Thursday, January 14, 2016


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Bo
5 Shevat 5776/ January 15, 2016

It’s perhaps the most rabbinic word in the dictionary. If a person has aspirations to become a rabbi, aside from knowing halacha and how to develop a practical lesson from the parsha, he’s gotta be able to pronounce the word and say it with ease: Vicissitudes! This one word is appropriate in virtually any setting – births, bar/bat mitzvahs, weddings, anniversaries, tragedies r’l, etc. The vicissitudes of life refer to life’s ups and downs, its uncertainties, anxieties and misgivings, all of which are all part and parcel of life. 
How do we deal with those vicissitudes? The answer lies in what everyone seems to be looking for and cannot get enough of – chizuk! With a good dose of chizuk we feel energized and revitalized to deal with whatever life throws at us. Chizuk can come from anywhere or anything. Sometimes it’s hearing a song with lyrics that ‘speak to you’, at times one can feel chizuk from seeing a sign or store, reading something, etc.
One of our greatest sources of chizuk is quite overlooked. The gemara relates that during the era of prophecy the Jewish people boasted tens of thousands of prophets. However, only those that were applicable to the ages were recorded in the canon of Tanach. The words of the Prophets are as applicable today as they were when they were uttered by those great personages three thousand years ago.
The problem is that things have not changed much. Just as our ancestors didn’t want to hearken to the prophet’s message then, so do many of us not pay much attention to the words of the Prophets in our time. How many people are remotely familiar with the timeless, glorious prophecies of Yeshaya, Yirmiyah, and Yechezkel? How many people can even list the names of the twelve prophets that compose sefer Trei Asar?  
After the attacks on September 11th, I heard a lecture from a noted talmid chochom in which he strongly encouraged people to begin learning Nach (the Prophets and the Writings) regularly. I hearkened to that advice and try to learn a few minutes of Nach each morning. While many of the prophecies are painful to learn, there are many that are incredibly heartwarming and encouraging. The Prophets’ stirring words of consolation and hope can literally melt a heart of stone. In my personal study of Nach, when I encounter those prophecies I literally feel a stirring of emotion within me.   
Each week our Chazal enacted that we read a portion from the Neviim which connects with the weekly parsha. There does not seem to be an end to the vicissitudes of life. But each week we have the opportunity to hear the Prophets speak to us, and with their guidance and chizuk we can learn to navigate and contend with all that confronts us.
There is an oft-quoted bad pun that states that our yeshivos don’t sufficiently emphasize Nach because they are non-for-prophet institutions. The truth is that we are the ones who are really forfeiting the greatest profits by neglecting the study of the Prophets.    

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,
R’ Dani and Chani Staum                                                                                

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