Archive for October 2013

The Art of Adapting to New Times

Taken from the discourse of Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz, also contributing Rabbi Yossi Bilus
There are many lessons one can learn from the famous story of Choni Ha’magal however there is one very important teaching in particular which stands out in connection to this week’s parsha, Chayeh Sarah.
Firstly, what’s the story of Choni?
          We all heard of “Rip Van Winkle”. It’s a fictional tale by the American author Washington Irving published in 1819. I guess one can consider the short story as part of classic American literature. As a matter of fact, there have been many similar stories in history from other countries and cultures. I guess there is something irresistible about taking long naps for an extended period that has the reader curious. However they’re all revised copies of the ancient Jewish story about Choni Ha’magal found in the Talmud (Ta’anit 23A).
          Even popular kids cartoon characters like Fred Flintstone, Mr. Magoo, Bugs Bunny and many others all had their episodes of falling into a lengthy sleep, based on the story of Rip Van Winkle, or more accurately, Choni Ha’magal. That’s how popular the story is. Reading the passage in the Gemara for the first time one can not help but to think of times of youth and having seen a similar script by Hanna Barbara Productions or throughout Loony tunes.

A Little Background
Choni Ha’magal (the circle-maker) was given this nickname due to another incident in his life, in which he pleaded with God to bring rain. He drew a circle around his feet and exclaimed that he was not going to leave the circle until G-d brought rain. It rained! Clearly, Choni was a great scholar.
          The prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 29:10) promised, “The Lord says, ‘After seventy years for Babylon have been completed, I will remember you, and I will fulfill for you, My favorite, a promise to return you to this place.’ ” The Babylonian exile lasted for seventy years, during which time the Jewish people were living in a foreign land and were subservient to their hosts.
Text 1 – Babylonian Talmud Ta’anit 23b

His whole life he pondered the verse, (Psalms 126:1)
 “A song of ascent, when God returns us to Zion, we were like dreamers.”
          Can someone sleep for seventy years?
          One day he (Choni) was walking along the road when he came across a man who was planting a carob tree. He asked him, “These Carob trees, how long does it take them to producefruit?””Seventy years,” replied the man.
          “Are you so certain that you are going to live for another seventy years?”
          “I found this world with carob trees growing in it; in the same way that my
ancestors planted for me, so will I plant for my children.”
          Choni fell asleep, and slept for seventy years. When he woke up he saw a man gathering carobs from the tree. “Are you the man who planted this tree? he (Choni) asked.
“I am his grandson.” “I must have slept for seventy years,” said Choni to himself. He saw that his donkey had given birth to a whole herd of donkeys. Choni went to his house. “Is Choni’s son here?” he asked. “His son is no longer alive, but his grandson is here,” they replied to him. “I am Choni Ha’magal” he told them. They did not believe him.
          He went to the Beit Midrash (study hall) and he heard the Rabbis say, “Things are so clear today, like in the days of Choni Ha’magal, that every question that the Rabbis had, he knew the answer to it.”
           “I am he,” said Choni. The Rabbis did not believe him and they did not respect him even though his knowledge of Torah was great. He said if I don’t have a companion in expressing myself, it’s not worth to live.
          He was weakened and he asked God to have mercy on him, and he died.
There are many questions on this Gemara however let’s focus on Choni’s mental well being throughout the whole episode.
          Choni was transported to the future. He was not recognized but he was remembered, fondly, as a historical figure. Everybody immediately recognized the name Choni and revered it. However, they did not connect nor believe that the man in front of them was in fact Choni. This happened both in his home and in the study hall.
          We see from here that Choni had a past (people knew his name) and he had a future (he had grandchildren and his name lived on in his scholarly teachings), however – he had no present! He could not connect; he could not adapt to the present in which he was placed.
          The adapting mechanism in him did not work and it led to his demise.

          Why didn’t it work?
Many of these aspects are comparisons about life. Perhaps one should put this also on the list:
One can compare life to sitting in a moving vehicle as he sees the places, neighborhoods and people pass him by. He remembers where he began and he knows his destination. The mind registers and adapts to the journey as he gets closer and closer to the end.

          In life, one must learn to adapt to a situation, whether it be work, school, marriage, birth, death, diet, or any relationships with others or one’s self. No matter how harsh living conditions may be, no matter how difficult the environment, no matter how irritating or obnoxious the person, a human being is able to adapt and survive. But, we shall shortly learn from the teaching of Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz, that there is an important ingredient, which should be infused in the process of adapting, in order for it to be successful.

          I t is this message, which will clarify for us the difference between Abraham’s reaction to G-d’s command to bring his son Yitzchak as a sacrifice, as opposed to that of his wife Sarah. Abraham was eager to fulfill G-d’s command. Sarah, on the other hand, when she heard what had transpired, could not bear the news, and died instantly. How can two great people have reacted so differently to the same event? What makes this question even more puzzling, was that Sarah was on a higher level then her husband in prophecy.

          The answer is that Abraham was made aware in a gradual manner that Yitzchak was to be brought as a sacrifice, thus allowing his feelings and emotions to adapt to the challenge awaiting him. G-d told him ‘Take your son’ then ‘your only son whom you love’. Only then did he inform him that Yitzchak was to be sacrificed. So maybe, if Abraham had been confronted suddenly that it was Yitzchak who was to be sacrificed, he would not have survived. It was the gradual realization of this fact that made it easier for him to digest this. He was therefore able to perform G-d’s command. Such was not the case with Sarah who was suddenly overwhelmed by the realization of what had happened and died from the shock.

          Another example of how delicate and gradual one must be, is G-d’s reaction after Adam sinned by eating from the tree of knowledge. G-d appeared close to Adam and asked ‘Where are you?’ G-d knew where Adam was, but He wanted to confront him in a manner that he would not be startled. The guilt of his sin was overwhelming; any sudden confrontation would have emotionally destroyed Adam.
          Let’s not forget Serach bat Asher, the granddaughter of our father Yaacov, who played the harp singing ‘Yosef (his favorite son who was presumed dead for 22 years) is still alive and living in Egypt’. The overwhelming sudden joy would have been proven too much and might have killed him. Serach presented it in a delicate, clever, gradual way in which Yaacov was able to comprehend without the shocking affect.
          The Gemarah (Sotah13a) states that soon after Yaacov’s death, seventeen years later, when Yaacov’s sons were taking his body to the Cave of Machpela for burial, a confrontation took place between his sons and his evil brother Eisav. Eisav came and protested that the plot of land (Cave of Machpela) belonged to him. A debate ensued and it was decided that one of the brothers would return to Egypt and retrieve the deed to show that Yaacov indeed owned the property.

