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THE ART OF LIVING A LIFE OF TUTIM
Are you ready for goosebumps?!
One of the first soldiers that got wounded in the Oct. 7th war, was one of the two, out of all his squad, that survived. All his friends were shot and died. He also got a bullet in his leg, and not long after he was wounded in combat, he found himself in the hospital, with an amputated leg. In his company were other injured soldiers, with missing limbs. Some without feet, others without hands.
A Dati singer, Hanan ben Ari, came to cheer him up.
Hanan asked him, ”What song do you want me to sing for you?” The wounded soldier, looked at Hanan. He then looked at the wounded soldiers with no hands, at those with no feet, that were with him, in the hospital. He told Hanan, that he lost almost all of his friends in his squad … and he could have been one of them. “What makes me any different than my friends that died? Why did G-d save me? Only G-d knows!”
He said to Hanan, “But you know what, Hanan! We have no rights to complain! אין לנו בכלל זכות להתלונן Hanan! Sing us your song, החיים שלנו תותים, Our lives are strawberries!!! In what merit am I even alive!? I have nothing to complain about!”
Hanan ben Ari’s song, Life is Strawberries, is a humorous song, that talks about all the annoying things of life, especially life in Israel, and how everything is so קשה, is so hard. And then, the high part, is that no matter what, life is beautiful, like strawberries, and we have no right to complain! We have so much to be thankful about! It is a song that puts a smile on any Israeli’s face.
Hanan couldn’t believe this song request from this soldier! “If you would not have asked me to sing that song, I would not have the guts to even play that song for you! How can I sing such a happy song, seeing all of you soldiers with missing limbs! I don’t even know if I would be able to sing such a joyous song, while seeing all you here like this in the hospital! But because you asked me, I will do anything you ask, and I will try to sing it… But you should just know, that I need to disconnect my mind from my emotions! I can’t even fathom what you are going through, and that you can even think of this song, where I sing that הכל סבבה, an Israeli slang word, that means, that everything is awesome!”
The soldier though, did not feel like Hanan thought he felt! The soldier felt, that he was so happy to be alive! A 20-year-old boy, with no leg, but with more years to live! And with the ability to thank G-d on all that he has! This soldier had a choice. He could look at one leg and say, “Why do I deserve this?! My life is messed up!!” Or the soldier can choose to transcend, to be like an angel that looks at his one leg and says, “Thank you G-d! I could have died at combat, just like my friends! I lost my leg for my People, for my land, for G-d!”
The Emunah of Am Yisrael is on fire! Just in time for the Mashiach! This year, תשפ”ד is perfect for Mashiach to come, as it is the same numerical value of פָּקו֤ד פָּקַ֙דְתִּי֙ the secret password that Moshe was told by G-d in the Thornbush, to tell the Nation, that the time for the Redemption has arrived. And in this upcoming month, the month of Shevat, which is the acronym of ש’נשמע ב’שורות ט’ובות , we should hear good tidings.
Emunah is the key to Redemption. You can choose to ask why all the bad things are happening, לָמָ֤ה הֲרֵעֹ֙תָה֙ לָעָ֣ם הַזֶּ֔ה. Or you can choose, if you wish, to say it is all G-d’s mercy! When G-d sent Moshe to the people, G-d told Moshe to tell the Nation, the words that answer all of their questions, וַיְדַבֵּ֥ר אֱלֹקים אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֑ה וַיֹּ֥אמֶר אֵלָ֖יו אֲנִ֥י יְקֹוָֽק, I am G-d! G-d told Moshe, that the first step of Redemption, is to believe that everything that we are going through, is great! It is all G-d!
You can only get out of hard times, through שמחה, through happiness, as the prophet tells us, כִּֽי־בְשִׂמְחָ֣ה תֵצֵ֔אוּ. (Yeshayahu 55;12) When G-d wants to save us, he has a process. He doesn’t just save us first. He first takes us out of the stuck mindset, and only then, He saves us! There is an order for the four terms of Redemption. First G-d does והוצאתי- He takes us out, and only then, does He take step two, והצלתי, and save us. Why? Why doesn’t G-d first save us, and then take us out?
