This week’s Perashah, Vayikra, begins the third book of the Humash, the five books of Moshe Rabenu. The first two books concern the beginnings of the world and the building of the Jewish nation. The book of Vayikra now turns to the sacrifices that Hashem instructs the Israelites to bring to the Bet Hamikdash, and begins with these words: “And He called to Moshe, and Hashem spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting, saying, Speak to B'nei Yisrael and say to them: When a man from among you brings a sacrifice to Hashem: from animals, from cattle or from the flock you shall bring your sacrifice.”
Today we don't have a Bet Hamikdash and until the Mashiah rebuilds it, we must remain without one. Therefore we cannot bring sacrifices to the Bet Hamikdash until that time. However, we have been making other types of sacrifices since losing our Holy Temple. The Jewish people have sacrificed so much over the years. Through the diaspora they have had to sacrifice their homes, their livelihood and even their lives for the sake of Hashem and our holy Torah through pogroms, inquisitions and a holocaust until this very day. But there's another type of sacrifice that we as Jews take upon ourselves. To defend our beliefs and our commitments to our Torah laws that our people will not deviate from no matter what! The following story is a perfect example of this type of commitment and our current every day sacrifices!
Our Sages tell us in Midrash Rabba: שמעו לי - שאין אדם שומע לי ומפסיד. "Listen to Me, because nobody ever loses by listening to me." A person is constantly faced with decisions. He can either chose to do what Hashem wants or what appears to provide a bigger gain for him at the moment. We must understand this concept that may be difficult, but that following Hashem is always a winning decision. It may not always seem that way at first but at some point, later on, the gain will become very apparent.
Rabbi Fischel Schachter told a story about a musician named Alex Clare. Alex was born in 1985 and grew up in London with a totally secular background, without any Jewish education. He had a passion for music and was very talented. He played many instruments, sang and composed songs. He was determined to make music his career. In 2007, at the age of 22, he began learning about Judaism and before long he felt very spiritually connected to his religion. He began keeping Kosher and then he committed to keeping Shabbat. He eventually signed a contract with a major record label, Island Records. But he told them in advance that he would not perform on Shabbat. They were not happy about it, but they agreed because he was so talented. He recorded his debut album with them, but he needed opportunities to promote it. As it happened, every event or appearance was scheduled for Friday night, and Alex turned them all down. Then, an excellent opportunity arose. He was offered the chance to do a world tour with the famous English singer, named Adele. His producers told him, "This is it, the chance you've been waiting for." But Alex told them, "I'm sorry, it comes out on my holiday of Passover. I'm going to have to turn it down." That summer his album was released, but did not receive much attention, due to his limited promotion. A few months later, right after Yom Kippur, Alex found a message on his phone from Island Records. "You' re not going to believe this, but BBC Radio told us that they had a cancellation for one of their segments and they want you to play live. This will be in front of a national audience and broadcast throughout Europe. You will receive national coverage and gain thousands of listeners. This is what we need to promote your album. The best part of it is that it's on a Thursday night, so you can do it." Alex couldn't believe the opportunity he was hearing about. Thursday night, however, was the first night of Succot. With a lot of courage, Alex called them and said he couldn't do it. This was the last straw. They told him, "If you turn this down, we are cutting your contract. This will result in you being blacklisted and basically end your very short career."
At this time, Alex was penniless. He couldn't even make his next month’s rent payment. But he began to think of the Piyut he had read that day, on Yom Kippur, about Rabbi Amnon who gave up his life for Judaism. With tremendous strength, he said to himself, "If Rabbi Amnon could give up his life, I can give up my music." He told his promoters that he would not play on his holiday under any circumstances, and indeed they cut his contract. All of his dreams were shattered in an instant. In need of Hizuk, Alex went to his Rabbi, Dovid Tugendhaft. He told him, "Rabbi, I don't understand. All I have ever done since I became religious is sacrifice for Judaism, and now Im losing everything I ever dreamed of?" His Rabbi told him, "This reminds me of the story of Avraham Avinu. He invested his whole life to change the world and spread the belief in One G-d, a loving and compassionate G-d who doesn't want people sacrificing their children to Idolatry. And then he was asked to sacrifice his own son, which would have made all of his teachings a mockery in the eyes of the world. He would have to give up on his lifelong mission, but he showed readiness to obey and became great as a result. That was one of the greatest moments in Jewish history."
The Rabbi continued, “Alex you are being asked to give up your dream for Hashem. It will make you great." A few hard months passed, until one day, he received a phone call from Microsoft. They wanted to use one of his tracks to launch their new version of Internet Explorer. Of course, he agreed, and the song was used in an ad in March 2012. The song was soon playing all over the world. It became the number one hit in Germany, number four in the UK singles chart and number seven in the U.S. His debut album now sold over six million copies. Alex Clare became a multi-millionaire instantly. He did not lose from keeping Shabbat. But its important to note that he didn't see any success arise from his sacrifice for a very long time. Week after week, he turned down jobs, and it kept getting worse. A person never loses from following Hashem, but we must be patient and stick to our convictions because rarely do we see immediate results. We also see from this that Hashem knows how to find a person and bring him success when He chooses to. Alex didn't have to go play in a hundred different places to gain recognition. It was one advertisement that did it. If a person follows Hashem, he will not always have immediate success, but he will be sure to have success somewhere down the road.
May we all realize that the sacrifices we make for Hashem and our Torah can be very difficult to go through, but we have to know that these hurdles or sacrifices that we face are all hand-picked by Hashem for us to triumph over and to for us to grow our Emunah stronger and stronger in our devotion to Hashem which will ultimately be for our benefit! Amen!