10 Cheshvan 5782 / Saturday, October 16, 2021 | Torah Reading: Lech Lecha
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Haazinu: The 24-Karat Noose    

Haazinu: The 24-Karat Noose

Hashem's justice is the epitome of truth and fairness; the things we do for or against other people create spiritual forces that come right back at us...


“...all His ways are justice...” (Deuteronomy 32:4)


Rabbi Nissim Yagen, of sacred and blessed memory, told the following story, a critically important lesson especially during the High Holidays:


It was eight before closing time; all the women who had frequented the mikva that evening had completed their immersion, and the attendant – an energetic woman in her mid-thirties – had finished straightening things. Since no one else was there, she decided to close the mikva a bit early, especially since she had to go say “mazal tov” at a relative's wedding on the other side of Bnai Brak. As she was locking the door, a young woman ran breathlessly up to her and said, “Oh no! Don't tell me you're locking up! I flew out of the house to get here – there was no one to care for my toddler. Please let me in – there's still five minutes until closing time!”


“I'm sorry,” the mikva attendant responded coldly. “The mikva is closed for today. I've already cleaned up and I have a wedding to attend. If I don't leave now, the wedding will be over.”


“You don't understand,” pleaded the young woman. “I observe Shabbat and family purity – my husband does not. He's a burly truck driver and he hates having two wait two weeks every month for what he wants. He doesn't care if I immerse or not. If you don't let me in, he'll force himself on me, for he warned that he's not willing to wait a day longer. I beg you, please have pity on me. If I don't immerse, then I'll get the same punishment as eating on Yom Kippur – even worse...”


“I'm sorry, I can't help you. You should have arranged to come earlier.”


“But I did get here on time!”


“Yes, but by the time you finish, it will be at least a half-hour past closing time, and I have other commitments this evening,” the mikva attendant said, pointing to her festive attire and gold necklace, showing that she was on her way to wedding.


“But isn't the mikva your first commitment? Don't you understand? I'm a baalat teshuva and my husband is not. If I don't immerse now, then tomorrow will be too late...”


The young woman's pleading didn't help. The mikva attendant locked the mikva and got into a waiting cab that whisked her off to the wedding hall.


Standing dejectedly and watching the taxi drive away, tears of futility trickled down the young woman's cheeks. She knew what was awaiting her at home.


Nine months later, she gave birth to a baby boy. No matter how hard she tried, she just couldn't discipline her unruly toddler, who grew up to be an angry and brazen young man who was constantly getting into trouble.


Nineteen years transpired from that fateful evening.


Bnai Brak was shocked at the crime. Young thieves developed a system of waiting in ambush for the easy prey of ladies on their way to wedding halls. The thieves would run up behind a woman, grab whatever gold necklace she was wearing, and rip it off her neck. The soft and thin gold would usually break off easily and the thief would run away. But this time, a thief grabbed a 24-karat, thickly braided gold necklace off a middle-aged woman's neck, and it didn't break off so easily. The thief pulled again and again but the chain wouldn't break. The woman wanted to scream but she couldn't because she was choking. Ultimately, she plunged lifeless to the ground. The thief was apprehended but the victim lost her life.


The victim was the mikva attendant from nineteen years before. The thief was the young man who was conceived that night when his mother was turned away from the mikva.


Yes, the ending is not a happy one. It's more than frightening for it shows the depth of Heavenly justice. Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaacov teaches in Ethics of the Fathers that he who does a good deed creates a guardian angel; he who transgresses creates an accusing angel.


Our sages teach that certain transgressions cannot be rectified, what King Solomon calls, “the crooked that cannot be straightened,” such as a child that is born from an extramarital relationship who can do nothing about his mamzer status.


My esteemed and beloved rabbi and spiritual guide, Rav Shalom Arush, writes in the Garden of Purity about the profound effect that the circumstances of conception have on the child and his/her future. This book should be required reading for every man.


In summary, we learn four profound lessons from the above story: first, the good or bad we do for others eventually comes right back at us. Second, circumstances of conception – especially family purity – have a profound influence on a child and his future. Third, those who serve in positions of religious and public responsibility should know that their task and highest priority is to serve the public; there is no room for compromise. And fourth, as this week's Torah portion tells us, Hashem's justice is absolute and exacting, utter truth and fairness.


May we all strengthen ourselves in the service of Hashem and especially in the mitzvoth between human and fellow human, and may we all be signed and sealed in the Book of Long Life for a wonderful New Year, amen!



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  3 Talkbacks for this article    See all talkbacks  
Racheli9/24/2015 11:01:45 PM
  your complaint
Racheli9/24/2015 10:59:58 PM
  24K gold noose story is not good
Yonason Ottenstein9/22/2015 1:12:05 PM

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