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Friday, 24 June, 2016 - 11:10 am


Yankel was a worrier, but one day his coworkers noticed that he seemed changed. He didn’t seem the least bit worried about anything! When asked, Yankel explained that he had hired a professional worrier and no longer had any problems.

“A professional worrier?" they said. "What does that cost?”

“$150,000 each year.”

"$150,000 a year?! How on earth are you going to pay him? You are about to declare bankruptcy!"

"Well, that’s why I hired him—let HIM worry about it."

This week's portions, Behaalotcha, relates how the journey of the Jewish people in the Sinai desert was guided by G-d, via a cloud that hovered over the portable sanctuary in the desert: "Whenever the cloud lifted from the Tent, the Israelites would set out accordingly; and at the spot where the cloud settled, there the Israelites would encamp." The Torah states, "They thus camped at G-d's word and moved on at G-d's word."

The story is told of an actor and opera singer who was known for his readings and recitations from the classics. He ended each performance with a dramatic recital of Psalm 23. Every night, without exception, as the actor began his recitation—"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want"—the crowd listened attentively and then rose with thunderous applause in appreciation of the actor's ability to bring the words to life.

One night, just before the actor was to offer his customary recital of Psalm 23, an old Jew from the audience spoke up. "Sir, would you mind if, tonight, I recited Psalm 23?"

The actor was surprised by this unusual request. Nonetheless, he invited the old Jew onto the stage to recite the psalm, curious to see the how the Jew's ability weighed against his own talent.

Softly the old man began to recite the words of the psalm. His voice was parched and weak, and his singing voice was nonexistent.

“The Lord is my shepherd: I shall not want… Though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff-they will comfort me…Only goodness and kindness shall follow me all the days of my life.”

When he finished, there was no applause. There was no standing ovation. All that could be heard was the sound of weeping. The audience was so moved by the man's recitation that every eye was teary.

Amazed by the experience, the opera star said, "I don't understand. I have been performing Psalm 23 for years. I have a lifetime of experience and training—but I have never been able to move an audience as you have tonight. And frankly, you have a horrible voice and can barely carry a tune. Tell me, what is your secret?"

The Jew replied, "Sir, you know the psalm... but I know the Shepherd."

The unforgettable words of King David in Psalm 139 illustrate this point. It was not only the Jews in the desert whom G-d guided; He guides us all, every day, all the time:Where shall I go from Your spirit, and where shall I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to the heavens, there You are, and if I make my bed in the grave, behold, You are there. If I take up the wings of dawn, [if] I dwell at the end of the west, there too, Your hand will lead me, and Your right hand will grasp me.

The Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, expounded on this. Knowing that G-d is constantly with us and guiding us, we must rejoice! Everything is part of His plan."This is the essence of the faith for which man was created: To believe that “there is no space devoid of Him”… and confidence and joy are in His place, because He is but good all the time. Therefore, first of all, a person ought to be happy and joyous at every time and hour, and truly live by his faith in G d, Who animates him and acts kindly towards him at every moment."

Rabbi Fischel Schachter told the story of a woman, a Holocaust survivor, who settled in America after the war and was married for twelve years without children. One day she was sitting in a doctor's office on Madison Avenue in Manhattan, and the doctor, going over her charts, said to her, "Madam, please listen to me. I am saying this for your own benefit—give up. Medically speaking, there is nothing we can do for you. You will have a child when hair will grow from my palm."

The woman left and boarded the Madison Avenue bus. During the ride, she contemplated her life. She recalled the horrors she had experienced as a young girl in Poland. Her family had had a trap door beneath the dining room table and would hide under the floor when the Nazis approached. She volunteered to be the one to close the door, put the carpet over it, and then hide on a piece of furniture. She would curl up there and listen in terror as the Nazis searched the house, smashing furniture as they went from room to room. Time and again, the family was saved. Finally, the Nazis noticed a soft spot on the floor, and they discovered the trap door. This young girl watched as the Nazis dragged her family away. She was the only one who survived the war.

In America, she desperately wanted to begin a family. Now, after twelve long years, her hopes were shattered. She said to herself, "I have no reason to get off this bus." And so she sat on the bus for the rest of the day. Finally, the driver informed her that he was driving the bus to the garage for the night, and she needed to disembark.

"I have nothing to live for," she muttered.

"Listen, lady," the driver said, "I've had a hard day. I don't know what your problem is, but you're not going to solve it by staying on this bus."

She got off the bus and said, "Master of the world, You were with me all along. You saved my life countless times. You brought me here. You let me start my life over. The bus driver is right; You didn't save my life for me to live on the bus. Please tell me what to do. I won't give up. I will continue serving You, no matter what."

One year later, she had a child.

That child grew up, married, and has his own grandchildren. By the time this woman passed away, she had enough great-grandchildren to make that doctor's hair stand up dozens of times.

Rabbi Fischel Schachter added that he heard this story firsthand from the woman herself, whom he knew quite well. She was his mother. Today, he has 14 children and many grandchildren, G-d bless them.

“Though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me.”

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yoseph Geisinsky
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