Ladies first.

Friday, 19 May, 2023 - 4:36 am

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Ladies first.

Even in this day and age, most women graciously accept the traditional "ladies first" rule, whether it's getting off a sinking ship or going through a ballroom doorway. Commonly perceived as a concession to the weaker gender by the stronger, the rule is actually founded upon a very different rationale, at least in the Jewish tradition.

When G‑d instructed Moses to prepare the people of Israel to receive the Torah at Mount Sinai some 3,300 years ago, He said: "Speak to the house of Jacob, and tell the sons of Israel" (Exodus 19:3). The "house of Jacob," our sages explain, are the women; "the sons of Israel," the men. In other words, speak first with the ladies.

Click here for the rest of the article by Yanki Tauber.

The gist of the explanation behind this drastic change is as follows.At the beginning of creation, Hashem conveyed the message of refraining from the forbidden fruit to Adam. It was not even adhered to for one day. The sin of eating from the tree of knowledge happened almost immediately.

Hashem reversed things at the giving of the Torah and instructed Moshe to broach it with the women first.

The results are astounding. It’s 3,335 years ago and getting stronger and stronger Baruch Hashem.

I had the opportunity this week to ‘so to speak’ ‘imitate G-d’ in this respect.

On my four-day visit to Melbourne Australia, I was invited to teach and share words of inspiration with students and members of the local Jewish community at various venues.

My first speech though, was at the Ohel Chana Seminary for young ladies. I thought it was quite appropriate for these days that are leading up to the holiday of the giving of the Torah.

One of the questions I was presented with during my visit is ‘what are you doing in Melbourne’.

It would have been easy to say that I went to visit our daughter and her family who live in Melbourne, in the role of a doting Zaidy crossing the ocean to see his adorable grandchildren.

For the sake of accuracy though, I told the truth. I was visiting Melbourne primarily to fundraise for the activities of Chabad of Thailand.

(The incredible ‘side benefit’ was the time I got to spend with the grandkids, and I thank Hashem for His boundless kindness).

The students I was addressing were curious to know, why I took time from my schedule to teach them Torah and inspire them to deeper commitment to Hashem and His Mitzvahs.

In other words, wouldn’t the time spent on teaching be a distraction from the main agenda of my visit which was visiting philanthropists to raise funds?

It’s a good question.

The same question that a busy person may ask when it comes to making time to pray to Hashem amidst a frenetic schedule.

A childhood friend of mine indeed told me that he is so busy in his career that he doesn’t have time for regular Torah study.

From the perspective of ‘the order of nature’ it would seem to be a simple fact. If you were to invest the time that you spend praying and studying into business and career activities, you will have more material success.

I am going to say something counterintuitive.

Spending time on praying and Torah study leads to a more profitable bottom line.

I say it with confidence because I am just paraphrasing what our Sages have told us (Ethics of our Fathers 3:5):

Rabbi Nechunia the son of Hakanah would say: One who accepts upon himself the yoke of Torah is exempted from the yoke of government duties and the yoke of worldly cares; but one who casts off the yoke of Torah is saddled with the yoke of government duties and the yoke of worldly cares.

I can give you some real examples that I have experienced throughout the years.

In the rush to get to an important meeting, I decided to skip attending a minyan and opted to pray in private. I got lost and a chunk of time was added to my travel time. You can imagine my chagrin when I realized that I could have attended the minyan and perhaps I wouldn’t have made the wrong turn and arrived at my destination even earlier.

Contrast this with the following story.

During the evening hours in Thailand, I checked the American Friends of COT account. To my dismay there was a minus of a substantial amount. A bill had come in for automatic debit and there were insufficient funds to cover it. The bank manager is sympathetic to the fact that we are a non-profit organization and allows me several hours to cover the overdraft.

I was about to start a Torah class. There was a dilemma in my mind. Should I defer the class to try and drum up donations or loans to cover the deficit? Or should I continue my schedule and give the Torah class and hope that I would still have time afterwards to sort things out.

Baruch Hashem I made the choice to proceed with my Torah class.

After the lesson I logged into my bank account and lo and behold. There was a significant positive balance. I could not believe my eyes. What had transpired?

It was a totally unexpected deposit. It came from a supporter who had committed to send a very nice donation a month later. For reasons unbeknown to me, he decided to send the funds a month earlier. The deposit came on the exact day that the bank was overdrawn. It was a sizeable enough donation to create a bigger plus than the previous minus.

