This article was constructed with the help of either writings, lectures or shiurim of Rabbi’s , Berel Wein, Noah Weinberg and Dr. Abba Goldman
Much has to be said of man’s true nature and how that affects his relationships and his conquest. When the masked is uncovered, perhaps one might learn a thing or two about his inner self from the powerful lesson in this week’s parsha. Interestingly, we raise eyebrows as to how the Torah deals with particular incident. After careful study of the human psyche we realize the wisdom of the rule.
Bob and Sue are alone in the park, walking beneath the full moon. Cupid flies by and shoots an arrow. Presto – Bob and Sue are madly in love!
They get married; have kids, a big house, and a heavy mortgage. Bob works hard to pay the bills, staying overtime at the office. While Bob is working late one night with his secretary Carol, Cupid sneaks up and shoots another arrow. Boing! Now Bob’s in love with Carol.
Bob returns home to Susie and proclaims, “I fell in love with the secretary. But what can I do, honey, the bum shot me!”
Out goes Susie, in comes Carol.
What’s the problem? Bob did not delve into an exploration of character and then fell in love after coming to a deep understanding of who she is. Bob’s love is not based on commitment and an effort to reveal virtues.
The more intimate the knowledge, the more you can love.
The Bible says that “Adam knew his wife Eve.” Love is built on knowledge. The more intimate the knowledge, the more you can love.
But the Western world thinks that love is not something you choose, love is something you are a “victim of.” So if you want to stay married, all you can do is hope that you don’t get shot by Cupid again! Is it any surprise that there is a 50 percent rate of divorce?
Infatuation is not love; it’s just physical attraction, the counterfeit. Real love is forever.
We see this in the relationship between parents and children. No parent ever gets up in the morning and decides: “I’ve decided I like the neighbors’ kids better. They don’t cough at night, and they get better math scores. You – kids get out. The neighbors are moving in.”
Sounds crazy, right? We don’t fall out of love with our kids, because we’re committed to loving them.
How do you know if you are in love or infatuated? If you hear yourself saying, “He’s perfect,” or “She’s perfect!” then beware! That’s not reality. That’s a sure sign of infatuation.
Real love takes work. You have to be willing to make the effort
In this week’s parsha we read about something unusual that our Torah permits, for it does not really meet the standards of Torah morality.. If our nation goes to war and our boys find an attractive prisoner of war whom a soldier wishes to wed: “She shall remove the garment of her captivity from upon herself and she shall sit in your house and she shall weep for her father and her mother for a full month; thereafter you may come to her and live with her, and she shall be a wife to you”
Rambam and Ramban believe that the female captive needs the month to overcome idol worship.
There is a very high standard in the requirement process for a Jewish soldier to be accepted for battle. As a matter of fact, it’s downright unrealistic. One has to be an angel to be a soldier in ancient times to fight the holy wars. He has to be a G-d-fearing patriotic and observant person, as outlined in last week’s parsha. How is it possible that a well-trained Jewish soldier well trained both physically and spiritually, who has mastered his faith somehow, enter into a sexual relationship with, the enemy, a non-Jewish woman, a relationship which Rashi points out to us will only bring him future grief and regret. The Torah gave us the impression that he’s a Tsaddik! He is far superior then your average “GI Jewish Joe”.
The heat and passions that war and combat arouse within a person cannot be limited to the actual battlefield alone. They carry on within the psyche and body of the soldier and find different ways of expression in all other areas of human life and experience. Those experienced are etched in him forever. We have seen Vietnam Vets act out their traumatic experiences of their ugly war even after much time has elapsed…
The observant Jew, who under ordinary and usual non-combat circumstances is devotedly pious and moral in one’s behavior, now becomes a sexual predator and enters into a physical relationship with a non-Jewish stranger. Is this not the strongest message possible that the Torah wishes to communicate to us about the consequences and effects of war!?
War requires the abandonment of personal inhibitions. One has to overcome the resistance not kill, however, when that becomes permissible then all barrios of prohibitions are lifted. When the dam breaks then all the water comes gushing out. That will help explain the scenario portrayed for us by this opening parsha of this week’s Torah reading.
When the soldier comes with his booty, his prisoner, his prize that he wants to marry, instead of rejecting her, the Torah surprisingly permits it, however, under special guidelines. For if they would reject his request he would most likely rebel against G-d. Perhaps its reverse psychology, if they say you can’t have it, then you’ll want her even more. Human nature is such that one wants what he can’t have.
Why is the area of sexuality such hot topic that the Torah raised their hands and pursuit it more delicately? How can we use this powerful source correctly? Furthermore the Torah is afraid that if it does not permit the soldier his prize, his new found love, he will disregard the law and rebel. How can the cream of the crop – soldier/talmid chacham rebel?
