Rabbi's weekly Blog

In Cambodia it is cheaper

 Listen to a… vort (short lesson in Torah). We live it every day.

After the Torah lists in the Ten Commandments, “You shall not covet the house of your fellow, the wife of your fellow and his slave and maidservant and his ox and his donkey,” it adds: “And anything that belongs to your fellow.” Why does one need this general statement after all the details given before?

The pasuk comes to teach us a rule for life: If you want something that your fellow person has, there is no problem – you’ll get it, but then you’ll also have to accept everything that person has – it’s a package deal.

I heard that in Cambodia the fee of cleaning ladies went up recently from 25 cents per hour to 75 cents. Here in Basel we pay about 25 dollars per hour, and that definitely can be a cause for envy. Who wouldn’t covet the possibility of paying so little for this service? But precisely at that moment the Torah comes and says, “No problem, you’ll get a cleaning lady at 75 cents per hour, but for that you’ll have to go live in Cambodia – ‘anything that belongs to your fellow’.”

A package deal.

By the way, Cambodia seems to me to be a lovely place.

And when your child says “I want a bicycle like he has,” I reply, “No problem, you’ll get it. But then you’ll get his parents as well.”

As it is said, “and anything that belongs to your fellow.”


May we be successful in our endeavors,


Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

the secret of faith

At the beginning of the summer I went through three weeks of waiting for an answer regarding something that was very important to me. As usual, my heart was telling me that the answer would be negative, or at least not satisfactory, and I was pretty tense and troubled about it.

My wise wife, seeing the pressure I was under, said to me: “You have three weeks to wait: twenty-one days, each one made up of twenty-four hours. Right now you have the choice of being optimistic or pessimistic for that length of time. If you choose to be pessimistic, then you and the people around you will be facing twenty-one days of tension and unpleasantness. And then, even if the answer will be positive, you will have gone through twenty unpleasant days, and one happy one. And if you choose to be optimistic about the results, you will have three calm and happy weeks. And then, even if the answer will end up being negative, you will have had twenty happy days and one sad one.”

She was right. The choice to be optimistic proved to be more than worthwhile, because the answer in the end was positive.

After Shirat Hayam (The Song of the Sea) in parashat Beshalach, it says, “And Miriam the prophetess, Aharon’s sister, took the drum in her hands, and all the women went forth after her with drums and dances.” Rashi wonders where they obtained drums in the desert. And he explains: “The righteous women of the generation were certain that Hashem would be making miracles for them, and they took drums out of Egypt.”

It was not easy to be optimistic in Egypt, while suffering pain and difficulties. It is not simple to live with the faith that things will be good when one is in the midst of subjugation, slavery and oppression. But the women of that generation chose to maintain their positive thinking in spite of everything, and even more so: in the midst of the bitter exile they lived with complete faith and trust that the redemption would come. So certain were they, that they had their drums ready. I can imagine a sweet child seeing the suffering of his family and nation and asking his mother: Why do you have a drum up in the closet? And she smiles and whispers to him: “Sweety, the day will come when Hashem will make miracles for us. We will be free of the evil Egyptians. And then, when everyone will sing and be happy, we will take out our drums and make sounds of merriness.”

So if you are facing a situation involving difficulty and pain, or are just feeling tense and burdened, it is a good idea to have a “happy” drum stored away, to look at it every morning and to smile quietly, as if keeping a secret: a secret of faith, the secret of faith.

Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

in every joke there is a bit of joking

A well-known joke claims that in Israel, if you have connections you don’t need protektzia. My grandfather used to say that in every joke there is a bit of joking, but the rest is true. So, that is the truth: when you know someone and he feels he owes you something, he’ll help you, or at least not interfere with your needs.

These days there is a too-quick tendency to connect any help given by friends with bribery and corruption. In my opinion, not only is this not true and not proper to say, but it’s also not healthy for society and for the world’s existence. If someone helped you, it’s only right that you should help him. Chazal already said so in the midrash: “Don’t cast a rock into a water hole that you drank from.”

In this week’s parasha, Moshe Rabbeinu reaches the stage of the first plague, the plague of blood. After all the warnings and threats to Pharaoh, the moment comes when it is time to lift up the special staff and strike the Ye’or, the river. But then Hashem stops Moshe: “Hashem said to Moshe, say to Aharon…” Chazal said in the Midrash Rabbah: Rabbi Tanchum said: Why wasn’t the water struck by Moshe? The Kadosh Baruch Hu said to him: It is not right that the water that protected you when you were thrown into the Ye’or should be struck with a plague by you. Rather, they ot struck only by Aharon.”

How simple, and how beautiful.

When I was a child I used to wonder: Many Jewish babies were cast into the Ye’or and drowned to death in it. Hundreds, maybe thousands? The Ye’or indeed saved Moshe, but many others died in it. What merits does it have?

And the answer is that the Ye’or really deserved to be plagued. It had to also turn into blood, to punish the Egyptians who were being cruel to the beaten, bruised Jews. There is no argument as to that. But the actual striking will not be done by Moshe, because Mosh must feel beholden to the Ye’or.


Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

Looking for older posts? See the sidebar for the Archive.