With Warmth

(Torah Portion Ki Savo ) With Warmth!

This week’s Parsha is called “Ki Savo” – “when you come.” Last week’s Parsha was called “Ki Seitzai” – “when you go out.”

Life is filled with goings and comings, but because we are so busy and distracted, we seldom stop to think about our goings and comings.

Perhaps these two portions are read during the month of Elul – the month dedicated to introspection and self-evaluation – to give us pause to think about and reflect where our lives are taking us.

When we look at the titles of the next two portions, they are called “Nitzavim” – standing, and “Vayailech” – moving along.

Here too, there may be a message for this introspective time of the year. We should think, am I standing – remaining stagnant in my Judaism – or am I in motion – ascending by seeking ways to advance in my Judaism.

We all have heard the saying, usually referring to young children, “Isn’t she an angel?” Real angels are perfect because they have no personal choice; whatever they are instructed to do, they must do. Since an angel cannot deviate it cannot grow. They are called Omdim – standers – because they always remain the way they were created.
Human beings are different. We have the ability to choose right from wrong, and we are therefore called Mehalchim – movers. We are constantly faced with decisions and confronted with challenges and dilemmas. We must choose the direction of our path of life, either to go up or down.

The Torah relates that G-d yearns for us to choose Tov – good. The ultimate good is to observe the directives of G-d’s Torah.

I recently read a tribute to the life of Rabbi Chaim Yosef Hassan o.b.m.; a young rabbi of a Kibbutz in northern Israel who tragically drowned in a rip tide. The rabbi exuded warmth and caring and was able to inspire others to embrace Torah and Mitzvos at their own pace.

The following illustration was used to describe the rabbi’s caring and compassionate manner.

The story goes that the wind and sun were competing to see which one could get a person to remove his jacket. The gusts of wind began swirling around the person, lifting his jacket a number of times so that he had to struggle to keep it on. However, at the end, he managed to hold on to his jacket.

Then it was the sun’s turn. The sun cast its beautiful rays and gradually heated the world. This person felt the warmth, and in due time, decided to remove his jacket.

The sun’s success in effecting change was by casting its rays of warmth onto the person.

This story typified the approach of the rabbi. He didn’t yell or come on strongly, exhorting them to listen to what he said. Rather, with his genuine compassion and love for his fellow Jew, he was able to thaw the most frigid hearts through the power of Torah and draw people closer to their Father in Heaven. As a result of the gentle spiritual awakening call of the rabbi they shed on their own the layers that had prevented them from absorbing spiritual messages.

I once read an account written by a secular Israeli who was convinced that religious people were intolerant and bigoted. He wrote, “One Shabbat, I was driving on a road that cut through a religious community. I was speeding because I was afraid I might be pelted by stones. When the upcoming traffic light turned red I began to sweat. I slowed down and stopped bracing myself for the worst. From the corner of my eye, I noticed a Hasidic man with the fur hat etc. walking towards my car, I was just about to speed ahead and jump the light when I heard the person speak in a most gentle voice, “Yehudi yakar, Shabbat Hayom!” My dear fellow Jew, today is Shabbat!”

“I became so struck by this warm, caring embrace of this Jew, that I was overcome with a feeling to just park my car and observe the remainder of Shabbos!”

“My feeling did not come to a realization – for just as the light turned green, my girlfriend, unaware of what was going through my mind – said, go.”

“I write and share my experience to let people know that the way the media portrays religious observers as being intolerant and hostile -is not true.” He concludes, “I await the day when I have the courage and occasion to embrace the warmth and direction of an observant lifestyle.”

Wishing you a most enjoyable & uplifting Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks