Tuesday, June 28, 2022

A friend of mine was interviewing candidates for a rebbe position in a yeshiva. One was a young rebbe by the name of Rabbi Housman. My friend asked him casually, “Are you related to a Rabbi Housman who used to teach in Yeshiva M’kor Boruch of Passaic? He was my son’s rebbe in fourth grade 16 years ago.” The young rebbe smiled and replied, “Yes, he’s my father.” “Wow!” my friend responded. “My son really liked your father. I believe he was his favorite rebbe. Please send your father warm regards from me the next time you speak with him.”

Two hours later, my friend received a text from the young Rabbi Housman. “My father absolutely remembers your son. He even remembers his full Hebrew name, Avraham Elkana ben Rivka Menucha, since he davens for him and all his past students every day.” My friend was blown away. “How does your father remember all his past students, so many years later?” “My father has a paper with the names of all his students and he looks at it every day when he davens.”

What an incredible rebbe!

This week’s parsha is Pekudei—the accounting. Moshe tallied all the gold and copper that was donated for the construction of the Mishkan. The word pokeid—tally—has the same root as the word tafkid—role/job/purpose. Each donation to the Mishkan had a specific designation. Therefore, Moshe halted the donations to the Mishkan when they had enough materials so there should be no extras.

Moshe also counted the silver half-shekel coins that were used to count the Jewish nation. This is a hint that each person has his own specific mission and role. As a great rebbe, Rabbi Housman recognized that each student has his own unique qualities and talents and he davens for every individual’s success in the use of those talents.

Next week is Parshas Zachor. Hashem instructs klal Yisrael to remember the wicked actions of Amalek, who attacked us when we had just been freed from Egypt. Besides remembering Amalek’s wicked actions, Hashem repeats with a warning not to forget—“Lo Tishkach.”

Human beings can forget. We can also take steps to remember. But to Hashem Who is infinite, there is no forgetting. Hashem has no past or future perspective; everything is in the present. The Gemara tells us the Lechem HaPanim (showbread) was placed on the Shulchan on Shabbos and only removed to be eaten the following Shabbos, fresh, hot and steaming. Similarly, Hashem told Moshe to place some munn, food received while wandering in the desert after fleeing from Egypt, in a flask to be put away for future generations. Even though munn was not supposed to be left over (except for the Friday portion that was enough for Shabbos), the Ishbitzer Rebbe explains that this specific munn was going to be an exception, always fresh in its present state, as a reminder for us that Hashem always takes care of us.

Amalek attacked klal Yisrael right after the splitting of the sea, before they received the Torah at Har Sinai. Amalek’s agenda was to disconnect us from Hashem. They attempted to distract us so we would forget Hashem. Therefore, Hashem says, “My name and throne are incomplete as long as Amalek is in existence.” We remain to this day with a specific mitzvah to remember the terrible actions of Amalek.

The Chasam Sofer says Amalek is not just the nation itself, but also any individual or group who acts like Amalek and adopts their ways. Look around today and you’ll see numerous groups and individuals who are actively trying to dissuade us from following Hashem.

Let us keep in mind our mission and role in life: to follow Hashem’s Torah and mitzvos and to make known Hashem’s presence in the world. In this timeless mission, each of us has a unique role to play. We can learn a lesson from Rabbi Housman. He remembers all his past students, never allowing himself to forget; they are constantly in front of him, in his mind and in his tefillos. He prays that they each utilize their unique potential to fulfill their spiritual mission in life. How fortunate we are to have rebbeim like this! Let’s try to follow Rabbi Housman’s perspective by maximizing our own potential to serve Hashem.

Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim is the associate rosh yeshiva of Passaic Torah Institute (PTI)/Yeshiva Ner Boruch, where he leads a multi-level Gemara-learning program. PTI has attracted adult Jews of all ages from all over northern New Jersey for its learning programs. Fees are not charged but any contributions are always welcome. Beyond PTI, Rabbi Bodenheim conducts a weekly beis midrash program with chavrusa learning in Livingston plus a monthly group in West Caldwell. Rabbi Bodenheim can be reached at [email protected] For more info about PTI and its Torah classes, visit www.pti.shulcloud.com.

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