| Spirit and Sparks |

Spirit and Sparks

"The letters of the Torah are like glasses: Through them we can see the Giver of the Torah"


We stood under the chuppah, Har Sinai, which was raised over our heads, and received our wedding ring — the Luchos. Shavuos is when we meet our Beloved face to face. The Shabbos before Shavuos, the aufruf Shabbos or Shabbos kallah, is when the chassan and kallah prepare for the great day. And we see hints of this in the haftarah, “I have betrothed you to Me forever, I have betrothed you to Me with righteousness and with justice and with kindness and with compassion and… with emunah” (Hoshea 2:21–22).

The parshah that (almost) always precedes Shavuos is Bamidbar, where the Jews are counted and arranged. How does this prepare us for our union with Hashem?

There are 600,000 primary root souls and there are 600,000 letters in the Torah. Each Jewish soul is a letter in the Torah of Hashem. Hashem commanded our greatest leaders to count us — Moshe, Aharon and the heads of the shevatim. The task of tallying the census couldn’t be given to anyone of lesser stature. To count a Jew means to understand which letter he is, to know its essence, teachings, halachos, and secrets.

If a kallah’s eyes are beautiful, we are assured, the rest of her is also beautiful (Taanis 24a). The “beautiful eyes” of the Jewish People — the leaders, the einei ha’eidah — know how to bring out the beauty of every Jew, to bring out eternal brightness that may be temporarily dulled, to reveal the Heavenly glowing neshamah that was hewed from the Kisei Hakavod.

And thereby, we are prepared for the wedding.

As heard from Rav Moshe Wolfson shlita


Over the years I’ve noticed that women whose sense of self is rooted in truth and closeness to Hashem succeed in raising their kids well.

I’ve seen this most strongly in Tammy Karmel, a dear friend of mine suffering from a degenerative disease. It’s amazing — she’s paralyzed and can only communicate with her children via an eye chart. And yet her children treat her as all children treat their mothers.

They would ask for permission “Can I have a candy?” and she would answer yes or no. If the answer was no, they might tantrum, but she wouldn’t budge. “No is no.” Why do they feel they have to listen to her? Tammy is immobile and can’t do anything! But she is so firm and strong inside, her core so bolstered by the emunah she’s developed, that she is their rock, and her family draws on her strength.

-Rebbetzin Shlomtzie Weisz, teacher for over three decades, international lecturer, B&B workshop founder

My anchor throughout coronavirus has been noticing the myriad of details that are going so beautifully right.

I was writing an article about coping with suffering when, guess what, I went through what felt like anguish and suffering. All of a sudden, everything I wrote seemed trite, annoying, and invalidating. It didn’t help me. I was feeling angry at Hashem — and then feeling guilty that I was feeling angry.

The only way I was able to crawl out of my confusion and negativity was by noticing all the good in my life. I wasn’t open to giving exuberant thanks, but I made an effort to notice that my Creator was still taking very good care of me. I had good food, nice clothes, healthy kids, a pretty painting on the wall, my lungs were breathing. Hey! Hashem does love me, even though I’m feeling growly and low right now. Through noticing His care, I was able to slowly move towards happiness, trust, and connection. (Yes, I rewrote that suffering piece.)

That skill of noticing the good amid the confusion and chaos served as my anchor throughout this shared global challenge. Merely noticing how well I’m being taken care of takes me back to a contented, secure, even blissful state of being.

—Tova L.


Rav Menachem Nissel

Last year as I was maneuvering my car into a parking spot in front of my shul on Rechov Brand, a car pulled out and hit the side of my car.

These things happen. They’re annoying. Baruch Hashem nobody was hurt.

Out of the car came a man whom I recognized from around the neighborhood, Dr. Binyomin Surovsky, a beloved South African dentist.

He assessed the situation, then said, “O. F. G.”

Excuse me?

“This is an OFG,” Binyomin explained, “an OPPORTUNITY FOR GROWTH!” He took full responsibility for the incident. I took a new lesson as to how a Jew should respond to adversity.

Since then, I’ve been teaching the power of reacting to challenges with an OFG declaration. (I’m even trying to practice what I preach!) Once, when speaking in London, I shared this with a group of ladies in Edgeware. Rebbetzin Joanne Dove, a fellow South African, smiled and said, yes, that was typical Binyomin.

A few weeks ago the Surovksys made a coronavirus wedding. When I met Binyomin the next day at shul, he said to me, “Hashem hoshiya haMelech ya’aneinu b’yom kareinu.” (Hashem save us, the King who responds when we call out to Him.) With a beautiful smile and a twinkle in his eye, he added, “Kareinu sounds a lot like ‘corona,’ doesn’t it? I guess Hashem wants us to call out to Him!”

As I write, Binyomin is in desperate need for our tefillos. Complications from coronavirus required brain surgery and he is in critical condition. Please daven for Chaim Binyomin Mordechai ben Idah — and, more than that, please start saying OFG at every challenge, and please share this idea with others. That would be the biggest zechus for him.


The letters of the Torah are like glasses: Through them we can see the Giver of the Torah.

Rabbi Cheikel of Amdur, Chaim V’Chessed

Discover Your Torah

Therapeutic Writing Part 3 of 6

Yocheved Rottenberg is the facilitator of international therapeutic writing workshops and the author of an upcoming book, both entitled Write Your Way Home.

Each person has their own portion in the Torah. It seems as if we are only a miniscule part of an enormous picture, but without our part, the picture is incomplete, just as the sefer Torah is invalid if even one letter is missing.

We daven, “V’sein chelkeinu b’Sorasecha,” give us our personal portion in Your Torah, help us fulfill our individual tafkid. We wish we’d come into This world with a manual telling us exactly what we were meant to accomplish. Being that we didn’t, one way we can figure that out is by looking at our circumstances without and our personality within.

Here’s a writing exercise to help:

  1. Write down ten challenges that you have gone through in your life. They can be big or small, one-time or ongoing, past or present.
  2. How did each of these challenges force you to grow?

Then, write the answers to these questions quickly, without thinking:

  1. 1.         What’s your reason for getting up in the morning? What makes you excited when you talk about it?
  2. 2.         If you had to define your higher goal in one sentence without thinking, what would it be?


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 693)

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