The sexual pleasure is by in large a difficult one to control, moreover, when you spice it up by adding the label “can’t have” it becomes more desirable, impossible to overcome’. It is so powerful; it can make monkeys out of us. It can be dangerous to the point of wrecking families. That’s why it’s essential to be in control of it.
***** I wrote a memorable article titled “the rebellious streak in all of us” which discusses how powerful our rebellious nature can be. I highly suggest one reads it. It’s part and parcel with this article.
It is not for naught that any and all of the blessings that were composed by the rabbis to be recited before the performance of a mitzvah contains the word v’tzivanu – and He has commanded us, for the word mitzvah itself, which we usually translate in terms of being a good deed, literally means something which has been commanded.
To be commanded is very difficult for us Americans to digest. We don’t like to be told what to do. For the most part if we cannot voice our opinion we feel our democratic rights have been violated. To be commanded is a very harsh terminology. We squirm of the ramifications. Perhaps, for this reason much literature of Torah prefers the Hebrew word mitzvah where that tough word – commandment is hidden behind the translation. It gives it a lighter tone. The fault line in Jewish life today remains as it always has been this acceptance or rejection of the concept of v’tzivanu.
Therefore we can sense what the rabbis meant when they said that the people of Israel accepted the Torah at Mount Sinai and they felt that the mountain hung over their heads as a terrible and forced burden.
Let’s explore the rebellious topic and perhaps find the root of where it stems.
Being rebellious is an act of evil.
Ever notice all children when they playfully hit the parent and the parent in return reacts in pain and screams “AHH”, the toddler will turn back with a devilish grin and enthusiastically strike again. When a parent commands “No!” children react the opposite way. As the toddler grows and becomes Bar Mitzvah the father says a special bracha exonerating himself from any sins that the young man will now commit. So children are mischievous. We bring here Ramban’s characteristic interpretation of the verse:
“For the impulse of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” He ascribes merit to men because by their very creation they have an evil nature in their youthful days but not in their mature years.
Is the human being inherently good or evil? This is one of the classic debates in the history of philosophy and religion. One might argue that it would make sense the rebellious nature is ingrained from birth therefore man has an uphill battle.
However, the Talmud teaches: “All Israel have a portion in the World to Come,” i.e. a person is destined for the place of True Reward — unless he or she does something to lose it.
In addition we read man was made in “G-d’s image.” This doesn’t contradict (Bereshit 6:5), for instance, which says, “And G-d saw the great evil of man in the world, and that the entire impulse of the thoughts of his heart were evil all day.” First, the verse doesn’t say that the “heart” itself was evil, but only the “impulse of the thoughts” of the human heart. In other words, side-by-side with this natural spirituality (i.e. the “heart” fashioned in the “Divine Image”) is an impulse for evil.
This impulse may be very strong and capable of overcoming the good to a great extent, but not enough to supplant and entirely eclipse the original state in which the human being was created, namely “in the Divine Image.” Ultimately, an impulse can be repulsed; an inherently evil nature cannot.
Another verse which implies man is inherently good, “G-d “blew the breath of [His eternal] life” into Adam. (Genesis 2:7). “One who blows, blows of the substance from within himself,” the mystics explain on this verse.
In contrast, some of the major representatives of the Mussar movement presented a most pessimistic view of man. Because man was formed from dust of the ground, his heart inclines to material desires, to eat, drink, and be merry, to covet fortune and riches, to love honor and power, to don haughtiness and pride to swell his heart, to delight in carnal pleasures, in every lowly trait and every despicable desire.
The argument of whether man is born inherently good or evil is presented throughout the generations. However, one very crucial aspect of our task in this world, we must realize, is that improvement is imminent. Evidence of positive spiritual growth and refinement of oneself, is on the eighth day from birth where the correction’s process is initiated with circumcision. This is the first of many tikunim – fixations that man is brought down to this world to perform.
One must also refine his character. This is part of productive growth. Interestingly, we see one of the evil characters and influential man of his time in our Torah, Nimrod (which means – to rebel) organize in a cohesive effort the people of the world to build a tower. Their intention was to climb up the tower and to destroy G-d. Yes, to have the audacity to even think about that. Our Sages mention that Nimrod’s arrogance led him to rebelling. The Sages teach us that this rebellious act, and for that matter all acts of rebellion, stems from ego. “I don’t want to be told what to do” “I’m the boss”, “I’m in control”. In essence they’re saying “I’m relinquishing my responsibility for I don’t believe it works. What I propose, what I am doing now is important, nothing else. I don’t care about G-d, only me”.
