| Voice in the Crowd |

The Best Merchandise

Toirah, these women hummed, iz di beste sechoirah


Mai Har Sinai? Har she- yardah sinah l’umos ha’olam alav. (Shabbos 89a)

It would seem that the hate is connected with our having received the Torah. Why is that? Do you feel this fierce, illogical hate toward someone who earns a PhD in molecular physics?

The hate, perhaps, is not about what we got, but more about what it means.

In every class, there is a kid who asks the rebbi a question just as the recess bell rings. (Later, as a rebbi, I discovered that the annoyance the kids feel toward their fellow student is not even close to… whatever.)

It is never appreciated. Leave us alone and let us go play ball.

If the neighbor on the rigorous diet who never cheats and goes running in the rain were miserable about it, you could live with him. But his pride and exuberance is what gets you. He loves his diet, and you can barely get up off the couch to glare at him as he tears past your window. (For sure listening to a shiur and no doubt ahead of the daf, guaranteed. It’s the same type.)

For the world, it’s been 3,300 years’ worth of ideas, each one capturing the attention of society, dictating behavior and convention for a while, then fading away as something shinier and newer comes along.

For us, we never really let go of the original idea, sticking with that program. The whole neighborhood is still trying diets that allow them to eat what they want — but don’t make them happy.

I write this because of what happened to America. Or better, what is happening to America. Another glorious empire that promised so much, founded on such noble, admirable principles, fallen victim to hate and insecurity — a symptom of not having a clear identity and mission.

I don’t know much about business, or how the markets work, but I do know, for example, that crypto was a weird concept that no one could really explain. Then, some people (and there’s one in every shul) were suddenly very rich cause they chapped it, and jumped in. We were happy for them.

Then, suddenly, they were wiped out because crypto was a sham, and we were sad for them. (The words “happy” and “sad” are being used loosely here — the emotions may or may not have been reversed.)

I think it’s back up now, but you get the point. No one can say that crypto is the best investment ever, because it’s been up and down.

TO be the best investment ever, value has to hold steady, or increase. It has to be the asset that you can still count on when every other asset in the portfolio has dipped.

At the Mir dinner a few months ago, one of the most powerful moments of the night came in a speech from a balabos who conveyed the most profound, simple truth.

Over the last few weeks, there was a phrase running through my mind, a lullaby that a generation of Yiddishe mothers sang to their children.

Toirah, these women hummed, iz di beste sechoirah.

Five words.

Five words that have played in the ears of Yiddishe kinderlach, but sometimes, it can take decades — the child all grown up, with children and grandchildren of his own — until he fully grasps the depth of the song.

I have spent many years in business. I have learned to recognize value in commodities, properties, and stocks, and some of them developed value, but about none of them can I say with conviction that they are the beste sechoirah.

Investments, deals, and portfolios have failed the test of time, but Torah endures — the time, the heart, the energy, and the resources we invested in it making us proud and grateful.

What made the message resonate was how frank and honest it was, the fact that Mr. Ralph Herzka works in the mortgage industry, and it hasn’t been the easiest few years in that space.

He, a child all grown up, with children and grandchildren of his own, had fully grasped the depth of the song.

Sometimes, in a foundering world, it’s good to take a step back and remind ourselves of what we have.

Mothers, teach your children to sing that song.

I want to share my own, original vort here. Granted, it’s not very good, not the sort with which you will impress your shver, but still.

The question is a legitimate one: Why did Klal Yisrael sleep soundly through the night before Matan Torah, so much so that the Ribbono shel Olam came and found them asleep in the morning? (Shir Hashirim Rabbah 1:12.)

Chazal say that they had been counting down the days until they received the Torah, filled with excitement and energy, so how could they oversleep on the day itself?

Here’s the somewhat cringy vort.

To sleep is to remain the same, comfortable and content. One who is restless and looking for change cannot sleep.

Hence, the term “woke,” which is very different from awake. Awake means alert and attuned, open to change — and open to forgiveness and self-reflection as well. Woke means furious and anguished and censorious of whatever was.

The Torah will never change. Before receiving it, the people went to sleep, proclaiming that they were just fine. The sleep was a message that this was not a seething, frenzied movement occupying highways, but a calm, contented, grateful people: not restless, but restful.

I may be dreaming, said the Ponevezher Rav, but I am not sleeping. Here, they may have been sleeping, but they were not tired.

Shavuos is our anniversary, always a special time for a couple — but there is something especially meaningful about the anniversary after the couple has endured a challenge together.

It’s been a year. The Torah carried us — those on benches gave their all for those on the front, faces radiant as they learned through bein hazmanims and afternoon breaks. Those on the front, faces worn and streaked, glowed when showing pictures of their newly printed Daf Yomi Gemaras. The world came crashing down, and the beste sechoirah did not go down in value, but up.

And we carried it too. We accepted it, right? We slept soundly, purposefully, indicating that we were truly comfortable with the decision.

May this be the happiest anniversary yet.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 1015)

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