037 Special Holiday Edition – The 8 Days of Chanukah – Why Chutzpah is the Secret to Success & Torah Portion of the Week – Mikeitz – A Powerful Parable about who should get taxed – A Great Story about the Rav Shach and Peace in Your Home – Divorce in the Past and the Present – The Ultimate Torah Podcast
The Torah Podcast Transcript
037 The Torah Podcast – The 8 Days of Chanukah – Why Chutzpah is the Secret to Success?
Chanukah – Chutzpah and the Secret to Success
Rav Wolbe speaks on Chanukah, and he says that Chanukah is a time for Chizuk, strengthening. It’s a time for us to strengthen our Avoda, our service to God. He brings down a story that one time he was having a very difficult time in the Yeshiva, helping to support the Yeshiva. So, he went to the Chazon Ish. The Chazon Ish said like this. “A person has to jump into the sea and keep walking until the water is up to his neck, and then the sea will split.” In other words, a man has to do everything he can, in order to get help from Heaven. After a person’s done his fullest extent, at that point, God will come in and help. God put the ball in man’s hands. If we do everything we can, at that point God will come and help us do more than we possibly could have done by ourselves.
And he brings a couple of examples. One example is from this week’s Parsha, Torah reading, when Potiphar’s wife is running after Yosef. Chazal tell us that Yosef was about to collapse, he was about to give in to her. What happened at that point? He saw an image of his father. That gave him the Koach, the strength to not sin. People say, “Wow, what’s the big deal? If I would have seen an image of my father, I also wouldn’t have sinned.” Here we have to understand, he only had the Siyata d’Shemaya, heavenly help. The point is that he only had the help from heaven because he did everything that was humanly possible, he did. And at that point, the image of his father came in, because that was the Siyata d’Shemaya, that was the help from Heaven. The same story, by the splitting of the Red Sea – we know that Nahshon walked into the water until it came to his nose, and that point the Red Sea split. Man has to do everything in his capabilities, but if he does, he will get super-duper strength beyond human capacity.
He brings the Ohr HaChayim that says, “The Cohanim were lax in their performance of the Avoda in the Beis Hamigdash. The Cohanim, the Priests, were slacking off inside the Temple. So, what happened? The Greeks came along, and forbade the Avoda, the worship. They said, “You can’t do the Avoda, worship, anymore. That was Min HaShamayim, from the Heavens. Since they were slacking off, there was a decree that you can’t do it anymore. So, how did they fix it? It was only after the Chashmonaim showed that they were willing to sacrifice their lives for the sake of the Avoda, to work in the Temple. At that point, they had heavenly assistance – because there was no way physically that a handful of Cohanim could defeat an entire army. It was the miracle of Chanukah, and they found one flask of oil which burned for eight days, which gave them the ability to do the Menorah for that period.
So, we see from here, one of the essentials of Chanukah is Mesirus Nefesh, self-sacrifice, Chizuk, strengthening yourself. Therefore, if a person learns with intensity, and he Davens, he prays better, he says, “That’s the real lighting of the flame during Chanukah.” If we are Moser Nefesh, self-sacrificing, if we give ourselves over in the places where we are weak, that’s going to bring salvation into that area, into that bechina, that aspect. And he ends up by saying that during Chanukah, if we want to sit and relax because it’s Chanukah, he suggests the opposite. Instead, we should stand up and accomplish it. Why? Because it’s Chanukah.
Rav Dessler takes this idea one level further. He explains that we know that eight means totally beyond. Six, is like the six days of the week. Seventh is like Shabbos, the Sabbath, which is a combination of the spiritual and the physical. And eight is totally beyond. You know that Chanukah is connected with eight, with the eight days. But eight is totally beyond us. Just likeOlam HaBa, the next world is also totally beyond us. He brings a Maharal that explains, how come the Torah didn’t describe Olam HaBa, the next world? He says, “The Torah is Nevuah,prophesy. And Nevuah means when a Navi, when a Prophet explains something, he’s explaining it in terms of what he sees and what he hears, and what he feels.
But this is only in terms of the senses. But Olam HaBa, the next world, is completely beyond our senses. The only way we can understand Olam HaBa, is intellectually. With our minds, we know that it’s there. So, he says, “In a certain sense, the deepest level of our spirituality is really beyond our reach. It’s beyond the limit of our abilities. But God will give Man over time, if he constantly plugs away, access to true spirituality.”
