Parashiot Vayakhel-Pekudei!

Dear Friends;

 

I hope that you will enjoy the following Parashiot summaries followed by a Dvar Torah;

 

” Parashat Vayakhel in a Nutshell “

 

Moshe advices Benei Israel to keep Shabbat once again, and requests donations for the materials for making the Mishkan–portable Sanctuary for G-d. He collects gold, silver, precious stones, skins and yarn, as well as incense and olive oil for the Menorah and for anointing. The princes of each tribe bring the precious stones for the Kohen Gadol’s breastplate and ephod- an apronlike vestment worn just underneath the breastplate.

 

G-d appoints Bezalel and Oholiav as the master craftsmen. Benei Israel contribute so much that Moshe begins to refuse donations. Special curtains with two different covers were designed for the Mishkan’s roof and door. Gold-covered boards in silver formed the Mishkan’s walls. Bezalel made the Holy Ark from wood covered with gold. On the Ark’s cover were two figures facing each other (Cherubim). The Menorah and the Table were also of gold. Two altars were made: a small incense altar of wood overlaid with gold, and a larger altar for sacrifices made of wood covered with copper.

 

” Parashat Pekudei in a Nutshell “

 

After finishing all the different parts, vessels and garments used in the Mishkan, Moshe gives a complete accounting and enumeration of all the contributions and of the various clothing and vessels which had been made.

 

Benei Israel bring everything to Moshe. He inspects the handiwork and notes that everything was made according to G-d’s specifications. Moshe blesses the people. G-d speaks to Moshe and tells him that the Mishkan should be set up on the first day of the month of Nissan. He also tells Moshe the order of assembly for the Mishkan and its vessels. Moshe does everything in the prescribed manner. When the Mishkan is finally complete with every vessel in its place, a cloud descends upon it, indicating that G-d’s glory was resting there. Whenever the cloud moved away from the Mishkan, Benei Israel would follow it. At night the cloud was replaced by a pillar of fire.

 

” Dvar Torah “

 

Last week we read the tragic story of the Golden Calf. Unfortunately, the children of Israel committed a grave sin. They made themselves a molten imagine and began to worship it while Moses was away. When Moses came down the mountain and saw the calf, the Torah says the people were “peruah”, meaning “wild, disorderly, chaotic, unruly, lawless.” Moses “saw that the people were running wild and that Aaron had let them get out of control and so become a laughingstock to their enemies.”

 

So, what did Moses do when he saw that the people made for themselves a golden calf, run riot and lost its sense of ethical and spiritual direction? How do you restore moral order? How do you bring them back to serve  G-d?!

 

Well, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks says that the answer lies in the first few words of Parashat Vayakhel. The Parsha starts off by saying “Moses gathered the entire assembly of the children of Israel….” The word “Yayakhel” comes from the word “Kehila”, meaning “community”. When Moses came down the mountain, he didn’t see a community, but just a crowd! So, he decided to gather them together and make them into a community again, because the best way to restore order and bring back the people to serve G-d is by making a “Kehila”! And once he did that, he reminded them about two commandments: Shabbat and building a Mishkan.

 

But why did Moshe choose these two commandments out of all the other commandments to teach the Benei Yisrael at this time? Well, Rabbi Sacks says it’s because Shabbat and the Mishkan are the two most powerful ways of building a community. The best way of turning a diverse, disconnected group into a team is to get them to build something together. Hence the Mishkan. Building a house for G-d not only brings unity among people, but it also brings people closer to their Creator. And the best way of strengthening the relationship between man and his fellow, is by praying, eating and spending time together —– things that can only be done Shabbat. Shabbat and the mishkan were the two great community-building experiences of the Israelites in the desert.

 

In Judaism, community is essential to the spiritual life. Our holiest prayers require a minyan. When we celebrate or mourn we do so as a community. Even when we confess on Yom Kippur, we do so together. Rambam says “One who separates himself from the community, even if he does not commit a sin but merely holds himself aloof from the congregation of Israel; he who does not fulfil the commandments together with his people; a person who shows himself indifferent and isolates himself from the rest of the community — such a person has no share in the world to come.”  In Judaism, it is as a community that we come before G-d. “Na-ase Ve Nishma”. For us the key relationship is not “I shall do”, but “We shall do”!!

 

Yes my friends, the Torah is once again teaching us the importance of the community. To be a Jew, you need to belong to a community! Judaism and individualism are two opposing concepts. G-d wants to see us together when we pray, when we celebrate, when we eat, when we rest and even when we cry. He wants us to help other members of our community and care for each other. He wants us to be united!

 

B”H, in the Mashadi community, we take this matter very seriously. Community is one of the most important aspects of our lives. We choose where to live, where to work, where to study, who to socialize with and who to marry, all based on the community we belong to. We gladly participate in each other’s happy occasions, but on the other hand, we also share tears in each other’s sorrow. And the two commandments that we take very seriously are, building a Sanctuary for G-d and Shabbat, just like the two commandments that Moshe taught the Benei Yisrael when they needed to be united!

In other cultures and religions, the success of an individual is measured by his or her accomplishments. In Judaism however, the greatness of a person is valued by how much he has done for his community!

 

Shabbat Shalom & Regards;

 

Martin

 

Rabbi Barak Levy Lectures

Lecture 1 – “Not my Child” – Drugs & Alcohol

  • Drugs & alcohol no longer discriminate between good students or bad.
  • The first step in prevention is education (odorless E-cigs, etc).
  • Parents must band together and work as a team to fully solve the problem.
  • Structure helps kids make positive decisions (bring back boundaries).
  • Our actions determine our children’s actions (drinking, losing temper, etc)
  • The ‘best kid’ will eventually succumb to peer pressure at parties.
  • Parents must be clear: kids must hear ‘they will never be alone’
  • Parents are legally liable if a kid overdoses at a party in their house.
  • The parent of 2018 must not expect kids to raise themselves – be present!

 

 

Lecture 2 – Communicating with the 2018 teen (part 1)

  • The 2018 teen is extremely confused: need boundaries and consistency.
  • Male & Female brains are different, but society says they are the same.
  • Boys & girls are using each others language & act similarly – creates confusion.
  • Girls now pressure, bully, & name call other girls to be physically intimate
  • When parents aren’t available, kids turn to their peers (“blind leading the blind”)
  • Shiddukh crisis because teens act, dress, and are physically intimate like adults (no rush)
  • Kids are angry today, and answer their parents back because they have no boundaries.
  • No shame in getting phones taken away – have other means (Whatsapp web, old phone)

 

 

Lecture 3 – Communicating with the 2018 teen (part 2)

  • There is no textbook teen, no textbook conversation, no ‘1 size fits all’ kid.
  • Encourage children to be who is right for them, not right for parents or society.
  • Transition from child’s “Manager” to teen’s “consultant” for advice & direction
  • The most important thing is patience, patience, & more patience
  • Learn & know (don’t assume). Find out why kids act up in certain situations.
  • To get our kids to keep their word, we must lead by example (no empty threats)
  • Try deferred punishment.  Wait 24 hours to see the child deliberate the mistake
  • Make them bigger.  Say “I know why you did this, but I wouldn’t expect this from you.”
  • “Walk the walk”: Use kids vernacular to get them to open up
  • Own up to mistakes – apologize for losing temper or a false accusation
  • Best way to get kids to talk: ask them to teach you something (e.g. phones)
  • Find the right time to talk: driving (no focus), late at night (after distractions)
  • No double standards at home (phone at dinner, binge drinking, etc)

 

Parashat Tetzaveh & Purim!

Dear Friends;

 

I hope that you will enjoy the following Parsha summary followed by a Dvar Torah on Purim;

 

” Parsha in a Nutshell “

 

G-d tells Moshe to command the Jewish People to supply pure olive oil for the menorah in the Mishkan(Tent of Meeting). He also tells Moshe to organize the making of the bigdei kehuna(priestly garments): A breastplate, an ephod, a robe, a checkered tunic, a turban, a sash, a forehead-plate, and linen trousers. Upon their completion, Moshe is to perform a ceremony for seven days to consecrate Aharon and his sons. This includes offering sacrifices, dressing Aharon and his sons in their respective garments, and anointing Aharon with oil. G-d commands that every morning and afternoon a sheep be offered on the altar in the Mishkan. G-d commands that an altar for incense be built from acacia wood and covered with gold. Aharon and his descendants should burn incense on this altar every day.

 

“ Purim, the Festival of Unity “

 

Every Jewish Festival or Holiday, has a theme to it and comes with a “message”. For example, Pesach is all about eating Matzot and remembering the Exodus. Its’ message: Be grateful to Hashem who took you out of Egypt from slavery with strong arms and chose you to be his Chosen People.

Sukkot, is all about leaving the comfort of our homes and going to live in a temporary “Hut”, so that we realize that our comfortable homes and all of our belongings, are all because of Hashem’s generosity and not because of our own intelligence and hard work!

Shavuot, is all about receiving the Torah and realizing that we are Hashem’s chosen people and we are obligated to follow his commandments.

Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur is all about repentance. Once a year, we have to ask for forgiveness from Hashem, for all the sins that we have committed in previous year, and try our best not to repeat them again.

Chanukkah is the festival of lights. Its message is to show us that even at the darkest point in our lives, Hashem does not abandon us, and there is always a light at the end of a tunnel.

So, what is the theme for Purim and what message does it carry with it? Some people may think that it’s only a Festival for the children. They put costumes on them and they send out bags of candies to their friends. Others might think it’s a Holiday just to have fun. It’s time to party, dance and get drunk for some unknown reason?!

But surely, there has to be something more informative about the Festival of Purim?! After a short research, I came across a drasha given by Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetsky which explains the theme of Purim. He says that the true message of Purim can be found in the Megillah itself!

The story of the Megillah occurred in 4th century BCE. King Achashverosh ruled over the Persian Empire which extended over 127 provinces (countries). King Achashverosh had his wife, Queen Vashti, executed for failing to follow his orders. He then orchestrated a beauty pageant to find a new queen. A Jewish girl, Esther, found favor in his eyes and became the new queen—though she refused to reveal her identity. Meanwhile, Haman was appointed prime minister of the empire. Mordechai, the leader of the Jews and Esther’s cousin, defied the king’s orders and refused to bow to Haman. Because of Mordechai’s disrespect, Haman got very angry and decided to exterminate all of the Jews, who all lived under King Achashverosh’s ruling at the time.

