Malkah Forbes, born in Upstate New York, studied Computer Science at SUNY Oswego (B.A.), where she met her future husband, Jason. Soon after, they moved to the Seattle area where her husband could pursue his career in software engineering. In tandem, Jason was studying to become a rabbi. After Jason received his smicha (rabbinic ordination) from the UMJC, both he and Malkah became leaders of their current congregation, Beit HaShofar Synagogue in Seattle, WA. Currently, Malkah is an active rebbetzin and not only teaches Hebrew, but helps to oversee and spearhead new synagogue programs. Her latest project includes Riverton Mussar, which she and her husband co-founded in 2010. She has been a frequent contributor of drashes for the UMJC website, served on the board of the UMJC National Sisterhood, Achot, and has been a speaker for various sessions at the UMJC International Conference.
When Malkah is not writing for Riverton Mussar, she can be found enjoying her three teenagers, her two delightful cats, working on her interior and garden redesign business, knitting, and sporting a serious game of Mah Jongg.
This story is, without a doubt, a pearl to me - in fact, I would consider it a suitable bedtime story for (in the distant future) grandchildren of mine. Filled with action and a fantastic ending, this account speaks volumes to us in the realm of decision. Here we have the Sages, the brilliant minds of Israel, having a delightful halachic dispute over the purity status of an oven of a man named Achnai. Indeed, of all the minds, history states that R. Eliezer is said to have been the brightest. Truly, even in this story, it appears that Hashem agrees with R. Eliezer in his decision. But the rest of the Sages do not concur. No way.
Take away the dross from the silver, and a vessel emerges for the refiner. --Proverbs 25:4
This same Hebrew root also gives rise to words like sederah which means a "row", and siddur which is a "prayer book." Order brings stability, consistency, and a set pattern. Order is like a straight path that helps us to get from one place to another without calamity. Once we lose the ability to have order in our lives, it doesn't take long before a collapse of the other middot follow. Though we cannot assume complete order in the universe through our actions, at least our greatest attempts to maintain the highest level possible of order in our lives can yield much fruit and help other areas of our lives.
The next time you encounter a situation/place where there is a lack of order, either instigated by you or someone else, practice this simple meditation.
First, take a few deep breaths. Breathing, in the realm of our bodies, is an action which helps to regulate the oxygen levels in our blood and keeps our organs healthy. Close your eyes. Realize that your your body is a manifestation of order given by Hashem. As you try and remain still, sense the rhythm of your heartbeat. Place your finger either on your neck or on your wrist so you can feel your pulse. There is an order to this beat; it's regularity keeps you alive. Revel in this miracle of your heartbeat while maintaining calm but steady breathing. Continue to focus on the beating of your heart.
Imagine the blood flowing from the outer edges of your body to your heart, and then being sent out again to all parts of you. Try and imagine the blood flowing in a very calm and quiet way, keeping all parts of you alive and functioning in a very orderly way. Meditate on the miracle of this order that Hashem has created within you. As you slowly open your eyes, bring this simple but miraculous order of your existence and attempt to create order around you. What this exercise will have achieved for you is mental focus, lowering of your blood pressure, controlled imagery, and a moment to regroup. By focusing on something that already has a beautiful and wonderful order, given from the Divine, you can harness order within you to share with others.
1. Ophthalmology . pertaining to or having myopia; nearsighted.
2. unable or unwilling to act prudently; shortsighted.
3. lacking tolerance or understanding; narrow-minded.
Then a certain sage arose to test him and said, “Teacher, what should I do to take possession of eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Torah? How do you read it?” He answered and said, “Love HaShem your God with all of your with all of your soul, and with all of your strength, and with all of your knowledge [Devarim 6:5], and your fellow as yourself” [Vayikra He said to him, “You have answered well. Do this and live.”
He desired to justify himself so he said to Yeshua, “Who is my fellow?”
Yeshua answered and said, “A certain man went down from Yerushalayim to Yericho, and he fell victim to robbers. They stripped him, even wounding him, and they abandoned him. As he stood between death and life, they walked on. A certain kohen happened upon him going down that road. He saw him and passed over him. Likewise, a Levi came to the place and approached and saw him but passed over him. Then a Shomroni was walking on the road. He came upon him and saw him, and he felt moved. He approached him and bandaged his wounds and applied oil and wine to them. He had him ride on his animal, led him to the inn, and provided for him. The next day, when he traveled, he brought out two dinarim and gave them to the owner of the inn. He said, “Provide for him. Whatever else you spend on him I will repay you when I return.” Now, who of these three was a fellow in your eyes to the one who fell victim to the robbers?
He said, “The one who carried out the chesed.” Yeshua said to him, “Go and do likewise yourself.” – Matthew 10:25-37, DHE
Rabbi Akiva sailed from Israel to Cyprus. Before he left port, he saw his prized understudy, Rabbi Meir, board an older vessel, also sailing to Cyprus. In the midst of their journey, a terrible gale struck the Mediterranean. Rabbi Akiva's heart broke as he gazed into the distance, wincing while the storm lashed into the decrepit craft that carried Rabbi Meir. In a matter of minutes, the latter's ship was utterly destroyed...
A tear slid down Rabbi Akiva's cheek. "What a waste of a brilliant mind!" he lamented.
Several days later, upon reaching the shores of Cyprus, Rabbi Akiva entered a local synagogue and house of study. Flabbergasted, he froze in the doorway. Rabbi Meir was in the middle of a lecture to a group of Cypriot Talmud students. Seeing his esteemed teacher and spiritual guide in the doorway, Rabbi Meir ceased lecturing. "Rabbi Akiva, my honored master, please come inside!"
Rabbi Akiva could barely speak. "M-Meir! Y-You're still alive! H-How did you get ashore?"
"Simple, my master. Instead of focusing on the stormy sea, I rode one wave at a time. I caught wave after wave until I reached the shore!"
The Sages teach, and this is widespread in Jewish thought, that man must act in even a small way in order to open the gates for Hashem to respond from above.
"Open to Me as the opening of the eye of a needle and I will open to you as the great entrance to th
Rabbi Salanter was washing his hands before a meal when the rabbis he was with noticed he was not immersing his whole hands in water in the ritual manner preferred by Jewish law. When questioned about this practice, Rabbi Salanter responded:
“I am not the one who obtains the water from the well; it is the poor peasant girl who must do so. Several times a week in the middle of this bitter winter, she must trudge out to the well, break the ice, and bring back pails of water for us to use in our home. The more water I use to wash my hands, the more often she has to face the bitter cold. And I do not want to be extra pious on the shoulders of her suffering.”