Rabbi Yehoshua Alt
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Rabbi Alt merited to learn under the tutelage of R’ Mordechai Friedlander ztz”l for close to five years. He received Semicha from R’ Zalman Nechemia Goldberg ztz”l. Rabbi Alt has written on numerous topics for various websites and publications and is the author of the books, Fascinating Insights and Incredible Insights. His writings inspire people across the spectrum of Jewish observance to live with the vibrancy and beauty of Torah. He lives with his wife and family in a suburb of Yerushalayim where he studies, writes, and teaches. The author is passionate about teaching Jews of all levels of observance.
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How do we overcome temptations—whether it is a test not to eat something or looking at the improper and so on?
Thinking that this test will always arise can lead to despairing thoughts. To overcome temptation we need to take it one day at a time. A story about when the Steipler was in the Russian army illustrates this point. One freezing cold Shabbos, the coat he would wear was on a tree. Not wanting to transgress that which is forbidden on Shabbos, he asked himself every few minutes if he needed the coat. Each time he felt he could go another few minutes without it. In this way he made it through the cold night without the coat. In this light, the Chasam Sofer interprets ואתם הדבקים…היום: to cling to Hashem by overcoming the Yetzer Hara, חיים כולכם היום, take it day by day.
In a similar way, this is how Yosef overcame the test with the wife of Potifar as it says יום יום as he took it one day at a time. We see the same by Mordechai in that he didn’t bow to Haman, as it says יום ויום. What was the outcome of this? Yosef and Mordechai each became the viceroy!
With his solid faith and endurance, Andrew Burian, who survived the Birkenau and Mauthausen concentration camps as well as the infamous death march evacuations for each camp, has inspired tens of thousands of people. He revealed with the following story how he survived the Holocaust. It was January 18, 1945 when they began the infamous death march, marching out of Birkenau to the Gleiwitz railroad station, more than 30 miles away. People were constantly being killed by the Germans. Andrew was malnourished and had rags on his feet instead of shoes and was freezing to death. Stumbling or not keeping with the pace meant instant death. However, by day three he couldn’t motivate himself to march any longer. Consequently, he began to slow down and despair. The man near him noticed his weakening, and asked him do you see the steeple on that building? That’s where we need to reach and we will then have arrived at our destination. Then Andrew thought, “I can hold out until that steeple, as I can see it up ahead.” When they reached the steeple and didn’t stop Andrew turned to the man who quickly responded, “Not this one. The one just up ahead.” This scene continued to repeat itself until he understood the message—that a person can motivate himself to do anything so as long as there is a goal in sight. With this thought, he motivated himself to walk mile after mile, steeple after steeple.
An undertaking can seem insurmountable. However, little by little we can overcome it. This is what Daf Yomi does as the entire shas can seem impossible. With a Daf daily, the goal of finishing shas is achievable. To help us with an overwhelming task we should focus only on the day and hour before us. Otherwise, it can seem too large a burden. A successful life is the cumulative outcome of many successful minutes, hours and days. Building a tall brick wall can seem overwhelming but putting brick by brick isn’t. Nevertheless, we still benefit by envisioning the tall sturdy brick wall before we begin.
People that have climbed the K2 mountain (in which many people have died trying to do so), which is the second-highest mountain (after Mount Everest), were asked how they managed to do it. Expecting to hear some complicated answer, the reporters were surprised by the answer: “One step at a time!”