Vayakhel 5768

June 23, 2009

6 min read


Vayakhel-Pekudei (Exodus 35-40 )

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GOOD MORNING! Every day we make decisions, we react, we interact, we do acts of kindness. Oftentimes we don't even remember our acts of kindness and infrequently do we realize the impact on another's life or even on our own lives. This week I share with you a powerful story I heard from Rabbi Shmuel Dishon. It's a story that leaves you tingling and energized to help others.

The year is 1917, the communists take over Russia and begin their tyrannical campaign to wipe out religion and Judaism. In Minsk, a rabbi, Reb Shiah, vows no matter the cost, he is going to continue leading a life of mitzvot (following the commandments of the Almighty) and helping others fulfill the Torah. After an inexplicable 4 years without interference from the Communists, the rabbi is "invited" to an interview with the Chehka, the secret police. Knowing what the invitation means, he puts his affairs in order, says good-bye to his family and prepares for the worst.

At the secret police headquarters, he is ushered into a room. The interrogator greets him cordially in Yiddish, "Reb Shiah, would you like to have a seat?" This is not how these sessions were described to him by the people who had survived them! Seeing that the rabbi is frozen in indecision, the interrogator tells him to "please sit down."

He then asks, "Reb Shiah, perhaps you and your family would like to go to Palestine?" Reb Shiah doesn't know what to answer. If he says "Yes", then he is a disloyal citizen. He doesn't answer.

The interrogator sees that he is getting nowhere, so he reaches into a drawer and pulls out a five inch thick file and puts it down in front of the rabbi. "Reb Shiah, this is your file. It details everything - every mitzvah, every child you taught, every bris that you performed." Reb Shiah looks at the file and trembles.

"Reb Shiah," says the interrogator, "for the last four years I have been assigned to your case. It is I who has protected you and watched out for you. Now I am being promoted and there is no way it will go well for you with a record like this. The best I can do for you is to help you and your family get to Palestine. I see that you don't recognize me." He then tells the rabbi his name and the rabbi is shocked - the interrogator is the son of a famous rabbi who died young.

The interrogator continues, "I want you to know why I have been protecting you. After my father died, it was very difficult for our family. One Friday, before Shabbat, my mother came running to your home with me in her arms. She cried out to you, 'Reb Shiah, what are we going to do? We have nothing in the house!' You were dressed in your long black Shabbos robe and you had a beautiful gold watch and chain. Without a moment's hesitation, you reached down, grabbed the watch, handed it to my mother and said, 'Take this!' For months we lived from the money we got for the watch and I have never forgotten it!"

Concludes Rabbi Dishon, the teller of this story, "Don't think that when you are helping someone that you are only helping him -sometimes you are also helping yourself!"


Every time you act kindly,
the world has more kindness.
Every time you are compassionate,
the world has more compassion.
Every time you smile to someone,
the world is a more cheerful place.
Every time you give money to charity,
the world is a more charitable place.
Every time you calm someone who is angry,

the world is a more pleasant place.
Every time you judge someone favorably,
you are making the world a kinder place to live in.
Every time you help transform someone's worry into serenity,
the world is a more serene place.
Every time you encourage someone to do something for others,
you create a partner to make a better world.

from "Kindness - Changing people's lives for the better" by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin,(available from your local Jewish book store,

For more on "Kindness" go to!

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Torah Portion of the Week

Moshe relays the Almighty's commands to refrain from building the Mishkan (the Tabernacle) on the Shabbat, to contribute items needed to build the Mishkan, to construct the components of the Mishkan and the appurtenances of the Cohanim. The craftsmen are selected, the work begins. The craftsmen report that there are too many donations, and for the first and probably the only time in fundraising history, the Jewish people are told to refrain from bringing additional contributions!

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states regarding the recruitment of workers to build the portable sanctuary, the Mishkan:

"And each person whose heart motivated him came." (Exodus 35:21)

What can we learn from the verse specifying that their motivation came from their hearts?

The Ramban, Nachmanides, explains that they needed motivation from their hearts because no one had any previous experience with the skills needed for building the tabernacle. There were no teachers available to train them. However, there were people who had the courage to come to Moshe to tell him, "I will do all that you say."

Rabbi Yeruchem Lebovitz commented that if we look at the really wealthy people of the world, we will see that they are people with great initiative. There are major differences between people who reach the top by having much initiative and those who stay behind because of a lack of initiative. The Torah notes that the people who were successful in the sacred work of building the sanctuary were successful because of their inner courage to come forth and volunteer to do what was needed.

Be aware of the moments in your life when you felt a strong desire to accomplish spiritual greatness. Let those memories motivate you in the future to have even more initiative for true accomplishments. Have the courage to accept upon yourself to do what is needed. A person who has a strong drive to accomplish something will find that he has many talents and abilities that would have remained dormant had he lacked that drive.

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If you want others to be happy, do kindness.
If you want to be happy, do kindness.

With Deep Appreciation to
Mr. Morris Shirazi
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