I thanked Hashem joyously for the timing of this donation. And even more so for giving me the inner compass that directed me in the right direction.

Can you imagine what would have happened if I had cancelled my Torah class and scrambled together some funds to cover the deficit. And then a few minutes later this donation would have arrived. I would have felt very disappointed about the clearly misguided choice.

This is the way I understand the Mishna quote above.

Follow Hashem’s path, and He will see to it that you don’t have go off on meandering paths that can be avoided.

This is what I explained to the students who were asking me if spending time with them in Torah discussion wasn’t a distraction to my main agenda for my trip which was raising funds.

The way I see it, it was only an enhancer.

If you engage in teaching Torah and helping others, all of your endeavors will be blessed with G-dly success.

If you are having trouble getting your mind around this idea, let me share the following contemporary saying.

The question isn’t “Can I afford to exercise?” but “Can I afford not to exercise?”

On the face of things, it would seem that if you take the time to exercise, you are reducing your productivity as you now have less time to ‘work’.

The reality is different. Engaging in exercise enhances your overall productivity.

Scientifically it makes sense in terms of neurons and endorphins.

According to the Torah, synchronicity between G-dly spirituality and physical materiality is a reality.  We know and believe that Hashem created the world. Thus, there is a direct causality between what we do spiritually to what takes place in our physical environs.

‘Plugging in’ to Hashem’s energy source by studying Torah and doing Mitzvah’s brings energy and blessing all the way down the totem pole into the most materialistic aspects of our lives.

One of the ways we see the connection between spirituality and physicality, is by observing Hashem’s presence in the world. This is revelated to us by the Divine Providence that is prevalent in the intricate pattern of the events that comprise life. If you try hard enough you may find Divine Providence wherever you are, however, when you go out on a trip, and are not in a routine, it is even easier to observe the Hashgacha Pratit and see G-d’s guiding Hand.

I was running late to a meeting at Glick’s Malvern. I wanted to send a WhatsApp to the person I was going to meet that I would be 5 minutes late to our 10:30 am appointment. To my dismay, once I opened the message thread, I saw that I had erred in the timing. It was supposed to be a 10:00 meeting. I sent a message that I had made a mistake and was on my way but didn’t hear back. I figured, let me keep going. It is quite simple. From not going, nothing will happen. If I go, perhaps the person will still be there. I arrived, parked and checked my phone. The person responded that he had already left the venue but said he would be back in 15 minutes. As I was standing in the parking lot, digesting the change in plans brought about by my mistake, I saw an elderly man shuffling towards me on a walker.

He turned to me and said, ‘this year is sixty years since the debut of ‘Fiddler on the Roof’. I wanted to respond politely so I asked him if he remembered any of the songs. He said, ‘I don’t really remember the songs, but my mother was Jewish and she would remember’.

My ears perked up and I asked him if he had ever had a Bar Mitzvah and if he would like to put on Tefilin. He said that he is turning 68 soon and he thinks he may have had a Bar Mitzvah. He is not sure if he ever put on Tefillin and was not up to putting on Tefilin just then and there but said he would be interested in the future. In the meantime, he shuffled off. But not before I managed to get his name which was a Polish sounding name as his father was Polish and non-Jewish while his mother was Viennese and Jewish.

Oh, while this exchange was going on, the person I was meant to meet texted me to tell me that he had been called to something urgent at his business. He would still support our work and send me a donation via credit card.

I had no doubt that Hashem had a reason for my mix-up but I felt so blessed that I was shown vividly the exactness of Hashem’s Providence.

(It is still a story in development as I passed on the details of this person to one of the Chabad rabbi’s in Melbourne to try and locate him based on the limited info I provided) .

In Hayom Yom the Rebbe quotes from the verse in Tehilim.

A person who believes in Divine Providence knows that “the steps of a man are made firm by G‑d.” [A person goes to] a particular place because his soul must refine and perfect something there. For hundreds of years, or even from the very beginning of creation, the object that must be refined or rectified waits for that soul to come and do that task.

Click here for full quote and commentary.

As you move around from place to place, recognize that there is a Divine plan for your travels.

Be open to ‘smelling the roses’ along the way.

Don’t be close minded to think that you need to be singular minded on your business.

Pay attention to the people you can help during your journey.

Be alert to the wisdom you can gain and the inspiration you can share.

Engaging in G-dly things during your mundane daily activities will not only bring you to a better spiritual place, it will enhance your material life as well.

Try it.

(I am back safely thank G-d)

Shabbat Shalom from Bangkok.

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

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