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Devar Torah - Pinchas

Friday, 2 July, 2021 - 1:02 pm

Strengthening Our Foundations

By Rabbi Shimon Raichik

This past Sunday was the 17th of Tammuz. One of the reasons we fast on the 17th of Tammuz is because on this day the walls of Yerushalayim were breached by the Romans. Once the walls were breached we began to fast even though Yerushalayim was not yet destroyed. This is because as long as the wall is breached our situation is in peril, and we are vulnerable.  

We are filled with pain and agony over what has occurred in Florida. 80 percent of the people in the Champlain Towers South collapse in Surfside were Jewish. What we are finding out is that there were structural issues with the building. There was water seeping into the foundation. Over two years ago engineers pointed out  the need for repairs. It was during this prolonged period of delay while they were considering repairs that the tragedy happened; the building fell.

When we look into the Rebbe’s sichos on the 17th of Tammuz the lesson this teaches us is obvious. Our wall is the Torah which surrounds and protects us. The Torah teaches us how to act and to live. It’s not just information, it's our life. Sometimes our yetzer hara creates cracks in that wall. Often the cracks start out small; permitting one thing or another or being lax on opportunities to do mitzvos. Maybe it’s being unengaged or being distracted. Whatever the particulars, what it is at its base is a lack of willpower and self sacrifice. We lull ourselves into a false sense of confidence that regardless of what we do we will be okay, because it's just a small crack, here or there. The 17th of Tammuz and the tragedy in Florida teaches us that there is no such thing as a small crack. Small cracks become big cracks which lead to an entire breach or G-d forbid an entire collapse. 

From time to time we need to consult with an engineer, a mashpia. We consult on how best to strengthen the foundations of our lives and ourselves. This is why the Rebbe wanted everyone to have their own mashpia. It’s essential that we strengthen one another to keep ourselves whole. It's not acceptable to drop our standards and expectations for maintaining a solid foundation. We shouldn’t look the other way or delay implementing plans of action based on our mashpia’s recommendations. We also don’t accept the constantly sinking ‘new normal’ of yet another round of lowered standards in our communities. Let’s not brush off people not coming for Shacharis or Mincha-Maariv. We all, as a community, need to feel responsible for each other’s spiritual wellbeing. We need to seek the welfare of our fellow members in the community by paying attention and trying to be a positive influence and example. Who is looking out for the young man who was doing well in yeshiva, or the young woman who finished seminary, got married and slowly tapered off coming to shul to find out what is happening with them to see if they are okay? No one; they are on their own. When a talmid or talmidah comes to yeshiva or seminary and finishes smicha or their program, what happens afterwards? No one knows unless they have a well founded ongoing relationship with their mashpia. If they don’t hear from them does the mashpia call from time to time to check? 

We live in a world in which we can drown in the ocean of concerns about our livelihood. The waters erode the foundations if we don’t keep them strong and fortified with the guidance of our engineers, our mashpiim. 

As parents and as educators in our schools we do not have the luxury of kicking the can down the road, pushing children through the system knowing full well that they are unprepared and lacking important skills that will affect their foundation down the line. We cannot ignore or delay addressing their needs or think that it’s no big deal. We are responsible to point it out to get guidance on how best to proceed and then to act. One small difference now can make all the difference later. We don’t need to scream or shout at our children about their grades, that is a thing of the past. We need to ‘retrofit’ our approach to work with the way our children are today with love and compassion. Today is not like yesteryear as many of us were raised. At the same time we need to be vigilant and make our voices heard. We don’t let children be ignored or allow them to slip between the cracks. We don’t file away the results of their progress on some paper and then ignore the problems. We have all seen in Florida what can happen when we ignore the warning signs. Now we cannot find all of these people.

Even though today is not like the past as many of us were raised, the Rebbe’s standards from the 1950’s still apply today. Growing up in Los Angeles in the 1950’s and 1960’s aside from limudei Kodesh, everyone received an English education for part of the day, even from the younger ages. My father, following the Rebbe’s guidance not to teach English to younger children, pulled myself and my brother Yossie A”H out of English studies. We ended up patching our schedule by having to wander from one limudei Kodesh class to another. My father didn’t follow the crowd. He was the only one in the entire city to follow through with an education of 100% limudei Kodesh according to the Rebbe’s guidance. His willpower and self sacrifice of him and his family served as an example to others. My classmates remember this approach, the approach of a dedicated chosid to fulfill his Rebbe’s directives until this very day. 

The Three Weeks begin with the 17th of Tammuz with a crack in the wall. The lesson is to  pay attention and avoid a churban. Let’s deal with the cracks while they are small both physically and spiritually. Please forgive my bluntness, however when something hurts we cry out.

By being proactive and looking out for others, consulting with mashpiim and following up with concrete action we will repair the breach of the galus and merit the geula shleima.

A Good Shabbos, A Good Chodesh

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