Perhaps, this is what Bob is saying to Suzie: “I don’t need you. What my feeling now is important and nothing else matters. I set the rules.”
In the Torah, the expression used to describe intimacy is “yadah,” which means “to know.” (“And Adam knew his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and had a child.” – Genesis 4:1) Yadah denotes that intimacy is not just a physical act, but is a full emotional union between two people.
Judaism defines marriage as “finding your other half.” Through marriage, two people become bound together into a single entity, bringing completeness to each other. The longing for intimacy is really an expression of the longing to be joined together with our “other half.” Through the relationship, we express this oneness.
We say that a man does not die except to his wife, and a woman does not die except to her husband. Others are pained by death, but a spouse’s life is demolished. If they had a strong marriage, the surviving spouse will have to reconstruct their whole existence.
Intimacy is not an appetite like every other appetite. It is reserved for the purpose of making oneness. It has to be with love or it is nothing.
When a man and woman make a marital commitment, they form a deep spiritual bond. They give to each other, and are committed for a lifetime. Intimacy binds husband and wife together, because it teaches us to focus beyond ourselves.
Outside of marriage, intimacy is ultimately frustrating because oneness can never be fully achieved. This is obvious in regard to a short-term encounter. But even in a long-term setting: Without the commitment of marriage, you always keep the option open of leaving the relationship. As a result, the degree of connectedness reaches a barrier. Eventually, frustration sets in, and the relationship erodes at its foundation.
Dr. Goldman asks: “Who has the most intense physical relationship? Is it the young newlywed?” Perhaps, at it’s the thirty something? He says something astonishing. The type of people who have the most intense relationship are the older generation, right wing orthodox Jews!!” You got to be kidding me, Doc? How is that possible?
He says “they have shared all their lives”. Dedicating to each other; they raised children; they’ve watched them grow. When they’re intimate it’s an expression of all their love. They become more sensitive to each other and there is a meaningful exchange between them. There is a history between them which translates to what a true “yada” – full emotional union between two people where each is eager to take responsibility of the other.
Rabbi Shimon Schwab walked into the doctor’s office with his wife who had intense uncomfortable feeling in her left leg. The Doctor came in to the examining room and asked what seems to be the problem? The Rabbi answered “our leg hurts”.
In marriage one becomes one flesh. If it hurts the Rebbetzin it will automatically hurt Rabbi Schwab.
Archive for August 2015
This article was constructed with the help of either writings, lectures or shiurim of Rabbi’s Yissachar Frand, Berel Wein, Yossi Bilius, Akiva Tatz, Nosson Chaim Leff, Pinchas Winston and Dr. Abba Goldman, David Abraham esq
One can argue that man hasn’t changed in thousands of years, same jealousy, same rivalry; ego’s has to be stroked; bribes have to be slipped under the table. Speaking bad about each other is the social norm. Moreover a couple of shots of one’s favorite scotch has to be taken after a long hard day at the office in order to preserve some degree of sanity. Where have you gone HAKEREM wines!!! Yes, Yes the good old Torah is trying to change that however the evil in all of us is putting on a good fight. Perhaps, we have not envisioned things so clear. Perhaps we have to see beyond what is projected.
Avraham and Sarah, G-d’s favorite people, the ambassadors of the Almighty were having difficulty having kids. (In Vitro treatment was not yet available). Interesting, one method to become fertile is by being around children. Apparently Sarah gave over her own maidservant to Avraham which produced a son, Yishmael.
The scripture tells us that Hagar taunted and teased Sarah for not having children. The audacity one can display!! Seemingly we see the bad character trait at its height of the maidservant. Can one really be unappreciative ingratitude to someone, Sarah, who actually initiated and encouraged the Idea. of letting you have relations with her husband? This is how you pay someone back? This display led to a bad relation between the two women which escalated even after Sarah gave birth, to her own son Yitzchak, which she had with Avraham. The bitterness and hatred spilled over to the sons to a point that Sarah influenced Avraham, and rightfully so, to ask Hagar and Yishmael to leave.
Trouble loomed ahead for Hagar and her son Yishmael on their journey as their food suply and water dwindled and starvation and death seemed imminent. While she rested in the hot dessert G-d appeared to her in a dream and assured her not to worry “and your son will blossom into a great nation”. When Hagar awoke, something interesting occurred that perhaps wasn’t there before. A revelation!! She opened her eyes and saw a well of water. Was the well there before? Was it a miracle? How did many of G-d’s revelation throughout the Torah happen?
There was something about Haggar vision that changed the perceptional dynamics of the dessert and this is what the begining of this week’s parsha is trying to convey. “See, I give you today blessing and curse” (Devarim 11:26
The most important word in the above-quoted verse is the three letter verb that opens the sentence — and opens the Torah section of Re’eh, giving the parshah its name. The word “sees.”
