July 17, 2024
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July 17, 2024
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Don’t Wait Until Tomorrow

Aish HaTorah has an incredible program called The Discovery Seminar. It covers many topics that interest and intrigue Jews, including: Why do bad things happen to good people, the beauty of Shabbos, marriage and relationships, and proofs of the existence of Hashem and the Torah. Tens of thousands have attended these seminars and left inspired to connect to Torah and mitzvos. Some subsequently enrolled in a yeshiva or a seminary. Yet many did not change any part of their lives after the seminar. This happens to us all the time. We attend an inspiring shiur on patience and caring and the next day someone accidentally bumps into us, causing us to spill our coffee, and we lose it. We’re inspired to pray better and deeper following the rabbi’s talk, but the next day we wake up late and race through Shacharis. Where did our inspiration go?

In Parshas Va’era, Hashem sends multiple makkos (plagues) to demonstrate to Pharaoh that Hashem created the world and fully controls all the laws of nature. The first plague was water turning into blood all over Egypt, so that if a Jew and an Egyptian each poured a glass of water, the Jew would drink water but the Egyptian’s water would turn into blood.

Pharaoh and the Egyptians received their own personal Discovery Seminar but they did not get the message, at least initially. With the plague of lice, the sorcerers of Pharaoh recognized the “finger of Hashem,” since they were not able to transform sand into lice as Moshe did.

Before the seventh plague of hail, Moshe warned the Egyptians to bring all their animals indoors to protect them from the hail. Some Egyptians heeded the warning, as the pasuk says, “Those who feared Hashem brought their animals indoors”—but many did not. The Torah refers to those who did not heed the message as “Those who did not pay attention.”

Rabbi Yeruchem Levovitz notes that the deciding factor in determining whether one is considered God-fearing is whether we pay enough attention to what’s happening around us, noticing Hashem’s presence and involvement in our lives. And when we do notice His involvement, we need to be appreciative and to act accordingly.

When world tragedies occur, the Gemara tells us they are wakeup calls from Hashem to the Jewish nation. We do not currently have prophets, so Hashem communicates to us in different ways. When tragedy occurs, Hashem is sending a message that He is not happy with some behavior of ours. Our job then is to look inside ourselves and see what we can learn from this event and make appropriate changes in our behavior.

The Torah is specific about Pharaoh’s reactions after two of the makkos. After the plague of frogs, when Pharaoh saw there was calm again, he hardened his heart. After the hail, “Pharaoh saw that the hail and the thunder stopped and he continued to sin and harden his heart.” The Maharal notes that these two plagues were mostly designed to inflict fear and terror.

The Midrash says that the terrifying groans of the frogs and their constant croaking were worse than the makkah itself. As for the hail, the terror of the sounds of hail sailing through the air and exploding on impact like missiles terrified the Egyptians. Yet, all property brought indoors was safe and unharmed. It was the fear generated by the makkah that was so paralyzing.

For Pharaoh, once the sounds stopped and he saw the damage was not as bad as he imagined, he relaxed and refused to let the Jews leave. The all-powerful emotion of fear…was gone.

We can analogize these events to an inspiring shiur. It feels awesome in the moment, but the next day the intense positive emotion induced by the shiur is gone. That’s why of all those who attended the shiur, for most no permanent change resulted from their positive experience. Emotions dissipate; inspiration wanes.

We have experienced scary times over the past few years. Corona caused a world of fear. Last year, the presidential election sparked riots in the streets. Two summers ago, there were BLM riots in Manhattan and elsewhere. Hashem sends us messages similar to the makkos. They can be very frightening, but the question is, will we take it to heart? Or will we relax and forget about the experience, like Pharaoh did after the various plagues ended? Will we take a moment of inspiration and act on it, or will time pass and we will let the inspiration wear off?

The key to change is to act in the moment. Use the emotion from an inspirational experience to spark a change. Don’t wait until tomorrow—do it today and make it stick! Take on a new mitzvah, give extra tzedakah, make a meal for a person in need. Don’t wait. Feel inspired and act now. Those who do so can solidify that moment of inspiration into a beneficial act or a positive spiritual change.


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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