A Little Bit Counts by Dr. Joel M. Berman


According to Chazal, the little Aleph in “Vayikra” comes to teach us that Torah can only flourish in an individual who acts humbly. Such an individual considers himself small, “Za’ir,” in his own eyes.

Recently, in Gemara Berachot, Rabbi Solnica and I studied a line from Mishlei: “Tov Lishmoa Gaarat Chacham Mishirat Meah Kesilim.”  This is usually translated as, “It is better to hear the rebuke of a Chacham than the songs of 100 fools.”  This translation puzzles me.  It is obvious that the rebuke of a Chacham is of more value than the songs of 100 fools. We do not need Shlomo Hamelech to tell us this!

Rabbi Avraham Twerski explains that the above translation cannot be correct, not only for the reason stated, but also because if the translation was accurate, correct grammar dictates that the Hebrew should read, “Tov Lishmoa Gaarat Chacham Milishmoa Shirat Meah Kesilim,” “It is better to hear the rebuke of a Chacham than to hear the songs of 100 fools.”  Since it does not say this, we must reinterpret the Pasuk to mean that it is good to hear the rebuke of a Chacham who has already heard the 100 songs of the fools, who has listened to them already.  Seek the advice of an experienced person.  Such a person has been there and knows what he is talking about.

I have become upset at the anti-Orthodox prejudice I have heard and read in the secular press both in Israel and here in the U.S.  I find it even more upsetting to hear Orthodox Jews in one “camp” speaking negatively about the Jews in another:  “The Chassidic are…,” “The Modern are…,” “The Yeshivish are….”  This is what Shlomo Hamelech calls the songs of fools.   My personal experiences testify to the falsehood of such characterizations.  Let me share several of them with you.

When we moved to Monsey, we wanted to buy a house. We were having trouble getting a mortgage because I was learning full-time and not earning any money.  We turned to a Chassidic mortgage broker who practically turned over Heaven to get us our house.  Believe me, he made very little money off the deal.

Soon afterwards, it was two days before Succot, and my wife was sick in bed with double pneumonia.  My Sukkah was not up, and I had to take care of family and prepare for Yom Tov.  I was exhausted.  That day, a station wagon pulled up in our driveway.  A very Yeshivish lady driver delivered box after box of freshly prepared food – soup, Challahs, wine, meat, kugel, etc. - a feast that lasted us through Yom Tov!  She refused to tell me her name.  Afterwards I learned that a number of people in her community have taken it upon themselves to help families whose mothers are ill and unable to cook.

A few of you might remember that a few years ago, a very deranged individual drove around the Monsey area one night setting things on fire.  At about dawn, his last act was to set my car ablaze.  Hatzolah was the first to arrive on the scene. The driver jumped out of his ambulance with a huge fire extinguisher and put out the flames, which by that time had reached heights exceeding 15 feet. He made sure everyone was OK and took off without fanfare.

How many times have our own Modern Orthodox students at TABC gone to the Old Age Home, cleaned graveyards, worked at JEP, raised money for charities....

I could go on and on - Chaverim, ZAKA, Tomchei Shabbos, various Gemachim, Bikkur Cholim, Vaad Lemaan Hachayal - our kaleidoscopic  communities are responsible for all kinds of quiet Chesed.

It was once a common (albeit false) criticism of people heavily involved in Kollels that “Ein Heim Lomdim,” “They do not learn.”  This is again the song of fools.  I would like propose a Drush of this statement.  Ein Heim Lomdim means they learn Ein. They view themselves as Ein, as “Ze’irim,” or small Alephs.  Such people refuse to draw a lot of attention to themselves and their accomplishments.  In this age of “Harbeh Omrim, Ume’at Osim” (“many people talk, but few accomplish”), we can be proud the continuing quiet of all our communities.

I am reminded of Rabbi Jachter’s warning when he spoke at Shacharit in TABC a few weeks ago.  As long as we are Mefuzar Umeforad, scattered and divided, we are open to the whims of the Hamans of world history.  Only if we are united can we overcome our enemies and the Hamans of the world.

Two Modes of Religious Observance by Eliezer Stavsky

The Mishkan Hakodesh by Avi Levinson