“See” is a loaded word. The Torah demands of us more than simply eye vision. We are challenged to see the physically useable and to deal with abstractions of thought and policy and make them real.
So re’eih is as much a state of mind and contemplation as it is one of actual eyesight. That is why the Torah states that we should somehow see and behold possible blessings and curses in our future – successes and failures. The human eye cannot discern blessings or curses. What sometimes appears to be a wonderful idea, a great blessing, a most correct policy may, in fact, turn out to be a cursed disaster.
One should know a fundamental concept in the Torah. When a word appears for the first time in the Torah its content is its essence. The translation of the word “see” is Ra’ah”.In the onset of the parsha Bereshit 1:4 G-d created light and he saw that it was good. The association of “see” “light” and “good” are forever linked together. Latter on, the pasuk (Bereishis, 1:31): which concludes the Torah’s account of Creation. That is: “Vayahr HaShem es kohl asher asah, vehinei tov me’od.” (ArtScroll: “And God saw all that He had made; and behold, it was very good.”) The Sfat Emet adds that the gaze of G-d continues forever, giving life and vibrancy to the whole world. That’s a powerful look!! Thus, he tells us that all Creation is connected with G-d through that gaze. Therefore we have a unique new definition of what a look, a gaze can project Its best through light which represents clarity..
What is this clarity? Seeing is not just a vision; seeing is a projection. We see examples of this throughout the Torah.
the people of S’dom were punished with blindness for seeing only with their eyes and not with their mind’s eye. They didn’t use clarity. For looking back towards S’dom while fleeing, Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt. Furthermore Lot’s warning to his sons-in-law was “a joke in their eyes,” they suffered the same destruction as the rest of the people of S’dom.
Avraham stop over with the Philistines. When the people of the city asked about his wife Sarah, he told them that she was his sister, fearing that they would kill him to take her. The king, Avimelech, did take Sarah, and was therefore Divinely punished with a painful sickness. He was then told by G-d that Sarah was Avraham’s wife, not his sister. A harried and suffering Avimelech asked Avraham,
“What did you see that made you act this way, calling your wife Sarah your sister?”
Avraham answered, I saw that “there was no fear of G-d here.” Abrraham saw beyond the articulate polished, supposedly dignified soldiers of Avimelech. One can say he saw right through them..
In Hebrew, the word for fear is the same word as seeing. When you see with clarity one will come to the realization of G-d’s greatness and awe .and will elevate the person to a higher fearful spiritual realm.
How did Avraham see that they were lacking fear of G-d? Because, says Rashi, the Philistines were more interested in Sarah than in doing chesed for strangers. As Avraham understood only too well, one’s propensity for chesed is a clear measure of one’s understanding of human potential, and of the purpose of creation. A nation that does chesed-kindness is a nation that is connected to the deeper meaning in life, to G-dliness. This, Avraham saw, was not the Philistine people.
After all, why was Lot’s wife turned into a pillar of salt for looking back at S’dom? Answers Rashi, because when Lot was doing chesed for the three strangers (angels sent by G-d to overturn S’dom and save Lot, though he did not know this at the time), he asked his wife for some salt for them. She answered,
“Do you intend to introduce this evil custom here as well?”
The salt she detested sharing became the symbol of her own limited outlook on giving.
Many who grew up in this country associate ‘SEE”, for a brief instinct, with national anthem of the United States.and Baseball. I personally wouldn’t know how to hum the tune of the antham if not for having to here it before every ball game. As children there was a popular joke which was not very funny at all. At best it received was a polite chuckle.if we liked the person who told it over. Interestingly there is a very deep message that fits in well with our topic.
A Mexican man sneaks across the border to watch his favorite Baseball team play…
…and makes it all the way to the stadium. He doesn’t have tickets so he finds a large pole to climb up on and jumps down into the top of the bleachers to get a bird-eye view of the game.
After the game was over and his buddies ask him how the game was back in Mexico he replies:
“I don’t know why you all don’t think Americans are nice. As soon as I sat down everyone turned around, looked at me, and started singing ‘Jose, can you see?'”
The national anthem starts “Oh say can you see” which rhymes with “Jose can you see” However the American establishment have a different vision of what Jose is seeing. The goal of “Jose can you see” is to influence or change the addressee; it looks like a question but it contains an implied command. Once a person is addressed as Jose a series of associations are brought up.. The flag of the US which is what Jose is to look at while singing the national anthem reflects and refract into Jose himself oh say can you see becomes Jose can you see to define and articulate a new identity for him and to remind him of his illegal alien status or second class citizen, a derogatory insult, which touches a cord and painful for many.. Do you see Jose who you really are, the joke implies. We want you to see yourself as we see you.
