4 Cheshvan 5781 / Thursday, October 22, 2020 | Torah Reading: Noach
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The Toothpick Salvation    

The Toothpick Salvation

Shabbat Chazon: The evil inclination embodied itself in a carrot shred that decided to become a squatter between two of my teeth. It laughed at my travel toothbrush...


Shabbat Chazon


Sometimes, the tiniest nuisance can drive a person crazy if Hashem so desires.


In a few minutes, our English-language office manager at Breslev Israel, Aharon Dubinsky, would be ushering in people who had made appointments to speak with me. Aharon had not yet arrived at our Jerusalem office, so I was hurriedly finishing my lunch…


The evil inclination embodied itself in a carrot shred that decided to become a squatter between two of my teeth. It laughed at my travel toothbrush, the one I carry around in my briefcase, and refused to budge. I tried all sorts of makeshift solutions to get the unwelcome trespasser out, but to no avail. When I listen to people, I need to give them my full attention and this annoying little carrot shred was quickly pigging it for itself. I could feel my self-composure slipping quickly away. I looked at my watch and saw that Aharon, who is always punctual, would be arriving in a minute and the first appointment shortly afterwards.


What does a person do in times of need? One calls out to Hashem!


"Hashem, this is Your son Eliezer Raphael ben Chasia. Hashem, in a few moments, I have to counsel people in emuna; this shred from the salad that You so gracefully gave me is now embedded between two of my teeth and driving me nuts. Please send me a toothpick! From where, I don't care – just send me one, please!!!"


Funny, but I had no doubt that I was about to find a toothpick. Who keeps toothpicks in their office? No one I know. I looked on Aharon's desk, and there it was: a lone toothpick wrapped in cellophane, like the one included on an in-flight meal tray. I'm always careful not to take anything in an unauthorized manner, but this was an emergency. I ripped the toothpick out of the cellophane, and ahhhh – what a pleasure! At the first jab at it, the stubborn carrot shred fled for its life.


I don't think that a week-long cruise in the Bahamas would give me near as much pleasure as dislodging that morsel of carrot from between my teeth. For the next three minutes, I sang, danced and praised Hashem, thanking Him as if I had just won the Irish Lottery.


Aharon then entered the office with his customary big smile. I hugged him and apologized for poaching his toothpick. "What toothpick?" he asked.


"The one wrapped in the cellophane that was on your desk," I answered.


"I never left such a toothpick on my desk," he said, "so you don't have to thank me."


No one on earth can convince me that anyone other than Hashem answered my prayers and sent me a toothpick, special delivery express, same-minute service!


Then I became serious – the weight of obligation was prodigious. If that's the way I must thank Hashem for a toothpick, how much must I thank Him for a breath, a heartbeat or functioning kidneys? What about all the other millions of daily blessings in life?


The Jewish People are not ingrates. The only reason we don't properly thank Hashem is because we don't open our eyes – we don't observe Hashem's miracles and loving-kindness.


Isaiah the Prophet yelled about this very phenomenon and said that it's the root of our troubles.




The Shabbat before Tisha B'Av is known as Shabbat Chazon, the "Shabbat of Vision". It is named as such because of the first two words of the Haftarah that we read, Chazon Yeshayahu, which means "the prophecy (vision) of Isaiah." Isaiah the Prophet chastises the Jewish People and reveals to them the reason for all of the suffering that is about to befall them – the Destruction of the First and Second Holy Temples, the Inquisition, the Pogroms, the Holocaust and all calamity until Moshiach comes.


What did the Jewish People do wrong? Did they engage in illicit sex? That's not the reason. Did they worship idols? That's not the main reason either. Did they spill innocent blood? No, the prophet isn't accusing them of that, either. Then what did they do wrong to deserve such severe punishment? Here's the prophet's answer:


"An ox knows its owner and a donkey his master's trough; but Israel does not know – my people don't contemplate [observe, pay attention]" (Isaiah 1:3).


What? We suffer all the troubles of centuries for simply failing to observe and contemplate?


Yes. We are the Jewish People, Am Yehudi, the People of Thanksgiving. It's time that we open our eyes and begin expressing our sincere gratitude to Hashem. Once we do, exile and diaspora will be over and Moshiach will come, speedily and in our days, amen!



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