          A deaf grandson Chushim (son of Naftali) wondered, why the cause of the delay? When they communicated with him, he exclaimed ‘What? Our grandfather will lie in degradation until the deed is brought?’ whereupon he immediately killed Eisav.

          Why was Chushim, a grandson, more concerned about Yaacov’s honor than Yaacov’s own sons? Rav Chaim answers, all the brothers had been slowly drawn into the argument with Eisav, gradually dulling their sensitivity to their father’s shame. Chushim, being deaf, was completely unaware of the situation. When he realized the reason for the delay, he could not contain his anger and killed Eisav.
          At times, yours truly likes to compare the different periods of my life. I was in the front porch of my house, one Sunday afternoon and saw my neighbors and their kids playing with mine. I couldn’t help but to compare the cast of characters in my life now and when I was a child or as a teenager. For the most part, with a few exceptions I’m surrounded with new people. Some are not with us anymore and others are scattered all over the world. If I didn’t have the transitional memories in between the two times of my life, I would feel as if those periods in my life never occurred.
            I once spoke to my cousin in Israel on the phone as I was walking in my current neighborhood in Queens. I had very little contact with this cousin since childhood but for a brief couple of seconds, listening to his voice, I thought I was back in Israel on my summer vacations as a child. The transformation was exhilarating!!

One has to be aware of the delicate nature of man. He has to approach situations gradually. Furthermore, man must be aware and use his most powerful tool, that of speech, properly by delivering news, whether good or bad, gradually. This will allow those listening to be able to hear and giving them a chance to adapt and tolerate what they are being told..

          Even when one gets up in the morning, one needs time before getting out of bed. Even the Sages agree. There was a study taken where the body and mind need about 12 seconds to adapt. It’s funny that the prayer that is said in the morning, MODEH ANI, has 12 words. One second for each word, using the proper concentration, gives the mind and body time to adapt from a state of sleeping and lying down to one of being awake and standing/moving.

          Choni was placed in a situation where he could not adapt. He could not relate to his new surroundings. Perhaps the seventy years lapse was too taxing on his mental state.

          It’s inevitable that we will go through changes in life. People will come in to our lives and others will depart. Change has to be done gradually.
          When King Shaul was informed by the Prophet Shmuel that G-d is removing him from being king, his response to Shmuel was a bit peculiar. He said “Let me address the people one more time as king”. He wanted to digest the verdict of G-d gradually and descend from the position.
          We must deal with change in a delicate way. Granted, adapting is part of life. If we are aware of its pitfalls, allowing ourselves the time and effort to adapt, we will be at a tremendous advantage.

Parshat Vayeira

 First Portion
* We would like to believe we are not the same people we were years ago. Everyone would state, they have matured, been educated and have learned from life’s experiences. This is the general attitude of humans. Well, I hope we have matured and become better people. It’s frustrating to see those that have not.

In this weeks parsha our forefather Avraham’s status has been elevated. This is evident by the level of communication between G-d and Avraham. Its clear from the KAVOD that G-d has given Avraham by visiting that Avraham has evolved to a complete and upstanding individual. We learn some very important lessons from this section. First lesson we learn is visiting the sick, which G-d did by approaching Avraham after Avraham followed G-d’s commandment and circumcised himself. The one being afflicted is revitalized by the visit. Secondly, hospitality is of great importance; Avraham in great pain from his circumcision, still managed to accept guest with tremendous enthusiasm.

We see the relationship between G-d and Avraham is now on a higher level because of the circumcision. When G-d revealed himself to the non-Jewish prophet Bilam many years later, Bilam’s immediate reaction, peculiarly, was of great embarrassment for not being circumcised. It seams like there’s a connection between high level of spirituality and circumcision. Rabbi Baruch Dopelt asks why do we say at a brit ” just like he (this boy) has entered a covenant with G-d today so too will he be able to enter the threshold of Torah and mitzvot”? Why don’t we say it when he’s born? After all a Jew is a Jew circumcised or not. The Mystics say by having the brit and its ceremony spiritual energies are infused into the boy. These are the tools necessary to be able to comprehend the Torah in a different realm..There are also thirteen times, in last weeks parsha Lech Lecha where G-d mentions his covenant with Avraham. This is to offset the thirteen attributes of G-d. The Thirteen attributes of G-d is mentioned on Yom Kippur and is a focal point in our quest for forgiveness. It can only be applied if the Jew is circumcised. Rabbi Pesach Krohn teaches us with the infused energy that the boy gets at the brit comes a name. A name defines the task that this boy will do in life. This is the reason Avraham’s name was changed the day he was circumcised.

* “Where is Sarah your wife?” Oh, she’s in the tent”. From here we learn an importance lesson pertaining to women “modesty is a virtue”.

* “How can we have kids my husband is so old” Sarah proclaimed. What about you Sarah, you’re no spring chicken either?

Here we see an ongoing occurrence in human nature. It’s the spouse that’s blamed for everything. If only we can appreciate our spouse and realize their good qualities we would have better marriages
* An important lesson is learned about keeping peace between husband and a wife. G-d altered the truth when he approached Avraham about what Sarah said. He asked Avraham; ” why did Sarah laugh and say how can we have kids, I’m so old”. In saying Sarah is old as opposed to what Sarah actually said – “my husband’s old”, Avrahams feelings weren’t hurt and it preserved peace between the couple. One has permission to alter the truth to preserve peace.

Second portion
* What compelled G-d to destroy the city of Sedom and Amora was an incident pertaining to one of Lott’s daughters. She once performed kindness and gave food to an old passer-by. Kindness, it seems, is against the law in Sedom. As punishment they hung her on a tree and spread honey all over her body and watched how she was tortured as the bees bit her to death. Her cries was the last straw that broke the camel’s back and propelled the all mighty to issue a death warrant to the entire city with the exception of Lot and his family.