What was looked as a innocent joke as a child has far more implications as an adult
One has to always bring up the famous site of where Abraham brought his son Yitzchak to be slaughtered. When G-d tests Avraham the tenth and final time, He commands him to bring Yitzchak up as an offering. He tells him to bring Yitzchak to the place that will be revealed along the way. Sure enough, on the third day of his journey, Avraham “lifted his eyes” and saw the Divine sign: a mountain encompassed with fire from earth to heaven and the Clouds of Glory hovering above it.
The midrash says that when Avraham asked Yitzchak what he saw in the distance, he answered, “The Divine Presence.” However, when he asked Yishmael and Eliezer who accompanied them what they saw, they answered, “Nothing.” This, Avraham understood, was the Divine sign that only he and Yitzchak were to continue on from that point.
What about a person who lives with a lesser spiritual awareness? G-d communicates with him through more natural means (which makes belief in G-d more difficult and belief in nature more comfortable). When Eliezer and Yishmael were denied a direct vision of the Divine Presence, it was clear that they were not on a great enough spiritual level, and therefore Avraham had no choice but to leave them behind with the donkey.
Perhaps now we can understand why Hagar saw the well of water after the dream where G-d appeared as apose to not seeing it before.. She saw with a different perspective. The vision wasn’t on just the surface.
A great example is after forty years or so I have access to see some of my childhood TV shows. When seeing them, it wasn’t just the show that was remembered it was all the thoughts and feelings that I had at the time that resurfaced when I was watching.
Amazingly we all can be watching the same thing however every one of us is seeing it differently. A prime example is a period in time about a hundred and fifty years ago where artistic world was going through a major transformation. The artist had to recreate themselves because of the invention of photography. Before, if one wants to recreate an image of himself he would go to an artist where then the artist would paint as accurate of a life size image as possible. Not anymore for one dollar he now is able to take a photo. So the artist is competing now with a real image. The new artist now was impressionist. They would draw a lady, with a blue dress sitting on a chair the way they perceived they saw. A lady with a red dress and an apple on her head. That is the impression they saw.
Parshas Tazriah dealing with “Garment Leprosy” (tzaraas haBeged). The pasukim tell us that if the affliction remains the same size after one week’s time, the Kohen must wash the garment and isolate if for another seven days. [Vayikra 13:53-54]
The next pasuk continues: “The Kohen shall look after the affliction has been washed, and behold! The affliction has not changed “et aino”… According to the simple interpretation of the pasuk (p’shuto shel mikra), the words “et Aino” mean “its appearance”. But one can homiletically interpret (and this is said by the Imrei Shammai) that the meaning is the affliction did not change “et eino” – the eye = perception of the person who owns the afflicted garment. It was his negative perception that got him into the problem in the first place and as long as the “evil eye” persists, the problem of tzaraat will remain and as the Torah proclaims: Tameh hu – It shall be impure. It is all a matter of perception.
The Sefat Emet points out that the word Nega (which the Torah uses interchangeably with tzaraat), spelled nun gimmel ayin, has the exact same letters as the word oneg- enjoyment, spelled ayin nun gimmel. The only difference between them is where the letter ayin (which also means ‘eye’) is placed. Is the ‘ayin’ placed at the end of the word? Then it is Nega [affliction]! If the ‘ayin’ is placed at the beginning of the word, then it is Oneg [enjoyment]! If the ‘eye’ = ayin is in the right place, then Nega can turn into Oneg. It is all a matter of perception. Lashon Harah is not a disease of the mouth or tongue. It is a disease of the eye.
This is why the prophets describe the messianic era as a time of seeing: “Your eyes will see your Master” (Isaiah 30:20); “All flesh will together see that the mouth of G-d has spoken” (ibid. 40:5). To “see” is to inhabit a world in its ultimate state of perfection, a world which has realized its Divine purpose and attained a total and absolute knowledge of its Creator
This article was constructed with the help of either writings, lectures or shiurim of Rabbi’s Yissachar frand, Berel Wein, Yossi Bilius and Dr. Abba Goldman, Chana Weisberg
Woke up, fell out of bed
Dragged a comb across my head
Found my way downstairs and drank a cup and looking up I noticed I was late I thought for a second, held my breath ready to embrace an action pact day. I have to figure out what’s on the agenda and what to tackle first. I have to priorities. There is an important business deal that could land some nice money and pay for back tut ions. There is also my daughter’s play which could overlap the business appointment. Oh yes, I forgot there is this and there is that.
