Thursday, September 28, 2017

Thursday's Thoughts on Teshuva - The Rabbi Frand Teshuva Derasha 5778: Part I

The following is a summary of some of the thoughts said by Rabbi Frand in his teshuva derasha recorded at a Just One Life event in Brooklyn on Tuesday. Same rules as usual apply. I have attempted to summarize many of the thoughts to the best of my abilities. Any inconsistencies are the results of my transcription and should not be attributed to R' Frand.

R' Frand remarked that the shofar on Rosh Hashanah is like the gavel which starts a court proceeding and the shofar at the end of Yom Kippur it is the gavel at the end of the court case. We must make our case during those ten days as the line in the U'Nisaneh Tokef of who will live and who will die is not an overstatement. And no one can win this judgment on his own merits, as we know that our actions do not alone justify a positive verdict. Instead we ask Hashem for mercy.

But how do we get mercy? What is done to merit mercy? The gemara in Shabbos teaches that anyone who shows mercy to others, Hashem will show mercy --as He is merciful, you should be merciful. People come to R' Leb Schteinman (sp?) and ask --how can I convince Hashem to show me mercy? He says --be merciful to others.

At the end of Selichos every day we say a prayer called "Machnisei Rachamim" which sounds like a request for others to bring our prayers before the Merciful One. Who are the bringers? Some explain that it refers to angels, but we are not supposed to pray to angels. The Chofetz Chaim explains that it refers to the poor and unfortunate. We ask that those who we have helped, should bring our tefilos before the ultimate Merciful One.

R' Frand then began to develop the shiur as a message that if one is merciful to others, he can earn a bounty of mercy from Shamayim.

R' Frand's first example were the biblical characters - Dasan & Aviram. These men made Moshe's life miserable on many occasions. They ratted him out when he killed the Egyptian. They challenged him after Pharaoh made the Jews work harder. They tested Moshe's warning not to leave over the Manna until the following day. They joined Korach in his revolt, even though they could not even get the Kehunah.

R' Frand added another example in the name of the Targum Yonasan Ben Uziel. After the Jews left Egypt in the beginning of Beshalach, the Torah writes that Pharaoh said to "Bnei Yisrael." But the Jews had already left. Who was he talking to? The Targum explains that it was Dasan & Aviram.

So how did they get out of Egypt and not die in the plague of darkness? The Maharal Diskin explains that they were the kapos in Egypt. And when the taskmasters beat them because the Jews did not fullfil their quota, they suffered and did not take it out on the other Jews. When they complained to Moshe about the stink after the work got harder, they were talking about their own festering sores from being beaten.

And it was in the merit of their taking the beating on behalf of their fellow Jews, that these men merited life and being part of the travels in the desert. How did they get out of Egypt if they did not leave with the rest of the Jews? The Maharal Diskin and the Be'er Mayim Chayim explain that they had their own personal kriyas yam suf. There is even a suggestion of this in a pasuk in the Az Yashir. The pasuk states that Ki Va Sus Pharaoh --when Pharaoh's horses were entering the sea and Hashem made the sea come crashing down on them and the Jews were walking on dry land. The pasuk appears to be out of order. The Jews first walked on dry land and then Pharaoh entered and then the sea came down! The Maharal Diskin and the Be'er Mayim Chayim explain that after the Egyptians were swallowed up by the sea, then Dasan & Aviram came through on dry land in their own krias yam suf. The pasuk cannot be referring to the rest of the Jews, since they were already long gone. It is Dasan & Aviram who got these special miracles because they had empathy for their fellow Jews.

Why is this middah what causes a person to be saved? Because this is the middah that Hashem uses when he reveals himself to Moshe. He appears in a bush and not a high tree according to Rashi. Because He wants them to know that he is with them in their troubles.

R' Frand said that a person does not need to jump into the Hudson River or a burning building to show empathy or sympathy. He just needs to show people who are going through troubles that he cares.

When there was a fire in the city of Brisk that destroyed half of the city, R' Chaim slept on a bench in shul. Why? Because if half the city was homeless, he was not going to sleep in his bed. Rebbetzin Kotler would not put sugar in her tea during the entire WWII because Jews were suffering in Europe.

R' Frand told a story about R' Shach who during the first Gulf War slept with his head partway off the bed so that he would be woken constantly when he moved. His students told him that he needed his sleep and asked why he was doing this. He responded that American boys came to him before the war and asked whether they should go back to the USA. He told them no, they should stay and learn and the learning will keep them safe. But in America, their parents were not sleeping well. And if those parents were not sleeping well, then neither would he.

R' Frand told a story about the Tolner Rebbi who was walking home once late at night and saw a boy who was wandering aimlessly. He asked the boy why, and the boy said that mashgiach in his yeshiva had thrown him out. The Rebbi settled him in and gave him a bed...and then went out to find the mashgiach. He knocked and knocked until the mashgiach came down in his pajamas and bathrobe. The Rebbi said to him --you are sleeping in your pajamas? You may need to throw a boy out of the yeshiva, but how can you sleep comfortably in pajamas in your own bed? You should be sleeping in your own clothes in a chair.

R' Frand said that you don't need to be a gadol to show you care. He made reference to all the chessed being done over the last month for the people of Houston and Florida. People said tehillim, gave money, sent food and supplies and gave up their time to fly down and tear out wet carpet and dry wall to help out those who were suffering. [Ed note --I know two incredible kids from my neighborhood who recently lost their mother in a tragedy, but less than five weeks later they flew down to Houston to help in this recovery process. Its a testament to their level of rachamim and chessed].

R' Frand told the story of R' Leibowitz of the Houston Kollel which is situated in a part of Houston which was not flooded. That neighborhood was serving 2,000 meals a day to the people who were flooded. The OU raised $1.2 million for Houston in a matter of weeks. And when South Florida was hit, the Jews of Atlanta took in 1,000 families. R' Frand remarked that the Jewish Community in Atlanta is a nice sized community, but its not Brooklyn. And yet they took in all these families and gave them floors to sleep five or six people.

R' Frand supposed that Hashem must be looking down from Shamayim and saying "look at My children."

R' Frand then told a story about a Jew who walked into a shul in Jerusalem and he sees Jews saying tehillim with fervor. He asked what happened? Was there a terrorist attack? He was answered that they are saying Tehillim because there is a tsunami in Texas. The man said, I don't know what a tsunami is and I don't know Texas, but if there is a Jew in trouble I need to pray for him.

There was much more to the shiur and I will iyh try to finish the summary in a Motzei Yom Kippur post.

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