Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
August 9th 2012 -Volume 2, Issue 39 –29th of Av 5772
The Man who Changed the World
I never try to start my E-Mail with a Dvar Torah. You have to capture your reader’s attention with a story, a personal anecdote or best yet a joke. I know that, because that’s how I get drawn in. There are a lot of people that try the other Dvar Torah first approach. I delete them. Maybe you do too. We need a teaser in life; something to suck us in and entice to read that Torah or do that mitzvah. A free lunch, good AC, maybe a bagel and donut breakfast class will always be better attended than the dry hardcore Torah class. The chulent Kiddush shul and minyan will generally get better membership and attendance. We’re human. Hashem gave us a natural desire for some personal pleasure to accompany our natural desire to fulfill His will and to grow spiritually. It’s healthy. It’s fun and it works so go with the flow.
This week though I’ll start with a little Torah idea that flows throughout this Parsha. (unless of course you count the above as the grabber intro- see I got you J-didn’t have the guts to start too dry). The portion begins with Moshe presenting to the Jewish people “See I have given you today the blessing and the curse.” The blessing is to heed the mitzvos that Hashem has commanded and the curse is not listening and leaving the path Hashem has commanded. Simple instructions. The portion continues and delineates that the function of the Jewish people is to live in Israel and create a society where Hashem permeates every area of our existence. The commandments to destroy alternate forms of worship to foreign false gods and to destroy all the corrupting influences that take us away from our mission, the obligation to tithe to the temple, to the spiritual leaders from the tribe of levi, the laws of kosher, the sabbatical year, the obligation to give charity and assist the needy in the forms of loans, helping ones slave become independent and finally the laws of the pilgrimage holidays Pessach Shavuot and Sukkot. The unifying idea behind all of these diverse commandments is to recognize that in every area of life be it the way we live, the food we eat the money we earn and the seasons of the year that we traverse- Hashem’s name and our mission must be taken into account and be furthered. We weren’t meant to lead ordinary lives. We weren’t meant to live in ordinary countries. Our meals aren’t just meals, and the money that we earn is not for us to hoard and put away in some 401k. All that we have and are given is bring the blessing of Hashem to this world.
This past week Jewry lost one of its greatest leaders that exemplified this concept and lifestyle. Mr. Ze’ev Wolfson was on one hand the simplest of men. When one saw him you couldn’t imagine that you were standing in front of one of the wealthiest people in the world. He would invite you in personally offer you a drink and share with you his inspiration and aspirations to making a more godly world. On the other hand he was one of the greatest men. He was tireless and demanding in his drive to accomplish his mission and the jewish peoples mission. It is certain that the 10’s of millions of dollars that he gave annually and hundreds of millions over his lifetime to jewish causes particularly as he took the lead in spearheading the battle against assimilation, Jewish apathy, and the spiritual holocaust that has distanced so much of our family from our Father in heaven and the blessing of the lifestyle gifted to us transformed the world that we live in. There is no outreach organization, or community Kollel that did not benefit and in many cases survive and flourish because of his support. Yet, unlike many philanthropists that see their contributions as ways of building their own name or in some way just getting people of of their case by making token “alimony checks” to Judaism, Zev was a partner in all of the work we were doing. Regular reports that were thoroughly read as detailed as any business plans were submitted so he could be appraised of the furthering of Hashems mission. “How many people started keeping Shabbos? Kosher? Went off to Yeshiva to learn and grow as Jews, were regular questions we had to answer. We weren’t just building organizations of outreach. We were part of a larger project to bring all of Hashems children back to Him. Zev set the tone for outreach in the world. He could have sat back, retired and basked in his wealth but till his last days he was in his office greeting, planning and inspiring a world in the mission of our people.
I share with you some thoughts from my colleague Rabbi Tzvi Holland of the Phoenix Kollel upon hearing of the loss of our teacher.
“One of the measures we use in Kollelim to determine who and what a prospective Kollel Rabbi is about is asking him who his Rebbi is. Most have a few. A number of years ago while interviewing a particularly feisty young man, I was asked "Rabbi Holland, Who is your Rebbi?" As I answered I realized that my answer was not complete. Who taught me how to ask a direct real.practical question? Who influenced my methods of determining what I accomplish? After a while I realized that in addition to the Roshei Yeshiva, Rabbonim, and Rabbeim I merited to be close with, there was another powerful influence that I never really considered.
