Thursday, February 1, 2024

Parshas Yisro 5784




Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Yisro

23 Shevat 5784/ February 2, 2024

Mevorchim Chodesh Adar I


There aren’t many people who are able to impact and influence masses of Jews throughout the world. Rav Matisyahu Salomon zt”l, the late Lakewood Mashgiach, was one such rare individual. Aside from being a scholar of note, he was an eloquent and inspiring orator with an English accent to boost.

During his youth Rav Matisyahu learned in the Gateshead yeshiva where he gained mastery of Shas. His proficiency was evident from his shmuessen and speeches, in which he would quote extensively from Chazal, midrashim and mussar.

Many of those who knew him during his formative years thought Rav Matisyahu was destined to become a great rosh yeshivah.

In the late 1960s however, Rav Matisyahu was appointed assistant mashgiach and then mashgiach of Gateshead Yeshivah. After holding the position for almost 3 decades, Rav Matisyahu and his family moved to Lakewood, NJ where he assumed the daunting role of mashgiach of Beis Medrash Govoha.

Originally, Rav Matisyahu was very hesitant to accept the position of mashgiach. During his early years, he periodically traveled to the Steipler Gaon to ask if he could leave his leadership role and return to full-time learning in kollel. The Steipler advised him to retain the position. Rav Matisyahu once quipped, "All of my success in life has been a result of doing things I did not necessarily want to do.”


My rebbe, Rabbi Berel Wein, was a lawyer for nine years after his marriage. One November afternoon as he was preparing to leave the office his old friend, Rabbi Aryeh Rottman, appeared. Rabbi Rottman had been the Rav of a small shul in Miami Beach but was preparing to leave. Rabbi Rottman told Rabbi Wein that he had been sent by their rebbe, Rabbi Chaim Kreisworth, to tell Rabbi Wein to seek the position. Rabbi Wein’s initial response was incredulous at best. But Rabbi Rottman was persistent and wouldn’t leave until Rabbi Wein agreed to at least apply for the position. The rest is history.

Rabbi Wein was and is a very influential personality in the Torah world. He has taught and inspired tens of thousands as a Rabbi, Rosh Yeshiva, lecturer and author. Yet, in Rabbi Wein’s words, “My wife married a lawyer. I was never going to go into rabbanus. Never say never; you don’t know what’s going to happen, and you never know where the truth really lies until it hits you in the face.”


While I was visiting Eretz Yisroel last week, a friend suggested that I attend a funeral for an IDF soldier on Har Herzl. Unfortunately, there was bound to be at least one such funeral, and attending would help me connect with the harsh and painful reality of the war.

During my week in Eretz Yisroel, Rivka Baruch, a lone female soldier from Holland passed away.

Rivka had immigrated to Israel from Holland, and had enlisted, and served in the IDF as an officer. When the war broke out, Rivka was abroad, but she immediately returned to enlist in the reserves. A few weeks ago she contracted a fatal infection and her family came to Israel to be with her during her hospitalization until her tragic passing.

My son Shalom and I attended her funeral on Har Herzl. Messages had been sent that day asking people to attend the funeral because she was a lone soldier. Amazingly, hundreds of people came to the funeral.

At the funeral, her bereaved father, Robert, recounted the message Rivka had shared a few years earlier at her Bas Mitzvah. She had quoted the pasuk from the haftorah of Parshas Yisro in which the Navi Yeshaya relates, “Then I heard the voice of Hashem ask, ‘Whom can I send and who will go on our behalf? Va’omar hinini shlacheni - I answered, “I am ready; send me!”

As Robert said the words “hinini shlacheni” his voice broke. He shared that his daughter had always lived with that sense of mission, to act on behalf of her people. It wasn’t easy to become a lone soldier in the IDF from the Netherlands, but with incredible resolve she forged ahead.

As he described each of his daughter’s accomplishments during her short life, Robert continually repeated the words of the prophet, “hinini shlacheni - I am ready; send me.”

I will never hear those words the same way again.

The words of the Navi are to be our mantra as well. Throughout our lives we encounter situations that require ‘someone’ to step up. It is as if Hashem is asking us, “Whom can I send and who will go on our behalf?” Those tasks and roles may very well not be what we originally planned. Heaven looks for those who are up for the task and declare, “hinini shlacheni - I am ready; send me!”

The greatest event in the history of the world was Kabbolas HaTorah. The Jewish people uninhibitedly accepted the entirety of the Torah with absolute adherence to G-d’s will. Complete acceptance of G-d’s will includes accepting the path and role He has destined for us.

Life doesn’t always follow our carefully crafted plans. Great people are able to adapt and recalculate. At the end of the day, or more accurately, at the end of our lives, what counts is how much we accomplished with the cards we were dealt.

“Va’omer hinini shlacheni - I answered, “I am ready; send me!”


Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

          R’ Dani and Chani Staum