Shabbat Message

We are living in an upside-down world, where personal agendas and hatred skew the truth and distort the realities. Jews are and always have been under the relentless watchful eye of society. The slightest alleged misstep is picked up and reported without credible evidence. That’s the way it is, and we deal with it. When the truth comes out and we are vindicated, apologies don’t undo the damage and negative view that was conveyed.

Every one of us can do something to promote who we really are within our own circle, and it will have a great impact.

The Torah is our guide as to how we serve G-d and how we interact with civilization.

The Torah teaches us, in this week’s Parsha, that we may not overcharge for an item. Our Sages set the amount at 1/6 more than the base price. When the customer becomes aware that he was overcharged he can invalidate the sale and collect a refund. The same applies if the seller inadvertently charges 1/6 less than the price; he can cancel the sale, refund the money and demand a return.

The Torah concludes this law saying, “and you shall revere G-d.” This is because one’s integrity in dealing with monetary matters is based on his level of awe of G-d.

This does not only apply to money transactions. The Torah tells us that one is not allowed to aggrieve his fellow. Our Sages explain that this law applies to not hurting one’s fellow with one’s words.

Rashi explains that this refers to reminding a person of his earlier sins, or to an embarrassing aspect of his past or his ancestry, or to give advice to another that one knows is bad.

We were given a tall order. But we have the ability to withstand this test, which at times is accompanied by strong temptation to express what’s on our minds.

Rabbi Avraham Pam o.b.m. expounded on this concept of not avenging another with words and he draws our attention to the flipside – we can offer kindness with words by merely greeting another and by simply asking how they are doing. This easy and thoughtful exercise, engenders a caring spirit in our environment.

I recall reading the following story about the Klausenberger Rebbe o.b.m. Each morning as the Rebbe would walk to Shul, he would greet the townspeople. One of them was Herr Meuller. The Rabbi would say, “Ah Gut Morngen Herr Meuller, and Meuller would respond, Ah Gut Morgen Herr Rabiner.” This went on whenever their paths crossed.

Speed forward. The Rebbe is now standing at the selection point at the entrance of Aushwitz. And who is the selection officer – Herr Meuller.

They stared at each other. The Rebbe announced, “Gut Morngen Herr Meuller.” Without responding, Mueller pointed to the right and spared Rebbe from being immediately gassed.

Reb Pam quotes the Yerai’im who states that included in the law of not aggrieving another, is not giving another an angry or bad face. He continues and explains conversely; look how powerful it is to greet another with a pleasant and happy face. The Medrash tells us when you put on a smile towards another, although you physically give him nothing your smile is worth more than all the gifts in the world to the one who you smiled at.

When I was around ten years old we moved into a new home. For some reason, the way the homes on our block were configured, the side door opened into the neighbor’s driveway.

Our Jewish neighbor was grumpy. He parked his car right by our door making it difficult for us to open it fully. There were other difficulties we had to endure.

My parents and siblings made sure to always greet him with a smile. At first, he would ignore us, however, with time, he would mutter something incoherently under his breath. As time went on, he actually became friendly to us. My mother would send over her deliciously baked cinnamon danishes and Kugels for Shabbos and holidays.

 

A number of years ago, my sister Chayala (Gonter) called me and mentioned that she received an invitation from our neighbor’s son, inviting her to his daughter’s wedding. I was flabbergasted. The neighbor’s son was already in college when we moved in and he would periodically show up, and here he is inviting my sister to his daughter’s wedding!

My sister told me that the neighbors’ son and his wife had embraced a Torah observant life and she had coincidentally met their daughter. When she mentioned her uncommon last name, my sister asked if she was related to our neighbor? She said yes! They were her grandparents!

My sister called the girl’s father and introduced herself, and he became very effusive, sharing memories of having such warm, caring and friendly neighbors who were so nice to his parents, and gave him a beautiful wedding gift.

Perhaps all our simple kindnesses made an impression on him so that when his children expressed an

interest in attending religious schools and high schools, he supported them, which led him and his wife to fully embrace our awesome heritage!