Sign In Forgot Password

Parshas B'Haaloscha - Simple Answers to Complex Issues       17 Sivan 5782

06/16/2022 12:58:40 PM


John Flaherty, an announcer for Yankee baseball games, was an average player during his career. He came up through a farm system (I’d rather not say which team) as a young, promising hitter. Spring training is a time to impress the management that these young, talented athletes are ready for the major leagues. One day, Ted Williams was on the field when a coach approached, introducing him to a young John Flaherty. The coach espoused Flaherty’s hitting ability to Ted Williams saying, “I think this kid could swing the bat.” The coach then asked Williams   for some insight and advice on assessing the future success of this young talent. The great Ted Williams responded: ”Hips and hands, hips and hands.” The advice for success was short and sweet - nothing more nothing less - just hips and hands. While this anecdote is true in the physical world, let’s consider how much more deeply does this apply in the spiritual world.

I recently heard a story about Mr. Gary Turgo, one of the leading Orthodox philanthropists in America.  Mr. Turgo was the guest speaker at an event where a young couple who were struggling to make a go of their business was in attendance. The husband and wife looked at each other, acknowledging their thoughts to approach Mr. Turgo before he departed in order to ask for his advice about their business. Mr. Turgo was gracious enough to give them some time and listened to their business issues (perhaps in real estate). After they completed their pitch, he gave them two words of advice, ”Go daven!” They looked at him with surprise, expressing some confusion and disappointment.  Mr. Turgo, reading their reaction and facial expressions, reiterated his advice, “Go daven.” The young couple felt dejected and frustrated at the results of what they thought would be a conversation to help them. The next morning, the wife, who had not been davening as often as she knew she should, took advantage of a few extra minutes, reflecting, “What the heck, I’ll follow Turgo’s  advice,” and proceeded to daven shacharis – something she had not done since attending seminary.  Remarkably, before she’d even had a chance to close her siddur, her phone pinged. She clicked on a text  informing  her that a certain “deal” she and her husband had been working on - something which had only a slim chance of closing - had just closed. From that deal they were able to roll into five or six other deals. In a short period of time their business and fortune turned completely around. This all came from a simple, succinct piece of advice.

Of course, we all understand we do not always have every tefilla/prayer answered as relayed in the above story. Tefilla/prayer does not assure an automatic ‘yes’ to everything we want or need. It is, however, something we need to do in order to receive everything from Hashem. Even if every player were to follow Ted William’s advice, there is no guarantee that this advice will make any of them   as great a hitter as Ted Williams.  Nevertheless, the advice is the correct advice and only realistic strategy to be followed. L’Havdil, Tefilla/prayer is no different; it may not bring the immediate answers we want, but it nevertheless is the correct advice for any assurance of success  in all areas of life. The notion of simple, short answers to complex issues can be found in the Torah as well.

The Torah in this week’s Parshas B’Haaloscha relates how Moshe selected seventy elders. The spirit of God descended upon them and they received the ability to prophecy. Two of the seventy, Eldad and Meidod, continued to prophecy in the camp when everyone else ceased to do so. It is at this point when Yehoshua makes a brief statement to Moshe followed by Moshe’s curt reply to Yehoshua (Joshua). The exchange states in Bamidbar 11: 28,29 "ויען יהושע בן-נון משרת משה מבחריו ויאמר, אדני משה כלאם. ויאמר לו משה המקנא אתה לי...."  Joshua the son of Nun, Moshe’s chosen attendant spoke up. ‘My Lord Moses’, he said, ‘stop them!’ ‘Are you jealous for my sake?’ replied Moshe……” These two statements are the mirror image of each other. Reb Chaim Volozhin explains Yehoshua’s objection was that two kings cannot reign under one crown. Therefore, it was said, ”The face of Yehoshua was like the moon, while the face of Moshe was like the sun.” This is an insightful connection from the time of creation when God created the moon and the sun to be the same size. The Midrash says the moon complained to God, ’There cannot be two kings at the same time’ while the sun never said a word. As a result of the complaint, the moon was downsized in comparison to the sun. So too here, it is the ‘moon’ [Yehoshua] with the identical complaint. Therefore, Yehoshua was viewed smaller, or lesser, in greatness than Moshe. Moshe continues to act with complete humility. He does not make a big deal about it, choosing to ignore the situation – a true sign of anivus/humility.  Looking at the second passuk, we find Moshe acting consistently with his incredible middos.  Moshe now responds to Yehoshua, “Are you jealous for my sake?” Moshe responds with these simple, clear words, totally defusing the situation. The Kli Yakar explains Moshe’s response saying, ”You are a young, unmarried boy; you still have the strong trait of jealousy within you, but I am older, above that and no longer jealous of these matters. I would be pleased if everyone were gifted with prophecy, as I have been. “ Moshe views jealousy as envy of others’ greatness.  Genuinely caring parents and teachers are not jealous of their children’s or students’ successes; rather, they strive to nurture them to attain greatness beyond their own, to ‘shep nachus’ in the achievements of those they’ve guided and loved.  There is no jealousy. To the contrary, they express gratitude to Hashem for their children’s and students’ successes.  Moshe is teaching us all a lesson: the way to overcome being jealous of anyone is to realize Hashem has given us inner awareness that if we are immature, if we are self-centered, we will fail to recognize the most beautiful gift of all – to recognize and appreciate the talents, gifts, and dedication of others so that together we will all be able to serve Hashem with ever-deeper devotion.

Two or three words of advice is all that it takes for a person to become great. Whether it is ’Hips and hands, ‘Go daven’ or ‘Are you jealous’, all are simple, direct words to answer complex issues.             

Ah Gutten Shabbos,

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Fri, December 8 2023 25 Kislev 5784