In order to convince the king to issue a decree ordering the extermination of all the Jews, Haman came to the King with the following argument: ” There is ONE nation scattered among your people in all of your provinces. They have their own laws, and they don’t even obey the King’s law.”

Rabbi Kamenetsky says that the same argument Haman used for asking to kill the Jews, is also the reason for their salvation. The key word here is “ONE”! The Jews were scattered across the 127 provinces of King Achashverosh jurisdiction which was almost the whole world of the time, but they were all united as ONE nation. They all prayed together, they all fasted together and they really cared about each other. Queen Esther was even ready to give up her life, in order to save the lives of the other Jews!! And because of the unity and the love that they had for one another, Hashem saved them from the wicked hands of Haman and his followers, and they became victorious over their enemy!

Yes my friends, the message of Purim is quite clear! Purim is a Festival of unity and friendship!! When we are united, there are no kings or leaders in the world that could defeat us. Hashem is always with us when we are united. The Festival of Purim is the time to bring us closer to each other. It is the time to show our love for one another and to show that we care about ALL the Jews across the world and not just the ones in our own community! In the whole Megillah, there is no mention of Hashem’s name, not even once! Maybe it’s because during this Festival, Hashem wants us to get closer to each other, rather than to get closer to Him! It’s a Holiday for us Jews to bond together!! That’s why the main Mitzvot of this Holiday is to give gifts, preferably to a distance friend, and give charity to the people in need. It’s the time to get rid of all the grudges and find the way to become close to those people who we have distance ourselves from!! It’s a time to find a way to people’s heart and love everyone we know! And that’s what Purim is all about!

So my friends, let us celebrate Purim this year with a different attitude. Let’s find it in our hearts to love every other Jew. Let’s drink, dance and party together. But keep in mind that the reason for our celebration is not because we just want to have fun, but rather, the main reason is that we really do care about each other!

 

Shabbat Shalom, Purim Sameach & Regards;

Martin

 

Parashat VaEra!

Dear friends;

 

I hope you’ll enjoy the following parsha summary followed by a Dvar Torah;

 

” Parsha in a Nutshell “

 

G-d reveals Himself to Moshe. He promises to take out the Children of Israel from Egypt, deliver them from their enslavement, redeem them and acquire them as His own chosen people at Mount Sinai; He will then bring them to the Land He promised to the Patriarchs as their eternal heritage.

Moshe and Aaron repeatedly come before Pharaoh to demand in the name of G-d, “Let My people go, so that they may serve Me in the wilderness.” Pharaoh repeatedly refuses. Moshe’s staff turns into a snake and swallows the magic sticks of the Egyptian sorcerers. G-d then sends a series of plagues upon the Egyptians.

The waters of the Nile turn to blood; swarms of frogs overrun the land; lice infest all men and beasts. Hordes of wild animals invade the cities, a pestilence kills the domestic animals, painful boils afflict the Egyptians. For the seventh plague, fire and ice combine to descend from the skies as a devastating hail. Still, “the heart of Pharaoh was hardened and he would not let the children of Israel go; as G-d had said to Moshe.

 

” Dvar Torah “

 

This week’s Parsha is packed with miracles, plagues and supernatural events. Water turning into blood; hail pellets with a core of fire; dreadful plagues of frogs, lice, wild beasts, pestilence and boils. G-d through Moshe, performs miracles for the Jews, and brings plagues upon the Egyptians that have never been seen before. But it seems that some people just never learn. For almost a year Pharaoh was literally plagued by every conceivable misfortune, yet he refused to let the Jewish people go. Of course, he pleaded with Moshe during every plague to stop the great inconvenience, pain, and disaster that were befalling his country. He would even beg for mercy and promise to let the Jews go, yet he never admitted guilt. He would plead with Moshe to stop the various plagues. “Pray for me and remove the frogs! I will let you serve your G-d in the desert.” Sometimes he would offer unrestricted freedom, only to go back on his word when the plagues ceased. Never, except on one occasion, did Pharaoh admit that G-d was right and he was wrong.

That exception was the plague of hail. In fact, the plague of hail was so powerful that even Hashem Himself categorized it in a unique way. Moshe, quoting Hashem, said to Pharaoh: “This time I shall send ALL my plagues against your heart, upon your servants, and your people so that you shall know that there is none like Me in the world.”  Why did Hashem consider the hail a more powerful act than His turning water into blood, or delivering pestilence, or wild animals or frogs? True, the hail did miraculously contain a fire shield by ice, but all the plagues had miraculous attributes to them. Turning the Nile into blood is not an everyday type of a miracle either! So, what characteristic did the hail have to label it as “all my plagues”?

Even more troubling is Pharaoh’s response. After the plague of hail strikes Egypt, he calls Moshe and Aaron and he tells them, “this time I have sinned, Hashem is righteous and I and my people are the wicked ones!” What caused Pharaoh to utter those soothing words at this particular time? Didn’t he already see blood, frogs, pestilence, boils, wild animals, and a host of different miraculous misfortunes that befell his people? What was so special about the fire and ice falling from the heavens that brought one of the cruelest man on earth down to his knees?

Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetsky gives an interesting answer to this question. He says that there are many opposing forces in the world. However, when they work in tandem, they become the most powerful force possible. During this plague, fire and ice, two opposing forces in the world of nature disregarded their differences all in the service of the Supreme Commander, the G-d Almighty. When Hashem announced that He will send ALL of His plagues, he meant that when two conflicting forces work harmoniously together, they have the same power as ALL of the plagues put together!. After that, even Pharaoh was sensible enough, although for a short period of time, to see his imperfection and delusions. When even the worst of men see fire and ice dance together on one mission, there is nothing he can do but watch in amazement and admit, “Hashem is the righteous one and I and my people are the wicked ones.”

Yes my friends, when two opposing forces decide to work together, they create the most powerful force. There is one other place in the Torah which talks about opposite forces. In Parashat Bereshit, when G-d wanted to create Eve, the Torah says, G-d saw that it is not good for a man to be alone, so he created for him, “ezer kenegdo”, which means a helper against or “opposite” him. The Chachamim derive from this Pasuk that men and women are created differently and they might even have opposing ideas. But when they work together and are willing to get along, only then, they will create the most powerful force together! Partnership, whether in marriage or in business, is an excellent idea, but it only works when the two parties are willing to get along and work together despite their differences. And if they do, they’ll produce the most powerful force together!

Radio commentator, Paul Harvey, once related the following story which is another proof of the power of two opposing forces joining together: William and his Aunt Caroline, lived in two mansions adjacent to each other in New York City in the late 1890’s. They were constantly fighting. Actually, William was jealous of his aunt’s popularity and social status. Compared to her, he was considered a social outcast, and was never invited to any of her lavish parties. That would have been bad enough. Having to live next door to her was too much for William to bear. The sight of elegant carriages arriving and departing made him annoyed. Yet he could do nothing. At least he did nothing until the family fortune was distributed and he inherited 100 million dollars. Then he knew what to do. He decided to rip down his mansion and build an enormous hotel. It had 530 rooms, 350 baths, and a whopping 970 employees. It would be the grandest, most elegant guest house of it’s kind. More carriages would pull up to his property in a day then to his aunt’s mansion in a month! Her home would pale in comparison, and the commotion of it all would force her to move.

William was right. Aunt Caroline moved way north of the shadow of her nephew’s hotel. And then, she ripped down her old home. With the 100 million that she received, she too, decided to build a hotel on the site of her old mansion! It would be even more elegant, with nicer rooms and better service than her nephew’s. Two adjacent, competing hotels would have been built right next to each other if not for the wisdom of William’s own hotel manager. He got the two feuding relatives together and explained that hostility is not the way to success.

“With the fierce competition and price war that you are going to have, you would put each other out of business in no time. If you two could just work together and adjoin the two hotels as one, it would become the most outstanding and influential accommodation on earth,” he explained. They listened and followed his instructions. He even advised them to make sure that every opening between the structures could be sealed again in case of a renewed falling-out. But in the end, William Waldorf and his aunt, Caroline Astor decided to put away the locks and leave the openings, open forever. And the world’s most luxurious accommodation was built at the time — The Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.

Shabbat Shalom & Regards;

Martin

Parashat Miketz!

Dear Friends;

 

I hope that you’ll enjoy the following Parsha summary followed by a Dvar Torah;

 

” Parsha in a Nutshell “

 

Joseph’s imprisonment finally ends when Pharaoh dreams of seven fat cows that are swallowed up by seven lean cows, and of seven fat ears of grain swallowed by seven lean ears. Joseph interprets the dreams to mean that seven years of plenty will be followed by seven years of hunger, and advises Pharaoh to store grain during the plentiful years. Pharaoh appoints Joseph governor of Egypt. Joseph marries Asenath, daughter of Potiphar, and they have two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim.

Famine spreads throughout the region, and food can be obtained only in Egypt. Ten of Joseph’s brothers come to Egypt to purchase grain; the youngest, Benjamin, stays home, for Jacob fears for his safety. Joseph recognizes his brothers, but they do not recognize him; he accuses them of being spies, insists that they bring Benjamin to prove that they are who they say they are, and imprisons Shimon as a hostage. Later, they discover that the money they paid for their provisions has been mysteriously returned to them.

Jacob agrees to send Benjamin only after Judah takes personal and eternal responsibility for him. This time Joseph receives them kindly, releases Shimon, and invites them to an eventful dinner at his home. But then he plants his silver goblet, pretending to have magical powers, in Benjamin’s sack. When the brothers set out for home the next morning they are pursued, searched, and arrested when the goblet is found in Benjamin’s sack. Joseph offers to set them free and to keep only Benjamin as his slave.

 

“ Dvar Torah “

 

This week, we continue with the story of Joseph. So, the excitement continues! Pharaoh has a dream. In his dream he sees himself standing over the Nile River, and behold, there came up out of the River seven cows, handsome and fat of flesh, and they fed in the grass reed. And, behold, seven other cows came up after them out of the River, ugly and lean of flesh, and stood by the other cows upon the bank of the River. And the ugly and lean cows ate up the seven handsome and fat cows, and still, stayed thin and ugly.