There’s a compelling phrase in Job (5:7): “A person was born to work.” In other words, this world is a place where we get things done. However, as anyone who has stayed up all night working will tell you, we can’t do it all. The Misilat Yesharim, one of the classics in Jewish literature character improvements books, writes that ninety eight percent of people before dying admitted they have not accomplished half of what the set out in life. That would be considered a major disappointment, So it seems like, we have to prioritize, as best as possible, what is needed to do and what it is we are trying to accomplish.
However, poor judgment and bad values are common. Some more apparent than others:
How many remember this classic tale?
A Londoner parks his brand new Porsche in front of the office to show it off to his colleagues.
As he’s getting out of the car, a huge truck comes speeding along too close to the curb and takes off the door before zooming off. More than a little Distraught, the Londoner grabs his hand phone and calls the police. Five Minutes later, the police arrive.
Before the police man has a chance to ask any questions, the man starts
Screaming hysterically: “My Porsche, my beautiful silver Porsche is ruined. No matter how long it’s at the mechanic it’ll simply never be the same again!”
After the man finally finishes his rant, the policeman shakes his head In disgust. “I can’t believe how materialistic you bloody Londoners are,” He says. “You lot are so focused on your possessions that you don’t notice anything else in your life.”
“How can you say such a thing at a time like this?” sobs the Porsche
The policeman replies, “Didn’t you realize that your right arm was torn Off when the truck hit you.”
The Londoner looks down in horror. He screams…….
The message is clear and with humor nonetheless. We know where this guy’s priorities are; hope it’s not yours. Interestingly, though, this next classic very common story, although an important lesson no doubt is followed by an interesting Torah incident make us more aware that to priorities is not a simple matter.
Naomi is married to a very busy, goal-oriented individual. She often laments how due to his overloaded schedule, they rarely spend quality time with each other.
One day, Naomi phoned her husband to tell him that a very important client, who had been trying to meet with him for a long time, had called. She had taken the initiative and scheduled a meeting for 8:00PM that evening at an elegant restaurant in a downtown hotel.
Naomi’s husband thanked her for her efforts and assured her that he’d rearrange his schedule to make the meeting.
At 7:45PM, Naomi’s husband drives up to the hotel; by 7:55, he’s seated in a quiet corner of the restaurant, at a discreet table conducive for discussion. By 7:57PM, he has smoothed his tie and ordered drinks for himself and his client. At a minute to 8:00, he clicks off his cell phone and clears his mind from all the day’s issues, so nothing would distract him.
A few moments later, to his utter astonishment, Naomi enters the restaurant dressed in an exquisite outfit. He watches as she purposefully makes her way to his table and gracefully sits down opposite him.
His perplexed expression briefly turns to annoyance then to anger, but finally settles on admiration as it dawns on him that his wife is the “important client who had been trying to meet him for a long time.” She has gone through this elaborate scheme just to make him appreciate that she was no less worthy of his time and attention than any lucrative client.
Their hour together in the quiet corner of that elegant hotel, with his cell phone turned off and all other appointments cancelled, was productive and enjoyable for both of them. So much so, that hopefully, Naomi won’t have to rely on such ruses to make it happen again–more regularly…
The priority to have shalom between a husband and wife is so great, it is so dear to G-d that HE says: Let my name be erased in the water, if only to bring peace between man and wife. This is referring to the sotah a wife whose husband suspects her of adultery where then she has to go through a ritual. This consist of the wife, who denies the charges, having to drink a specific potion administered by the priest where this mixture consists of a parchment with G-d’s name being erased with water mixed with the ashes of a red cow. If she’s telling the truth, she will incur abundance of blessings. However if she’s lying she and her partner in sin will die a gruesome spectacular death
Family is very important. There is an incident though involving our great leader Moshe that has to be addressed. Moshe on his return to Egypt as the Redeemer of Israel stopped with his wife and two sons to take up lodging for the night. The Torah tells us that Moshe “…was encountered by G-d who sought to kill him”. Rashi in his commentary cites the Midrash that tells us that when Moshe embarked on his journey to Egypt, Eliezer (his second son) had already been born but was not yet circumcised. Moshe believed that circumcising him prior to embarking on the journey would endanger the life of his newborn (Eliezer). On the other hand, to delay the journey would be unacceptable because G-d told him to go to Egypt.
Moshe’s obligation to circumcise his son would have been at the first available moment. When Moshe stopped for his night’s lodging, he first attended to unloading his pack animal rather than circumcising his son. Because of this delay an angel came and tried to kill him.
We see life is full of important decisions and one has to priorities and categories what’s deemed most important. Was unloading his pack of animals and settling in or circumcising his son more important? Where does the priority lie?