Third Portion
* Although Lot had tremendous hospitality, a trait he learned from his uncle Avraham, never-the-less the fact that he offered his daughters as compensation not to harm his guest raises some eye brows

Fourth Portion
* Rabbi Moshe Feinstein relates a story when he was a young man about a colleague, who in one of his powerful sermons blamed Lot’s daughter for the despicable and immoral act of sleeping with their father. Add insult to injury one daughter named their offspring after the sin MO-AV, from the father. A while later Rav Moshe was informed that his friend is very ill. Upon visiting his friend, Rav Moshe was performing the commandment of visiting the sick, he sees that his friend’s throat is tremendously infected and can barely speak. ” Rav Moshe” the colleague said ” I know why I’m being punished. I had a dream shortly after one of my sermons. I was lying in bed and see two elderly woman standing besides me. It was Lott’s daughters. With a stern and angry tone of voice they accused me of slandering their name. They claimed they did the act out of complete sincerity and self sacrifice to preserve man-kind, figuring that civilization had been destroyed again. ” Instead of praising us you unfairly turned our deed and intentions into a sin, therefore you will pay with your life with punishment to your vocal cords”. Soon after Rav Moshe’s friend passed away. We learn never Judge anybody unless you’re in their shoes.

* Once again Avraham and Sarah marriage and morals are tested when Sarah was taken forcefully and brought to Avimelech the king of the Pilishtim. Avimelech intended on keeping Sarah for himself despite knowing that she might be Avraham’s wife. Although that information wasn’t clear. It didn’t require a rocket scientist to figure that Avraham and Sarah were more than a brother and sister.

* Because of Avraham and Sarah passing the test of the Avimelech incident (she had the opportunity to be Queen, and acqiure tremendous riches). However she chose loyalty to her husband. G-d said you preserved the test with the reproductive organ so I will reward you with a child through the reproductive organ. G-d rewarded them with their own child.

Fifth Portion
* It seemed Sarah was on a higher level then Avraham. Yishmael, who was Hagar the maid servant’s son (she had him with Avraham), was a bad influence on Yitzchak ( Avraham and Sarah son and the heir apparent to the Jewish nation). She demanded that Avraham send Hagar and her son Yishmael away. Avraham was faced with a difficult decision. What to do? Naturally he turned to G-d who advised him listen to your wife Sarah, She knows”. We learn here the importance of maintaining the right environment for your children and yourself.
Kids tend to be very impressionable so one has to surround them with the right school , nice neighborhood and proper role models at home.

Sixth Portion
*Avraham and Avimeloch make a treaty after Yitzchak was born.. As long as the descendants of Avimelech dwell on the land, no descendants of Avraham will wage war against them. This covenant was the reason later why Israel couldn’t capture Eastern part of Jerusalem. Avraham called the western part Yeru- to see G-d (holy place). Shalem, the eastern part was originally inherited by Noach’s son Shem. The name Shalem comes from Shem. In Yehoshua’s time the Philishtim lived in the Shalem, the eastern part. Although Yehoshua, the leader of the Israelites, conquered the western part, in honor of the treaty the Israelites refrained from entering the Eastern part. It wasn’t until the last descendant of Avimelech died after the time of Yehoshua did the children of Judeah took it.

Seventh portion
* The pride and Joy of the Jewish nation, the incident of the AKEDA which is so beloved by G-d. This is the primary weapon we use on Rosh Hashana to ask G-d for mercy and forgiveness
* The narrative prepares us for the next stage of life describing the future wife of Yitzchak, Rivka’s heritage.

Rav Ovadia and the American Jews

Excerpts from the shiurim of Rabbi’s Isaac Oelbaum, Baruch Dopelt
also contributing Rafi Sharbat and Rafi Fouzailoff


Rav Ovadya Yosef, one of the greatest Rabbis of this generation, passed away last week. The impact of his legacy was evident by the attendance at his funeral which was the largest in the history of the State of Israel. An unprecedented 800,000 people witnessed it. I guess it would be an understatement to say that he was pretty popular in Israel, but what about here, in the United States. Was he popular here? Did his teachings and influence impact your life? The answer is no. He was not as influential on our daily lives as he was there. But, do not fear. That is ok. We don’t need that influence. Now, you may be saying to yourself “Rabbi, do you realize what you are saying?!? Of course we need the leadership of this Rav and all of the greatest Tzaddikim who have lived, and continue to live, until now, Ad Yimei Hamashiach – until the days of Moshiach.” And you would be correct in stating that we need to have them but let me explain.
There is an important lesson which can be derived from the neighboring parshiot of Lech-Lecha and, our parsha of this week, Vayera which will shed some light on the legacy of Rav Ovadya. Even more important, we can see the implications of a very important lesson which we should apply to our everyday lifestyle.

Rav Ovadia was a former chief Rabbi of Israel and the spiritual leader and founder of the Orthodox Shas party that has an authoritative voice in the Israeli government. What earned him respect, though, was his photogenic memory and was a universally accepted renown Torah scholar. His knowledge was so profound that no one was able to challenge his ruling. Rav Ovadia was not just an encyclopedia of knowledge but he was able to use his creativity and apply halachic rulings where no other Rabbi would dare to go.
A couple of stories to illustrate this point:


1)The Rav had just become the chief Rabbi when Brigadier General, Rabbi Mordechai Piron informed him that there were 1,000 married Jewish soldiers MIA. Rav Ovadia Yosef spearheaded this effort, creating a Beit Din, or religious court, that would meet twice a week. They worked tirelessly to find some basis of proof to free those 1,000 women. Referring to his two-volume book on religious rules, “Responsa: Yabia Omer,” where he dedicated many chapters to the Agunah problem, he treated each case with special importance. Working with the Beit Din of Agunot affairs, he went around seeking testimony and researching evidence on a topic that is heavily complicated within Jewish tradition. By the end of his work, the newswire JTA reported in April of 1976, “there was no longer a single case of Agunah.” Some cases of agunot he worked on did not require so much labor, such as collecting testimony from fellow soldiers. In other cases, Rav Ovadia ruled on evidence which could seem slightly far-reaching; researching dental records, doctor records, even discovered jewelry from the battlefield. In one case, a soldier was found wearing a wedding band with a wedding date inscribed, and his wife had a matching ring. The Beit Din sifted through various marriage registrars and once proving she was married on that date, they concluded the body found was her deceased husband, and permitted her to remarry.

Allowing these women to simply remarry once they assumed their husbands were dead was not so easily determinable. Rabbis feared that those pronounced dead who were actually alive might return home in a few years to heartbreak, if their wives were, indeed, remarried.

Around ten years ago the Rabbi suffered his first heart attack and was rushed to the hospital. Surgery was required immediately however the Rabbi pleaded to postpone the surgery for three hours and be taken home. He later revealed his reasoning. While at home, he was in the middle of writing his responsa for an aguna and, due to the heart attack, he could not finnish it. “I might not come out alive from this surgery and then what will be of this poor woman? She will be stuck for the rest of her life unable to remarry. I had to finish the responsa before the surgery.”


