Thursday, May 19, 2016


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Emor
Pirkei Avos perek 3
12 Iyar 5776 (27th day of Omer)/ May 20, 2016

Last week our five year old daughter Chayala had corrective surgery on her eyes. [The surgery had nothing to do with the rock climbing on Chol Hamoed that I wrote about last week.] We arrived at the hospital at 6:30 am, she was in surgery by 7:30, out of surgery by 9, and we left the hospital around noon. By that evening she was completely back to herself, b’h.
For a few hours in between however, Chayala did not open her eyes because it hurt too much. She wore sunglasses and held our hands on the way to the car. When we went to a store to pick out a present for her on the way home, we had to describe the toys for her and ask her which she wanted. It definitely gave me a renewed appreciation for the gift of sight and the beracha of “pokeiach ivrim” (giving sight to the blind). 
It reminded me of an experience I had this past winter, when I was in Eretz Yisroel with our son Shalom. One day, after visiting cousins in Rechovot we went for a tour of the Ayalon Institute.
During the 1940s when the British controlled Eretz Yisroel, and immediately afterwards during the War of Independence in 1948, the Ayalon Institute appeared like a typical kibbutz. Unbeknownst to the British however, in the underground bowels of the kibbutz was an ammunition factory for the Palmach, the military division of the Haganah. For four years the factory produced millions of bullets which were vital for the efforts of the Israeli resistance, and played an integral role in the outcome of the war.
One of the machines in the kibbutz’s laundry room was on a track. Every morning 45 men and women would clandestinely descend to the hidden area where they worked feverishly, six days a week for ten hours a day, producing bullets. The noise of the washing machines drowned out the noise below, and the smell of the detergent masked the smell of the gunpowder. The workers would take food supplements and there was special lighting in the room to boost the sheen of their skin so they wouldn’t become pale from the hours working in the dank underground.
The launderers even washed the uniforms of the British soldiers nearby. A wire which bypassed the meter of the kibbutz to avoid detection was connected to the nearby British armybase. The British were unwittingly funding the electricity for the operation. Talk about Israeli/Jewish chutzpah!
The fascinating thing about the story is that it was happening right under the enemy’s nose, yet they knew nothing about it. The whole story contains an apt analogy for how we view others. We look at people, size up their situation, and offer our opinions about their lives, convinced of the veracity of our perspective. The truth is that every person has compartments of themselves hidden from view, in the basements of their being. This is true not even of people we don’t know, but often even of people with whom we feel close and connected. There are always things about which we are unaware.
A few years ago a fellow teacher related a simple piece of advice which contains invaluable wisdom: Whenever you look at someone else’s life, remember that all you are seeing is the tip of the iceberg. What we see is only the top of the person’s essence, the part that is visible above the horizon. But beneath the surface is an ocean of depth that we cannot see.
At the end of the day, judging others is like making decisions with your eyes closed.

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

            R’ Dani and Chani Staum