Putting You First

Rabbi Avrohom Sebrow

The Gemara in Bava Kama (92) says that whoever davens for his friend and he needs that same relief, he will be answered first. Does this mechanism work even though one knows that he will be answered first? The Acharonim cite proof from our Gemara. Iyov prayed that his friends should be relieved of their suffering, and Hashem relieved Iyov of his suffering first. This was even though Iyov knew this result would occur. He already learned this lesson from Avrohom Avinu. Avrohom Avinu prayed that Avimelech’s household be relieved of their suffering, and Hashem answered Avrohom Avinu first by “remembering” Sara Imeinu. The Mogen Avraham cites this concept as practical halacha. When one prays to Hashem for relief for a bad dream, one should first daven for his friend and then daven for himself. It is in the very same tefillah one is davening for himself and his friend, and yet the Mogen Avraham holds that the Gemara’s bracha still applies. What is the reasoning behind the Gemara? The K’sav Sofer says that Hashem rewards a person middah k’neged middah. He tried helping someone else, so Hashem will help him. Therefore, a local rosh yeshiva suggested that the bracha isn’t limited to just tefillah. Any time a person tries helping his friend and he needs the same relief, Hashem will help the helper first. Rabbi Rafi Butler speaking at the AJOP convention declared: The best way to get public school children to attend yeshiva is to send them to Jep’s Camp Nageela. Period. Thousands of children have attended Camp Nageela and are now upright members of our community. There is an interesting story about the source of the funds used to build Camp Nageela over thirty years ago. Rabbi Dovid Shenker, CEO of JEP of Long Island, approached a local rosh yeshiva for help in a delicate situation. There was a large bequest that JEP was hoping to receive, but some objectors were tying it up.

Rabbi Shenker was hoping that the rosh yeshiva would be able to eloquently explain to all those concerned about the great work that JEP does to guarantee Jewish continuity. Further, he would impress upon them that an organization like JEP is crucial to ensure that Jewish youth are aware of their rich heritage and the nation they are part of. The rosh yeshiva readily agreed to assist but was curious how much JEP actually stood to receive. Rabbi Shenker explained that if everything went well, the bequest could possibly be as much as $100,000. Rabbi Shenker made an appointment to meet with the attorney handling the estate at his office in Manhattan. Later that day, the rosh yeshiva received a phone call. An excited acquaintance happily related that, baruch Hashem, he just completed a profitable business transaction and will be sending the yeshiva a donation of $100,000. When the rosh yeshiva met with Rabbi Shenker, he told him that he believed that his yeshiva received a $100,000 donation because he agreed to help JEP in its quest for a $100,000 endowment. He cited as proof the Chazal cited above, “Someone who prays for his friend for assistance and he needs that very same thing, he will be answered first—techilah.” The rosh yeshiva explained that this statement of Chazal is not limited to tefillah. In any area where someone helps an individual and requires the very same assistance, Hashem will help him out first. The rosh yeshiva said, “I agreed to help your organization attain financial assistance, so Hashem helped out my yeshiva as well. Further, I am confident that our meeting today will be successful. Chazal said, ‘He will be answered techilah.’ Techilah means first in a series, not first and only first. Since Hashem has already helped me first, He will surely help you second.” The meeting with the attorney was deemed a success. Three years passed, however, and JEP still had not received any of the funds. Throughout those years, the rosh yeshiva continuously reassured Rabbi Shenker that JEP will definitely receive the money based on the Chazal cited above.

One day, Rabbi Shenker called the rosh yeshiva with the good news. The judge approved the bequest, and JEP will be getting $250,000! The rosh yeshiva’s immediate response was: “Great! That’s good to hear. Furthermore, it’s great for me as well because it means that my yeshiva will receive another $150,000 (the yeshiva already received $100,000), and I will receive it before you!” Two days later, the rosh yeshiva received a call from one of his supporters. “You know that $155,000 that the yeshiva owes me? I forgive the entire amount.” The rosh yeshiva called Rabbi Shenker with the news. “See, I received my additional $150,000! Moreover, I received an extra $5,000. There must be $5,000 somehow missing from the bequest!” The next day Rabbi Shenker called back: “You’re not going to believe this, but the total amount given to tzedakah was $255,000. Once the bequest was approved for JEP, a $5,000 donation was approved for another institution as well.” Ultimately, when JEP actually received its check, Rabbi Shenker showed it to the rosh yeshiva. The rosh yeshiva was a little troubled. “The actual amount written on the check was $252,600 instead of $250,000. ($5,000 was sent to the other organization) What is the extra $2,600 for?” “A token interest payment the judge ordered applied since the whole process took so long,” Rabbi Shenker replied. The rosh yeshiva wondered why didn’t his yeshiva receive $257,600 including the extra $2,600? The yeshiva only received $255,000! A few days later, the yeshiva received papers in the mail from the comptroller of his supporter. The loan forgiveness needed to be documented for tax and accounting purposes. The rosh yeshiva looked at the actual dollar value of the loan and smiled. The yeshiva’s actual debt was $157,500. So the yeshiva had, in fact, received $257,500. Still being $100 short, the rosh yeshiva forgave $100 of his salary! The $250,000 was used to build Camp Nageela, and the rest is history. This story was confirmed by both Rabbi Shenker and the rosh yeshiva.   

Rabbi Avrohom Sebrow is a rebbe at Yeshiva Ateres Shimon in Far Rockaway. In addition, Rabbi Sebrow leads a daf yomi chaburah at Eitz Chayim of Dogwood Park in West Hempstead, NY. He can be contacted at ASebrow@gmail.com.

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