2)In an unprecedented halachic ruling Rabbi Ovadia Yosef has allowed a woman pregnant by artificial insemination to marry a man who is not the father of the developing child. The 44-year old religious woman decided to get pregnant through a sperm bank because she feared she would not be able to conceive if she waited any longer. However, immediately after her insemination, she met a 50-year-old widower and the two quickly decided to wed, after the latter accepted responsibility for the child. The couple immediately ran into trouble. According to the Jewish halacha, a pregnant woman is not allowed to marry any man who is not the father for 24 months after the birth. The ruling preserves the unborn child’s rights. Rabbis explain that if the woman becomes pregnant again within the two years that follow the birth, the mother may stop producing milk for the baby. The couple appealed to the local rabbinate, but was forbidden to marry. They then turned to Rav Ovadia Yosef, who ruled that the mother may use milk substitutes to feed her child if she conceives again in the coming years.

Attorney Zuriel Bublil, who helped the couple with their appeal, was pleased with the result. “This is an unprecedented ruling that will help women coming to the end of their fertility,” he said. “Rabbi Yosef dealt with halachic reality with great courage, in a matter that many feared to allow or even discuss. The couple wanted to bring the child into the world after they were already married, and their time was almost up.” This woman and her fiancé were married according to Jewish law.


A number of other breakthrough rulings were declaring recognitions of the Jewishness of Ethiopian Jews and in more recent years , ordering the Shas party to vote in favor of a law recognizing brain death as death for legal purpose.


The ability to retract one’s position and admitting an error in judgement shows a tremendous amount of self-confidence. Such was the case in supporting Prime Minister Rabin’s risky Oslo adventure by issuing a ruling that the sanctity of life overrules the slogan of “not giving up an inch”, a decision he retracted when the accords led to the first intifada.


Rabbi Ovadia had a thirst for Torah that is an example to all of us. One morning he woke up in a blaze and ran towards the sink to wash his hands and reciting the birch at ha’Torah – the blessing of studying Torah.


Interestingly, in this bracha, we use the expression TZE’EHTZA’EH TZEHTZA’EHNU – may our offspring and our offspring’s offspring (study the Torah). However the Sages use an unusual terminology for offspring. Why tze’etza’enu and not the usual term, ZERAH? Rabbi Ovadia rushed after reciting the blessing of the Torah to look at a responsa of the commentary, Rivash. His children, seeing the Rav’s enthusiasm were curious for an explanation as to where the urgency came from to look the up commentary so abruptly. He replied that the night before he was toiling to understand two seemingly contradicting statements by the Rivash that seemed unresolvable. He said that in his sleep, the Rivash appeared to him in a dream and stated that he had indeed misunderstood his intentions. There is no contradiction in the two statements. It is all clarified in another source that the Rivash had written. “Upon waking up, I went to check the source he mentioned and indeed it was there.”



Let’s go back to our reference from the beginning of our newsletter of the parshiyot. One of the most important events in the Torah occurred in this week’s parsha. G-d tells Abraham to go and slaughter his beloved son Yitzchak. Although he didn’t actually go through with it, his intentions were to do so until the very last moment, when an Angel stopped him. It was an enormous test of trust in G-d, which Avraham passed.

What’s astonishing is the unchallenged acceptance of all this by Yitzchak! His enthusiasm throughout the incident was something to take note of. He didn’t think for even a second “Has my father gone mad?!”. How could Yitzchak have been so compliant?
We also observe the utmost respect, from the dialogue, that father and son had for each other.

It all seems so strange. Here is Avraham passing such an enormous test. However, if one will observe in chapter 15, verses 3 and 4, he seemed like he didn’t believe G-d, when He told him he was going to have children. G-d then reinforced him in a peculiar way saying that his trusted servant Eliezer will not inherit him but his son will, the one that will “come out of your stomach”. The sages bring up the we are all familiar with human physiology and know what gender babies come from. The meticulous Torah seems to be hinting something,


Avraham surely believed in G-d’s ability to give him children. However Avraham was afraid of what influence, what impact, could he possibly have on a son at such an advanced age? He was 90 years old!


G-d answered him stating that he will have his own biological children and it will come from HIS STOMACH.


We learn from a verse in Yishaya (59;21) that there is a strong connection between TZE’EHTZA’EH and the word next to it, MEAYIM (stomach).


The stomach is where feeling comes from. Did you ever here the expressions “I’m sick to my stomach” or “I have butterflies in my stomach “?


G-d was telling Avraham, “Your son will inherit you, MEAYIM, from the stomach. With all your enthusiasm and strong feeling, sincerity and strong spiritual sense, your son will inherit you. You Avraham will be the blueprint where the love and spirituality will come from. Your the model mold.”


Did you ever wonder why, in the most important prayer we have, the Amida, we recite G-d of Abraham, Isaac and Yaacov. Then we say concluding the first blessing MAGEN AVRAHAM-protect Avraham?


Why not protect the other forefathers?


Because Avraham is where the spiritual feelings come from. He is the source. Therefore we have to protect that precious hunger, the love of G-d. We ask G-d to protect the spiritual enthusiasm.


That is the reason Yitzchak was so compliant. The guarantee by G-d through the verse, stating MI’MEI’ECHA, came to fruition. We see that every Jew HAS IT!!! He therefore doesn’t really need a leader. Although it helps, it’s unnecessary. It’s built in all of us. We just have to find the right channels to make it sprout. Avraham was guaranteed by G-d.


Frequently I would travel to Israel in the 1980’s-90’s and feeling the pulse of the Sepharadim there I can emphatically say that Rabbi Ovadia’s popularity was indescribable. He was their Rabbi. He was their leader. He was their pride and joy. My own cousins were caught up in the Rabbi Ovadia frenzy. The sepharadim, for many years, never had a Torah giant that would compare to the Ashkenazi greats. Rav Ovadia was able to be their equal. He was able to spar with them, head-to-head, and stand his ground. He was convinced that the Sefardi menorah needed not take a back seat to anybody. He kick-started a spiritual and cultural awakening among a significant number of Israelis in his pursuit to “restore the crown of the divine attributes to its ancient completeness”. The Sepharadim in Israel were able to hold their head up high and be proud.