That most unique philanthropist of the Yeshiva world, the tireless, fearless legendary Mr. Zev Wolfson ZT"L.
Mr. Wolfson taught me what it means to care. When you care you never lose focus of your goal. He was only interested in results. Doing for Klal Yisroel. He could not bear to waste the two most precious commodities in the world time and money. He never forgot to measure success in real terms, "how many Rabbis do you have?" " How many shomrei shabbos?" "How much money did you raise?"
He hated honor and attention with an unmatched passion. His simple lifestyle was far below his means. I remember how he and his wife Tlct"a Mrs. Nechama Wolfson, once welcomed my wife and I to their home, not only with warmth and grace but as equals, colleagues in the commitment of community service for Klal Yisroel. Imagine a billionaire and his wife, just off a plane from Eretz Yisroel, after an hour or two, playing host to a young couple from Phoenix with energy, concern and great interest. We felt that they were as enthused about our work as we were.
His love and concern for Klal Yisroel knew no bounds. He was always looking for a new idea. He showed me tremendous concern and interest even as a wet-behind the ears Rosh Kollel yet to celebrate his 30th birthday. This from a man who cut his "community responsibility teeth" with Rav Aaron Kotler ZT"L (the founder of Lakewood Yeshiva and the builder of Torah Jewery in America!
I will never forget the words he said to me the first time I met him. "Who are you?" He asked. When I told him he said, " Rabbi Holland, your name goes before for you from one end of the world to the other!" He had vision that transcended the limitations most people believe exist in the world. He had no question of the value of a person that not only could he say and act with the confidence of “the world was created on my behalf” for himself, but he saw it in others and he actualized what he saw by giving hundreds of millions of dollars to Rabbonim.and Askonim for his beloved Klal Yisroel.
I once participated in a solicitation in his house with a large group of Roshei Kollel. In a matter of seconds we asked for millions of dollars ....and got it...Zev then.spent a day and a half, figuring out how the projects would be successful, not just writing a check and going back to business.
Zev knew the value of good people. He wasn't interested in buildings, he was interested in manpower for klal yisroel. He once said to me "there are not enough boots on the ground", I told him I could find them, he said then I will pay. It was that simple.
Zev knew what responsibility was and he was a shining example of what a person could accomplish if they lived a life with that mission and sense of responsibility.
He took responsibility for outreach, he took responsibility for protecting the interests of Eretz Yisroel. He took responsibility for the needy and indigent. He never wanted anything back.
That is truly amazing.”
For the many of us we need that teaser, the candy, the joke the bagel to get us to do the greatest mitzvos and to be motivated to fulfill our Divine mandate. For Mr. Zev Wolfson the blessing and the good was in merely being part of the greatest mission that Hashem has given us.
May his light continue to shine through the world and the merits of the millions touched by his generosity, inspiration and vision continue to grow as we continue to fulfill his dream of experiencing the blessing Hashem has given us. Tehi Zichro Boruch.
Have a beautiful Shabbos and Rosh Chodesh,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
RABBI SCHWARTZ COOL PLACES IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK-
The Great Synagogue- THE REAL SITE OF THE SIYUM HASHAS LAST WEEK-I know I told you last week that heichal Shlomo was the site I hope you dint get lost but he real site was the building that replaced Hechal Shlomo as the Great Synagogue of Jerusalem in 1982. The synagogue which was donated by Sir Isaac Wolfson ( I don’t know of any relationship to Zev mentioned above) of England seats 1400 people and is the center of prayer in Israel for all official services. The beautiful stained glass windows with symbols of Israel the glorious Ark and the incredible acoustics all make the prayer experience truly royal each Rosh Chodesh - like this past Shabbos one can hear the great choir of the synagogue lead an incredible cantorial service truly inspiring and hearkening back to the services of the greatest congregations in the alteh heim!
RABBI SCHWARTZ YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK
IN HONOR OF THE LAWS OF KOSHER