Thursday, March 7, 2019

PARSHAS PEKUDEI 5779


“RABBI’S MUSINGS (& AMUSINGS)”
Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Pekudei    
Rosh Chodesh Adar II 5779/March 8, 2019

My rebbe, Rabbi Berel Wein, often quips that all rabbis like to say a few words before they speak.
This week’s Musings is quite a milestone, in that it is the 500th “Rabbi’s Musings and Amusings” I have written. 500 is quite a milestone! I am grateful for this forum and for my loyal readers who indulge this literary presentation of my random thoughts and ideas each week.
I would also be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that the concept behind this weekly essay was directly inspired by Rabbi Wein. I find it remarkable how much of an impression Rabbi Wein has had, and continues to have upon my thinking, perspectives, and world view.
At my high school graduation from Yeshiva Shaarei Torah in June 1997, I had the privilege to represent my class in making a presentation to Rabbi Wein. Rabbi Wein had been our Rosh Yeshiva and was making Aliyah that summer. We had dedicated our yearbook to him in gratitude, not only for the inspiration and leadership he provided to our class, but for his two decades at the helm of the yeshiva.
During that speech I related an anecdote that a Shaarei Torah alumnus had told me. He recounted that he was walking on the side of a busy road in Monsey one Friday afternoon, when a familiar car pulled over. The driver was Rabbi Wein who motioned for him to get in so he could drive him home. When he got into the car the radio was on and he heard the following conversation:
“Hey Bob, did you go to the Mets game yesterday?”
“Of course, I went to the Mets game yesterday.”
“But it was raining cats and dogs yesterday?”
“I don’t care if it’s snowing two feet. I don’t miss a game for nothing!”
At that point Rabbi Wein pointed to the radio and quipped, “There’s tomorrow’s speech!”
One of Rabbi Wein’s underlying messages is that life is full of lessons if you are tuned in to them. One need not be a scholar or intellectual. He just needs to have his eyes opened and think about things as they happen. When one mindlessly meanders through his days and weeks, his life is lackluster, and he loses out on the messages that are there for the taking.
I don’t have the opportunity to see Rabbi Wein too often, but I have the pleasure of continually being inspired by his recorded lectures and written messages.
I noticed that one of the words he repeats constantly in many of his lectures is ‘somehow’. That itself is a powerful message. When teaching about history, and particularly Jewish history, so many events are baffling and remarkable. As the adage goes, the truth is stranger than fiction. Jewish history has always been uncanny and unpredictable. It is impossible to understand how and why events have happened. The Jewish people’s revival after the Holocaust, the successful revitalization of Torah, Israel’s success despite the odds and hostile hateful neighbors, and in fact our continued existence, all miraculous and unbelievable. The only appropriate word is ‘somehow’.
Rabbi Wein also notes that the ‘somehow’ is the force of a G-d who doesn’t work by our agenda, and definitely doesn’t read the New York Times. He often quotes the verse in Yeshaya “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and My ways are not your ways, says Hashem.” If it were up to us we would often choose to do things very differently. But that’s why He is G-d, and we are not.
Each time one of our sons were born, I inquired whether Rabbi Wein happened to be in the New York area, and would be able to attend the b’ris. It had not worked out for our first three sons.
But two-and-a-half years ago, the week after our twins were born, I called my friend Heshel Teitelbaum, Rabbi Wein’s grandson and asked again. Heshel replied that Rabbi Wein had actually just landed in New York, but at the time his late wife was very ill, and he didn’t think Rabbi Wein would be up to attending.
The next morning, Heshel called me back and said that his mother thought I could ask. With great excitement, I called Rabbi Wein and notified him about the b’ris. I was careful not to actually invite him (halacha dictates that if one is actually invited to a b’ris they are obligated to attend, so the custom is to ‘notify’ and not actually invite people to a b’ris), but I noted how meaningful and special it would be if he would come.
To my delight Rabbi Wein attended and was the sandek for our older twin, Gavriel Yehuda. It is impossible to put into words how much that meant to me. I found myself becoming overly emotional when I publicly thanked Rabbi Wein for attending and being the sandek. I felt that one of my foremost connections to the past was instilling into one my connections to the future his lifelong mission to perpetuate the glorious chain of Jewish life.
Every one of the five hundred Musings I have merited to write and disseminate has been influenced by this outlook that has been imbued within me by Rabbi Wein. I am eternally grateful to him for his decades of tireless efforts and influence upon our generation of Torah Jewry. He often wryly notes that it is always nice to hear one’s self eulogized while they are still vertical. I consider it a privilege to be able to express these brief sentiments about how much he means to me and undoubtedly to so many of his disciples the world over.
May Hashem continue to grant him years in good health, to reap the nachas and fruits of his indefatigable labor, from the myriads of lives he has influenced in drawing people closer to Hashem and Torah.
He has taught not only Torah itself, but he has made it his mission to impart (in G-d‘s words) “My spirit that is upon you, and My words that I have placed in your mouth”. May he merit the continuation of that verse, “They will not be removed from your mouth, or from the mouths of your children (students), and from the mouths of your children’s children, from now until forever.”
And, as he often concludes, may we all merit nechomas tzion ubinyan Yerushalayim (the comfort of Zion and the rebuilding of Yerushalayim).


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

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