However it was different in the United States. The enthusiasm towards the great Rabbi was no way near the excitement in Israel. It was not even close. Not many American Sefaradim were able to relate to Rav Yosef. It was a different mentality; the Israeli’s told it like it is, which he did on many occasions. The Americans, though, were more reserved in their demeanor and did not appreciate that. There was and is a major difference between the Israeli and American Sefaradim due to the lack of having a leader.


In the early 90’s I was a guest at a friend who happened to be a Lubavitch Chassid. At the Shabbat table, his wife said, with pride, “The world doesn’t understand us because we have, and follow, a leader.” I felt uncomfortable because I couldn’t comprehend the experience, what a leader, or following a group for that matter, was like. I guess one can call my kind a free bird. Having a leader has a tremendous advantage. He can guide you in many aspects of life. With his enthusiasm, a momentum among his followers can be built, and spirituality can be enhanced among the group in entirety.


Baruch Dayan Ha’emet. We lost a great tzaddik. However we have a gaurantee……We’re Avraham’s descendants. If we protect it, pray to Hashem to protect it, inside of ourselves, we can build that spiritual world for ourselves and the world and people around us. LET’S DO IT!!! SHABBAT SHALOM!

A Guest from the Heavens


David Wilder, September 25, 2009

          On one of the pillars inside the Avraham Avinu synagogue is a plaque, with the cover page and introduction of a holy book, titled Emek HaMelech, meaning the Valley of the King. This book was authored by Rabbi Naftali Hertz Bachrach and published in 1648. It’s subject matter is Kabbalah, known popularly as “Jewish mysticism.”

Towards the end of chapter nine of the author’s introduction is a short paragraph, short in quantity, but quantitatively, immeasurable.
          The story is well known. Exactly 490 years ago, the year 1619, in Hebron-
The paragraph, as it is written, in Emek HaMelach:
          A wondrous event on Yom Kippur, know that in Hebron there aren’t always ten for public prayer, only on Shabbat and holy days, when villagers gather there and pray with ten and more. But all the residents of Hebron are pious. And it was on the eve of Yom Kippur, and there were only nine men, and they waited for the villagers to arrive, but not even one came, because they had all gone to Jerusalem, which is a quarter of a day’s walk. And they were greatly saddened that on Yom Kippur they would pray individually and they wept much, and the sun was setting and daylight was disappearing.

And they lifted their eyes and here was an elderly man, in the distance, and they were overjoyed to see him. And when he arrived they offered him a final meal, but he blessed them and said that he had eaten on the way. And they worshipped on the holy day and honored him greatly.

And the next night they began discussions, because all of them wanted to host the guest in his home. And they compromised and conducted a draw, and the prayer leader (Chazan) was selected, he was a holy man who had wondrous dreams and night visions.

And the Chazan led the guest to his home, with the guest walking behind him. And when he arrived at his home, the Chazan turned to honor the guest, that he should enter first, and he saw that the guest was gone. And they searched the entire courtyard, but didn’t find him, and all were greatly saddened, thinking that the guest had left already that night, and did not want to enjoy anything from them.

          And that night the old man appeared before the Chazan in a dream and told him that he was Avraham Avinu, who had come to complete the minyon because he had seen that they were so upset about having to pray individually. And they were very happy and blessed the Great G-d, who had done wondrous things, Amen, May it be His Will:

Parshat Lech Lecha

First portion
* Avraham would probably be labeled by many as a pioneer; he was the first man to utilize his great gifts to the fullest and able to capitalize on his potential and bring them to fruition. Through passing the ten tests, he not only elevated the status of man, he also energized the world. He and his wife Sarah did what Noach and all the prominent people before them could not do – spread the word of G-d to the entire civilization and live up to the heights man was projected to live up to. Avraham fueled the attribute of kindness. Everyone is born with certain spiritual energies in which man has to step up to the plate. However, if these energies are not used as designed, it is taken away and transformed to somebody else. A person is provided with certain energies to combat the trials and tests of life to elevate him and by doing so, elevates the world as a whole. However, if he fails to take advantage of the opportunity then the energies transfers to someone else who will be given similar opportunities to elevate himself and the world. Adam, Noach, and others lost the powers while Avraham fueled the KOACH. Avraham had the chutzpah to say NO WAY!! to paganism; he had the audacity to stand up to what he believed in; risking his life for the sake of G-d.
* The Kli Yakar, one of the commentaries on the Chumash, has difficulty with the title of this week’s Parsha, Lech-lecha; literally it means “go to you” which doesn’t make sense. The scripture should be, either, “go” or “leave”. He explains, it actually does mean what it sounds like. “Go to you” is referring to one shall go to himself; he should explore his inner-self, the essence of man. Where shall he do that? The Parsha describes later, by the MAKOM – place. Which place? The place, G-d refers to, is Har Hamoria. This is the place where the Temple Mount stands today. The Kli Yakar informs us this is where the souls are manufactured, the nucleus of mankind is structured. Yaacov had his dream on this spot. The Kodesh Hakadoshim, the most important part of the temple, rested on that spot. Besides offering Avraham’s children riches, G-d offered Avraham clarity, a chance to be more spiritually close to G-d. The kedusha – holiness of the land of Israel, especially in certain parts of Jerusalem, is very apparent.
* Rashi says the third test, G-d made the it more difficult for Avraham by stating, “Leave your land, your place of birth and your father’s house”. By stating these points, it will invoke a feeling of familiarity, so dear, it would make it harder to depart. However, the question is asked, Avraham was ridiculed rather cruelly for not having children by his fellow neighbors and for his belief in a non-visible G-d. Unless Avraham is one of those people who likes getting abused and stepped on, not many do, he would jump at the opportunity to leave. So why did G-d state it like that? Even if one is in an undesirable environment, if it’s his home and his mother’s tongue, one would find it difficult to leave. It’s not an easy feeling going to an unknown destination.
* As soon as Avraham arrived in Canaan, the place where G-d had chosen, famine broke out. This was Avraham’s fourth test. G-d wanted to see if he would complain; he didn’t.
* Because of the famine, they were forced to go down to Egypt.