Rashi, in commenting on the first word of this week’s parsha, based on Midrash, expands the meaning of the word eikev implying the word, means “foot” or “heel.” He comments that there are commandments and values in Jewish Torah life that the Jews somehow take lightly. Keeping Shabbat is cool however saying the prayer for the moon can be ignored. They grind them into the dust of everyday life by stepping upon them with their foot and/or heel. It is these, so to speak, neglected commandments and values that are the true key for spiritual success and a good life. Rashi emphasizes to us that the choice of the word eikev,Torah is teaching us the valuable lesson of life that there really are no small things or inconsequential acts.
The rabbis in Avot taught us to be careful with “light” commandments just as we are justly careful with more stringent and weighty commandments. The rabbis emphasize that one does not know the true effect of the observance of these “light” commandments in the reward and punishment scheme of the judgment of Heaven. So the Torah in effect teaches us to watch our step and actions lest our heel unintentionally treads upon a holy commandment and/or value.
It is difficult for us to measure differing values and the weight and worth of any of the commandments of the Torah. Whenever we need some sort of clarification,, the halachic process, Jewish law, resolves for us what our behavior and action should be. They priorities for us or they protect and prevent us from stomping on commandment that we might deem as secondary.
Yet, on an intellectual and spiritual plane, we are always faced with decisions regarding our priorities of behavior and action. In essence we are on our own. There are no specifics on how to behave and feel. We are, at times, in the midst of a heart felt prayer to our creator, when a poor man shoves his hands in front of us demanding that he be given give some money. What should we do? Shall we ignore the poor man and attempt somehow regains the devotional intent in prayer or shall we abandon the prayer and grant a coin to the beggar? Which value shall we tread upon with our heel? The Torah doesn’t instruct us. There is no precise law on those situations, Furthermore there is no particular law or Shulchan Aruch (book of laws) details on emotions. Although we know G-d doesn’t approve us displaying feelings of anger or other negative emotions. Moshe displayed anger when he hit the rock. That action prevented him from entering the Promised Land. However there is no specific punishment for anger, or for that matter, other negative feelings. Our Sages try to coach us on how to behave. In fact the Torah presents us many stories of our Patriarch and Matriarch and their encounters and experiences. How they dealt with a Lavan an Eisav. Moshe dialogues with Pharaoh, and so on, are all a lesson to be learned. However the Torah does not present it as an instructional set of laws, the ABC of how to behave. We have to come to our own logical moral decision. Our Rabbi today has special classes or sermons to emphasize those lessons however nothing is officially from the written Torah.
Perhaps rightfully so that the Torah doesn’t govern our emotions. After all we are not robots. We are not Mr. Spock. It might be argued that the Rabbis have enough say in our lives. Hey! stop budding in. The buck stops here. No emotional control necessary.
Its interesting, why did they indeed stop there? Why didn’t our Sages regulate all aspect of our lives? Why not? If they have enough chutzpah to tell us which shoe to tie first why not instruct us how to display our feelings?
One must realize that prioritizing will define who we are. How big is that? We learn from Noach.
Noach – the man of the land – planted a vineyard” [Bereshis 9:20]. Rashi comments on the words “the man of the land” (ish ha’adama) that this connotes that Noach was defined by the land.. Noach was the “master of the land”.
Ramban notes that this usage sets a precedent (zeh bana av) for such constructs elsewhere in Tanach. The person — “ish” — is defined by what comes after it. The Ramban cites the additional example of “ish haElokim” [Devorim 33:1] by Moshe – the man of G-d, meaning a person who defined himself by G-d. Noach, on the other hand, became a person who was defined by the land
Rav Yeruchum Levovitz explains that this teaches a lesson regarding the importance of proper priorities. There are many things which we must do in this world. We have many obligations. But priorities DEFINE what a person will become. The pasuk says “vaYachel Noach ish haAdamah”. Our Sages note that earlier Noach was referred to as a pure and noble spirit (Noach ish Tzadik tamim). Look what happened to him! Suddenly he is called a “man of the earth.” Where did he go wrong? Chazal explain that his spiritual descent was extremely subtle. It was not a dramatic rebellion or change of life style. Heaven Forbid! Noach merely misplaced his priorities and planted what should have been a later crop ahead of what should have been earlier plantings.
Noach’s inappropriate first priority became his defining essence as mentioned in the previously quoted Rashi. [Ish haAdama <-> Ish haElokim] The vineyard defined him because that became the number one priority in his life. It is crucial to maintain appropriate priorities.
