June 21, 2024
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Hashem Rewards Us When We Upgrade Our Lives

Around this time last year, I went to Los Angeles with my wife for a weekend to celebrate a family simcha. Our only time in Los Angeles prior to that was 15 years earlier. I was a lot younger then, and quite adventurous. I had marveled at the palm trees and the sunshine, and I thought … why not upgrade my car rental reservation to rent a convertible to drive around and enjoy the scenery? A red Mustang caught my eye. I must admit, it was fun to drive! But my wife was with me … and seven months pregnant. It wasn’t so comfortable for her, not to mention what a convertible does to a woman’s sheitel! I learned my lesson, so this time I took the sensible course and rented an SUV.

While in Los Angeles, we stayed with our good friends, Rabbi and Mrs. Dave and Aliza Sorani. Rabbi Dave set me up to speak to multiple schools and organizations during that Shabbos. He lives in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood. I remembered from last time that it was full of fancy restaurants.

The nice eateries are still there, but they are now surrounded by countless shuls, kollels and kiruv organizations. I thought to myself—what an upgrade! Los Angeles transformed a Jewish neighborhood with fancy kosher eateries to one with shuls and yeshivos.

Now we all like an upgrade; it’s just a matter of what you define as an upgrade. I had upgraded to a red Mustang convertible on my first trip, but last year the upgrade was to a practical, comfortable SUV with leather seats. The Pico neighborhood upgraded from just having high-scale eateries to later include many shuls and learning centers.

In Tehillim, Dovid HaMelech quotes, “Anochi Hashem Elokecha hama’alcha mei’Eretz Mitzrayim…—I am Hashem Who lifted you out of Mitzrayim.” The Gemara notes an alteration from the word normally used. Instead of saying, “Who took you out of Egypt,” it says, “Who lifted you up (elevated you).” The use of the word “elevated” was by design, since the purpose of the Exodus was not just to physically free the Jewish people; it was also to elevate them to lead more refined lives, with higher values, dedicated to serving Hashem.

As we learn in these parshiyos about the process of Hashem taking the Jewish nation out of Mitzrayim, we need to keep in mind the “upgrade” to the Jewish nation that Hashem wished to provide.

In many cases, an upgrade does not involve switching to something more glitzy and glamorous, but rather to something that provides more meaning and purpose. Like an SUV, rather than a red Mustang convertible. Or eating only kosher food, rather than eating anything one wants. Or, most importantly, an upgrade in the quantity and quality of our davening and learning.

Hashem told Moshe at the Burning Bush that when he takes the Jewish nation out of Mitzrayim, they will serve Hashem on Har Sinai and receive the Torah. The upgrade of the Jewish nation, starting with the Exodus from Egypt, was and is to live a life of Torah and mitzvos—to live a life of purpose by serving Hashem.

The pasuk in Tehillim concludes, “…harchev picha va’amaleihu—open your mouth wide (in prayer) and I will fill it (with your wishes).” Hashem gives us a guarantee that if we live our lives with a higher purpose, by learning Torah and observing His mitzvos, then when we daven, Hashem will answer our prayers! Let us all try to further upgrade our lives in serving Hashem and being kind to our fellowmen.

This past Motzei Shabbos was the annual dinner of our Yeshiva, PTI. With community-wide support and attendance, and the upgrade in the dinner’s venue, the funds raised at the dinner will help upgrade our yeshiva’s expanding learning goals! Many thanks to all of you for your support!


Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim is the associate rosh yeshiva of Passaic Torah Institute (PTI)/Yeshiva Ner Boruch. 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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