Selected Sermon/Article
2001-04-15 Eight Day Pesach/Yizkor by RAv Ze'ev Smason
Pesach: Seize the
The local shul advertised that it needed a new cantor. Schwartz desperately wanted the job, so he approached the rabbi about it. Schwartz had many admirable traits, and a pleasant voice, but the rabbi couldn't hire him. You see, Schwartz couldn't read or write. Schwartz, saddened and ashamed, looked elsewhere for a job and went into business.

He worked hard, saved his money, and eventually become tremendously wealthy. He became a pillar of his community -- which is why everyone was quite surprised to find out that Schwartz couldn't read or write. Many years later, the rabbi bumped into Schwartz at the bakery and said, "Schwartz, you have accomplished so much without being able to read or write. What would you be today if you could?"

Schwartz just laughed, saying, "I if could read and write, Rabbi -- I'd be singing in your shul!"

A rule of the road for life that we can all recognize as being true, is: maximum effort exerted equals maximum accomplishment. I'm sure you know that Einstein flunked his freshman math class. You may be aware that when Thomas Edison was a young boy, his teachers said he was so stupid he could never learn anything. And it probably doesn't surprise any of you to know that in 1922 Harry Truman was 38, in debt and out of work. Twenty-three years later, he was the leader of the free world. Despite the difficulty of the challenge that might face us, we know that diamonds are chunks of coal that just stuck to their job.

The Torah reading yesterday had as it's theme 'Krias Yam Suf' -- the splitting of the Yam Soof (Sea of Reeds, or Red Sea). Our tradition teaches that it was on the seventh day of Pesach that Bnai Yisrael walked through a sea bed while the Egyptians drowned. A fascinating Talmudic passage (in tractate Sotah) states that making shidduchim -- being a successful matchmaker -- is as difficult as Krias Yam Suf. We can't possibly understand this statement to mean that anything is 'difficult' for the Almighty. What, then, is the lesson to be learned from a comparison between Krias Yam Suf, and a happy marriage?

Rashi explains that the essence of the miracle of Krias Yam Suf was that God changed the rules of nature to accomplish this stupendous feat. The separation of the waters, the hardening of the dry ground for Bnai Yisrael to walk upon, the 12 paths through the sea -- one for each tribe -- involved nature reversing it's course. Perhaps we can say that a happy marriage is no less miraculous than the splitting of the Yam Suf. Two individuals of completely different natures and temperaments making a life together is no small feat. My grandfather, alav ha'shalom, was fond of saying that my grandmother convinced him that two can live as cheaply as one! With maximum human effort, there's no limit to what we can accomplish.

I'd like to ask you the following question; How many of you have ever attempted to diet? If you raised your hand, or nodded in the affirmative, you're amongst the majority of Americans who at one time or another have tried to lose weight. Let me ask you another question. How many of you actually lost the amount of weight you tried to lose, and kept it off? If you didn't raise your hand -- again, you'd be in the majority. Imagine, now, the following scenario: You weigh 300 pounds, and you set as a goal for yourself that within a year you'll lose one-third of your weight -- 100 pounds. Could you do it? I'll bet you think your chances would be ... slim, no?

Randy Leamer of North East, Pa. learned about 3 years ago that he could qualify as a kidney donor for his 4 year old daughter Megan, suffering from kidney disease -- if, and only if, he lost 100 pounds from his 297 pound frame. Doctors had told Leamer that his obesity would increase the danger of pneumonia, blood clots and other complications from the surgery. His wife began cutting fat from his diet. He gave up his daily mug of chocolate milk and began a regular exercise program. In about a year, Leamer dropped 103 pounds, and his kidney was then successfully transplanted to his daughter.

Could you lose 100 pounds in a year? If your daughter's life depended on it -- I'm 100% certain that every single person here in shul today could do it. What is the difference between matzah and chometz? The difference between bread and matzah is really the difference between 18 minutes, and 17 minutes, 59 seconds. If water touches flour for less than 18 minutes (and is then baked), it stays matzah; if it touches for more than 18 minutes, it becomes chometz. After 18 minutes, the natural fermentation process begins, and matzah becomes bread. A very small window of opportunity is given to many of us. If we fail to seize the opportunities that life gives us, and don't exert maximum effort -- those opportunities will pass us by. It's interesting to note that the word for life in Hebrew is also 'chai', 18

This morning as we prepare to say Yizkor, we remember our heroes; our parents and dear relatives who worked so very hard to raise families, to build homes and communities, and are the reason for our commitment to God and His Torah. Remebering NHBZ generously at this time is an act of kavod for your dear departed ones. Remembering our shul with a personal commitment to be an active participant in Yiddishkeit and our shul is, perhaps, a greater act of kavod for your dear departed ones. A vibrant, dynamic shul is made up of members who come to minyan on their day off, and on Sundays. A pulsating shul that attracts new members and families, is one where the members accept personal responsibility to insure the success of the programs and operation. In the spring and summer months ahead, there are wonderful things happening here at NHBZ. Please be a part of us, as we grow and thrive.

I'd like to close with a story about a man I heard about named George, He said to a friend, "There's nothing like getting up at 6 in the morning, going for a run around the park, and taking a brisk shower before breakfast." His friend Bob asked, "How long have you been doing this?"

George responded, "I start tomorrow"

Lets seize the opportunities that life gives us, to become more deeply involved in our shul, and to become more committed and devoted to HaShem and His Torah.

Good Yom Tov