Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Ready And Waiting

By Rabbi David Ashear

The Gemara in Masechet Avoda Zara tells the story of Rabbi Yehuda Hanassi who suffered severe intestinal pain. For a remedy, he needed a certain apple cider, which was only produced by idolaters. To ensure that it was Kosher and did not contain any wine, it would have to have been stored for seventy years. Obviously, that would be hard to find. His attendants searched for it, until finally they found one man who had an entire store- room filled with seventy-year-old bottles of this cider. Rabbi Yehuda drank the cider and was cured.

Afterwards, he proclaimed, "ברוך המקום שמסר עולמו לשומרים"-Blessed is Hashem who puts into the minds of men to accumulate things that will eventually be used to help others. Rabbi Yehuda needed something very rare, and the moment he found it, he said, "Hashem, You are so kind. You have been storing it for me all these years."

We are supposed to feel, "בשבילי נברא העולם"-the world was created for us individually, as opposed to it just being there, and we happen to benefit. Rabbi Yehuda felt gratitude that not only did Hashem store his remedy for him, but years earlier, there were people working the land, harvesting the apples and preparing the cider, so that it would be ready for him, just when he needed it.

Mr. Silas Aaron Hardoon, of blessed memory

If someone ever needs anything, and he finds it all ready and prepared for him, it is because Hashem is taking care of his needs even before they arise. Sometimes Hashem prepares our needs years in advance, and He keeps them waiting for us, just for the right time.

There was a synagogue built in Shanghai, in 1927, by a wealthy Sephardic Jew, named Silas Hardoon. He was childless and began giving his money away to Chinese charities. One night, his father appeared to him in a dream and implored him to do something for his own people. Silas shrugged it off. After all, there were hardly any Jews in China at the time. However, the dream persisted, and Silas decided to act.

He spoke to Hacham Ibraham, a Sepharadic rabbi, who led the tiny Jewish community there. The Hacham's advice sounded even stranger than the dreams. He told Silas to build a beautiful Synagogue in the center of Shanghai. It should contain hundreds of seats, a kitchen and a dining room. 

Silas followed the instructions and named the Shul "Bet Aharon," in memory of his father. A few years later, Mr. Hardoon passed away, leaving barely a Minyan to enjoy that magnificent edifice. It also left questions as to the necessity of that tremendous undertaking.

Photo of hundreds of Mir Yeshiva bochurim who learned in the Bet Aharon Synagogue in Shanghai, China during World War II

Eight years later, in 1939, the small Polish town of Mir, home to one of the world's premier Yeshivot, suddenly came under Nazi rule. The students fled to nearby Vilna, in Lithuania. At that time, Japan, which for years had no diplomatic presence in Lithuania, inexplicably sent "Sempo" Sugihara to serve as vice-consul there. He violated explicit Japanese policy and worked non-stop to issue transit visas, whereby thousands of Jews, including hundreds of students from the Mir Yeshiva could flee across Russia on the Trans-Siberian Railway. The month-long exodus ended in Kobe, Japan.

In 1943, the students were deported to a Jewish ghetto in Shanghai, China. Homeless, stateless and penniless, they needed a place to live and relocate their Yeshiva. But what could they possibly find in the middle of Shanghai? That's when they discovered a magnificent Shul, which had been built 16 years earlier and was practically unused. It had just been sitting and waiting there for these hundreds of students to come and occupy it day and night.

"ברוך המקום שמסר עולמו לשומרים"-Hashem is working for us way before our needs even arise. Then, at exactly the right time, He has our gifts individually wrapped for each of us to benefit from.