Erev Shabbos Parashas Vayera 5773
The central theme underlying these weeks’ Parshiyos HaShavua is Nisayon – the trials and tribulations endured by Avraham Avinu, through which he achieved the pinnacle of human greatness. Some tests were the result of his own choices (e.g. the fiery furnace of Ur Kasdim) and some were thrust upon him by Hashem without his choosing (e.g. Akeidas Yitzchak – the binding of Isaac). Nisyonos are the gateway to greatness, yet paradoxically, we pray that we won’t need to endure any.
In a totally unexpected and shocking fashion, our friends, relatives and fellow Jews to the north, with whom we share a common shore on the Atlantic Ocean, have been handed an unsolicited Nisayon of epic proportions. For many, it will be over in a few more frustrating days, but for others the hardest is yet to come, R’L. We in South Florida can relate well to what they are experiencing, and therefore need to have an even greater level of empathy. Aside from the Nisayon of tremendous property damage and loss, and a total disruption of normal life, many communities are experiencing fear from looters, the prospect of no schools or shuls for the foreseeable future, and nerves and patience frayed beyond what one can usually endure.
Why Hashem thrusts Nisyonos upon certain individuals and communities, at certain times and with certain circumstances is beyond our understanding. We hope and pray that Hashem gives those individuals and communities the strength to persevere and use this Nisayon to rise to greatness, and rebuild even more productive and fulfilling lives.
Make no mistake – we are also faced with a Nisayon, albeit far less disruptive, unpleasant and challenging. Our Nisayon is to step in and help in whatever way we can. The short term need is cash – plenty of it – to purchase necessities, and to rebuild homes, acquire basic furnishings and rebuild community institutions. There are Funds in the process of being set up – we all need to respond with a generosity beyond what we previously thought we were capable of.
Financial help is just the beginning. Looking ahead to the next few months, it is not hard to imagine that a Florida vacation may not be just a luxury in the middle of a Northern winter, but a therapeutic necessity to maintain sanity in the midst of an insane experience. Our friends and relatives may no longer have the means to stay at hotels and eat out regularly. We can anticipate requests for hospitality, meals and our company to an unprecedented degree. Perhaps we can initiate trips to our community for those unable to afford it. One thing is certainly clear – how we face up to the “easier” Nisayon of reaching out and helping will have a profound effect on our future growth, and most importantly, on our children who will be watching and waiting to see how we “step up to the plate.”
Keep our brothers and sisters in your thoughts and prayers, give thought to how much you can be supportive, help your children process their feelings and reactions to what is happening, as we have been doing in school, and best wishes for a reflective and uplifting Shabbos,
Rabbi Kalman Baumann