But in the meantime, he brings Rav Yisroel Salanter who explains, “We may decide in a rational manner. But subconscious forces are not under our direct control, and they override our decision.” Our rational decision can be overridden by the subconscious. And he brings a wonderful example of this. If there is a Rav who also has a Talmid, he has a student, and he has a son. Now, the student is an unbelievable student, and he’s very proud of him. And his son is slacking off, and he’s not so proud of him. But if in the middle of the night he hears there’s a fire in the dormitories, and both his son and his student are sleeping there, who will he run to first? He’ll run to his son, because it’s subconscious. Even though his intellectual attachment to the great student is greater, but it’s subconscious, he will run to his son. So, he explains that all we can do is work on the surface layers. We need Siyata d’Shemaya, Heavenly assistance, to get into our subconscious, to change our subconscious. We need help from Heaven. So, why did God put us in a position that is so difficult? How are we going to succeed spiritually? The answer is that God put into this position in order that we should summon and pull out all of our Kochos, all of our inner strength. We should reach deep inside of ourselves to bring out our true inner strength, and then we have Siyata d’Shemaya, help from Heaven, to be successful.
But we know there is an argument between Beis Shammai and Beis Hillel – is it better that Man be created or not? So, they took a vote, and they came out that it’s better he’s not created. But Chazal say, “But now that he’s been created, he should subject his actions to the closest scrutiny.” In other words, really it’s better Man shouldn’t be created, because Man is going to fail. 95% of the people in the world are going to fail, it’s a fact. But we have to be of the 5% that are going to succeed in the true purpose of what we’re here for. Therefore…what? Therefore, we should subject our acts to the closest scrutiny. We have to constantly check what we’re doing – is it pure, is it right? Rav Dessler says, “This could be depressing. How am I going to succeed? The deck is stacked against me. I’m physical, I can’t get to my subconscious. How am I going to become pure? How am I going to learn better? How am I going to Daven, to pray better? How am I really going to be an Eved Hashem, a servant of Hashem?”
So, he explains just the opposite. The feeling that there’s no way out is fundamental to succeeding in the service of God – unbelievable. The fact that we can’t succeed, that’s why we have to come unto God. He brings a proof from Avraham Avinu. Avraham Avinu worked his entire life to bring the one God into the world, and now he’s faced with his choice by Nimrod, i.e. give your beliefs, or you jump into the fire. The Yalkut Shemoni says, “He accepted the challenge and marched forward, to what? To a miracle. At that point, a miracle happened. The fact that we can’t succeed, that puts us in a Matzav of a miracle, because we have to succeed. That’s what we were created for.
He brings another proof from the Red Sea like was I brought before. The Sea is in front of the Jewish people, and the Egyptians are coming from behind. What is there to do? So, the Possuk in the Chumash says, “Why do you cry to Me? Tell the Israelites to advance into the Sea.” They started to go into the Sea, and the Sea opened. The same thing by Chanukah. He says, “Any reasonable person could see that there was no chance for a handful of Priests to prevail against mighty armies. There’s no way. But having no choice, the Jews entered into the fray. And because they did, they gained the Heavenly help, beyond the physical nature.”
And that’s the symbolism of eight, totally beyond. The miracle of the oil lasted for eight days, teaching us that if we do what we must do against all odds, help will come from a higher world. And Rav Dessler calls this, “Azos Panim L’Kedushah, Chutzpah to holiness.” A person has to have Chutzpah. He has to go beyond his limitations. So, practically speaking, how does it come in? What do we have in our hands? We have the ability to wake up in the morning; wake up every morning on time. We have the ability to Daven, to pray. Show up on Davening on time. Stay to the Davening to the end. We have the ability to learn. Show up every day for learning. That is in our hands.
Whether we’ll have Siyata d’Shemaya, heavenly assistance or not, that’s in God’s hands. Whether we become a genius, a great Rabbi, something special, that’s in God’s hands. But what’s in our hands is the practical living of daily life; showing up to Maariv, evening prayers; showing up to Mincha, afternoon prayers; Davening. These things we can do. But most people give up. They say, “What’s the difference? I missed a Davening. I missed learning. Okay, religion. You know, I’ll do my best.” But really, it’s just the opposite. If you would do it to your greatest ability, so Hashem will open up new doors. That’s the miracle of Chanukah. That’s the miracle of eight. That’s what it means to light the Chanukah lights. Give it everything you’ve got. Don’t be Mityaesh. Don’t give up. Don’t be depressed.
You should know that if you do everything you can, God will make a miracle for you. And this is built into the nature of the world. And just the opposite, like Rav Dessler said, “This clearly should be, knowing that you can’t succeed on your own should give you hope, because God made the world for you – for your good, and your success.”
A Powerful Parable
The Maggid Mi Dubno brings a Moshul, a parable, like this. There’s a Possuk in this week’sParsha that says, “And Pharaoh said to Yosef, ‘after Elokim informed you of all this, there is no one understanding as wise as you.’” So, Pharaoh saw that God informed him, and since God informed him, it must be there’s nobody more understanding than you. He brings a Moshul to explain this. One time there was a very rich merchant, a respected merchant in the town. The people of the town, the governor started to charge them tremendously high taxes. So he says to him, “Why do you charge me such high taxes? I got all the stuff on credit. It’s not like I paid cash for it.” He says, “You’re right. That’s exactly why we charge you. Because of the fact that you’re able to get such credit is surely a sign that you’re a very rich man.” So, the same thing – once Pharaoh saw that God was speaking to Yosef, it must be since God chose you, there’s no one with such understanding and wisdom.
