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Parshas Shoftim

Priceless Advice!

By Rabbi Label Lam

"According to the Torah that they teach and according to the judgment they will say to you, you should do. Do not turn from the thing they tell you right or left." (Devarim 17: 11)

A few years back, my wife and I had the pleasure to spend Shabbos at a hotel with Rabbi Pesach Krohn. He told over the following story. A young man from Mid-West was married for a good number of years without the blessing of children. One year his wife was expecting and she gave birth prematurely. The child weighed only a few pounds and remained hospitalized in Neo Natal Intensive Care Unit. After a period of time the child was strong and healthy enough to be sent home. They made a Bris and named the boy Yaakov.

Now with his son at home, the father of the boy didn’t forget the tireless effort of the nurses that cared day and night for his child. He wanted to express his gratitude somehow. He did something seemingly unusual. He called his Rosh HaYeshiva – his spiritual mentor Rabbi Elya Svei in Philadelphia and asked him what he thought would be appropriate as a thank you gift. Should he get flowers, candy, or balloons etc.?

The Rabbi’s answer was at first surprising. He told him to get them nothing. Misunderstanding, the young man reiterated his reason. He only wished to express his gratitude to those who had benefited his child so much. The Rosh HaYeshiva had, of course, understood that.

He asked, “What was the benefit that given by HASHEM to the Hebrew midwives, Shifra and Puah (Alias Yocheved and Miriam) for risking their lives to care for the Jewish infants in defiance of Pharaoh? Everyone thinks, “That He made for them houses”, that is family dynasties but that’s not what the verse says.

It states, “G-d benefited the midwives- and the people increased and became very strong.” This was their benefit that they saw the work of their hands prosper before them.

Rabbi Svei advised that he should rather bring the child back to visit the hospital staff each year on his birthday and offer personal thanks. That’s what he did. Year after year he paraded little Yaakov before the nurses and to thank them again and again. Before his 13th birthday and for the occasion of his Bar Mitzvah young Yaakov and his father delivered a Bar Mitzvah invitation personally to the hospital.

Soon afterward, they received a reply. The head of nursing writes, and I paraphrase what Rabbi Krohn read verbatim from the text of the letter. “Congratulations on your family milestone. We wanted to let you know how much your visits have meant to us over the years. We work in a high risk setting never knowing if things will turn out alright.

Even after a child leaves our care we have little or no idea what ever became of our efforts. I was not even at the hospital when your Yaakov was treated here but you should know that when we train for this difficult and often thankless task your son has become the poster child of what’s possible. We mention again and again that the infant that you are currently caring for may turn out like “Yaakov”.

Then she adds as a postscript, “Many people send us flowers, balloons, and candies. The flowers eventually wilt, the balloons deflate, and the candies are eaten up but the gift that you have given us has been proven valuable beyond comparison.”

Take note how a Gadol- a Great Torah Scholar learns Chumash with such depth and practicality. How wise it is to follow their priceless advice.

DvarTorah, Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Label Lam and



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