I teach at an Israeli Midrashah called Netiv Binah. I can hear you clearly, thousands of miles away.
“What is a Midrashah?”
A midrashah is a learning framework for women who work. People who aren’t acquainted with Torah Judaism can’t always relate to it easily. The students work at a real-world job. We have a lawyer, a language specialist, and a woman who is in a high position on one of Israel’s major industries. They come in after a full day at work. At the end of the day, you might assume that the next “activity” is dinner, the news and finally a shower and bed.
Not for them. They come to the MIdrashah (which begins its classes at 5:15 breaks for dinner at 6:15 and continues most nights until about 10 (!). They want more than to come in first in the rat race. They want Torah, and of all of the women I teach, they are the least afraid of changing.
Not all of the women come every night, and not all of the women stay for the entire program. Even so, it is unique. There is nothing like it as far as I know in the secular world. They don’t take tests, get marks or degrees. It is all for the sake of learning more, in order to be more and to do more.
The Midrshah is located on Sorotzkin Street not far from Yerushalaim’s central bus station. Thedesign of Sorotzkin 35 (where the Midrashah is located) features 6 entrances on two levels, oneof which faces the street, the other one right behind. So, you have Sorotzkin A and Sorotzkin B. There is a shared underground area for parking, and on either side, there are storage areas.
A fire broke out last week. It began in one of the storage basements, and spread from unit tounit. It stopped rather mysteriously at entrance 3, the one that leads up to Netiv Bina. That is miracle number one. It also spared one other unit. That is miracle 2, and it carries a deep message.
The story began well before the fire.
“Avi” the owner of the spared unit, answered a phone call from his neighbor. It seems that there was a plumbing issue, and the neighbor wanted him to come up to his apartment to help him out. Avi did, but just a few days later had reason to regret it. The symptoms were the usual ones; and before he even had it checked, he knew he had COVID-19. And so did his wife. And their kids… Their neighbor, it seems, had COVID when he asked Avi to look at the problem, but didn’t “bother” to mention the extremely catching virus. He knew that he was exposing his neighbor, but he wanted the fix the plumbing.
It wasn’t an easy time for Avi or for his family. He could sort of hear the outdoor minyan, but not really. His kids could sort of focus on the telephone classes, but not really…. When his neighbor (finally) called to ask him for forgiveness, his first response was to say that he forgives him, just because it is so unpleasant to say you don’t forgive someone, but he knew that in his heart there was no forgiveness at all. Avi was too honest to just say the words. He wanted to be able to say them sincerely.
He stepped back from his ego. He had enough perspective to ask himself the hard questions.
Who determines my fate, and the fate of my family? “Who benefits from Hashem’s decrees, are they not made with only our ultimate good in mind?”. The thoughts flooded him it felt like a lifetime, but it was just a few seconds. He forgave his neighbor sincerely. This story was told by Rav Meilich Biderman, one of the brilliant stars in the contemporary world of teaching Torah to the masses of people who want inspiration.
I then found out that no less that Avi himself had recounted the entire thing on mainstream media…
Besides opening my eyes, I hope to some degree at least, it opened my heart
Having an “ayin tovah”, a good eye, means being willing to see what is good and meritorious in your neighbors, and in your friends. It generates feelings of being invested in his success, and generous when judging his failures.
The opposite is ayin raah, w hen you look at others as though they are engaged in an unending war of Us against Them. Avi was able to see that everything he is ad has is a gift from Hashem, and that no human is genuinely a real competitor. If nothing else, Corona has taught us that we have absolutely no way of controlling events, or even anticipating what will happen next. It is in other Hands. One of the lesson s that this plague has taught us is to finally quit eh game of Us angst Them and of course its “daughter’ Me against Him.
Yosef’s brothers felt threatened by him, and for good reason. They tragically misjudged him, and thought that there was option for what they know was the beginning of a nation, to defend its unity by not let one of the brothers push the others into the twilight of history
You can easily understand their misjudgment if you let your mind take over, and keep your emotions out of the picture, which is usually the best way to make serious decisions. There’s one problem. After the tragic deed was done, and Yosef was sold, they sat down and had a meal. What that shows are that a moment that could/should have been one in which they mourned their brother, even though they thought there were no other options, was tinged with their raw envy and their desire to win the battle of Us against Him.
Would we have done better?
I don’t know who will read this letter. Just go back a bit and ask yourself how you feel w hen you are vulnerable. Let the answer sink in deep enough for you to replace the fear of loss/failure/rejection/losing the game/competition that fuels envy with tranquility/trust/courage/ emunah.
I hope that I can,
and I hope that you can too.