Because when a person is in hard times, there are two things that are hard. There is the pain, which is a reality. And there is suffering, which is a perspective. Pain and suffering are NOT one and the same. So, first G-d wants us to stop suffering. And then He takes the pain away. Only when we stop suffering, only with Emunah, which brings happiness and joy, does G-d save us from hard times.
This is what G-d tells Moshe: My Name Elokim, G-d of Judgement and difficult times, the Name that its numerical value, is 86, is just one number less, than the Name of G-d of Mercy and Redemption. Tell the Jews, that G-d’s Name is אֲנִ֥י יְקֹוָֽק, which numerical value is 87. And that just one number, the letter א, which is numerical value of 1, is the difference between the words גלה, which means exile, and גאלה, which means Redemption. One thought, one paradigm shift, can stop all your suffering.
In Babylonian exile, Hananya Mishael and Azarya, were challenged: Either they would bow to Nebuchadnezzar’s idol, or Nebuchadnezzar would challenge their G-d, by burning them alive, to see if their G-d can save them from fire. The prophet told them, that G-d would not save them, if they would be thrown into Nebuchadnezzar’s fire, and they had a choice: Either they could run away, or they could make a Kiddush Hashem, and sanctify G-d’s Name. They said to themselves, “Didn’t the Frogs in Egypt jump into the ovens, to sanctify G-d’s Name, even though G-d never commanded them to give up their lives for Him? How much more so, we should be willing to abstain from idolatry, if G-d commanded us, and get thrown into a fire, to sanctify G-d’s Name! Those frogs could have run away and they didn’t! We won’t run away either!
Last week, the day before my mother flew back from Israel to New Jersey, I took her and my kids to Kever Rachel. Then she asked if we can go pray at Har Herzl, at the graves of the fallen soldiers. We cried as we prayed at the graves of soldiers that died in combat at the Israeli wars over the years, ages 16 and up, that came to Israel from all over the world. These soldiers came here, to defend their People, their identity, as county after country spit us out, in this 2000 yearlong Exile. Soldiers who sanctified G-d’s Name, as they fought for being a Jew, and died like a Jew! Just like the Frogs could have said, “G-d said to all the Frogs to jump into many places in Egypt: וְעָלוּ֙ וּבָ֣אוּ בְּבֵיתֶ֔ךָ וּבַחֲדַ֥ר מִשְׁכָּבְךָ֖ וְעַל־מִטָּתֶ֑ךָ וּבְבֵ֤ית עֲבָדֶ֙יךָ֙ וּבְעַמֶּ֔ךָ וּבְתַנּוּרֶ֖יךָ וּבְמִשְׁאֲרוֹתֶֽיךָ: I don’t have to be the one to jump into the Oven, and give up my life! Let other frogs give up their lives!” But there were those Frogs who looked at it differently! WE WANT TO JUMP INTO THE FIRE! We want to sanctify G-d’s Name, and die for Him!
וְשָׁ֨ב יְקֹוָ֧ק אֱלֹהֶ֛יךָ אֶת־שְׁבוּתְךָ֖ וְרִחֲמֶ֑ךָ וְשָׁ֗ב וְקִבֶּצְךָ֙ מִכָּל־הָ֣עַמִּ֔ים אֲשֶׁ֧ר הֱפִֽיצְךָ֛ יְקֹוָ֥ק אֱלֹהֶ֖יךָ שָֽׁמָּה: At the End of Days, G-d will ignite the spiritual spark of His Nation and a massive Teshuva movement will begin. G-d will then have mercy on us, and then G-d will go and collect the Jews from all the Nations of the World that they dispersed to, in the Diaspora. G-d will change the news each day, begging all of Diaspora, that have so much wealth, to leave it all and come back Home. (Malbim:אחרי ההרוחה ישוב ויקבצך ) Each and every Jew, G-d will hold his hand, and bring Him back to Eretz Yisrael. (Rashi: שגדול יום קבוץ גליות ובקושי, כאלו הוא עצמו צריך להיות אוחז בידיו ממש איש איש ממקומו)
We could look at living in Eretz Yisrael, dying for G-d, or living for G-d, as annoying, and complain. Or we could look at it all, and say, we have no rights to complain! It is all G-d, and all good! No matter if a person is Haredi, Dati, or Hiloni, deep down, the heart of hearts of every Jew, is to make G-d proud! It is in our DNA, בני אברהם יצחק ויעקב! If G-d is putting us through pain, it is to rekindle our free choice, to have a relationship with Him! We are not forced to serve Him, because that is really what we all want, deep down in our souls, anyway!