Second Portion
* This was a tremendous test for both, Sarah, as well as Avraham. Sarah’s morality and loyalty is tested. The frustrating and frightening incident where she is taken away by a king happened twice; once, here, by Pharaoh and another time by Avimelech, the king of the Pelishtim. She could have rationalized; “Maybe I should succumb to Pharaoh’s advances. After all, if I don’t, I am not only putting my life in danger but also the life of my husband.” Sarah could have stooped even further in human character and rationalized, “I can be the Queen. Do you know what Kavod – honor that is.” “Avraham will be fine; I can support him financially, after all, I’m the Queen.” Sarah prayed with intensity so Pharaoh will release her untouched. Both she and Avraham were protected by G-d, and reunited. The test of loyalty, though, happened a second time. The time with King Avimelech was a harder test. Pharaoh and the Egyptians were a barbaric society. However Avimelech and the Pelishtim were more of a high cultural, sophisticated and fashionable people. It seemed it would be more tempting. Moreover, the fact that it happened twice might frustrate her into thinking, “Maybe G-d is sending me a message; I missed an opportunity the first time with Pharaoh. Fool! Let’s try this again. Let’s not mess this up a second time.” On both occasions, Sarah rejected the king’s advances and was returned to Avraham unscathed. G-d then rewarded Sarah in the next Parsha with a son from Avraham. G-d said, “You were tempted with the reproductive organ; I will reward you through the reproductive organ.”

Third Portion 
* The controversial question Rav Eliyahu Dessler asks, was Avraham’s decision to separate himself from his nephew Lot – correct? After all, Avraham was Mr. Outreach. Why didn’t he continue to influence his own nephew? As long as Lot was with Avraham, G-d didn’t fully communicate with our forefather. Furthermore it was only after Lot left Avraham, did Sarah have a child. It seems like Lot brought down Avraham spiritually. It’s not so clear-cut whether to have someone we know under our care and direction. Perhaps they might not let us grow in life.

Fourth Portion
* To save his nephew Lot, Avraham goes to great extent, in the war of 4 kings vs. 5 kings. The question is, why? Didn’t we learn previously that Avraham deemed Lot as unworthy. Furthermore, the kings knew Avraham will make every attempt to rescue his nephew. What’s so special about Lot? In next week’s Parsha, the angels specifically go to Sedom to save Lot before destroying the city. Why is Lot getting the VIP treatment? The reason is, the descendant of Lot is Ruth, and from her dynasty, David will be born. From David, the Moshiach will come.

Fifth Portion
* Avraham rejected any personal gains from the war even though he was entitled. This was to show his devotion to G-d and to show the nations of the world, it was G-d’s hand, not mine, that determined victory.

Sixth Portion
* Sarah suggested to her husband Avraham that he should take her maid servant, Hagar, for a wife; “Maybe then G-d will have mercy on me and give me children”.
* Hagar gives birth to Yishmael.

Seventh Portion
* One of Avraham’s ten trials was the commandment of circumcision.
* G-d instructed Avraham, “Your name will be changed from Avram to Avraham. I am adding a HEY to your name. Your wife’s name will also change from Sarai to Sarah by exchanging the YUD to a HEY. This change was significant because now Avraham and Sarah have been transformed to a higher level.
* When G-d removed the letter YUD from Sarah’s name, it flew up to G-d’s throne to complain. G-d comforted it, “In the past, you were the last letter of a woman’s name. In the future, I will put you at the head of a man’s name”. This will happen when Moshe will rename his student Hoshea to Yehoshua.

The Reciting of the Havdalah

          The ceremonial Havdalah, which we recite Saturday night, makes a separation between the Shabbat, a spiritually holy day , and weekdays. Initially, we recite the Havdalah at the evening services Amida in the midst of the bracha of ATTA CHONEN L’ADDAM DA’AT, “G-d give us understanding”. The question is asked: Why did the Sages instill the recitation of the Havdala in this bracha?
          Another question one may ask is “Are not the statements we make in Havdala (the separation between holy and not holy, between light and dark and between the nation of Israel and the other nations) extremely elementary?”
          Lets give a parable in order to fully understand the message of Havdallah.:
          If someone is not sure if a knife he finds in his house is dairy or meat, what should he do?
         Well one particular individual used one side of the knife for dairy and the other side of the knife for meat. Obviously this person lacks DA’AT-knowledge. This is the reason the recitation is found in the bracha of “G-d please give me knowledge”. If one has the proper knowledge, he can make the proper distinction.
          However life is such that certain situations are not so clear cut. When does one say “Enough”. There are many situation at work or between neighbors that occur between us and the non-Jews that fall under the grey area of what the Havdalah calls ” between us and the non Jews”. We therefore pray our decisions will be clear and with the proper understanding.
          It’s important to put fences, barriers, at the proper junctures of our relationships. Unfortunately, it’s common that lines are crossed. How many of us say “I’m going to do this no matter what”. The reason is our emotions get in the way. There is a certain vulnerability in all of us and no one is immune.
         Avraham had the gift, the courage, and the foresight to draw the line, to make the “havdalah (separation). This is how he was able to teach to his son and students G-d’s word and for this reason G-d loved him like no other.

Making Limitations is Essential

Excerpts from the shiurim of Rabbi’s Isaac Oelbaum, Baruch Dopelt and Dr. Robert Goldman
also excerpts taken from the book by Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler “Michtav Eliyahu”