Pharaoh wakes up in distress. Falls asleep again. He has a second dream. This time he sees seven thin, dried ears of grain swallow seven fat ears of grain.

In the morning, Pharaoh summons all his wise men and advisors, but none of them can offer Pharaoh a satisfactory interpretation of his dreams. Then, the “young Hebrew slave,” Joseph, is summoned from the dungeon to the palace. Joseph interprets the dreams to mean that seven years of plenty, symbolized by the fat cows and fat grain, will be followed by seven years of hunger, reflected by the lean cows and the shriveled ears. The seven years of famine will be so powerful that they will “swallow up” and wipe out any trace of the years of plenty.

Joseph then advises Pharaoh how to deal with the situation: “Now Pharaoh must seek out a man with insight and wisdom and place him in charge of Egypt.” A rationing system will have to be set up over Egypt during the seven years of surplus, Joseph explains, in which grain will be stored for the upcoming years of famine.

Pharaoh is blown away by Joseph’s vision. “Can there be another person who has G‑d’s spirit in him as this man does?” Pharaoh asks his advisors. “There is none as understanding and wise as you,” he says to Joseph. “You shall be over my house, and according to your word shall all my people be ruled; only by the throne will I outrank you.” Joseph is thus appointed viceroy of Egypt.

A few questions come to mind. First of all, following his interpretation of the dreams, Joseph proceeded to give Pharaoh advice on how to deal with the impending famine. How dare does a newly liberated prisoner offer the king of Egypt, the most powerful man on the face of the earth, unsolicited advice? Pharaoh summoned Joseph from the dungeon to interpret his dreams, but not to become an advisor to the king?! Second of all, why was Pharaoh so mesmerized by Joseph?! What was so genius about Joseph’s advice?! Joseph’s interpretation seems simple and obvious. When are cows fat? When there is lots of food. When are they lean? When there’s no food. When is grain fat? When there is a plentiful harvest. When is grain lean? During a time of famine. And you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to suggest that if you have seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine, you should store food during the time of plenty for the time of hunger. So why couldn’t the advisors of Pharaoh come up with the same interpretation?! Keep in mind that the King’s advisors at that time, they all knew Astrology and had the power to see the future.

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Late Lubavitcher Rebbe, gave a beautiful answer to these questions. He said that the Pharaoh’s advisers did indeed come up with the same interpretation as Joseph, but they rejected it instantly because they could not make sense of one part of the dream. The Torah says: “ And, behold, seven other cows came up after them out of the River, ugly and lean of flesh, and stood side by side of the other cows upon the bank of the River…….”. In other words, there was a moment during which both sets of cows coexisted simultaneously! It was this detail of the dream that caused the wise men of Egypt to reject the interpretation that Joseph would later offer to Pharaoh, for how is it possible that plenty and famine should coexist? You can either have abundance of food or you can have no food, but you cannot have them both together!

This is where Joseph’s brilliance was revealed. When Joseph proceeded to tell Pharaoh how to prepare for the upcoming famine, he wasn’t offering an unwelcoming advice to the King on how to run his country; but rather, the advice was part of the dream’s interpretation!

Joseph understood that the coexistence of the two sets of cows contained the solution to the approaching famine: During the years of plenty, Egypt must “live” with the years of famine as well, as though they were already present. Even while enjoying the abundance of the years of plenty, Egypt must experience in its imagination the reality of the upcoming famine, and each and every day store away food for it. The seven lean cows ought to be very much present and alive in people’s minds and in their behavior during the era of the seven fat cows. And this is what impressed Pharaoh so deeply about Joseph —— one little detail of the dream that no other wise man could see!

Yes my friends, there is a great lesson to be learned from Joseph’s interpretation. In the times of plenty, we should always think and prepare ourselves for the times of need. B”H, when the times are good, extremely good, we all live our lives to the fullest. We all buy the best houses, we get the best cars, we wear the best clothes and we go on the best vacations. But what if, G-d forbid, the things turn around one day and it becomes hard to make a living. How many of us have saved from the time when Hashem gave us plenty? And this is the essence of Joseph’s wisdom: You must never detach the years of plenty from the years of famine; they should coexist together. At the time of plenty we should save up for the time of need. Unlike the western mentality which believes in “live each day to the fullest”, us Jews, believe in securing our future. For us, living in the future is as important as living today!

So my friends, the next time you make a big profit in a business deal, you shouldn’t ask yourself “what should I buy with the money I just made”, but rather, “how much of it should I save on the side”?!……….

 

Shabbat Shalom, Happy Hanukkah, Chodesh Tov and Regards;

Martin

 

Parashat Vayishlach!

Dear friends;

 

I hope that you’ll enjoy the following Parsha summary followed by a Dvar Torah.

 

” Parsha in a Nutshell “

 

Jacob returns to the Holy Land after more than 20 years stay in Charan, and sends messengers to Esau in hope of a reconciliation, but his messengers report that his brother is on his way with 400 armed men. Jacob prepares for war, prays, but decides to go in peace and sends Esau a large gift (consisting of hundreds of sheep and cattle) to appease him.

 

That night, Jacob ferries his family and possessions them across the Yabbok River; he, however, remains behind and encounters the angel, with whom he wrestles until daybreak. Jacob suffers a dislocated hip but triumphs the supernatural creature, who bestows on him the name “Yisrael”, which means “He who prevails over the Divine.”

 

Jacob and Esau meet, embrace and kiss, but part ways. Jacob purchases a plot of land near Shechem, whose crown prince — also called Shechem — abducts and rapes Jacob’s daughter Dinah. Dinah’s brothers Simon and Levi avenge the deed by killing all male inhabitants of the city after rendering them vulnerable by convincing them to circumcise themselves.

 

Jacob journeys on. Rachel dies while giving birth to her second son, Benjamin, and is buried in a roadside grave near Bethlehem. Reuben loses the birthright because he interferes with his father’s marital life. Jacob arrives in Chevron, to his father Isaac, who later dies at age 180.

 

Our parshah concludes with a detailed account of Esau’s wives, children and grandchildren, and the family histories of the people of Se’ir among whom Esau settled.

 

” Dvar Torah “

 

The character of our Forefather Jacob really fascinates me. He was the man who became Israel, our father in faith. Israel is the one whose name we bear, not Abraham nor Isaac. Jacob is not the most obvious choice of religious hero. He does not appear – at least on the surface of the biblical text – as a man with Abraham’s courage or kindness or Isaac’s faithfulness and self-restraint. He was a man surrounded by conflict: with his brother Esau, his father-in-law Laban, his wives, Leah and Rachel, and his children, whose sibling rivalry eventually brought the whole family into exile in Egypt. His life seems to have been a field of tensions. The way he purchased Esau’s birthright, took his blessing, and eventually outwitted his sneaky father-in-law Laban only shows his deceitful ways of doing transactions.

 

So the obvious question is: why did the Torah choose to portray the third of the Patriarchs and the most important one to our faith in this way? The Torah is highly selective in the details it chooses to relate. Why not paint Jacob in more attractive colors? Why couldn’t it use the midrashic way to describe Jacob? The midrash says that even in the womb Jacob longed for a synagogue, who spent his years as a young man studying in the bet midrash, who looked like Abraham and whose arms were like pillars of marble. His motives were always pure. He bought Esau’s birthright because he could not bear to see Esau offering sacrifices (the privilege of the firstborn) to idols. As for his father’s blessing, the very reason Isaac became blind in old age was so that this could be possible. Esau was the opposite, a violent and mercurial character who had deceived his father into thinking he was ultra-pious, but who had – on the day he came in “tired” from the field – committed a whole series of crimes including murder.

 

But the Torah chose not to describe him in this way. The Torah only relates to us his deceptions. His life was a series of struggles. Nothing came easily to him. So the question that still remains is “why Jacob”? What was so special about him that became “Israel”, the father of the Chosen People?!

 

Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks gives a beautiful explanation. He says that Jacob, out of all the patriarchs, was a man who chose to be chosen. Abraham was called by G-d. Isaac was chosen before his birth. G-d appeared to Moses in burning bush and told him that he is the leader.  But not Jacob. It was he who bought the birthright and took the blessing, he who chose to carry Abraham’s destiny into the future all by himself. He had to fight his way up to be part of the chosen ones! Not until he was running away from home did G-d appear to him. Not until years later, alone, at night, terrified at the prospect of meeting Esau, did G-d or an angel wrestle with him. He alone was given, by G-d or the angel, a completely new name, not an enhancement of his old one but a completely new identity: “Israel.” Jacob’s whole life was a struggle, yet it was through Jacob’s extended wrestling-match with destiny that he eventually achieved what neither Abraham nor Isaac accomplished: all his children stayed within the faith. And that is Jacob’s special characteristic: G-d did not find Jacob — Jacob found G-d!

 

Yes my friends, there are saintly people for whom spirituality comes easy to them. But G-d does not reach out only to saints. He reaches out to all of us. Some of us have to work harder, get more blessings and pray more in order to find G-d. Sometimes we go through hardship in life which we don’t understand. Sometimes we pray and we think G-d is not listening to us. Sometimes faith becomes a challenge and hope seems to be unreachable. But we learn from Jacob that G-d never abandons us. He still can be reached when you are on the run and under stress. All you need is to have the courage to continue and never give up hope!

 

So my friends, if you find yourself struggling with faith, you are in the company of Jacob-who-became-Israel, the father-in-faith of us all.

 

Shabbat Shalom & Regards;

 

Martin

Parashat Vayetzei!

Dear friends;

I hope that you’ll enjoy the following Parsha summary, followed by a Dvar Torah;

 

“ Parsha in a Nutshell “

 

Jacob leaves his hometown of Bersheva and journeys to Charan. On the way, he stops at a place and sleeps there, dreaming of a ladder connecting heaven and earth, with angels climbing and descending on it; G‑d appears and promises that the land upon which he lies will be given to his descendants. In the morning, Jacob raises the stone on which he laid his head as an altar and pledging that it will be made the house of G‑d.