Here is a story of faith: Not long ago, there was an 18-year-old Yeshiva student, who was growing in his studies. This boy was accustomed to accountability, and he would leave Yeshiva to take Dirshu tests on Mishna Berurah, once a month, and then immediately return to Yeshiva. The Yeshiva that he learnt in was in the Otzem Moshav in the south, and one night, on his way back from his test, with a Mishne Berurah in his hand, a car ran him over, and the boy died. The boy’s name, was Pinhas Weiss. It was so hard for the family to lose their son.
This boy had an older brother, Shraga Weiss, that learned in a yeshiva in Netivot. Two months after the tragedy of his brother, Shraga was returning to Yeshiva from his parents, and he waited for the bus. A car passed, with a driver, who was not religious. The driver stopped and offered to take Shraga, asking where he is headed. Shraga said, that he needs to get to Netivot. The driver responded, that he is headed somewhere near Netivot, and he can drop him off a kilometer away from his Yeshiva. Shraga took the offer.
They opened conversation, and the driver learned that Shraga was on the way to his yeshiva. The driver said, “If that’s the case, I will drive you to the door of your yeshiva! I have a great respect for Yeshiva boys!” Shraga thanked the driver, and said, “In the merit of the Mitzvah that you are doing, nothing bad will happen to you! The Rabbis teach, that שלוחי מצוה אינם ניזוקים! G-d watches over those who do his Mitzvoth!”
The driver though, responded, ”Although you say that, it does not always work! There was a yeshiva student, that his name was Pinhas Weiss. He was coming home from a test on his Torah studies, and he was busy with his Mitzvah of learning Torah,… He even had a Sefer in his hand, and suddenly a car came and ran him over, and he died on the spot! You see! This spiritual protection, it does not always work!!”
Shraga answered this non-religious, nice guy, what R’ Haim Kanievsky would say. The time for Pinhas to return his soul to his Creator, was after 18 years of life. G-d knows that this boy’s soul was on a high level, that he has a lot of Torah and Mitzvoth, and G-d wanted him to die, while he was in middle of doing a Mitzvah, because that is the greatest thing!
The driver than said, “You just explained to me a lot of questions I had!”
They continued their conversation, while Shraga held back from saying that he is Pinhas’s brother. He asked the driver how he knows about the tragedy of Pinhas Weiss? After all, there are about 360 car accident deaths in Israel a year. “I am a Zaka member, and I was one of the first at the scene… When I saw Pinhas’s face, I saw he had a special shine on his face, something that I never saw before in a dead person’s face. Pinchas’s face will never leave my memory, he looked as if he was smiling somewhat. I decided to attend the funeral, and I felt I want to do something to uplift his soul. I took upon myself to wear Tefillin daily. Even though I don’t wear a Kippah, but since his passing, a day hasn’t passed that I did not don Tefillin.”
They reached the Yeshiva, and before getting out of the car and saying goodbye to his new friend, Shraga turned to the driver and said, “Take a good look at me… Do I look familiar?” The driver said, “Wow! You look like Pinhas Weiss!” Shraga confirmed that he is Pinhas’s brother. They hugged each other, and cried!
What a nation! A gentle people with a faith of steel! A nation that weathered all the storms, that have come and gone, a nation of the unsung heroes of the world! A nation, that is the greatest miracle in the world! (Avraham Fried- My Fellow Jew)