We haven’t had a Cheshvan this bitter, for many years. In Cheshvan, we sacrificed the holy korbanot, but Kislev, b’ezrat Hashem, will be very sweet. In this month, we will hopefully merit the rebuilding of the mizbei’ach—az egmor b’shir mizmor chanukat hamizbei’ach.
In such times of hester panim, who can bring the geulah? As the Maharal of Prague explains so beautifully, only the people who are very nistar, very tzanuah, can reach the crevices in which Hakadosh Baruch Hu hides.
In Parashat Vayishlach, we read about Yosef’s deed of tzniut—that he hid his mother Rachel’s beauty so that Eisav wouldn’t lay his eyes upon her. What was he really doing then? Yosef foresaw that his descendant would be Mashiach ben Yosef and he understood that a being so pure and holy can only emerge in the merit of tzniut, from the hidden powers of his mother Rachel. Why do I speak of tzniut?
We recently lost four kedoshim in Yerushalayim, all of whom were especially exemplary with the characteristic of tzniut. These were people you’d probably never have heard of if not for this horrific tragedy. When I went to be menachem Chaya, the holy wife of Rav Levine, Hy”d, she said to me that she waited for her zivvug for quite some time. When she finally met her future husband, he said to her, “If you plan to have a famous rav for a husband, it won’t happen with me. I want to be the man who sits in the corner seat of the beit midrash—the one nobody knows.”
Rav Levine made one exception to this rule of living in modesty: The only occasion when he fought against his tzanua nature and spoke to the public was after terrorist attacks. Then, even his children knew that Abba would be giving what they called his “piguah speech.” What was the topic of this talk? “He would tell everyone around him,” remembers Chaya, “to please not miss out on this eis ratzon. ‘Whenever a piguah happens,’ he would say, ‘we start asking questions: What happened? To whom? Where? But this is not the time for these questions. It is the time to ask for Mashiach.
It is the time when we could storm the Heavens because even Hashem is angry at these moments.’ This was the only occasion when my husband would talk to the public.” Yaakova, the holy wife of Rav Kupinsky, Hy”d, who was also cruelly murdered in the beit midrash, said to me that her husband’s main message was achdut. This virtuous couple lost their daughter Chana Chaya two years ago when she simply did not wake up from her sleep one morning. “Yemima,” Yaakova said to me when I went to sit with her, “I want to tell you what my six-year-old son asked me the other day.”
When this young child learned of his father’s petirah, he said to his mother, “Since Abba was killed al kiddush Hashem, his soul merited to reach a high place in Gan Eden, but Chana Chaya died a natural death. So will he get to see her up there?” What did the brilliant Yaakova answer her son, mature beyond his years? She said to him, “Up there, there are no levels. In Shamayim, there’s only achdut. Yes, my dear child, Abba can see Chana Chaya once again.”
Let’s speak about achdut, the virtue of this exalted kadosh. After Rachel gave birth to Binyamin in this week’s parshah, she passed away. And where was she buried? Along the way, so that her future children would have a place to be mitpallel, so she could cry along with them. Rachel cries that we should love each other; she waits for the day when we’ll unite as one so that the geulah can finally come upon us. How can we do it? How can we finally beat Eisav and win this endless war? Through love. What is love? The gematria of ahavah is 13, which is the gematria of the word echad. When we feel true love, we see everything as echad, as one. Yaakov worked for his beloved wife Rachel for a total of 14 years. Fourteen years is a long, long time.
But how did he see these years? K’yamim achadim— like one day, because of his love of her. Often, we mentally draw up long lists of problems we’re having with the people around us. It’s so easy for us to find issues to be unhappy about, especially with those dearest to us. But, if we feel true love toward these people—toward our spouses, our children, our in-laws, our friends—then it all becomes one; we don’t see the nitty-gritty details that bothered us before. We say, “So what?” and we move on.
On my recent return from the States to Eretz Yisrael, a wise old man said to me during the plane ride, “Did you ever wonder why the way back to Eretz Yisrael is shorter than the way to America?” He explained that when we travel toward the States, we’re traveling against the wind, but when we return, we’re traveling in the same direction. Then he added, “It goes faster because we love Eretz Yisrael.” When we love something dearly, we don’t fret over the details anymore. Everything becomes one big picture.
In my previous experiences as a lawyer who was involved in cases of divorce, I realized something very interesting. When the ketubah is read at the chuppah, the couple has no idea what this document discusses. When the love is there, the ketubah is seen as one whole picture—as a part of the matrimonial ceremony. However, when, Rachmana litzlan, strife breaks out and divorce happens, the husband and wife suddenly concentrate on every detail. It’s not one long document anymore.
The holy almanot said to me, “People from all stripes of Yiddishkeit came to be menachem aveil.” When so many different Jews came together for one cause, they realized that we are only different from the outside because when there’s love, when there’s achdut, we don’t see the details anymore.
On the other hand, when there’s true love, we start to focus on the tiny details of good in other people. When we choose to love our husbands, our children, our students, we find there’s so much beauty we hadn’t seen before. This is the secret to true ahavah, to true achdut: when the situation is negative, we see everything as a whole, as echad. We don’t fret over the small details. However, when it’s the good things we’re looking at, we cherish every tiny detail. That’s true love.
One of the holy widows, whose name I won’t mention, told me that one of her greatest sorrows now that her husband was so tragically torn away from her are the memories of her mornings. When her husband used to return from the beit midrash after Shacharit, she recalled, he would be in the greatest of moods while she would be nervous and irritable until she had her first cup of coffee. “The first thing I want to do when I get up from the shivah,” she said to me, “Is go to his kever and ask him for mechillah. I should’ve cherished those special moments with him, but instead I let my negativity get in the way.”
Kislev is family time. It’s the time to cherish every tiny detail in those we love. One small family, the Chashmona’im, chose to wage the war. They were so weak and so few in number, but in merit of their unity and love, they persevered. May we merit to see only light and beauty in those around us even in the dark nights of Kislev. And in the zechut of our genuine achdut and tzniut we too will see the end of this war, speedily in our days.