In Charan, Jacob stays with and works for his uncle Laban, tending Laban’s sheep. Laban agrees to give him his younger daughter, Rachel—whom Jacob loves—in marriage, in return for seven years’ of labor. But on the wedding night, Laban gives him his elder daughter, Leah, instead—a deception Jacob discovers only in the morning. Jacob marries Rachel, too, a week later, after agreeing to work another seven years for Laban.

Leah gives birth to six sons—Reuben, Simeon,Levi, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun—and a daughter, Dinah, while Rachel remains barren. Rachel gives Jacob her handmaid, Bilhah, as a wife to bear children in her stead, and two more sons, Dan and Naphtali, are born. Leah does the same with her handmaid, Zilpah, who gives birth to Gad and Asher. Finally, Rachel’s prayers are answered and she gives birth to Joseph.

Jacob has now been in Charan for fourteen years. After six more years, Jacob leaves Charan in stealth, fearing that Laban would prevent him from leaving with the family and property for which he labored. Laban pursues Jacob, but is warned by G‑d in a dream not to harm him. Laban and Jacob make a treaty on Mount Gal-Ed, and Jacob proceeds to the Holy Land, where he is met by an angel.

 

” Dvar Torah “

 

What is it that made Jacob–not Abraham or Isaac–the true father of the Jewish nation? We are called “Kehilat Yaakov”, the “congregation of Jacob”, “Benei Yisrael”,  the “Children Of Israel”. Jacob/Israel is the man whose name we bear. Yet Jacob did not begin the Jewish journey; Abraham did. Jacob faced no trials like Abraham, nor was he binded on the altar like Isaac, to sacrifice his life. Abraham introduced monotheism to the world and was a symbol of kindness. Isaac too was a man of G-d and followed in his father’s footsteps. Jacob was not what Noah was: righteous, perfect in his generations, one who walked with G-d. It was Jacob who deceived his father in order to steal his brother’s blessing. Yet, it was Jacob who fathered the twelve tribes of Israel, and not Abraham or Isaac. And it was Jacob that all his children stayed within the faith, unlike Abraham or Isaac. So why aren’t we called “Benei Avraham” or “Kehilat Yitzchak”?! Where did Jacob succeed when Abraham and Isaac failed? What special characteristics did he have that Hashem chose him to be the father of “Benei Israel”?

Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, gives an interesting answer. He says that the answer lies in this week’s Parsha and the next. He says that Jacob’s greatest visions of G-d came to him, when he was fleeing from one danger to the next. First, in this week’s Parsha when he was escaping from Esau, he stopped and rested for the night with only stones to lie on, and had a dream. In his dream, Hashem appeared to him and said, “Behold, I’m with you; I will guard you wherever you go, and I will return you to the land”. In next week’s Parsha, fleeing from Laban and terrified of the likelihood of meeting Esau again, he wrestles alone at night with a stranger who was an angel of G-d. Then the man said your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with G-d and have overcome”.

Rabbi Sacks explains that this is precisely the great strength of Jacob. Jacob is the man who has his deepest spiritual experiences alone, at night, in the face of danger and far from home. He is the man who meets G-d when he least expects to, when his mind is on other things, when he is in a state of fear and possibly on the brink of despair. Jacob is the man who in the middle of the journey, discovers that “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!” And this is precisely the reason why he became the father of the Jewish nation — he is the man who finds G-d in desperate times, when others have failed!

Abraham gave Jews the courage to challenge idol-worshiping. Isaac gave them the capacity for self-sacrifice. Moses taught them to be passionate fighters for justice. But Jacob gave them the knowledge that precisely when they feel most alone, God is still with them, giving them the courage for hope and the strength to dream. We learn from Jacob that the Shechina, the Divine presence, is always with us even in a strange land. G-d never abandons us!

Yes my friends, we can find G-d not only in holy places but also in the midst of a journey, in a foreign land, alone at night. The most profound lesson that we can learn from Jacob is the knowledge that we are not alone. God is holding us by the hand, sheltering us, lifting us when we fall, forgiving us when we fail, healing the wounds in our soul through the power of His love. G-d never loses faith in us and never lets go of us.

There are times that Israel is at war, when the whole world seems to be against Israel, when realistically, Israel has no chance to survive. Israel is left all alone! It’s precisely then, when we see the hand of G-d and how miraculously He fights our wars. In 1991, in Operation Desert Storm, Iraq’s government decided to throw 1000s of missiles on Israel, and miraculously not even one missile hit the civilians. It was exactly at the time of danger when we found G-d…….

What the rest of the world do at the time of war is to rely on their military capabilities…… we the Children of Israel, on the other hand, rely utterly on G-d……..

Shabbat Shalom & Regards;

Martin

Parashat Toldot!

Dear Friends;

 

I hope that you’ll enjoy the following Parsha summary followed by a Dvar Torah;

 

” Parasha in a Nutshell “

 

Isaac marries Rebecca. After twenty childless years their prayers are answered and Rebecca conceives. She experiences a difficult pregnancy; G-d tells her that “there are two nations in your womb,” and that the younger will prevail over the elder. Eisav emerges first; Jacob is born clutching Eisav’s heel. Eisav grows up to be “a hunter, a man of the field”; Jacob is “a wholesome man,” a dweller in the tents. Isaac favors Eisav; Rebecca loves Jacob.

 

Returning exhausted and hungry from the hunt one day, Eisav sells his birthright to Jacob for a pot of red lentil stew.

 

Eisav marries two Hittite women. Isaac grows old and blind, and expresses his desire to bless Eisav before he dies. While Eisav goes off to hunt for his father’s favorite food, Rebecca dresses Jacob in Eisav’s clothes, prepares a similar dish, and sends Jacob to his father. Jacob receives his fathers’ blessings for “the dew of the heaven and the fat of the land” and mastery over his brother. When Eisav returns and the deception is revealed, all Isaac can bless his weeping son with is to predict that he will live by his sword, and that only when Jacob falters, his supremacy over the him will vanish.

 

Jacob leaves home to flee Eisav’s wrath and to find a wife in the family of his mother’s brother, Laban. Eisav marries a third wife — Machlat, the daughter of Ishmael.

 

“ Dvar Torah “

 

In this week’s Parsha, we read the story of Isaac wanting to bless Esau, as he had become old and his eyes could not see clearly anymore. So he tells Esau: “hunt me a game, make me a meal such as I love and bring it to me and I will eat, so that my soul can bless you before I die.” Rivka was listening to their conversation and immediately tells Jacob to bring her two young goats and she will prepare a meal for Isaac the way he likes it. And he should take it to him and take the blessing instead. Hesitant at the beginning, but with his Mom’s persuasion, he disguised himself as Esau and took the meal to him. Suspicious at the beginning, but eventually Isaac ate the meal and blessed Jacob believing that it was Esau.

 

Was Jacob right to take Esau’s blessing in disguise? Was he right to deceive his father in order to take the blessing that did not belong to him? Was Rivka right in conceiving the plan in the first place and forcing Jacob to carry it out? These are the fundamental questions that me and I’m sure many of you want to know the answers.

 

Well, one explanation that the majority of commentators go with, is as follows. Rivka was right to propose what she did and Jacob was right to carry it out. Rivka knew that it would be Jacob, not Esau, who would continue the covenant of G-d and carry the mission of Abraham into the future. She knew that because she heard it from G-d himself. Before the birth of the twins, G-d tells Rivka: “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one will be stronger than the other, and the elder will serve the younger.” Esau was the elder, Jacob the younger. Therefore it was Jacob who would emerge with greater strength. It was Jacob who was chosen by G-d.

 

Also, she had watched the twins grow up. She knew that Esau was a hunter, a man of violence. She had seen that he was impetuous, temperamental, a man of impulse and not calm reflection. She had seen him sell his birthright for a bowl of soup. No one who despises his birthright can be the trusted guardian of a covenant intended for eternity.

 

The blessing had to go to Jacob. If Isaac did not understand the true nature of his sons, if he was “blind” not only physically but also spiritually, might it not be necessary to deceive him? He was by now old, and if Rivka had failed in the early years to get him to see the true nature of their children, then it was too late to make him understand now. So, Rivka was right to deceive Isaac and Jacob was right to follow her instructions.

 

But there is the other side of the coin. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks gives a different interpretation. He says that Isaac fully understood the nature of his two sons. He loved Esau but this did not blind him to the fact that Jacob would be the heir of the covenant. Therefore Isaac prepared two sets of blessings, one for Esau, the other for Jacob. He blessed Esau with the gifts he felt he would appreciate: wealth and power: “May God give you heaven’s dew and earth’s richness – an abundance of grain and new wine” – that is, wealth. “May nations serve you and peoples bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may the sons of your mother bow down to you” – that is, power. These are NOT the covenantal blessings.

 

The covenantal blessings that God had given Abraham and Isaac were completely different. They were about having children and the land of Israel. G-d blessed Abraham by saying, “May your children be as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sand by the sea…. And the land you’ve stepped on, I’ve given it to you and your children”. It is the same blessing that Isaac later on gave to Jacob before he left home: “May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and increase your numbers until you become a community of peoples. May He give you to take possession of the land that God gave to Abraham”. This was the blessing Isaac had intended for Jacob all along.There was no need for deception and disguise. The blessing Isaac was about to give Esau was not the blessing of Abraham. He intended to give Esau a blessing appropriate to him.

 

Accordingly, Rivka and Jacob did make a mistake, but it was a forgivable and understandable one. Jacob came to realize his mistake later on in his life. He was deceived himself by his father in law, Laban, measure for measure. After 22 years of separation, Jacob finally meets with Esau. He gives Esau massive amount of gifts including sheep, cattle and other livestock. He then bows down seven times to Esau. But this was exactly the blessing that Isaac intended for Esau in the first place: “May you be blessed with wealth and May the sons of your mother bow down to you…..”  Jacob finally realized that the blessing doesn’t belong to him and gave it back to it’s right owner!

