Baruch Hashem

Shabbos Stories for Parshas Terumah
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Sarah’s Sacrifice

In a village not far from Kovna, there lived a G‑d-fearing Jewish innkeeper. He had a daughter, Sarah, who was a strikingly attractive girl. However, Sarah did not let her beauty turn her head, she remained a modest, G‑d-fearing young girl, obedient to her father, a right hand to her mother.

One day, the young son of the country squire chanced to stop in. The moment his eyes fell on Sarah, he was attracted to the beautiful young woman. He called on her to serve him one drink after another, and the more he drank, the more he liked her. When he was pretty well drunk, he asked her, "Will you marry me?"

Sarah ignored his marriage proposal, but when he kept on telling her that he was serious, she told him, politely but firmly, that she was Jewish and would never marry out of her faith. For his part, the young squire said that he would return and insisted that he would definitely marry her.

When the young squire returned home and told his father that he intended to marry the innkeeper's daughter, a Jewess, the old nobleman could not believe his ears. Though the father tried to dissuade his son, the young man remained adamant. The elderly nobleman, who had pampered his spoiled son all his life and catered to all his whims, once more gave in. But on one condition: the girl had to convert.

Happily, the young squire raced back to the inn and told Sarah the "good" news that his father had consented to the marriage. There was, of course, the small matter of conversion, but once done, she would live a life of luxury.

Sarah was horrified. She told the young squire that she would never marry him under any circumstances and ran from the room. She decided not to say anything to her father in the hope that this was a passing whim.

The young squire was used to getting what he wanted. And his father, even though he was originally opposed, his pride was also hurt to think that a poor Jewish girl was turning down the marriage proposal of an elegant and handsome nobleman! The old nobleman sat down at his desk to write a letter to the innkeeper.

In the letter, the squire stated that his son had graciously consented to marry the innkeeper's daughter. If the innkeeper refused, the lease on his inn would be revoked, all rent owed would be due, and the innkeeper and his family would be driven off the estates forever. He would give him three days to submit his acceptance.

The innkeeper turned to his family with desperation in his heart. How could he break the news to his good, pious daughter? He was sure she would rather die than marry a gentile. The family gathered together to devise some way out of their predicament. It was Sarah who came up with the final plan.

"What about Rabbi Yosef the tutor, father?" she asked. This was an old man whom the innkeeper had hired to teach his young sons. The man had been with the family for the past several years.

"What about him?" the father asked in confusion.

"Why don't I marry him?" was Sarah's surprising answer. "We will then run away from here and hopefully the landowner will feel it pointless to do anything. Besides, the young squire will surely not be interested in me after I have already married an old man!"

The innkeeper did not wish to see his lovely young daughter married to a man so much older than her — why, the tutor was even older than he himself was. But he could see no better way out. In the end, the old man was summoned. He raised no objections to marrying the lovely Sarah, even though he might be risking his life thereby. The couple was married quickly and quietly. Then they left for a different village.

Three days later the landowner came for a reply. He was shocked to learn what Sarah had done just to escape marrying his son. He decided not to pursue the matter any further, especially after making his own inquiries and learning that the marriage had been her own initiative. It was difficult for him to believe, however, that a young, beautiful girl should prefer an old man to a young, wealthy and handsome nobleman.

Right after the wedding, the husband took his young bride aside and promised her, "Since you had the moral strength to choose an old man instead of a young duke who would have given you a life of luxury and ease, you will be blessed and your name will spread all over the country. I promise you that you will bear a child whose light will shine far and wide, who will commemorate your name all his days."

The child that was born to them in the following year was named Arye. As he grew up, it was apparent that he was destined for greatness. Arye's father did not live long to enjoy his young treasure and it was Sarah who brought up the child. She was the one who educated him in good deeds, made sure that he studied Torah. In adulthood became famous as a great tzadik (rightous person) and wonderworker, and until the end of his days he was known as Rabbi Leib Sarahs, so called in honor of his pious mother Sarah.
 

A Door on the East

Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi once sent one of his Chassidim on a mission to raise a a large sum of money for an important cause.

The Rebbe blessed him with a safe trip but mysteriously warned him not to enter any house that had its door on the east side. The trip went well and soon most of the money had been collected. But one day the Chassid found himself caught in a snowstorm on a lonely road winding through the forest. The wind grew steadily stronger and colder. He urged his horse on, hoping to reach some sort of an inn before he lost his way entirely in the snow; but hours passed and still nothing.