A Great Story about a Great Rabbi – Rav Shach
Once a man lost a very big fortune. He came to Rav Shach, very depressed. Rav Shach said to him, “Man is very short sighted. He doesn’t really know what’s truly good for him. He’s like a baby. You want to bathe the baby, the baby starts screaming at the top of his lungs. And the baby’s getting a bath. He doesn’t understand that it’s good for him.” He says, “Once when I started at Yeshivas Slutzk, I was considered one of the better students, both in regards to my diligence and my understanding. The better students were in great demand from the rich townspeople. All the rich men wanted the better students for their daughters, so they were in great demand. They would buy them apartments, and give them respectable amounts of money.”
What happened with Rav Shach? The Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer, proposed his niece to him, and he took her. The only thing is, he didn’t get any money and he didn’t get an apartment. He got nothing. What did they do? Rav Isser Zalman’s daughter and son-in-law, they were still newly married, and they had half a room, the didn’t have any kids. So, they cut the room in half and they put together his niece with Rav Shach in the Rosh Yeshiva’s house. He said, “I didn’t care. All I wanted was like it says in Tehillim, “To dwell in the House of Hashem all the days of my life.” I wanted to sit and learn. What was the difference where I lived, if I had any money?
The other students though, they started to feel bad for me. They actually disdained me. They were like, “What’s with you?” He said, “I could say I didn’t care, but the fact is, they were right.” So, what happened after that? World War II broke out. The Nazis conquered Poland, and the Russians were coming to Lithuania. He says, “What happened though, all my friends, the good students who had houses, they hesitated. Why? They were home owners. How can they leave? So, they went back and forth, but the time they went back and forth, many, many of them were killed, because they hesitated.
“Me on the other hand, I left immediately. I didn’t have anything. I was saved. So, you see that their homes were an obstacle to them. Me not having a home was a benefit to me.” He brings aRaya, a proof from this week’s Parsha. When the brothers came back to Yaakov and they said they have to bring Binyomin with them to Mitzrayim, he said to them, “Why do you treat me badly?” So, Chazal says on that Possuk, “Says Rabbi Chanina, this is the only place where Yaakov speaks idle words. Hashem said, ‘I’m involved in making his son the King of Egypt and he says, why did you treat me badly?’ Do you see? Everything that Hashem does is good. We just don’t see it.”
Peace in Your Home
Rav Nachum Diamant speaks about divorce – divorce in the past, and divorce in the present. Why are there so many more divorces than there was before? He says, We know for a fact, in pre-war Europe there were hardly any divorces. He’s going to bring down a couple of different reasons why there are divorces. One reason is that the parents back the children too much. As soon as a kid wants to get divorced they say, “Okay, come home.” They don’t have the strength to say to their son or their daughter, “You’re not right. Why don’t you go speak to somebody? Go to a counsellor.” No, they buffer their children from reality instead. He says, “In cases where I convinced the parents not to let the children come home so easily, in all those cases, there was no divorce. All that happened was just the opposite. The father would think he’s a good father, he’ll bring the kid back. They get divorced and then he’ll realize that he caused the divorce, and regret it his entire life.”
So, the first reason is parental backing.
Another reason is the lack of refined behavior. It’s because the couple do not act civilized with each other. Rudeness is rampant, and nobody acts like a Mentsch, a straightforward person. He says, “If people on the street don’t say hello to each other, so if that’s the custom, a guy will come home and won’t say hello to his wife either. Why should it be any different?” Instead of giving a little wave to his wife and then going to his room to do something, he should say hello to her, speak to her. Also, when the husband comes home and the wife is on the telephone, she should say, “Listen, hold on for two minutes. Let me speak to my husband.” Say hello to your husband. Call the person back, tell them to wait a couple of minutes on the phone. It’s called civilized behavior. Or the first thing the husband does when he sees his wife is, “Where’s my toothbrush?” It’s not civilized. First you say, “Good morning. Hi, how are you? What’s going on?” Then you ask politely, “Do you happen to know where my toothbrush is?” You can’t always be on the offensive. You have to be civilized. So, since that Madrega, level, has dropped a lot, people get divorced.
