June 21, 2024
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Sometimes All It Takes Is One Mitzvah

Highlighting: “Zera Shimshon on Tehillim” by Rabbi Nachman Seltzer. Mesorah Publications Ltd. 2024. Hardcover. 350 pages. ISBN-13: 978-1422640319.

(Courtesy of Artscroll) The pasuk in Tehillim (150:6) says, “Kol haneshamah tehalel Kah, Halleluka! Let every soul praise Hashem, Hallelukah!” Why does the pasuk begin by using the singular, “Let every soul praise Hashem,” and conclude with “Hallelukah!” which is written in plural form?

Zera Shimshon, in Parshas Vayeilech, explains by citing the Gemara (Kiddushin 40b), which teaches that a person should always view himself as being half meritorious and half guilty. This means that if he performs one mitzvah, he is stepping over the line in the right direction, and if he commits a sin, he is moving toward the wrong side. Moreover, the Gemara explains that one should also see the world as a whole in the same way—hovering right there at the center. Keeping this in mind, if he does one mitzvah, he is praised, because he helped both himself and the world to cross the line in the right direction—toward the side of merit.

This is the meaning of the words, “Let every soul praise God.” Which soul is the pasuk referring to? Each and every soul—even the soul of one person and even the soul of a person who is on a low level. Because if this soul does one mitzvah, and thereby praises Hashem through his mitzvah, this will help to tilt all of Klal Yisrael and the entire universe toward the side of merit on the heavenly scale. And because of that one mitzvah that one individual performed, the entire world can praise Hashem because that mitzvah moved everyone toward the side of merit.This is why the pasuk concludes with the word “Hallelukah” in the plural form—because sometimes even just one mitzvah that one person performs can help the entire nation and the entire world.

In this thought, the Zera Shimshon reinforces a very powerful idea: the concept that every mitzvah should be viewed as if it is the mitzvah that is taking every single member of Klal Yisrael over the line toward the good side of the equation. And the truth is, when we fulfill a mitzvah, we never know what the ramifications will be and how far its net will spread. The following story, told to Rabbi Nachman Seltzer, illustrates how far the ramifications of one mitzvah are, at times, clear for us to see.

I’ve long been involved in the world of business and finance. Recently one of the companies I founded really took off and we’ve been able to form partnerships with some major companies in the States. Due to this very satisfactory development, I end up finding myself on the road for weeks at a time, where I meet with company executives and broker alliances.

During one such business trip, I was scheduled to meet with the vice president of a prominent company in Michigan—Michigan Med,* probably one of the largest medical companies in the world. It also happened to be that I promised one of my relatives that I would recite Kaddish for a member of the family who had passed away, and since I take such promises very seriously, I was committed to the undertaking even though I ran into challenges on the traveling front.

The truth is, this wasn’t an unusual scenario for me. As a baal teshuvah, I’ve long been the address of my extended nonreligious family whenever anything Jewish is involved. It turns out I end up saying Kaddish for various relatives more often than not. I never turn down their requests even though I know that I’m going to have to work my trips around my obligations.

I had scheduled a flight on United, but I suddenly realized that if I took that flight, I would almost definitely miss davening Mincha with a minyan, and I really didn’t want to do that. I’m a 1K member on United, a status that comes with a lot of benefits, one of which is that I have the ability to call up the airline and ask them to move me to a later flight—which I did. But because I transferred to another flight, I lost the upgrade I’d been given and was assigned a seat all the way back at the end of economy.

Had there been any business or first-class seats available, I would have been a candidate for them, but the flight was full, so economy it was. I wasn’t thrilled about this, having to sit stuffed into a tiny seat at the end of the cabin, but if that was the price to pay for davening Mincha and reciting Kaddish with a minyan, it was worth it.

I was already settled in my seat when the stewardess came by and said, “Thank you for being a 1K member.” I was about to say, “You’re welcome,” when I realized that she was addressing the person sitting in the seat next to me. She then turned in my direction and thanked me for being a 1K member as well.

Naturally, the fact that two 1K members had ended up sitting next to each other in the back of economy was a solid opener for a conversation. The two of us immediately introduced ourselves and began discussing our respective reasons for ending up where we were even though we could usually spend our time in the air in relatively luxurious surroundings.

“Jack Delaney.”* He introduced himself. “And you are?”

“Steven Ackerman.”

Then we got into the reasons that had led us to sitting at the back of economy class.

“My ticket was already booked,” he explained, “but then my son asked me if he could fly with me. By then all the upgrades were given out, but I agreed to sit here in the back so we could fly together. What about you? What do you do and how did you end up here?”

I explained that I had also been booked in first class on an earlier flight, but I changed to economy because I needed to pray Mincha with a minyan. That, of course, led to my having to explain what Mincha is and what it means to daven with a minyan. Then, since I could see that he was sincerely interested in my line of work and wanted to hear all about it, I began telling him about the company I founded. I explained what we did and mentioned that I was on the way to have a meeting with the vice president of Michigan Med.

Before I knew it, the man started asking me a whole slew of questions. I could see that he obviously not only understood my field, but possessed a solid grasp of a variety of related industries as well. And because he was so intelligent, affable and just a real pleasure to talk to, I answered all his questions in detail. In a sense, our conversation almost turned into a business presentation, where I discuss my company and the people in the room ask me anything they want, including my projections for the future and the amount of money we’ve raised in our journey toward going public.

By the time I arrived at the conclusion of my presentation, we were already nearing our destination. My seatmate thanked me for having been the catalyst for a truly enjoyable flight and asked me the name of the person I was scheduled to meet with at Michigan Med. I told him the name of the vice president. Reaching into his wallet, my seatmate handed me a business card.

“Tell him I said we should do the deal.”

“And you are?”

“I’m his boss.”

It turned out that I had spent the entire flight giving a detailed presentation about my company to the president of Michigan Med—and he was ready to buy in. The company ended up becoming one of our largest investors, and I was asked to join Michigan Med’s presidential advisory board. I couldn’t help but trace the incredibly successful outcome back to that flight in economy—back to my insistence on keeping my word and doing my part to never miss saying Kaddish with a minyan for a Jew who had no one else to do it for him.

At the end of the day, Hashem has chosen me to be the one to do the ultimate chesed for many of my fellow Jews, and I truly feel that I’ve been granted a special privilege. What’s interesting is that while this special privilege has at times seemed like a burden, in truth, it has been the catalyst for many incidents where I’ve been able to witness the hand of Hashem in the clearest way. In this particular case, it led me from the back of economy class straight into the office of the president of the company. And if you think about it, it makes complete sense. After all, I had boarded the flight just after talking to the president of the greatest company of all.

Is it any wonder that my next meeting went so well?

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