He was numb and freezing, and the snow was falling so densely that he couldn't really see where he was going. He prayed to G‑d for some sort of miracle.

Suddenly through the white sea of swirling snow he saw what looked like the outline of a house just off the road. With his last ounce of strength he forced the horse in its direction, and sure enough it was a house! It even had a Mezuzah on the door. A Jewish house, no less! He thanked G‑d for his good fortune as he jumped from his wagon onto the front porch and knocked on the door.

An elderly woman opened the door and let him in to the warm house. "Come in you must be freezing," she said. "Come have a cup of tea, sit here by the stove. In just a minute my sons will return, they will put your horse in the barn, please sit down." Just as he sat and began thawing out he remembered that it was almost night and he hadn't yet prayed Minchah (afternoon prayer). So he asked the woman which direction was east (to face Jerusalem, as is customary during prayer) and prayed, thanking G‑d for his good fortune.

As he finished praying, he noticed that something was wrong: the eastern wall was the one with the main entrance of the house in it!

Without hesitation he put on his coat and walked to the door saying apologetically, "I'll be right back" but the door was locked. He went to a window but it too was locked. "I forgot something in the wagon," he called to the old woman, who had slipped out of the room "Could you please open the door?" Suddenly a key turned in the door from the outside, and four brawny young men entered from the storm. As soon as they saw their visitor they immediately grabbed him, emptied his pockets, tied him up, laid him on the ground in a corner, and sat down to eat while their mother examined the booty.

"Ho ho!" She exclaimed. "Look what we have here!" As she held up the pack of money she found in his wallet. "Looks like we caught a big fish this time." One of the sons examined the money, went to the cupboard, took out a large bottle of vodka and put it on the table with a bang. "Brothers, lets celebrate! G‑d has been good to us! We have enough money here to be happy for a long, long time! But first, let's take care of our guest." He pulled a large knife from somewhere under his coat while one of his brothers was pouring him a drink. He took a cup of vodka in his free hand, raised it high and said, "To long life, except for you!" as he looked at the bound Chassid.

One of the brothers, surprised by the joke, laughed so hard that the vodka came spraying out of his mouth on the others, and they all began to laugh, and then someone began a song and another toast, then another. Then the door opened again and it was their father. "Aha!" He shouted as he looked at the money on the table and the bound victim on the floor.

"Good work boys! Excellent! We'll have to kill him though … I'm glad you left him for me. You know what? In the morning I'll take care of him. Now let's drink to our good fortune!" And before long they were all drunk as Lot and forgot completely about our unfortunate hero.

Late that night, when they were all sleeping soundly, the father woke, looked around to make sure that no one else was awake, tiptoed over to our Chassid, motioned him to be silent, cut his ropes and silently ordered him to follow. He tiptoed to the door, opened it and gave the Chassid his coat. "Here is your money back," he whispered in the Chassid's ear as he pushed the wallet his coat pocket. Then he pressed a gold coin in the Chassid's hand. "This is for charity from an old sinner. Tell your Rebbe to please pray for me. Now go! Get out of here as fast as you can … run for your life." The dawn was beginning to light the horizon, the storm had stopped, and our grateful hero was on the road back home.

When he entered the Rebbe's room, the Rebbe looked up at him and said: "I know what happened, you don't have to tell me. I was up all night interceding on your behalf."

The Chassid produced the golden coin and told of the old thief's request. The Rebbe took the coin and wedged it in a crack in the wall next to his desk and said no more.

Fifteen years passed and the Chassid, who was now married with a family, became one of the Rebbe's gabbaim (secretaries). One day he answered the door to an old beggar and told him to wait. When he entered the Rebbe's room and informed him that there was a beggar at the door, the Rebbe pulled the gold coin from the crack where it had been for the past fifteen years and told the Chassid that this was the old man who had released him years ago.

It seems that when his wife and sons awoke and realized what he had done, they beat him and drove him from the house just some hours before the police made a surprise raid and took the mother and sons off to prison. The old man began a life of wandering and atonement, waiting for a sign that his repentance had been accepted in Heaven.

 

The Following is from the front Lines in Iraq 

Classification: UNCLASSIFIED  

Dear Rabbi Mentz:

I hope this message finds you well. I wrote this essay and thought you might want to read it.

