At the right time, the concept will suddenly penetrate our heart and mind
“And these are the vestments they should make: a Choshen (breastplate) …holy vestments for Aharon your brother and his sons to serve Me.” (Shemos 28:4)
It’s too bad we don’t have a Choshen these days. The Gemara describes how it would dispense Heavenly advice for help in making decisions in matters of national security and the like. Where can we get that type of guidance in our days? (Rabbi Label Lam, Torah.org)
Growing up, we always heard Krias Megillah in Yeshivas Ner Israel by the renowned baal korei, Rav Sheftel Neuberger ztz”l. The Torah world recently lost this adam gadol, and anyone who’s heard his leining experienced the further loss of an incredible talent used to glorify Torah. Each word was enunciated beautifully with its tune and pitch, and to this day, decades later, no matter where I hear Megillah, I still replay his voice in my mind.
Reb Klonymous Kalman of Piaseczno wrote that there’s a type of prophetic revelation that comes when one looks into a holy book. It’s not knowledge of the future — that ceased when the Beis Hamikdash was destroyed. Rather, this revelation offers guidance and a call to avodas Hashem.
We’ve all experienced times when we looked into a sefer kadosh and were suddenly extremely moved by a certain idea, times when a word pierced our heart and gave us no rest for years. This experience can transform us into a different person, sanctify and uplift us.
This may happen with an idea we’ve heard before, perhaps one we’ve already seen in seforim, yet we remained untouched. But at the right time, the concept will suddenly penetrate our heart and mind.
One Purim night, Megillah was leined as usual and we drove home ready to break our fasts and pack mishloach manos. It was late and I was almost asleep when my father came into my room and shook me awake.
Apparently, there had been a glitch in Megillah reading that night. When reviewing the recording of the leining, it seemed that at the pasuk “yavo hamelech v’Haman hayom,” the banging at the word “Haman” may have drowned out the word “hayom.” The psak was that we should all hear Megillah again.
Getting dressed and driving back to yeshivah was the easy part. The problem was that many of the bochurim had already begun their Purim celebrations. Getting them to listen quietly to a second reading of Megillah that night seemed mission impossible.
This is a form of looking into the Choshen. There, too, all the letters were written, yet only some of them would illuminate the eyes of the Kohein — and it would only do this for a Kohein who’d received Divine Inspiration. Another Kohein could stand beside him and not see a thing.
Different people can listen to the same lecture, and one will be moved by a certain point, while somebody else in the audience is oblivious to that same point. Everyone can be involved in reading the parshah of the week, yet no two people have the same experience.
We can demonstrate this point almost mathematically: Suppose I distribute one hundred copies of Sefer Tehillim to one hundred different people. I instruct each one to invest a year and really delve into the elaborate words King David spoke from his holy heart. Throughout the year, each participant should highlight 50 verses that excite him and resonate with his soul. What are the chances that any two people will select the exact same 50 verses?
This is true with any sefer kadosh. The words are personal, igniting each soul and illuminating like the stones of the Choshen.
Yet the reason this story has remained in my mind all these years is not due to that late-night rendition. Rather, it’s the lesson I learned from Rav Sheftel during the years that followed that made an impression I’ll never forget. Because every year from then on, Rav Sheftel would pause after that fateful “Haman,” and then slowly and clearly enunciate the word hayom that had been inadvertently missed. It’s been over 25 years since I’ve heard him lein, but I still pause in my mind and linger on the word hayom. It’s a message to me that you can’t miss even one word, even one day, as each day is hayom.
L’illui nishmas Rav Sheftel Meir ben Rav Naftali HaLevi
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 732)
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