 

Well, you can see two different interpretations of the same story in the Torah. There is no right or wrong answer to our story. Rivka had a justified reason to think that the blessing belonged to Jacob. And Isaac had a good enough reason to give a blessing to Esau too, because he had great respect for his father. But one thing we can derive from the story that deception is not a solution to make things right. Jacob had to separate from his parents for 22 years because he deceived his father, and he created hatred between brothers. Honesty is the best way to deal with problems. If Rivka would have just talked to Isaac and told him that Jacob deserves the blessing, maybe he would have given it him anyway?!

 

So my friends, remember that honesty brings love and closeness in a family, while deception creates hatred and separation!

 

Shabbat Shalom, Chodesh Tov & Regards;

 

Martin

 

Parashat Chayei Sarah!

Dear Friends

I hope that you’ll enjoy the following Parsha summary followed by a Dvar Torah;

 

” The Parsha in a Nutshell “

 

 

Sarah dies at age 127 and is buried in the Machpeilah Cave in Chevron, which Avraham purchases from Ephron the Hittite for 400 shekels of silver.

Avraham’s servant, Eliezer, is sent with gifts to Charan, Avraham’s hometown, to find a wife for Isaac. At the village well, Eliezer asks G-d for a sign: when the maidens come to the well, he will ask for some water to drink; the woman who will offer to give his camels to drink as well, shall be the one destined for his master’s son.

Rebecca, the daughter of Avraham’s nephew, appears at the well and passes the “test”. Rebecca returns with Eliezer to the land of Canaan, where they encounter Isaac. Isaac marries Rebecca, loves her, and is comforted over the loss of his mother.

Avraham takes a new wife, Keturah (Hagar) and fathers six additional sons, but Isaac is designated as his only heir. Avraham dies at age 175 and is buried beside Sarah by his two eldest sons, Isaac and Ishmael.

 

” Dvar Torah “

 

This week’s Parsha, Chayei Sarah, starts off by saying that the years of Sarah’s life was one hundred twenty seven. And Sarah dies in Chevron. Then it talks about Avraham buying a burial spot for Sarah and buries her. And the rest of the Parsha is all about Isaac. Avraham sends his servant Eliezer to find him a wife from his birthplace. He finds Rebecca and brings her back to Isaac and she gets married to him.

The Chachamim ask an interesting question. Why does Parashat Chayei Sarah, which means “The Life of Sarah”, talks about Sarah’s death instead of Sarah’s “life”?! Usually the name of the Parsha reflects the topic discussed in the Parsha. For example, Parashat Bereshit, “in the beginning”, talks about the beginning of Creation. Parashat Noah is about Noah. Parashat Balak is about a King called Balak, and so on…… So why doesn’t Parashat Chayei Sarah talk about the life of Sarah?!

But this is not the only place in the Torah that connects life to death. A few Parashiot later, in Parashat Vayechi, which means “and (Jacob) lived”, the Torah also talks about Jacob’s death. It talks about Jacob blessing his children on his deathbed and then he dies. Again the Torah describes someone’s life by talking about his death. But why?! What’s the connection between life and death?!

Rabbi Raphael Wizman from Orthodox Union organization gives the following interesting explanation. He says that a person’s life can be seen through his or her accomplishments. And Sarah’s greatest accomplishment in life was to bear Isaac. Sarah, raised a son who would continue going in the path of G-d, and would willfully sacrifice his life for the sake of G-d. Sarah did not just raise a child, she raised a future Patriarch for the Jewish nation. Isaac’s continued loyalty to the tradition of his mother’s belief would be her greatest praise. The story of Isaac’s life is, in essence, the story of Sarah’s life. Because Sarah’s legacy lives through Isaac. The same can be said about Jacob. Jacob’s greatest accomplishment in life was his children. He raised 12 children who followed in his footsteps and formed the 12 tribes of Israel. And that’s why the Torah connects Sarah and Jacob’s lives to their death. Because their legacy lives on through their children. We should remember that Sadikim never die! The Talmud says “The righteous are considered alive even after death” because the righteous leave a living trace in those who come after them.

Yes my friends, our greatest accomplishments in life are not the trophies that we’ve won, nor the college degrees we’ve obtained or all the fortune that we have accumulated over the years, but rather, our greatest accomplishment in life is our children. We all live a relatively short period of time in this world and then, sooner or later, we all have to die and kiss the world goodbye. Our legacy, however, lives on through our children. How we raise them and present them to the society is the reflection of our own beliefs and behaviors. Avraham’s name never died, since he taught his children to follow in his footstep by believing in G-d and doing act of kindness to others. And if we continue on his journey, then Avraham’s name will live for ever!

There is a great lesson to be learned here. The Torah is teaching us the secret to immortality! All we need to do is to follow G-d’s commandments and then teach them to our children. If they can follow in our footsteps and teach their children to follow in their’s, then you’ll never know………. our legacy may live forever!!

Shabbat Shalom & Regards;

Martin

 

Parashat Vayera!

Dear Friends;

I hope you’ll enjoy the following Parsha summary followed by a Dvar Torah;

 

” Parsha in a Nutshell “

 

G-d reveals Himself to Avraham three days after his circumcision at age 99; but Avraham rushes off to prepare a meal for three guests who appear in the desert heat. One of the three guests — who are angels disguised as men — announces that, in exactly one year, the barren Sarah will give birth to a son. Sarah laughs.

Avraham pleads with G-d to spare the wicked city of Sodom, but did not succeed. Two of the angels arrive in the doomed city to overturn the place, and to save Lot and his family. Lot’s wife turns into a pillar of salt when she disobeyed the command not to look back at the burning city as they flee.

While taking shelter in a cave, Lot’s two daughters get their father drunk, lie with him, and become pregnant. The two sons born from this incident father the nations of Moab and Amon.

Avraham moves to Gerar, where the Philistine king Avimelech takes Sarah — who is, once again, presented as Avraham’s sister — to his palace. In a dream, G-d warns Avimelech that he will die unless he returns the woman to her husband.

G-d remembers His promise to Sarah and gives her and Avraham a son, who is named Isaac (meaning “will laugh”). Isaac is circumcised at the age of eight days; Abraham is 100 years old, and Sarah 90, at their son’s birth.

Hagar and Ishmael are banished from Avraham’s home and wander in the desert; G-d hears the cry of the dying lad and saves his life by showing his mother a well.

G-d tests Avraham’s devotion by commanding him to sacrifice Isaac on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

The Parsha concludes with Avraham receiving the news of the birth of a daughter, Rebecca, to his nephew Bethuel.

 

“ Dvar Torah “

 

In this week’s parsha, we read about the famous story of “Akeidat Yitzchak”, the binding of Isaac. We all know the story by now: Hashem wanted to test Avraham’s faith, for the tenth and the final time. So one day, G-d tells Avraham to take his only son, the one he loves, Isaac and bring him to the top of a mountain and sacrifice him to G-d Almighty. Without any hesitation, the next morning, Avraham takes Isaac on a oneway, three days journey. On the third day, he takes him up the mountain, binds him down, lifts the knife up and was ready to slaughter his son. At that moment, an angel of G-d tells him to stop and not to harm his son, for now Hashem knows that he truly believes in him.

Wow! What a story! Every time I read the story of Akeidat Yitzchak , it gives me the chills. What an act of courage and obedience was demonstrated by Avraham! Who can kill his own son, specially the one that he longed for more than 100 years?! How can someone do something against his own principles? Avraham was preaching his entire life that it’s wrong to bring human sacrifices for idols and gods, and now he had to do it himself! Not even once he questioned G-d for this commandment! He only did it because he believed in G-d wholeheartedly. The act of Akeida was so great that we still benefit from it to this very day. Every year in our Selichot prayers and on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, we read the Akeidat Yitzchak in order to remind Hashem that we are the descendant of the same Avraham who was ready to sacrifice his son for you. Forgive us for his sake, if not for ours! Because probably no one else would have had the courage or the strength to do such an unimaginable act!

Rightfully so, whenever we read about the Akeida, we praise Avraham. But what about Isaac? How come we don’t give any credit to Isaac?! According to the majority of our Chachamim, Isaac was 37 years old at the time. He wasn’t a child anymore and he was fully aware of what was going on. He layed down on the altar and allowed his father to bind him down and raise the knife to kill him. He also went through a test at the time of Akeida and passed it by accepting G-d’s decision! Yes, killing your son can be extremely difficult, but killing yourself at a young age when you still have your whole life ahead of you is not a simple act either! So, the big question is, whose challenge was harder? Who did a greater act of courage and sacrifice? Avraham or Isaac?!

Once again,  Rabbi Yissachar Frand gives a beautiful explanation. He says, the test that Isaac had to go through was even greater than his father’s test! You see, Avraham heard it directly from G-d Himself, to sacrifice Isaac. But who told Isaac that he was to be sacrificed? Isaac heard it from his father, Avraham! Isaac must have considered it awfully strange that G-d, who values life, wants a human sacrifice. Such ritual was against all the values and believes that his father had taught him in the past. At this point, Isaac had all the rights to question his father. Keep in mind that Avraham was quite old at the time, 137 to be exact, and could have easily made a mistake in his judgement. Unlike Moshe, G-d did not appear to Avraham in a clear vision. He appeared to him in a dream or a trance, which is not 100% clear. Just before the Akeida, Isaac could have rightfully asked his father:  ” Are you sure father that you heard G-d telling you to sacrifice me? Maybe you just had a bad dream? Don’t you want to ask him one more time just to make sure?”  But he never questioned his father. He had full trust in his father Avraham. The respect that he had for his father didn’t allow him to doubt his decision! And this was the greatness of Isaac that stands out and makes him one of our forefathers. Avraham obeyed the word of G-d; but Isaac obeyed his father’s! Giving the same respect to your father as you give to the G-d Almighty deserves all the praises in the world! Akeidat Yitzchak, was by far the hardest test that Avraham had to go through in his lifetime. But Isaac had to go through an even harder test!

Yes my friends, we learn from Isaac that respecting parents and listening to them is as important as respecting G-d himself. You cannot respect one and not the other! They go hand in hand.That’s why, on the two tablets of Ten Commandments, honoring parents is placed on the same side as respecting and believing in G-d. Because in order to believe in G-d, you need to respect your parents first!

 

Shabbat Shalom & Regards;

Martin

Parashat Lech-Lecha!