          I was invited to a yartzheit dinner the other night and, Baruch Hashem, they had a lot of food. America is beautifull!! However, those days of feasting without thinking are unfortunately behind me. Today there are limitations on what yours truly can eat. Yes, yes. We don’t have to indulge. There is something called will power. We have to be strong and not give in to temptation. WE CAN DO IT!! Nevertheless, even with all the RA RA RA pep talk and the encouraging pat on the back, it felt like a war zone at the yartzheit dinner table. It seems, at times one is walking on the mine field; the chicken dish is mixed with french fries. If one is on a low carb diet, he has to separate the two. Besides the fact that its fried food. BUT WAIT!! HOW CAN YOU EAT THE CHICKEN WITHOUT THE FRIES (CHIPS! KARTOSHKA)?! That’s like separating Abbot and Costello. However, ya gotta do it. But wait, there’s more. There is the sour-salted tomatoes….which is bad for high blood pressure. And when we finally reach the end, at about 10:00 o’clock, the crowning devil-in-disguise, the famous rice-meat-carrot dish, makes an appearence. Nutritionist will tell you ” can’t eat carbs after 8-9:00 o’clock”. It’s terribly tempting for someone who is diabetic. One can only eat fruit. With all those distractions, who can concentrate on the speeches…let alone ask, “did someone die?”. Its apparent, one has to draw the line and set limitations or else he’ll be the star of the next yartzheit dinner.
          In this week’s Torah portion, we read about, arguably, the most famous man that ever lived, Abraham. The Sages describe our forefather as a charismatic, towering figure who was always ready to lend a helping hand. The hospitality he provided was second to none. His Shabbat table was always filled with guests. Although he was a loner in his monotheistic beliefs, he had backbone and was not afraid to share and spread the word of G-d. By the end of his life he had everything – children, wealth and a good name. Smart, intelligent, cynical individuals like ourselves know reward doesn’t come easy….So how did he do it?
          G-d says, in verse 29 chapter 28 in parshat Vayeira, that He loves Abraham. One has to ask what did He love about him? Perhaps His love was the result that Avraham passed all the tests, including the biggy of attempting to sacrifice his son Yitzchak as commanded by G-d. Maybe it was his chessed (kindness) to other people.
          We, as diligent followers of the Torah as well as opportunists, have to be sensitive enough to discover clues in the Torah that will help us in life. In this case when G-d says that He loves Abraham, we have to emulate those deeds that led G-d to proclaim this strong positive feeling. Perhaps He will love us as well and shower us with goodness both in this world and the next, AMEN!! Hey! Let’s spread the wealth. We have to sieze the opportunity!!
         Rashi (one of the major commentaries of the Torah) explaining the verse above, says that Avraham was able to pass down to his children, especially his son and heir-apparent Yitchak, and many of his students, the message of G-d. This is something that Noach was unable to accomplish to the full extent.
        How was Avraham able to spread the word?
        Rashi expands on the word “Veh-Shamru”-if you watch. Avraham was able to master that. He was able to set limits. This was an important virtue in Avraham and an important principle to apply in life.
        Let’s give a number of examples throughout Avrahams life on how he was able to skillfully use this power of setting limits and drawing the line, (AD KAN).
        Avraham had a nephew Lot, who needed guidance. Of course Abraham was there to give a helping hand. Mr. kindness. The helping hand, though, was serviced for many years. In fact, Lot was the third wheel behind Avraham and his wife Sarah. Avraham was faced with a dilemma. Should he break off ties with Lot? Rav dessler indicates that G-d didn’t speak to Avraham until he pried himself away from his nephew. Apparently his association with Lot was the reason for G-d’s disassociation. Lot was preventing Avraham from reaching a higher spiritual level.
          However Abraham had, without a doubt, a tremendous positive influence on Lot as we will see in parshat Vayeira.
          Therefore he was faced with a difficult decision:
1) to keep his association with Lot at the expense of his own growth…. or 2) leave him cold turkey and live up to his potential.
        Avraham made the decision to leave.
        Another example is at the end of this weeks parsha which introduces us to the concept of brit milah – circumcision. One may ask why was it introduced to Avraham? Why not introduce it at Mount Sinai, many years later, like all the other commandments? Why wasn’t introduced to his son Yitzchak? We can start fresh when he reached eight days old.
To get a clearer picture of why Avraham was chosen to be the representative of this commandment we have to explore deeper into the trait of kindness, the trait that Avraham embodied. The Zohar says the “giving” trait found in cheesed-kindness, if taken to an extreme, would inevitably cause one to succumb to illicit relations. Anyone with that super kindness trait is susceptible. As of matter of fact, Yishmael, Avrahams other son, inherited that trait from his father but was not able to control it.
The Sages say Avraham was shalom (perfect/full/complete.) He perfected all his traits except this one. As one naturally realizes, concentration can be most difficult. By commanding Avraham to perform Brit Milah it now made him perfect. Limitation was set on this organ. There is a certain segula, or spiritual merit, found with the ceremony of brit milan, where one’s understanding of Jewish wisdom is increased. Everytime Avraham looked at his circumcision he would realize the limitation on the trait of chessed. It was not only a sign, a covenant with G-d, but a deterent. This courageous act led to having his one true heir, Yitzchak.

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

  Why was the rainbow chosen as a symbol of peace between G-d and mankind?
          G-d said, “When I brought the flood, my bow was drawn against man.” The rainbow resembles a reverse bow, signifying that there shall be no more arrows from heaven sent to destroy humanity.
G-d commanded Noach- P’ru u’rivu – be fruitful and multiply. However, Noach was discouraged after leaving the ark and seeing the devastation. The rainbow is a reassurance along with a statement in the Shema that “you and your children will live long on the land that I swore to your fathers.” You will live long without another flood.
In the time of King Chizkiyahu and of the Men Of The Great Assembly (which includes Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai), the Jews reached a very high level of spirituality and righteousness. (In Chizkiyahu’s time, even little children were well-versed in complicated halachic matters.) These two generations did not need the reassurance of the rainbow or the covenant which it represented, since their great merits protected them.
It is a custom in Israel and in some neighborhoods in the New York area that the children carry bows on Lag Ba’omer. The reason is to commemorate Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, in whose generation, no rainbow was seen. (Note that in Hebrew the words “bow” and “rainbow” are the same – KESHET.) The positive message is that we should strive for perfection. In many communities, the Zohar is read on a person’s yartzeit. The portion in the Zohar which we read describes the death of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. It describes him passing away SHALEM whole. SHALEM and SHALOM – peace are from the same root. We pray that the deceased passed away fulfilled his whole being and peace. It’s the antithesis of the generation of the flood, where there was no peace.
It is forbidden to stare at the rainbow because G-d’s presence is in it. However, it is proper to glance at it and recite the blessing, reminding ourselves of the promise that G-d will not to bring destruction despite our sins. 

