VAYELECH

SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE

What is something that everyone could use?

Yehoshua was hand-picked by Hashem to take over the mantle of leadership of Klal Yisrael upon the demise of Moshe Rabeinu. It is needless to say that obviously Hashem saw that Yehoshua was fit for the task. Yet, we see Moshe repeatedly offering words of encouragement. First it was to Klal Yisrael, “Be strong and courageous.”[1] Understandably, they could use words of comfort and strength with the passing of Moshe. Yet, even Yehoshua needed these words, as it states, “Moshe summoned Yehoshua and said to him before all Israel, “Chazak Ve’ematz, Be strong and courageous.”[2] “He, Hashem will be with you…He will not forsake you.”[3]

Everyone faces challenges. Everyone can use chizuk, strengthening and encouragement.

A most highly regarded Torah scholar, Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman zt’l noted that one of the reasons that people cannot deal with challenges they encounter, is that they have the feeling that the difficulty they are facing will remain with them forever. He gave as an example, if someone is dealing with a horrific individual who is making him miserable, he projects that this will be forever and there is no limit to the evil that will be coming in his direction.

Dealing with the individual is difficult enough. However, the person thinks that he will never be able to escape from this individual’s wicked schemes. He feels that there is no relief. It will always be upon him. Such feelings can lead someone into a deep abyss.

The Rav would refer to an observation of Rashi. We find a shift in the identities of Moshe and Yisro. In one instance we find Moshe identified as the son-in-law of Yisro. Later we find Yisro identified as the father-in-law of Moshe. Why the change?

At first, Yisro was the more prominent one. Therefore, Moshe was referred to in relation to Yisro. Later on, Moshe rose to position and power. At that point, Moshe was the more revered one, and Yisro was now cited as his father-in-law.[4] The Rav would tell people that they are not stuck. Things could turn around. Circumstances could change.

Even when circumstances are devastating, there is an attitude that allows for comfort and strength. An outstanding Torah scholar and teacher passed away unexpectedly leaving his widow, orphans and students bereft.

One day, between Yom Kippur and Sukkos, the widow knocked on the door of Rav Yitzchak Zilberstein shlita. She said, “I want to tell you something in praise of the Almighty.” With great emotion she expressed, “It was a miracle. Every year, after Yom Kippur at night, my husband zt’l would take a ladder to open the roof. He would cover the opening with schach and that was our Sukkah.

“There are trees adjacent to our sukkah. Throughout the year, birds would assemble on the branches. The branches were not above the opening. However, the birds left a mess on the roof. It would take my husband a long time with tedious, strenuos effort to deal with it and clean the area in order to make it suitable for our use.

“This year, my husband is gone. I had the task to open the roof. To my amazement, the area was spotless. At that moment I broke down in tears and declared, ‘Master of the World, how wondrous are Your ways! There is a limit to every tzarah. This year, since I am alone, without my husband, You spared me of the toil and effort needed to clean the roof!”

It is noteworthy that her husband had passed away on Lag Baomer. Her husband was alive for seven months after the previous Sukkos. All of those months, the area remained clean. She was able to feel comfort and gratitude.[5]

Do we realize that even in darkness, it is possible to see light?

How can we encourage those in distress?

Gemar Chasim Tova & Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Hershel D. Becker


[1] Vayelech 31:6

[2] Vayelech 31:7

[3] Vayelech 31:8

[4] Rashi Yisro 18:1

[5] Aleinu Leshabeach Devarim 2 pp.332-333; 339-340