Dear Friends;

 

I hope that you’ll enjoy the following Parsha summary followed by a Dvar Torah;

 

” Parsha in a Nutshell “

 

G-d speaks to Avram, commanding him to “Go from your land, from your birthplace and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you.” There, G-d says, he will make him into a great nation. Avram and his wife Sarai, accompanied by his nephew Lot, journey to the Land of Canaan, where Avram continues to spread the message of a One G-d.

A famine forces Avram to depart for Egypt, where beautiful Sarai is taken to Pharaoh’s palace; Avram escapes death because they present themselves as brother and sister. A disease prevents the Egyptian king from touching her and convinces him to return her to Avram.

Back in the Land of Canaan, Lot separates from Avram and settles in the evil city of Sodom, where he falls captive when a war breaks out in that region. Avram sets out with a small army to rescue his nephew, defeats the four kings, brings back his nephew and all his belongings, plus all the belongings of the defeated kings.

Still childless ten years after their arrival in the Land, Sarai tells Avram to marry her maidservant Hagar. Hagar conceives, becomes disrespectful toward her mistress, and then flees when Sarai treats her harshly. An angel convinces her to return and tells her that her son will father a populous nation. Ishmael is born in Abram’s 86th year.

Thirteen years later, G-d changes Avram’s name to Avraham and Sarai’s to Sarah, and promises that a son will be born to them; whom they should call Isaac (“will laugh”). Avraham is commanded to circumcise himself and his descendents as a “sign of the covenant between Me and you.”

“ Dvar Torah “

 

The relationship between parents and children is so fascinating. At the beginning, a baby is fully dependent on his parents and can not live a moment without them. The first and deepest fear that we all have as a very young child is separation anxiety: the absence of parents, especially the mother. Young children will play happily so long as the mother is within sight. Take away the mother, and they will panic and cry. We are too young to venture into the world on our own.

But then it comes a time when we become teenagers and start to enter our adulthood life. It is when we have to learn to make our own decisions in life. At this time, we want to show that  we can stand on our own feet and hence we become rebellious. We think that we know better than our parents and we try to distance ourselves from them.

However, as the years go by, we begin to realise that having spent what seems like a lifetime of running away from our parents, we find that we have become very much like them – and the further away we run, the closer we get to them. Sometimes, it needs time and distance to see how much we owe our parents and how much of them lives on in us. Towards the end, we want to be with them maybe more than they want to be with us. And after 120 years when they leave us, once again, we panic and we cry.

In this week’s Parashat Lech Lecha, the Torah introduces us to Avraham Avinu. It begins with the words, “God said to Abraham, Go from your land, your birthplace and your father’s house to a land I will show you”. This is one of the most strange introduction to someone’s life I’ve ever heard! Why does the Torah start off the life of Abraham from this point in his life?! Unlike Moses, the Torah gives us no portrait of Abraham’s childhood, his youth, his relationship with the other members of his family, how he came to marry Sarah, or his unique characteristics that made G-d single him out to become the founder of monotheism.

But above all, I’m more curious to know what was the relationship between Abraham and his father? Well, up till now, because of the biblical silence, I used to follow the Midrash which said that Abraham broke the idols in his father’s house. I thought that he was the rebellious child. He was the man of new beginnings who overturned everything his father stood for. He was known to us as “Abraham the Revolutionary”. He was against his father’s beliefs and started a new life on his own.

But Rabbi Jonathan Sacks says that was not the case. Abraham and his father got along quite well. And the proof is given at the end of last week’s parsha. It says this: “Terach took his son Abram, his grandson Lot, son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, and together they set out from Ur Kasdim to go to Canaan. But when they came to Charan, they settled there”. It turns out, in other words, that Abraham and his father left his land and his birthplace (Ur) together, and it was long after that, when he left his father’s house and separated from him in Charan. Terach, Abraham’s father, accompanied him for the first half of his journey. He went with his son at least part of the way. The Torah says that it was Terach who took Abraham, not Abraham who took Terach, from Ur to go to the land of Canaan, which means that Abraham was actually completing a journey his father began. There was no immediate or radical tension between father and son.

Indeed it is hard to imagine how it could have been otherwise. Abraham himself was chosen “so that he will instruct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord” – that is, he was chosen to be a model parent. How could a rebellious child who rejected the way of his father become a model father? Why wouldn’t his children reject his ways in turn? It makes more sense to say that Terach already had doubts about idolatry and it was he who inspired Abraham to go further, spiritually and physically. Although Terach did not complete the journey with Abraham, perhaps because of the age, but surely he was happy for him that he was following the words of G-d and wished him farewell.

Yes my friends, quite often we may think we are so different from our parents, but sooner or later, we come to realize that we are just the same. Sometimes it takes time and distance for us to appreciate how much they helped us to become the people we are. Even when we thought we were running away, we were in fact continuing their journey. We often see that a charitable parents have charitable children too. People who like to do communal work, probably have parents who did communal work too.

In Judaism, there is no such a thing as a rebellious child. Parents and children can never distance themselves from each other. We may sometimes have different views in regards to religion, business and lifestyle, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t love them. Parents and children need each other. It makes life much more meaningful. So, cherish every moment with your parents, because you’ll never know the heartache when you see their empty chair ………..

Shabbat Shalom & Regards;

Martin

Parashat Noach!

Dear Friends;

I hope that you’ll enjoy the following Parsha summary followed by a Dvar Torah;

 

” Parsha in a Nutshell “

 

Parshat Noah begins by describing Noah’s righteousness, compared with the wickedness of his generation. As a result of Mankind’s evil, Hashem brings a flood to destroy every living creature, sparing only Noah, his family, and at least one pair of every animal species, who live in an ark during the lengthy flood. When the waters declined, almost a year after the rains first began, Noah sends out a raven and a dove so as to determine whether the land has dried sufficiently so that they can leave the ark to resettle the earth once again. Hashem promises that He will never again destroy all of Mankind by means of a flood, and He designates the rainbow as a sign for that eternal covenant.

Noah plants a vineyard, drinks from its produce, and becomes drunk. In his intoxicated state, he shamefully uncovers himself in his tent. While his son Cham dealt with his father inappropriately, Noah’s other two sons, Shem and Yefet, cover their father in a respectful manner. Once sober, Noah responds by blessing Shem and Yefet, and by cursing Cham and his son Canaan.

Generations pass and the world is repopulated. The people attempt to wage war against Hashem by building the Tower of Babel, and Hashem responds by mixing up their languages and dispersing them across the planet.

The Torah portion concludes on an encouraging note with Abraham’s birth and his marriage to Sarah.

 

” Dvar Torah “

 

At the beginning of the Parsha, the Torah says: ” Noah was a righteous man, perfect in his generation…..”. So, the obvious question that comes to mind is why does the Torah mention “in his generation”, when it talks about Noah’s righteousness? Well, our sages have two opposing views regarding this matter. Some Chachamim praise Noah for his righteousness in his generation, since it is very difficult to stay righteous when you are surrounded with corrupt and evil people. They say, He would have been even more righteous, if he would have lived in some other times where they were more righteous people surrounding him. While others criticize him, for his righteousness is only apparent when is compared to wickedness of his own generation. If he would have lived in the times of Abraham, for example, he would have never reached his level of righteousness. With all being said, still Noah is the only person in the entire Torah to be given the title of “righteous” by Hashem himself. So, there is no question about Noah’s righteousness; the only doubt is about his level of righteousness.

But our sages say that despite Noah’s righteousness, he still didn’t have the zechut (merit) of becoming the forefather of the Jewish nation. Our family tree starts from Abraham and not from Noah. The Torah could have easily traced back Abraham to Noah and added him to the list of our forefathers, but decided not to. But why? Why didn’t our family tree start from the righteous Noah? What was he lacking, that disqualified him from joining the Jewish nation?

I read a very interesting explanation given by Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks. He says that the answer could be found in this week’s Parsha. After the flood, Hashem tells Noah to get out of the Ark and fill up the earth once again — to grow, multiply and rebuild a society. But once Noah got out of the Ark, he looked back at all the destructions. Overwhelmed by grief, he found refuge in wine. Instead of starting to build his future, he built himself a vineyard! He became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent.The man of God has become a man of the soil. The righteous man has become a drunkard. The man clothed in virtue now lies naked and unashamed. The most righteous man who walked with God now lies alone in disgrace! And all because he looked back instead of looking forward. G-d tells him to go and build your future, but instead, he concentrated on the destructions in the past! And this is what disqualified him from becoming a Jew — ‘Not having a vision for the future’. Because in Judaism, we build our future before we mend our past!

We can see many examples of vision for the future throughout the Jewish History. One of the more recent incidents is at the time of the Holocaust. After the fall of the Natzi regime, the European Jews did not sit idle and grieve over the loss of their loved ones. Instead, they immediately started to think about their future. They started to capture and rebuild the Land of Israel for the Jewish nation. They worked very hard to make Israel a prosperous country for their children which we do benefit greatly from it to this very day. Rabbi Sacks says that many of the Holocaust survivors didn’t want to speak about their past at the beginning. Only after many years, when they got settled in and were much older, they started to talk about their past and grieve over what they’ve lost. And all because, their future was more important than their past!

Yes my friends, Judaism is a religion of the future! We are always thinking about our future and that’s the secret to our success. The land of Israel prospers continuously, because the Jews in Israel are always thinking about building their future. Why do you think that the Palestinians never prosper and most of them live in poverty and under pressure?! Because they keep looking back instead of looking forward. They don’t care about building their future; all they think about is who did this land belonged to in the past!

B”H, the Mashadi community has always been a great believer of the future too. When our fathers left Iran, they did not sit back and grieve for what they’ve left behind, but rather, they immediately started to build the future for their family and their children in United States, and today we are enjoying the fruits of their labor. Even our leaders today, they all have a vision for the future. They see the needs of the community in many more years to come, and they act on it accordingly. May G-d bless them all.

So remember my friends, the secret to succeed in life is to have a vision for the future. Something that was unfortunately missing in Noah, which inevitably disqualified him to be the father of the Chosen People!

 

Shabbat Shalom, Chodesh Tov & Regards;

Martin

 

Parashat Vezot Haberacha & Simcha Torah!