Parshat Noach

First Portion
* They must have been pretty bad, for G-d to say “THATS IT, I’VE HAD IT!! I’M DESTROYING THE WORLD!”
* G-d gave Noach 120 years to build the ark to give people a chance to repent and join Him.
* Why is the flood called MAY NOACH – the waters of Noach, the flood of Noach? In other words, why is his name attached to it? It was Noach that G-d empowered the gift and ability to sway others into repentance. Unfortunately, he didn’t step up to the plate. So he takes the responsibility for other’s misdeeds. It’s important to realize that we to have a responsibility for our brethren and not take the deaf-ear New York approach and mind my own business. Some of us have tremendous capabilities and could influence others.
* G-d asked Noach to build the ark himself. Why weren’t others involved? Why didn’t he contract the work to the Mexicans?….cheaper labor. The Torah teaches a very important concept; when someone creates something himself, the creation is an embodiment of himself; his essence, his merits are found in the creation. He was the Tzadik in his generation and G-d found favor in Noach. That favor carries a lot of weight. Maybe now one can understand the controversy, in Israel, many years ago, with playing the music of the composer Wagner, a member of the Nazi German regime. Music is very penetrating and when listening to it, one absorbs the essence, character of the composer. One must be careful listening to some Rock n Roll songs composed by drugged out, suicidal, angry, depressed individuals. Maybe now, one can have a better understanding of copy-caters who mimic what the songs suggests. Another important note, we also find on Pesach; many eat MATZOH-SHMURAH baked by a Jew. There is no soul in machine matzohs.  It is all circuits and wires.  Matzoh has to be made by a Jew, and every Jew has the status of pure kedusha (holiness), no matter what level he is at. Matzoh is such an important commandment; it should be baked by a Jewish soul. Deep down, every Jew has a pure soul.
* Stealing was common; swapping wives was the norm; they would have two wives, one for pleasure… what else is new? We see that in our society today. What do you think a mistress does, bake cakes? In addition to what we have mentioned, it would be quite common where they would perform marriages between humans and animals; cross breeding was the norm. That society would crave for any pleasure. There would be no rules, unlimited access.
Second Portion
* Noach was 600 years old when entering the ark. He was joined by Na’ama, his wife, and his three sons and their wives.
* Controversy whether Na’ama was the same person, who was the granddaughter of Kayin. Apparently, there are those that say all of mankind stems from the third son of Adam, Shet.
* Na’ama was an innovator, creating voice singing.
* Cham, one of the sons of Noach, breached the law of abstaining from cohabiting in the ark. The Torah hints, relationships were forbidden, by listing men and women separately. Cham’s wife gave birth to the giant Sichon while in the ark. In truth, Sichon had been fathered by Shamchazael (one of the angels who, before the mabul, descended to earth, to live there as human beings.) Cham came to his wife to save her face. For this deed, which was perpetrated in the dark, Cham was repaid measure for measure; he emerged from the ark dark skinned and all his descendants are also black forever.
* Apparently, Noach only entered the ark when the waters were rising. Commentaries say this was the result lack of belief in G-d.
Third Portion
* Why did the animals die? They didn’t have freedom of choice to do wrong. (See article)
* Only the fish survived because they had not sinned like the other creatures.
* G-d closed the fountain of the earth and sent a wind to disperse the water. Only three hot fountains continued flowing in memory of the flood. One of them is the well-known hot springs of Tiberias in Israel.
* The raven and the dog were the others who cohabited in the ark.
Fourth Portion
*The righteous Noach didn’t emerge from the ark until G-d gave him permission to do so.
*A fundamental change which occurred after the flood was between man and beast. Before the flood, man was promised control over the animals. However, after the flood there was no longer that promise. Instead, the decree was, as long as man is true to his G-dly image, he will not be afraid of them. G-d also put fear of man in animals. Furthermore, as a reward for taking care of the animals, man was given permission to eat them.
Fifth Portion
* A rainbow is a covenant that G-d will not destroy the world again. The rainbow didn’t appear in two generations. One of which was the time of Chizkiyahu where the Jewish nation was known to be righteous. So they didn’t need that protection.
Sixth portion
* Why was Cham blamed for castrating Noach? It was his son, Cana’an, who actually performed the despicable act. Cham merely told his brothers about his father’s nakedness. Why was he at fault? Apparently it was the way he told his brothers. He told them in a derogatory fashion with the eyes rolling, a giggle, and a sly “hey, look at our drunken father”, while Cana’an heard their conversation from afar. The reaction by Cham triggered Cana’an to look down and lose total respect for his grandfather which permitted him to perform the audacity. Cham paved the way by ridiculing his father and figuratively put the knife in his hand.
Seventh Portion
* Why did G-d disperse the unity of the tower of Bavel?  Doesn’t he like unity more than anything? We know they plotted against G-d; however, UNITY IS SPECIAL!! Apparently, it wasn’t a sincere unity. They were united for the sake of the goal, for the sake of the organization. You had to be a company man. One has to sacrifice for the company. If a brick falls, they all mourn. However, if a fellow worker, company man slips, falls and gets killed, apparently, they didn’t care as long as he was replaced efficiently.


Sticks and Snakes

          Rabbi Oelbaum asks a question about a very famous but peculiar incident between G-d and Moshe (the greatest leader in Jewish history) in their earliest meeting:
          Why did G-d ask Moshe to throw down his stick? It turned into a snake. Then He asked him to grab it by its tail, where then it turned back into a stick. What the purpose of all that? What a way to introduce yourself!
Was He training Moshe to do magic tricks? Shame there were no rabbits and a top hat around.
          This was the same stick that Adam had in the garden of Eden. The stick was passed down through the generations. Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaacov all possessed it. Yaccov brought it down to Egypt who later on gave it to his son Yosef. After Yosef died, the Egyptians ransacked Yosef’s house and it ended up in in Pharoh’s palace where it made its way mysteriously to the possession of Yitro (Pharoh’s adviser). It was stuck in the ground, unattainable, in Yitro’s property until Moshe came and pulled it out. In order to understand the answer fully lets bring this example:
King Solomon, the smartest man that ever lived
          Shlomo wanted to understand where the demons get their power. Through his intelligence and ingenuity he managed to capture the head demon, Ashmadai, who said “Let go of me and I’ll reveal to you my secret”. Shlomo did just that but Ashmadai proved to be too clever for the smartest man who ever lived and turned the tables on Shlomo. He over powered the king and threw him half way across the world. Demons’ powers are based on imagination. Ashmadai assumed the role, the identity of king Shlomo. When Shlomo informed people his identity they laughed. “You? The king? Ha! You’re just some homeless begger”. No one believed him. The Sages describe Shlomo’s uphill battle back to the throne. First he was “sholet al maklo”- he had control of his stick. He took small steps and slowly began to take control of his life.
          When G-d approached Moshe he wanted to teach him an important lesson in life. “You, Moshe have a stick in your hand, a holy stick, one that has been passed down for generations. If you let go of the stick; if you lose control, then the stick, the holiness, the tradition, the Torah, your essence, will turn into a snake. The snake is the embodiment of evil; it’s the ultimate negative force. However, if you hold on, if you grab control of your life, you can turn a bad situation into something positive.”
         We started a new year and G-d willing we should all have a happy and sweet year. We have to remember, though, life can be tough.

          Tragedy can affect our behavior, our ability to function, and our overall sense of well-being. The intensity and ways we express our reactions will vary depending on our personal experience, general mental health, other stress factors in our lives, our coping style, our ability to self-monitor our emotional state, and our support network. Perhaps if we know who’s pulling the strings, if we understand we are not fully in control of our vehicle, then we will be able to cope with life.