Laurie

In My Boots

Laurie Zimmet.jpgBY: Lieutenant Junior Grade Laurie Zimmet, United States Navy

I suppose it’s strange for anyone reading this to believe what I’m about to share with you, why I’m even writing this is a complete mystery to me. I guess we all do things to emote, so today I write.

I’m sitting at my desk in one of the former palaces of Saddam Hussein, well into the fifth month of my second tour of duty in the war in Iraq. What I want to share with you may seem silly at first, but it has hit me like a ton of bricks. This is not easy for me, okay enough stalling, here goes: I have been wearing the same combat boots day in and day out since I was called to active duty in August. Doesn’t sound like much to you? Well it is to me. Allow me to explain.

My boots have walked through the kind of sun and heat most associate with scorpions and death in all those Sahara movies from the 1940’s, and my boots have trounced through water and mud, lots of mud. I’m looking at my boots and the one thing I can’t shake loose from my mind is how in the world did I end up this way – still single, no children, serving in a war, again? Why am I wearing these boots?

Please don’t misunderstand me. I am honored to serve our country; proud to wear the cloth of our nation; and, mine is an exciting job. Once again, as in 2003, I am assigned to an Intelligence unit – a unit that goes after truly evil people. I do feel like I’m doing good for Hashem, especially since these same “people” we go after not only harbor a disdain for America and all she holds dear, but not surprisingly, they abhor Israel as well, and most especially the Jews.

Okay, I should feel good about that, right? Getting those bad guys, that’s a good thing.  How about this, I’m able to serve in this war while keeping kosher and as a side assignment working as a lay leader to Jews here at my FOB – Forward Operating Base. I even organized a giant menorah lighting ceremony in Saddam’s Palace and made 100% kosher latkes for everyone at the ceremony, many Jews here are still stunned that we pulled that off. (http://www.lubavitch.com/Article.asp?Article=740&Section=0).

Still think I should feel good? I would too if I were reading this about someone else. But I’m not. It’s me, not someone I’ve never met whom I’ve labeled hero in my mind.

The truth is that I always wanted to be married and have children; since I was a young girl I’ve thought it the noblest endeavor of any woman.  Sure, I could go into my past, discuss each date with you, explain this and that about why it didn’t work, but that would take volumes of writing with chapters and subheadings, perhaps even footnotes. Besides, I’m convinced prior to anyone reading it they would already be of the mindset that I was too picky or had other issues that precluded me from realizing that I’ll never find that perfect person. They’ll say, see, she used the word “perfect”, right there I can tell you that’s her problem. I don’t want to do that, I don’t want my life dissected, I cherish my dignity too much and until someone has actually walked in my shoes, been on my dates, I would appreciate it if they would give me the benefit of the doubt.

The point is, I’m a teacher by profession and although I felt it such a privilege to teach children in cheder how to read, write, do arithmetic and learn social skills, I never really felt like I was making any sacrifice. My friends have always explained to me that that’s a big part of marriage and parenting, your time is not your time, every decision you make is based on the needs of the family. You’re part of this grand team, all sharing the same name –like all teams; you know, the Dodgers, the Lakers, the Goldbergs, the Weinsteins, etc.  This team builds a home, a family home, a Jewish home.

I’m human; I’ve had that need too.  I wanted to feel I was sacrificing of myself for some grand purpose to redeem our world, to be a part of something bigger than myself, to serve a greater good. I didn’t want my decisions in life to affect only me. Thus, I answered a billboard ad and joined the United States Navy Reserve. And I suppose, in some ways, I have found a kind of family, not building a home but saving and protecting our homeland.

Still, I sit here and I stare at my boots. Forgetting already what it was like to feel like me, wearing a skirt and a pretty blouse. Taking out my finest on shabbos, surrounding myself with menchlich friends who don’t use curse words like they better hurry and say as many as possible before they’re no longer allowed. I miss hearing the children daven at the cheder, those sweet voices that remind me that Hashem is still hard at work on our behalf. I miss telling that lonely child that they are never alone, that Hashem knows him, that Hashem is always with her, and that I love them too, and that I believe in all that they can be. I miss my rabbis and rebitzens…oh, I know they are only a phone call away – when I can get a line out, but it’s not the same. And, I miss my friends, the ones who know me best, who know how much I’ve ached all these years to be apart of a different team, the one my husband and I would forge into the world praying all the while that we were indeed fulfilling Hashem’s goal for our lives.

With eight to nine months still ahead of me in Iraq, I sit and stare at my boots. Where will they go? What will they look like when, G‑d willing, I return to Los Angeles, to my home?

Why am I writing this? I guess to vent; and, I suppose I have another agenda. If you’re reading this and you’re married, raising children in a home, a Jewish home, with access to rabbis and rebitzens, a variety of kosher food, and yes for that matter – indoor plumbing, I can only share with you this – please don’t ever think it is glamorous to go to war, perhaps something more exciting than the life you lead back home. The military, this war, is very necessary, but it is anything but glamorous or romantic. I’ll allow Hemingway to get away with such a description of war, but only him.

I implore you to appreciate your uniform in Hashem’s army – your kippa and tzitzis, your modest dress, your holy speech, your shabbos table, your children’s cheder, your Jewish life, your yiddishkeit. You don’t need world travel, adventures, or medals on your chest to feel a life fulfilled. You’re already a hero.

And yes, I do continue to pray that my original goals in life not be forgotten. That, G‑d willing, I’ll return home soon and that He will grant me the blessing of joining a different team, share a different name, wear pretty shoes.

Please forgive me, I’d like to write more, I have more to vent, to share, but I’ve just received an order to take my boots on yet another mission, and I wonder - what will my boots look like tomorrow? Glamorous? Romantic? Nope, not even close.

LTJG Laurie Zimmet

Laurie has since married and lives a Happy Life! 

Old Squire New Squire

In the vicinity of Lizensk in Galacia lived a number of Jews who made
their living from orchards, taverns and inns that they rented from the local Polish Squire.

Every year, when the Jews came to renew their leases, the Squire demanded higher rents. But the poor Jews pleaded with him and the Squire would soften. Some times he even reduced the rent and gave them more time to pay their debts.

Each time this happened, the Squire felt miserable. Why was he such a softie when it came to the Jews? He decided to ask the priest. The
priest told him: "It is because of the Rebbe, Rabbi Elimelech. The Jews always go to him before they are to appear before you and ask him to pray for them." The priest explained that this was why even the stony heart of the Squire melted like wax in his dealings with the Jews. "The only thing to do, " the priest told the Squire, "is to banish Rabbi Elimelech from Lizensk. The Jews will no longer be able to turn to him for help and you will be free to do as your heart desires."

The Squire liked this advice and sent word to Rabbi Elimelech that he must be out of the province in 30 days. The Squire was very pleased with himself and celebrated by going on a wild boar hunt in his forests. For hours, he and his entourage rode deeper into the forest.

When the Squire grew tired, he stopped at a river, threw off his clothes and plunged into the cool, refreshing water. Upon reaching the other side, he lay down and fell asleep in the warm sun. When he woke up, he swam back. But, when he reached the shore he saw that his servants and horses were nowhere to be found. Even his clothes were gone.

The Squire had no choice but to make his way back to his castle on foot. It wasn't until he reached a small hamlet and the children stood
laughing at him that he realized his true predicament. No one would
believe that he was the squire. Why, he was only wearing his
undergarments, he wasn't even wearing any clothes! Someone had pity on him and gave him some old rough clothing. He walked and begged his way back to Lizensk.

The Squire arrived on Sunday and went immediately to the church. There, he was amazed to see that one of his servants had put on his clothes that had been by the river, and was now pretending to be the Squire.

Suddenly, the Squire remembered that his trouble started right after he had ordered the holy Rebbe out of his town. He decided to go to the Rebbe and ask for forgiveness. He vowed that he would always be good to the Jews if the Rebbe would restore him to his former state.

After the Squire finished telling the Rebbe what had transpired, the
Rebbe took out a large amount of money and handed it to the Squire.

"I'm loaning you this money. Go to your Jewish tailor who made your Sunday clothes and have him make an exact copy by next Sunday. Next Sunday, you will walk over to your coach, which waits behind the church, and drive back to your castle. After that, you will know what to do," Rabbi Elimelech told the Squire. The Squire did exactly as the Rebbe advised. When the imposter arrived on foot at the mansion, puzzled why the coachman had not waited for him, the real Squire had him seized and punished.

Now, the Squire was once again the old squire. But, having lived through the experiences of the past few days, he was not his old self anymore. After experiencing the pain of hunger, ridicule and helplessness, he could better understand his Jewish subjects. He became very friendly toward them, and especially their saintly Rebbe.