Dear Friends;

I hope you’ll enjoy the following Parsha summary followed by a Dvar Torah on the Parsha and Simchat Torah;

 

” Parasha in a Nutshell “

 

Parashat Vezot Haberacha begins by Moshe blessing the tribes of Israel before he passes away. Each tribe gets its own blessing, just like Yakov blessed each tribe individually. Reuven is blessed with life, Judah with success in battle, Levi with serving in the Temple and being teachers of Torah, Benjamin is beloved by G-d, Joseph is blessed by sweet fruits on his land, Zevulun with success in trade, Issachar with success in Torah studies, Dan with a might of a lion, Naftali with fertile land and sea and Asher with sons.

After blessing the people, Moshe goes up Mount Nebo and G-d shows him the entire “Eretz Yisrael”. Then Moshe passes away at the age of 120. He is buried by G-d, and until today, nobody knows his burial place. The Jews mourned for Moshe for 30 days, and then Joshua became the new leader, who was respected by the entire congregation, just like Moshe.

The Parsha, and the entire Torah, ends with describing Moshe’s greatness. ” There arose never again a prophet in Israel like Moshe, whom G-d knew face to face……. and the great awesome things which Moshe did before the eyes of the Egyptians and all Israel.”

 

” Dvar Torah “

 

Every year, Parashat VeZot Haberacha, which is the last Parsha of the Torah, gets swallowed up by the Festival of Simcha Torah. It doesn’t have its own designated Shabbat like all other parashiot, and the Chag on which it is read, is so packed with activities such as singing, dancing, eating and drinking, that no one pays much attention to what is going on in the Parsha. Compared to the rest of the Parashiot in the Torah, you can find the least amount of commentaries, since most commentators are busy writing about Simcha Torah or Parashat Bereshit.

But why didn’t the Chachamim designate a Shabbat to the last parsha? How could they miss to comment on the last chapter of the Torah? For those of you who are book lovers, know for a fact that the last chapter of any book is by far the most exciting one of them all. Everyone is anxious to know what happens at the end! What will happen to the Hero? The excitement is overwhelming. Just before starting the last chapter, you feel the jitters in your body! Once you start reading the last chapter, there is no way you can put down the book until you have read the very last word. And then, you feel the ultimate satisfaction– which could be a feeling of accomplishment, excitement, joy, or even a feeling of sorrow. So, how come, we and the commentators, can’t reach the same level of excitement with our Holy book of Torah? After all, our Torah is a true-story book with its’ author being the G-d Almighty himself, and has Moshe Rabeinu as its hero. So, how can it be less exciting than any other book? Most of us don’t even read the English translation of the Parsha! Don’t you think it’s a little absurd? Don’t we want to know what will happen to Moshe at the end and how does the Torah end??

The answer is quite simple my friends. We don’t feel the excitement of the last Parsha of the Torah, because we believe that the Torah never ends!! That’s what Simcha Torah is all about! As soon as we finish reading the last sentence of the Torah, immediately, without a break, we start to read the first chapter, Parashat Bereshit. Apparently, there is no beginning or an end to Torah. It seems that the Torah is just one continuous book! Once you realize that there is no ending, then there is no excitement to read the last chapter! We believe that every chapter of the Torah is as important as the other and we should feel the excitement at all times throughout the year when we read the Torah. The celebration that we do on Simcha Torah, is not because we have finished or started the Torah, but rather, the celebration is because Hashem has given us another year to review this wonderful book.

But all being said, I still feel the urge to say a few words about the last chapter of the Torah. So, towards the end of the Parsha, which is the last few hours of Moshe’s life, we see that Hashem finally reveals his emotions. He talks so highly of his beloved servant, Moshe Rabeinu. He tells us that never again we shall see such a Prophet who can talk “face to face” to the Almighty, who can perform Hashem’s miracles with such greatness. Unlike all other prophets who could only communicate with Hashem in a vision, Moshe talked to Hashem face to face at anytime he wanted. To Hashem, Moshe was not just another human being; he was someone very dear to him. Not only Hashem talked to Moshe constantly, but He also consulted with him, He argued with him, He taught him, He listened to him, he punished him and he praised him. In the mortal world, it seems that Moshe was Hashem’s best friend; his buddy so to speak. The Torah finally tells us that the time has come for Moshe to die and be gathered to his people. How do you think Hashem felt at that time? Yes, we believe that once a person dies, his soul will go to “Olam Haba”, a place which the soul gets closer to Hashem; but as a human being, as a flesh and blood, he had to say goodbye to his best friend. The Halacha says that when a person passes away, the closest relative is responsible to do the burial. In the case of Moshe, Hashem felt that he was his closest family, and that’s why the Torah says that Hashem buried Moshe himself. It makes you wonder how painful it was for Hashem to bury his best friend?!?!

Yes, our hero dies at the end, but there is no reason to be sad, because Moshe left this world with dignity and pride as the best prophet of all times. A person who we still talk about him after 3000 years, is not considered dead! Moshe’s name is mentioned in nearly every Parsha of the four out of five books of the Torah. In “Pirkei Avot” its written “tov shem mi shemen tov”, which means a good name is better than a good oil since it lasts for much longer time. Moshe, was loved and respected by G-d because he in turn loved the Benei Israel so much that he was ready to give up his life for them! His love and devotion for his nation earned him the title of “the greatest prophet of all times”!! Anyone who has been loved by Hashem so much, should be adored by us too! May he rest in peace. What a great zechut we have to be a part of a nation who had Moshe Rabeinu as its leading prophet!

Although, Hashem punished Moshe severely for the only mistake of hitting the rock instead of talking to it, it did not take anything away from the love and respect he had towards him. And this is the greatest lesson we can learn from Hashem. Sometimes our children might do something that they are not suppose to, and we may end up punishing them. But that should not take away, by no means, from the love and respect that we have towards them. We punish our children because we love them and we want them to improve, and not because we don’t like them, G-d forbid!

So remember my friends, Simcha Torah is the celebration of continuing with the Torah. The Torah is our life; without it, we can not live! That’s why we keep reading it in a circle without interruption. The Torah is often compared to light. In today’s modern times, it’s electricity which gives us light at nights. Electricity is a flow of electrons around a circuit. You cut the circuit, there is no light………. You cut the Torah, there is no life!!!

 

Chag Sameach, Shabbat Shalom & Regards;

Martin

 

Parashat Ki-Tavo!

Dear Friends;

 

I hope that you’ll enjoy the following Parsha summary followed by a short Dvar Torah;

 

“ Parsha in a Nutshell “

 

Moshe instructs the people of Israel: When you enter the land that G-d is giving to you as your eternal heritage, and you settle it and cultivate it, bring the first-ripened fruits of your orchard to the Holy Temple, and declare your gratitude for all that G-d has done for you.

Our Parsha also includes the laws of the tithes given to the Levites and to the poor. Moshe reminds the people that they are G-d’s chosen people, and that they, in turn, have chosen G-d.

The latter part of Ki Tavo consists of the Tochachah (“Rebuke”). After listing the blessings with which G-d will reward the people when they follow the laws of the Torah, Moshe gives a long, harsh account of the bad things — illness, famine, poverty and exile — that shall befall them if they abandon G-d’s commandments.

Moshe concludes by telling the people that only today, forty years after their birth as a people, have they attained “a heart to know, eyes to see, and ears to hear.”

 

” Dvar Torah “

 

Harvest time! After months of backbreaking work, a farmer can finally enjoy the fruits of its labor. He can reap all of his crops and G-d willing, it will cover his sustenance for the year to come. But before he can enjoy his freshly-harvested crop, the Torah commands in this week’s parsha that the farmer bring his “Bikurim”, or his first-ripened fruits, to the Temple in Jerusalem as a gift to the Kohen. The sages describe the remarkable scene of thousands of people, rich and poor alike, come together in Jerusalem, rejoicing in song and dance with their baskets of fruit in their hands, celebrating their successful harvest and offering thanks to Hashem.

Upon arriving in the Temple, the Torah commands: “The Kohen shall take the basket from your hand and leave it before the altar of the Lord your G-d”. The Talmud relates an interesting detail regarding this event. The wealthy people, would bring their fruits in exquisite gold and silver baskets and would hand them over to the Kohen. The Kohen would then remove the fruits and return the baskets to their owners. But for the less fortunate farmers who brought their fruits in cheap reed or straw baskets, the Kohen would not return the baskets to their owners; the fruits would remain inside the baskets until the Kohen took them home. The obvious question is, why does the rich get back his silver and gold basket, while the poor who might still have a need for his basket, goes home empty handed?! The Chachamim ask why does “the rich get richer, while the poor gets poorer”?! Is this justice in the eyes of Hashem? The Jewish laws which have always shown compassion towards the needy, seems to have missed this opportunity! Why is it so?

Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetsky gives an interesting explanation. The wealthy farmer who owns many top quality fields, may probably have a lot of produce to present to the Kohen, and his fruits are beautiful and well-formed. The poor person, on the other hand, who probably has a much smaller field, the fruits that he brings to the Temple are most likely inferior both in quality and quantity. If the fruits would be removed in order to return the baskets to the owner, the poor farmer would be forced to suffer the embarrassment of having people see his inferior gift. The Jewish law therefore prescribes that the fruits should remain hidden in the basket. The Torah feels that a person’s dignity is worth more than a few dollars. Let the Kohen keep the fruit in the basket. Let it at least have the appearance of being something substantial. Let the poor man walk out with his dignity, even if the basket is something of a value to him. A person can always make a few more dollars. But It’s much harder to regain one’s pride!

Yes my friends, the Talmud is teaching us that every person deserves to have dignity and pride. We should try our best not the hurt other people’s feelings and avoid embarrassing them. The Almighty demands from us not to humiliate another person, not to put anyone to shame and above all, not to take away someone’s pride. Every person deserves to be respected since we are all created in the image of G-d. The whole theme of the Torah is about having compassion for your fellow human beings and to love your fellow Jew just like yourself.

Remember that Hashem accepted both fruits of the rich and the poor. Both were given the same respect to enter the holy Temple and to present their gift to G-d. Both walked in with  a joy in their hearts and both left with pride and dignity. In the eyes of Hashem, all of his children are dear to him the same way, and they should be dear to us too.

