Rashi writes as follows: “These are the journeys of Bnei Yisrael... Why are these (42) journeys written here? To inform us of the chesed (kindness) of the Omnipresent, for although He issued a decree to move them about and make them wander in the desert...you will find that throughout the 38 years they made only 20 journeys.” My good friend Rabbi Dovid Gurwitz, shlita, showed me something amazing. Each one of the 42 journeys that Bnei Yisrael made are preceded and succeeded with the words “vayisu…vayachanu, they journeyed...and they camped.” The gematria of vayisu is 152, and vayachanu is 80. The difference is 72: the value of the word chesed, kindness!

The first national Jewish organization to pioneer Jewish day schools in the US, at a time when European Jewry was facing the genocide of the Holocaust, was Torah Umesorah. It was founded by R’ Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz, zt”l, who maintained that without Torah education there would be, within one generation, nothing left of Torah observance in America. Just as Bnei Yisrael were left to die in the desert after the sin of the meraglim and only their children were permitted to enter the Holy Land and continue the legacy of the Jewish people, American Jewry was now the largest Jewish community in the world, and for every Torah school in Europe that had been destroyed, he was determined to build a new one in America.

One of the leading chasidic rebbes in pre-war Europe was R’ Avraham Mordechai Alter, zt”l, also known as the Imrei Emes, the third Rebbe of the dynasty of Ger. The Imrei Emes held this position from 1905 until his death in 1948. He was one of the founders of the Agudas Yisroel in Poland and was influential in establishing a network of Jewish schools there. It is claimed that at one time he led over 200,000 chasidim. During World War II, R’ Avraham Mordechai was a prime target of the Nazi authorities in Poland. Through a miraculous chain of events, he managed to escape Warsaw at the outset of the war and reached Italy. From there, he boarded a ship bound for Palestine in 1940 with several of his sons and began to slowly rebuild his chasidic dynasty.

In addition to his greatness in Torah learning, R’ Avrohom Genichovski, zt”l, the rosh yeshivah of Tchebin, was also a giant in middos and bein adam lachaveiro. Chesed encompassed his entire life. People constantly visited his home for advice, consolation, and monetary loans. Millions of shekels of charity funds passed through his hands and none of it remained with him. He was always on the lookout for people in need and would often seek them out. He was known to co-sign on loans for people, and in one situation this practice came back to hurt him.

The soul of a Jew is pure. No matter how sullied the building, the foundation is never spoiled. We are assured that no amount of sin can sever the connection of a Jew from his Maker. Thus, Hashem gives us an opportunity each and every year to remove the stench of sin that we have brought upon ourselves through the t’shuvah process on Yom Kippur. No matter one’s station in life, Hashem is willing and eager to accept every last one of His children back into the fold. As we say: “Al da’as HaMakom v’al da’as hakahal…anu mispalelim im ha’avaryanim – With Hashem’s consent and the consent of the congregation ... we pray even with the sinners.”

When R’ Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook, zt”l, was the chief rabbi of Yaffo, an immigrant couple from Bialystok came before him. The woman complained terribly about her husband’s behavior and demanded a divorce. After meeting with them for a while, the chief rabbi saw there was no chance of making peace between them and agreed that divorce was the only solution. However, the cruel husband refused to free the woman from the torture she suffered at his hands and would not agree to divorce her. No manner of persuasion was effective. This went on for over two years.