THE BIRTH OF THINKINGABOUTME.ORG

0 Posted by - March 2, 2016 - Parsha, Shemot

THE BIRTH OF THINKINGABOUTME.ORG

Parashat Vayakhel

This time of year is very special for me. It is the time of year that Thinkingaboutme.org was created. It all happened one Friday morning, in the long, double-Adar winter z’man of 2011. After dropping the kids off at school, I sat on my couch, with a pen and paper in hand, and wrote out a plan. At the time, I was being taught some self-help concept in Rabbi Geisler’s coaching course, from some gentile book. I asked the Rabbi, “Why do we need to learn this stuff from the gentiles? You bring so many self help concepts from Torah sources. Wouldn’t it be good enough if one was able to derive this same self-help concept from Shaar HaT’vunah of the Chafetz Chaim?” He answered me, “100%! If we had learnt Torah and Mussar properly, we would see it directly in the words of the Torah and our Sages! The gentiles have wisdom of self help, on a certain level, based on research of living life in this world. They speak the language that we got used to in Exile. They spelled it out in a way that we can relate to it as tools. But of course, if the self help tool is not found or does not appear to be based on something in Torah or Chazal, either we could not find it, even though it is there somewhere, or it is so simple it does not need to be said, or it is not true! Because the ultimate self help books are the Torah and the wisdom of our Sages.” So, I asked him, “Well, in the course, we are getting these tools sourced from the Torah; but what if we had access to self help literature that spelled out these tools to the Torah world, sourcing them in the Torah, so that people who are looking to better their lives, to live like better Jews, could have such knowledge for better living? What if we found, in the Torah, the self help from G-d, and we could spell it out in a way that people can relate to it, so they can see for themselves how the Torah can improve their personal lives?” The Rabbi said, “Yosef, if you can do that, that would be amazing! There is always a deeper truth that the Torah has to offer. If you can write out these concepts, you could change the lives of many, many people.” That Friday, Thinkingaboutme.org was born.

When King Achashverosh was angry with his Queen, Vashti, he consulted with others as to how to punish her. ויאמר המלך לחכמים יודעי העתים And the king (Achashverosh) said to the wise men, those who know to calculate the times… The Gemara asks, מאן חכמים? רבנן ! Who were these wise men? It was the Rabbis! (Megillah 12b) The Maharsha asks how the Talmud knows that the wise men being referred to, here, were the Rabbis. Aren’t the intelligent gentiles also considered wise? Don’t we see that the Torah calls the advisors of Pharaoh “wise” (Shemot 7; 11)? Doesn’t the Midrash say, ‘if a person tells you there is wisdom amongst the gentiles, believe him’ (M. Eicha 2; 13)? The Maharsha explains that since it says יודעי העתים, those who know how to calculate the lunar months, we learn that Achashverosh was referring to the Jewish Sages.

This is strange. The Talmud said that “the wise” means the Talmid Chacham, even before quoting Achashverosh’s saying he sought those who could calculate lunar months. Rabbi Y. Galinski has a different answer. He says that the original wise man is the Talmid Chacham. He is “the real McCoy”, for the Torah is the origin of all wisdom. Rabbi Galinski says, in the name of the Kadmonim, that all wisdom was once possessed by the Jewish people. When the gentiles ruled over us, we lost some of our wisdom and they received some of our wisdom. When we see what we think is some new wisdom in their books, we are impressed. But that is only a small iota of the wisdom we once had.

The Mishna in Avot teaches, הפך בה והפך בה דכלא בה Turn it over and over (examine the Torah’s teachings from every side, from every angle), for it contains everything (5; 22). In his introduction to his Sefer on the Torah, the Ramban writes that all wisdom is hidden in the Torah. King Solomon, to whom G-d gave wisdom and scientific knowledge, knew everything from Torah. He wrote the Book of Cures with his knowledge of the secret powers of different herbs. He knew the essence of everything in Creation, from the tallest trees to the lowest blades of grass; he spoke about the essence of the animals, the birds, the fish, etc. (see Melachim 1: 5, 13)

R Galinsky quotes the Vilna Gaon, that the wisdom of the gentiles is only a reflection of a reflection of the wisdom of our Torah. A great speaker in Israel, Rabbi Yitzhak Fanger, writes a beautiful story in the prologue to his new book, FHT-Fanger Healing Technique: Once, an experienced thief set out in the morning, searching for “prey”. He noticed a rich man, who purchased a big diamond after having closed a lucrative deal, right in front of the thief’s envious eyes. The thief’s eyes lit up! The rich man boarded a train to travel home, holding his attaché case in his hand, with the precious diamond hidden within. The thief, followed the rich man onto the train. The rich man entered a sleeping cabin, to rest during the long ride home. The thief followed him, and sat down nearby. The thief waited patiently for the rich man to fall asleep. Finally, it happened! The rich man dozed off, and the thief quickly opened the attaché case. To his bitter dismay, the diamond wasn’t there! Ever so gently, he slid his hand into the man’s pockets, but the diamond wasn’t anywhere to be found! The thief did not give up. He checked again and again, but to no avail. Dawn broke, and still, he did not have the diamond! Sunrays woke up the rich fellow from his sweet slumber. He turned and noticed the thief sitting next to him, looking very disturbed, and rubbing his tired, red eyes. “Why do you look so disturbed, sir?” The thief answered, “I’ll tell you the truth. I have been stalking you from the time you bought the diamond, for I planned to steal it from you. This is my parnassah; I am a professional thief. But now, I promise you, I give you my honest word, that I won’t take it from you. Just please, tell me, where did you hide it? Until now, my pickpocketing efforts have never been fruitless.” The rich man answered, “I’ll tell you. I noticed that you were stalking me like a shadow, the whole day. I figured that you wanted to steal the diamond. So, when we entered the sleeping cabin, I hid the diamond in your coat pocket.”

The nature of man is to look “outside” for solutions, while the real answer exists “inside”. The root of all wisdom, the ultimate truth in life, is found in our Torah; it is in our own pockets, if we would only look there. Even the gentiles, even Achashverosh, knew it!

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