The third thing he says is, coping skills. Everybody’s spoiled. No one knows how to cope anymore. The Possuk in Mishelei says, “He who spares the rod hates the son.” So, it doesn’t mean hitting, he says. Even sparing your child from some kind of difficulty in the end, you’re going to wind up to hate yourself, because they have no discipline. They can’t cope with anything. Sometimes he speaks to strained youths, people who go off the Derech, the path. He says, “They’re all joking around and laughing about their world. But really, they’re having a very hard time. The world’s beating them up. When you sit them in a chair, they admit it. Why is the world beating them up? Because they don’t cope. They don’t cope with their parents, so they run away from their parents. They don’t cope with religion, so they run away from religion. They want what’s called the easy life, but there is no easy life. The less you cope with life, the more difficult life is going to become. If you cope, if you can handle what’s being sent to you, so then you’re a Mensch, a straightforward person, you can handle it, and life is good. But if you can’t cope and you’re looking for the easy life each time, in the end you’re going to have a worse life.
He explains that some of the tools we have to give our children in order to cope for life is for example, how to lose. The kids are playing a game, you have to teach a kid to lose like a Mensch. Okay, you lost. Next time, you’ll win. Or a kid says, “I’m never playing with him. I don’t want anything to do with him.” The parents have to explain, “There’s all different kinds of people in life. Not everybody you’re going to feel comfortable with. But you still have to deal with them. You still have to interact with them. If you don’t learn to live with people who are not so likeable, you’re going to suffer a lot in life.”
Another thing is, not everything in life goes the way you want it. You should do the opposite. You should teach your children, “When I don’t have what I want, I want what I have.” Teach them to get by with what they have. You have to adapt. Every person in this world, in a sense, is handicapped. Some people don’t have friends, some people don’t have money, some people don’t have parents, some people don’t have brains, some people don’t have health. Everybody has something they’re missing. But if a person doesn’t learn how to cope with what he’s missing, he’s going to be very unhappy. You should thank God for the problems you have.
I’ll give you an example. One time, he went on a bus. He heard an interview on the radio. It was after the War, and one of the soldiers lost his right hand, God forbid. The radio show was horrible, he was complaining, it was heart breaking. He says, “How can I live like this? I don’t want to be like this. I don’t want to live.” Then Min ha Shemayim, from the Heavens, two weeks later he went on the radio again and he heard another interview of somebody who God forbid, lost their right arm. He was saying, “It’s true, it’s very difficult. But a person can live without his right arm. Thank God I’m alive. I have the rest of my health. I know it’s going to be difficult, but I’m always going to live with a smile,” he said, on the radio.
So, you have two people in the exact same situation, and there’s two different ways to deal with it. A person can’t run away from his life’s circumstances. The same thing in a marriage. He says, “I listen to complaints all day.” He said back to the person, “Are you going to get divorced because of that?” “Who are you talking about? I also have the same problem. Your father has the same problem. His friend has the same problem. Everybody has these problems. Because of that, you’re going to get a divorce?”
A person doesn’t know how to cope. A child who’s raised with a silver spoon will collapse as soon as any hardships arise. They will wind up in worse shape. It brings a story of once a very, very rich woman. She gave a ton of money to Tzahal, to the Israeli Army. They invited her on her 60th birthday to show her everything that Tzahal is doing. So, they showed her the planes, and the boats, and the submarines, and the guns. In the end she sees the soldiers, they had parade with all the soldiers. They have to run up this huge hill and come back with all their combat gear. They come back sweating, it’s so difficult for them. The lady says, “You know what? I’m willing to contribute another $1 million…” it’s a true story, “I’m willing to contribute another $1 million for you to flatten out this field, that it shouldn’t be so difficult for the soldiers.” He says…it’s a true story. He says, “The country laughed three days about this woman, who didn’t know what she was talking about.” But he says, “That’s us. We want to make everything easy.” You make everything easy, nobody can cope. And nobody could be happy.
He brings a proof from Rav Yerucham. The Possuk says, “Yissachar is a strong boned donkey.” Later in the Possuk it says, “He saw tranquility, that it was good.” So, he bent his shoulder to bear, because he saw the tranquility, he beared his shoulder. He says, “What do you mean? What does bearing the shoulder, doing the work, have to do with tranquility?” Just the opposite – in order to cope with life, if you bear your shoulder, if you cope with life, then you’re going to have the tranquility. Withstanding the difficulties gives happiness.
Now, what happened in this generation? The reason why there are so many divorces is because they can’t handle the 20% that they’re missing. They got a bad deal in life. The husband says, “Not only does my wife not deserve any thanks, she deserves humiliation and curses. I’m disappointed, I’m angry, and I’m full of complaints.” The wife will say, “What kind of a husband is this? He’s not worth it. It’s a pity I married him. If I could, I would get divorced.” The fact is, we never get 100%, and we have to be happy with 80%. And if we’re happy, usually if we’re happy with the 80%, we get much closer to coming to that 100%.
Okay, that’s it for this week’s Podcast. I hope you enjoyed it. Please share it with your friends. Have a Happy Chanukah.
Rabbi Eliyahu Mitterhoff