Rav David Kronglas zt"l did not even need to open his mouth to inspire the hundreds gathered for High Holiday prayer; the mere presence of such a holy and righteous man as the one who would lead us in prayer filled us with awe. I have since heard wonderful people lead services, but assumed upon leaving Yeshiva that I would never again be so inspired. I was wrong.
My assumption was shattered on the afternoon of the first day of Rosh Hashanah 1991. I was facing away from the congregation to focus on my prayers. when I heard sweet and heartfelt prayers coming from such an elevated soul that they lifted me on their wings into the open arms of God. The person leading the prayers was not an old and holy rabbi, but an investment banker. I was so locked into certain definitions of holiness that I hadn't considered that a man who did not spend his days in Torah study, but in engaging Mammon, could achieve a different holiness of spirit fortified by his nurturing and protecting his soul far away from the safe confines of Yeshiva.
I was the rabbi of this man's synagogue, and, because of assumptions, was not honoring him for who he was. I had been repeating Amalek's sin as described in this week's portion, "Remember what Amalek did to you, on the way, when you were leaving Egypt, that they chanced upon you on the way (Deuteronomy 25:17-18)." Amalek shrugged off the significance of all that happened to Israel as they left Egypt, and treated the miracles as chance, not indicating any Divine intervention.
If I refused to shed my definitions of holiness I would treat all the extraordinary souls with whom I interact as chance meetings, not as opportunities. Once I learned to treat every person I meet as more than chance and as an opportunity, I was able to expand my collection of superheroes.
I've learned living as an infinite being from a businesswoman; compassion from a beautiful soul who works in advertising; honoring parents, from a veterinarian; the commitment to Torah study, from my dentist; courage, from people who work in a weight-loss clinic; attaching to God, from a family medicine doctor; and the demand for spiritual integrity, from a comedy writer. I've learned humility from a man, currently in his nineties, who, many years ago, stormed into my home from his Corvette to find out about the crazy ideas I was teaching his son who is also in my superhero collection. A "life strategist," and a money manager have taught me communication and chesed. The man to whom I dedicate this newsletter is a paradigm of patience, goodness, constant growth, love and generosity.
No wonder the portion that ends with Amalek focuses on what happens, "Ki Teitzei," when we go out into the world. I usually begin a fundraising appeal a few weeks before Rosh Hashanah, but I want to face God on Rosh Hashanah, the Day of Judgment, with my complete superhero collection, honoring the Creator with His creations, "out in the world," who expand His presence in this world, and chose to begin by thanking you, those listed and those not, for enriching my life.
My computer died last Thursday, just as I was posting the newsletter, and have posted this with my new computer, a gift from so many of you.
Thank you and Shabbat Shalom.
Rabbi Simcha L. Weinberg
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