Rabbi Pinkus to solicit his advice. Rabbi Pinkus’ response is characteristic and legenendary[5]:

“To the precious student…

“I received and read your letter. I must say that I have not reached a level where I can give advice to people, telling them exactly what to do. However, I will reply and respond to your remarks according to my limited understanding.

“It seems to me that you are trying very hard to grow in Torah and Yiras Shamayim (Fear of Heaven), and that you are certainly fulfilling your required efforts and hishtadlus in this regard. However, you now find yourself in a position where you simply need help from outside. The logical explanation for this is simply because all lofty and spiritual pursuits require special assistance, above and beyond our physical capabilities. Therefore, I am providing you with the name and address of someone who can surely help you:

“They call Him G-d.

“He is very strong, since in truth, He created everything! I also know with certainty that He loves you personally very much, and that He especially desires that you should turn to Him. You will have no problem finding Him, since He is everywhere, in the simplest form of understanding. In fact, even now as you read this letter, you can simply turn to Him.

“I write this because many people mistakenly think that this understanding is only attained through Prayer, good deeds, and exalted levels…. This is all true. However, it is not the main requirement. Rather, the main requirement is to understand that G-d is not a “concept”, Heaven forfend. Rather, G-d is real, alive, and eternal and we can forge a personal relationship with Him!

“The more that we realize this, the more we will turn to Him - and the stronger our relationship with Him will become. We will simply share our problems with Him and ask Him to help us over and over…

“If someone will give you different advice, it is a waste of your time to pursue it. Simply turn to the One who can truly help you (Hashem Yisborach) and grab hold of Him and never let go until you achieve that which your heart desires!

“I sign with honor for a Ben Torah who is searching for the truth, but simply doesn’t know where to look!

----Shimshon Dovid Pincus”

Rabbi Pincus did not merely preach these ideas. He lived them every day of his life.

There was a couple who lived in Ofakim[6] who were not blessed with children[7]. Years went by and, despite all their efforts they still did not merit a child.

One day the man approached Rabbi Pinkus and poured out his heart. After listening to the man’s painful account, Rabbi Pinkus replied that he was going to pick him up that evening to take him to a special place to daven.

The man wondered what kind of mystical and holy place Rabbi Pinkus knew of, that he was going to take him to in the dead of night.

That night Rabbi Pinkus borrowed his neighbor’s car and, around midnight, drove up to the man’s house. They drove out of Ofakim into the nearby desert. After some time, they arrived at a deserted area. Rabbi Pinkus told the man that he should exit the car. After the man stepped out, Rabbi Pinkus told him: “It is dark and ominous here in the dead of night! Don’t look for a road to take you home because there is nothing out here. In this place, it’s just you and the Master of the World! I am leaving you here and I will return. Do not speak to G-d, don’t cry, and don’t pray. Rather, scream out to G-d! Pour out your heart and soul and beseech Him with prayer. In that way, you will receive the slavation you seek. I will be back in a half-hour.” With that Rabbi Pinkus drove off into the night.

Rabbi Pinkus returned a half-hour later and gazed at the shaken young man’s face. “I’m sorry, but it seems to me that you have not cried sufficiently. I am telling you again: Cry! Beg! Speak with G-d and relate to Him your request!” With that, Rabbi Pinkus again drove off.

Sometime later he returned again. This time he noticed that the man’s clothes were drenched with sweat and tears. Rabbi Pinkus smiled, “This is what I meant. You will see that your prayers will be answered.”

Today the young man is the father of a beautiful family.

The Gemara[8] states: “Anyone who has no wisdom, it is forbidden to have mercy on him.” Rabbi Shimon Schwab zt’l explained[9] that this surely does not refer to someone who lacks intelligence or is lacking mental aptitude. Rather, it refers to one beset by travails, disease, and difficulties who does not consider that it is G-d who is behind everything transpiring to him. Such a person has lost perspective of his suffering and therefore does not deserve the mercy of others.

The personages mentioned in the Torah may have been cuplable of various sins on their level, but they remain our foremost role models, because they understood how to live a life of connection with G-d. Ultimately, the struggle and pursuit incumbent upon every one of us is to live by their example. We must truly believe that G-d is our father and king, and only He has the ability to grant us our needs and desires.

“Who will feed us meat?”

“Our Father in Heaven”

Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW

Rabbi, Kehillat New Hempstead

Rebbe/Guidance Counselor – ASHAR

Principal – Ohr Naftoli- New Windsor

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[1] Shabbos 115b

[2] 11:4

[3] 35:29

[4] Their ‘sin’ was that on their great level they should have presented their complaints in a more refined and respectful manner.

[5] The letter is printed in the original Hebrew in Nefesh Shimshon (Igros Umichtavim). I have found this translation is not my own, but am unsure of its authorship.

[6] the community where Rabbi Pinkus served as its Rabbi

[7] This incredible story is written in ‘Rabboseinu Shbadarom” a biography about Rabbi Pinkus, page 144

[8] Sanhedrin 92a

[9] Commentary to Yeshaya 27:12

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