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The Systems of the Jewish Year


By Rabbi Sender Haber

When we begin our meal on Friday night we are joined by two angels. One is good and one is bad. If they find the house lit up and the table set and everything arranged, the good angel says, ‘May it be the Will that next Shabbat will be like this.’ The bad angel is forced to answer ‘Amen.’

If G-d forbid the house is not ready for shabbos, the bad angel says, ‘May it be the Will that next Shabbat will be like this.’ And the good angel is forced to answer ‘Amen.’

The Degel Machane Efrayim writes that the same thing happened to Bilaam. He was hired to curse the Jewish people, to say terrible things about us and to bring about our destruction, but he couldn’t. He took a look at us and was forced to say nice things.

In Rabbi Epraim Schwartz’s weekly email he refers to this feeling as a moment of ‘Wow’. Sometimes we are able to feel removed, detached, even resentful and hateful of something or someone, but then we see them in action. We have a moment of ‘wow’.

Every day, every hour we have to deal with the people around us. We see things that are truly wrong and human beings that are truly flawed. Sometimes we feel like people have no hope. Hashem helps us out and shows us something nice about these people. He gives us something good to think about whenever we are thinking something bad; something constructive to think about whenever we are ready to lash out and destruct.

We need to seize those moments and treasure them. They might not come again.

We strive to be the good angel who only sees good, but at the very least we can be that bad angel who recognizes something nice and is forced to say ‘Amein’.

I could stop here, but I’d like to take things one step further and flip them around. It was we, the Jewish people, who gave Bilaam his ‘wow moment’. Bilaam looked at our tents and our homes and our shuls and said “Mah Tovu Ohalecha Yaacov”. That is a power that we have.

We can create a moment in which everything changes.

I once heard a story about the Lubavitcher Rebbe that stuck in my head.  There was a general with a long and difficult name that once came to see the rebbe. Perhaps is name was kogissofilevich. The rebbe met him years later and greeted him accurately by name. The general started to cry. “Everyone tries to avoid saying my name”, he said. “Nobody can pronounce it and they don’t even make the effort. It is so refreshing for someone to remember and call me by my own name”.

I have a recommendation: We are going into the summer months. People leave and travel for a few days, for a few weeks, sometimes longer. Some people leave and don’t come back. Some are sick, some are busy.

Pick up the phone and give them a call. Just say “Good Shabbos”. “Life isn’t the same without you”. “Hope you’re doing ok”.

A call like that can change a relationship. It can make someone’s day or someone’s life. They say that Shlomo Carlbach made a random call to a phone number that he found in his pocket. Turns out that the fellow hadn’t been called in weeks and was about to hang himself.

That story may or may not be true, but the ease with which we can pick up the phone and the power of the impact that we can make is undeniable.

Don’t just go into the three weeks with a fast and a somber attitude. Go into the three weeks seeing the good in others, and giving others a chance to see the good in you.

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