Past Weekly Shabbat Message
Jewish Heritage
Rabbi Dovid Saks
(Torah Portion Ki Savo) Maestro, Please!

In this week’s portion the Torah relates that G-d entered an alliance with the Jews - with us accepting the Almighty and following His precepts, and the Almighty taking us as His treasured, praised and sanctified nation. Through abiding by this agreement, G-d guarantees that we will be the recipients of His abundant blessings.

I recently came across the following inspirational and motivational observation. A man respectfully questioned Rabbi Moshe Plutchok, “What difference does it make if I study Torah, perform Mitzvos or recite prayers, after all, does anyone really care?" Struck by the sincerity of his question, Rabbi Moshe Plutchok shared with him this remarkable story:

A great symphony conductor, an Italian maestro named Arturo Toscanini (1867-1957), led concerts all over the world. He was known as an absolute perfectionist and had very few peers. Toscanini had a biographer who would interview him periodically as a part of a major book he was writing. One evening, he called Toscanini and told him that he would be in town the next night, and asked if he could come to the house to interview him. Toscanini answered that he could not because he would be doing something that would require absolute concentration and he could not be interrupted.

"Maestro," the biographer asked, "What are you doing that's so special?" "There is a concert being played overseas. I had been the conductor of that symphony orchestra, but I could not be there this year. So I'm going to listen on a shortwave radio and listen how the other conductor leads the orchestra. I can’t have any interruptions whatsoever."

"Maestro, it would be my greatest pleasure to watch how you listen to this concert, I promise I'll sit quietly on the other side of the room." "You promise to be perfectly quiet?" Toscanini asked. "Yes." "Then you can come."

The next night, the biographer came and sat quietly while Toscanini listened to the concert, which lasted almost an hour. When it ended, the biographer remarked, "Wow, wasn't that magnificent?" Toscanini said "Not really." "Why not?"

"They were supposed to be 120 musicians, including 15 violinists. Only 14 of them played."

The biographer thought he was joking. How could he know from 6000 miles away over shortwave radio, that one of the violinists was missing? The biographer having his doubts, called the concert hall the next morning and asked for the music director. He inquired how many musicians were supposed to have been playing the night before and how many actually showed up. The concert hall director told him that they were supposed to have 120 musicians, including 15 violinists, but only14 showed up!

The biographer was amazed. He returned to Toscanini and said, "Sir, I owe you an apology. I thought that the other night you were just making it up. But please, tell me, how could you know that one violinist was missing?"

"There is a great difference between you and me", Toscanini answered." You are a part of the audience and to the audience everything sounds wonderful. But I'm the conductor, and the conductor has to know every note of music that has to be played. When I realized that certain notes were not being played, I knew without a doubt that one of the violinists was missing."

Rabbi Plutchok now turned to the man and said, “It may not seem to make a difference to you or to anyone else if you pray or observe the Torah, but to the Conductor of the World Symphony – The One Who knows every ‘note of music’ that is supposed to be prayed, Who knows every Mitzvah that is supposed to be observed, - to Him it makes a difference! He loves us and cares for us, and every one of us counts.”

The man, who was battling a terminal illness embraced Rabbi Plutchok and could not thank him enough for his encouraging words.

A while later, Rabbi Plutchok met the son of this man and inquired how his father was feeling. The son told him that his father had recently passed away and said to the rabbi, “Ever since you shared that heartwarming and penetrating thought with my father, whenever he fulfilled his Mitzva obligations, he would proudly declare, "I am performing for the Conductor of the World Symphony!"

Each of our unique and distinct allegiance to the sacred values of Torah serves to complete the harmony of our alliance with our Conductor.

Wishing you a restful, peaceful and inspirational Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks