This past Sunday Klal Yisrael was plunged into mourning when it lost a very special individual, Rebbetzin Temi Kamenetsky ZTL, at the age of 92. I would like to share a story about the Rosh Yeshiva and the Rebbetzin that I witnessed firsthand.
About ten years ago, I was involved in marketing a uniquely special education curriculum for the Jewish population in North America. I attended the Torah Umesorah Leadership Convention weekend in Pennsylvania with the number one goal of networking with the Jewish National Leadership.
That Thursday and Friday I showcased my materials and Shabbos was filled with world-renowned Jewish Learning Specialists and speakers. Many of whom I had only seen pictures of in newspapers and suddenly I found myself surrounded by all these “stars” of the educational community.
Seating for meals was prearranged with seating charts as was the Shabbos lunch. My seat was a few feet away from a table for two marked ‘Reserved for Rabbi and Rebbetzin Kamenetsky.’
About twenty minutes into the meal, Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky, or otherwise known as Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva of Philadelphia, the leader of North American Jewry, arrived and sat down at his table. Soon everyone gathered around him, including myself, to shake his hand and say hello.
The conversation at my table was very warm, friendly, and intellectually stimulating however, my attention was completely focused on the open seat across from the Rosh Yeshiva.
At the opposite end of the huge dining room was a smiling lady, trying to move along to her table. Every time she took a step forward, another lady jumped out of her chair to say hello to her and share with her some news.
The hour was getting late, and the waiters kept offering food to the Rosh Yeshiva who was immensely polite and each time respectively declined as he waited patiently for his wife.
Then the waiters walked by with the most mouthwatering main dish whose tasty aroma filled the room. I looked over to see that the Rebbetzin had made some progress and now she was just a few tables away. Once again, the Rosh Yeshiva declined to accept a dish, with the warmest smile I had ever seen.
Finally, right before dessert, the Rebbetzin arrived at the Rosh Yeshiva’s table, smiling. I watched in amazement as she shared with him all the good tidings that she had heard in the multiple conversations she had had that morning. The Rosh Yeshiva listened intently, visibly happy while absorbing all of the new information.
It was only then as we were getting ready to finish our meal, that I saw the Rosh Yeshiva making Kiddush for him and his wife, a Jewish benediction and prayer recited over a cup of wine immediately before their meal on the eve of the Sabbath.
In this week’s Parsha, we have the story of the parting of the sea. Our sages teach us that matchmaking for G-d is as difficult as the splitting of the sea. We are also taught that when a couple gets divorced tears come out of the altar of the Holy temple.
There are a few questions here. G-d created the world and continuously runs it. Since he built the system therefore, it can’t be difficult for him? Another question is: as an infinite being obviously there is nothing difficult for him? Finally, why is the altar shedding tears? Why not the Menorah, which brings light or the table, which perhaps would represent a home? Why the altar?
Chasidus explains that when the Jews found themselves trapped between the Dead Sea and the Egyptian army there was a difference of opinion as to what to do. The fighters said, “Let’s fight them,” the spiritual people said, “Let’s pray,” some said, “Let’s just surrender and go back to Egypt.”
However, Hashem told Moshe, “What’s the problem? Go into the water.”
According to Chasidus, Hashem was telling them that now is the time to increase your faith and trust via actions that defy nature. These actions will cause nature to defy the laws of nature as well. Water, which naturally flows, will go against its nature in honor of your belief and will trust in the Divine over the laws of nature.
When a couple gets married, there exists under one roof two complete opposites in nature. In addition, each one is naturally selfish. This reality of two naturally selfish opposites makes the possibility of living in harmony almost an impossibility.
There is only one way to succeed in establishing a healthy marriage, Hashem tells Moshe, to go into the water. Fight your natural behaviors and desires and sacrifice your needs for your spouse’s needs. Only through your sacrifice of selfishness for selflessness can you obtain a state of perfection. The sages did not mean that marriage is difficult for G-d they meant Hashem testifies that there is nothing more difficult than going against your nature but there is no greater reward either.
Therefore, the altar sheds tears because it constantly witnessed how much was gained through sacrifice, and cries when a couple no longer finds the strength to continue the difficult journey of constant sacrifice.
Have a wonderful Shabbos.