Shabbat Shalom & Regards;

Martin

Parashat Ki Tetzei!

  • Dear Friends;
  • I hope that you’ll enjoy the following Parsha summary followed by a Dvar Torah;
  • ” Parsha in a Nutshell “
  • Seventy-four of the Torah’s 613 commandments are in this week’s Parsha. These include the laws of the beautiful captive woman, the inheritance rights of the first-born, capital punishment for the wayward and rebellious son, burial and dignity of the dead, returning a lost object, sending away the mother bird before taking her young, and the duty to erect a safety fence around the roof of one’s home.
  • Also recounted are the judicial procedures and penalties for adultery, for the rape or seduction of an unmarried girl, and for a husband who falsely accuses his wife of adultery. The following cannot marry a person of Jewish lineage: a bastard; a male of Moabite or Ammonite descent.
  • Our Parshah also includes laws governing the purity of the military camp; the prohibition against turning in an escaped slave; the duty to pay a worker on time; the proper treatment of a debtor and the prohibition against charging interest on a loan; the laws of divorce (from which are also derived many of the laws of marriage); and the procedures for yibbum, marriage between the wife of a childless deceased to her brother-in-law.
  • Parsha concludes with the obligation to remember “what Amalek did to you on the road, on your way out of Egypt.”
  • ” Dvar Torah “

  • One of the most difficult tasks for any parents is to raise their children. There are no set of rules to follow. Even if there is, there is no guarantee that it will work on every child, since each child is different. One of the biggest nightmare for parents is, G-d forbid, to be faced with a problematic or a rebellious child. How can they avoid to have such a child?!
  • Well, in this week’s Parsha, the Torah talks about a wayward and rebellious son (Ben sorer u’moreh). The Torah says: ” If a man will have a wayward and rebellious son, who does not listen to the voice of his father and the voice of his mother, and they discipline him but he still does not listen to them, then the parents shall grasp him and take him out to the elders of the city and say to them, ” This son of ours is wayward and rebellious; he does not listen to our voice, he is a glutton and drunkard ….. All the men of the city shall pelt him with stones and he shall die;”
  • The Chachamim say that the reason the boy is put to death is because the parents notice a trend in their young son’s spiritual growth that will almost inevitably lead to a lifestyle involving robbery and  even murder. One of the requirements for a child to be considered a “Ben Sorer U’moreh” is to be a glutton, indulging in excessive meat and wine. If a boy displays an uncontrolled lust for meat and wine, he will inevitably reach the point where he will rob and murder in order to obtain the money he needs to satisfy this lust. Therefore the Torah advises that he should be put to death “at the stage in life when he is still innocent,” rather than allowing him to mature to a point where he will actually commit the sin and will be deservant of death.
  • But the Talmud says that an actual case of “ben sorer u’moreh”, stoning of a child, has never happened and will never happen. There are too many laws and restrictions. Besides, no parents would have the heart to take their son to be stoned to death! The Torah is merely mentioning this law just for educational purposes. So, if the whole purpose of this law is to educate us, let’s see what we can learn from it.
  • The Torah says: ” If a man will have a wayward and rebellious son, who does not listen to the voice of his father and the voice of his mother……..”. Accordingly, our Chachamim ask the following question. Why does the Torah mention the voice of the father and the voice of the mother separately? Why doesn’t it just say, “a son who does not listen to the voice of his parents?! Our Torah which is so careful with the use of words, why suddenly became so generous with throwing extra words?!
  • Rabbi Yissachar Frand gives an interesting interpretation. He says, in describing a rebellious child, the Torah is trying to stress that the parents were not of one voice and one opinion! The child did not listen to his father’s voice and independently he did not listen to his mother’s alternate voice either. When the child hears mixed messages, he does not listen to either parent and he goes after his own heart and hence, he becomes rebellious. When a child hears one thing from the father and another thing from the mother – that is a garden in which weeds can grow. Only subsequently, when the child has already left the right path, do the parents come and, sadly, tell the elders of the court: “Now we are together. Now we have a unified voice. Our son is not listening to OUR voice!” Unfortunately by then, it is too late. The son has already became a rebellious child, and it’s very hard to bring him back!
  • Yes my friends, There are no secret formulas for raising good children. Raising children is the most difficult job in the world. However, there are clearly certain things parents should try to avoid. Parents should always present a unified message of their expectations to their children. Parents may have disagreements among themselves as to what is the proper course in raising children. But those disagreements need to be decided among themselves; in private! When parents come before their children, they need to articulate a clear, decisive, and uniform message. For example, if a son comes and ask the mother for $20 and the mother says no, and then he goes and asks the father for $20 and he gives it to him, that’s considered talking in different voices. If the parents would have always talked in a unified voice, then the son would have never gone to the father and asked for $20! When the parents reach the status of “our voice” rather than “the father’s voice” and “the mother’s voice,” their chances of raising a proper child will be much greater.
  • So remember my friends, there are more things to learn from the Torah than just to read the plain text. Accordingly, the lesson that we can learn from “Ben Sorer U’moreh” is not how to kill a rebellious child, but rather, how to raise a good child who is respectful to his parents.
  • Shabbat Shalom & Regards;

             Martin

Parashat Shoftim!

  • Dear Friends;

 

  • I hope that you’ll enjoy the following Parsha summary followed by a Dvar Torah;
  • ” Parsha in a Nutshell “
  • Moshe instructs the people of Israel to appoint judges and law-enforcement officers in every city.
  • A minimum of two credible witnesses is required for conviction and punishment.
  • A Jewish king may only have possessions and symbols of power adequate for the honor of his office, but not for self glorification.
  • Hashem promises the Jewish people that he will send them prophets to guide them, and Moshe explains how a genuine prophet may be distinguished from a false one.
  • The Parsha includes the prohibitions against idolatry and sorcery; guidelines for the creation of “cities of refuge” for the inadvertent murderer. Also set forth are many of the rules of war: the exemption from battle for one who has just built a home, planted a vineyard, married, or is “afraid and soft-hearted”; the requirement to offer terms of peace before attacking a city.
  • If a corpse is found between cities, the elders of the nearest city must take a heifer, slaughter it, and wash their hands over it, saying that they are not guilty of the death.
  • “ Dvar Torah “
  • The foundation of civilization is based on justice! No civilized society can survive without a judiciary system, and a set of laws and order. And Judaism cannot agree more with this system. This week’s parsha starts off by telling us to appoint judges and lawmakers for ourselves. It continues by telling us the famous quote, “tzedek, tzedek, tirdof”….. “Justice, Justice, you shall pursue”……. But the true translation of it is: “Righteousness, Righteousness, you shall pursue”…..

 

          So, what does it exactly mean, tzedek, righteousness, you shall pursue? Rabbi Frand               says that it means that a person should be trialed in a righteous and a fair way. That’s             why the Torah tells us to appoint righteous and G-d fearing judges. A judge cannot                   take a bribe. A judge cannot take the side of the weak or the powerful, nor can he take           the side of a widow or an orphan. Indeed, a judge has to be totally unbiased and try                 his best to make a fair judgment.

 

  • In western societies’ court of law, where there is a dispute between two parties, the judge has to determine who is right and who is wrong; who has to be rewarded and who has to be punished. The judge’s main role is to find who is guilty and who is innocent. The judge has the full authority to make this decision. In a Jewish court of law however, the judge has a different role. His role is to give the accused a fair trial — a trial which is based on fairness and righteousness. Indeed the Torah sets down numerous rules and regulations which delimit the judge’s power to judge, and ensure that when he does judge, he does so with utmost caution and sensitivity.
  • To get a better understanding of what it means by a fair trial, we can look at a criminal law discussion in the Talmud known as the “indefensible criminal” laws. The Talmud says: In the time of Beit Hamikdash, under the Jewish law, capital crimes were tried by a tribunal of 23 judges called a “Minor Sanhedrin.” After hearing the testimony of the witnesses, the judges themselves would split into two groups: those inclined to argue for the defense of the accused would serve as his “defense team” and seek to convince their colleagues of his innocence; and those inclined to convict him would serve as prosecutors making the case for his guilt. After each team presents their case, then the judges would vote. A majority of one was sufficient to set him free, while a majority of two was necessary to convict.
  • But  what happens if all the twenty-three judges join the prosecution team?! What if the evidence is so compelling and the crime so horrifying that not a single member of the tribunal chooses to argue in the accused’s favor? In such a case, says the Talmud, the accused cannot be convicted and this court is disqualified from making a judgement!
  • But you may ask yourself why? Why is the court disqualified? If the evidences are so strong against the accused, why can’t the court find him guilty?! Why does it matter if anyone is going to defend him or not? For example, if a killer is caught, and there are more than 5 witnesses who saw him kill the person, the guy is guilty and should be trialed and punished! So what if he doesn’t have a defence team?!
  • Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Late Lubavitcher Rebbe, explains the rationale behind this law as follows: No man is so utterly evil that there is nothing to be said in his defense. There is always some explanation, some justification, some perspective from which the underlying goodness of his soul can be glimpsed. This does not mean that he is going to be found innocent. But if not a single member of the court perceives the “innocent side” of the person standing accused before them, this court then obviously has very little understanding of who he is and what he has done. Such a court has disqualified itself from passing judgment on him. The Lubavitcher Rebbe therefore says that you cannot judge a person until you see something good in that person! Justice has to be done with righteousness, and righteousness is achieved when you can see the good in everybody first!
  • Yes my friends, in order to judge a person, we need to hear something in his defence first! That’s why the Torah is so much against “Lashon Hara”, evil speech or slander.  Because when you hear something evil about someone, you immediately become judgmental. But you can not judge him, because you haven’t heard anything in his defense yet! Judging people is one of the most difficult tasks and that’s why the Torah has  asked us to appoint professional judges who are righteous and know how to judge fairly. Us, the ordinary people, are not here to judge people —– we are here to love them!
  • So remember my friends, if you only see the bad in people, you are disqualified to judge them. But if you see the good in people, then you’ll be considered a “Tzadik”, a righteous person in the eyes of Hashem……
  • Shabbat Shalom & Regards;
  • Martin