The Sages write that not one human being is the same. and therefore character traits are very hard to gage. Every individual has their own sensitivities and what might be easy character trait to overcome for one can be a tremendous struggle for another. This is clearly evident by the Torah. Avraham and Yitzchak, father and son were two very different individuals. They had the same goals however they approached their challenges in their own unique way. So one set of rule will not be applicable for all. High expectancy of character traits cannot spell out every situation. One has to use judgement in the right way. As a matter of fact Jewish education has flirted with the idea to approach each child with a different teaching method. This is the proper approach. It’s an injustice to teach and to grade children, students the same. Obviously because of the cost involved that approach is highly unlikely. Jewish mystical tradition reveals the tremendous power that each human being has to affect the world through the unique gift of freewill. The idea that G-d created a world where humans were given a freewill is a gift of tremendous magnitude and responsibility in itself. That is the responsibility where the Torah gives us the ability to show who we are, what we will define. Will we get are priorities straight like Moshe-the man of G-d or not like Noach-the man of the land?
So we see what define a person’s essence is how he deals with his personal agenda
Parashat VaEtchanan always has an upbeat feel to it since it always falls on Shabbat Nachamu, the first of seven Shabbatot of consolation after Tisha B’Av. This Sabbath is traditionally called the “Sabbath of Comfort.” which takes its name from the haftarah from Isaiah in the Book of Isaiah 40:1-26 that speaks of “comforting” the Jewish people for their suffering. Yours truly got married at a later age, and for many years this Shabbat is associated, in my mind, with big singles weekend events which was conducted up in the Catskills kosher hotels. My personal experience, there wasn’t much comfort at all attending those events.
However, there is a deeper look at the concept of comfort and consolation that must be explored. Since grief, pain, disappointment and loss are all part of the story of every human being, it is remarkable how little attention most people pay to the necessity of dealing with misfortune – of how to achieve comfort and consolation. We are all actively engaged in attempting to avoid problems and pain – and correctly so – but deep down within our being we know that no human escapes tasting the bitter cup that life always brings with it. So it would be of aid to all of us to investigate how to deal with sadness and bring consolation and closure.
Furthermore “to comfort” is mightily important, and is a vital weapon, in the progress of life. Nonetheless, one has to understand what actions and ramifications fall under the category of “to be comforted” and “to comfort” for that matter.
There is an incident that occurred last year that I would like to share, which is etched in my mind since for it touched about people I grew up with and perhaps we can have a bit more clarity of “comfort”. I beleive its a powerful lesson to say the least.
Howard Johnsons in Rego Prk Queens in the 1960″s
I was part of a small patched up community consisting Bukharian, Avgani and Persian families migrating last from Israel, and settling in the Boro Park, Rego Park Forest Hills area in the 1960’s. As children we looked up to the older teenagers, for they were considered both Americans as well as the Israeli flavor of our parents, which was more pronounced in them since they were born there. There was an older girl, and I best remember her as the girl with the white hat which she wore with her white dress, whom had, with other teenagers her age, approximately ten years our senior, a tremendous influence on us. Many years later, I remember watching My bar mitzvah video and sadly, seeing her as a newlywed schmoozing with guests and gleaming proudly from ear to ear with her husband of a few months, at my smorgasbord party realizing in hindsight that a few years after that moment she will be divorced and being a single mom of her only child; she never married again
It was the beginning of chol hamoed last year where I received a call from my childhood friend stating that the girl with the white hat is in the hospital and I should visit her. He insisted I should not delay because she has approximately a week to live. I was stunned after hanging up the phone.
I called up a relative, who actually was in her class in grade school, and we both made the trip to North Shore Manhasset Hospital.
We met the son in the hallway and he confirmed the diagnosis. It was strange and eerie walking into her hospital room. The girl with the white hat although looked like a terminally ill cancer patient, was sitting up and was fully aware, memory intact, and speaking without any effort. The one flaw in her was that she was in complete denial of her grave condition. She kept on repeating “am I going to be okay?”. Unfortunately before realizing her condition I advised her that she should make peace with those people that she might of left hanging, only realizing later after she ignored the statement that it was inappropriate. Although I believe its vital that if one knows he’s not going to be in this world for very long that they should tie any loose ends. However!! One has to assess one’s condition and cautiously with sensitively, approach the situations appropriately.
After about seven days, I got a text as soon as Simchat Torah ended, that the girl with the white hat had indeed past away. The relative whom I went with to the hospital had visited her again 3 days before she died and said she was still fully aware, memory intact. He then said something interesting she received a visitor for an old friend and she asked him as well as others “am I going to be okay?” where then the friend countered in a strong confident voice with hand motions and all “of course you’re going to be okay we’re walking out of this hospital tomorrow hand and hand. Why don’t you pick your favorite restaurant and we’ll go next week. We’ll have a blast like the good old days”. My relative questioned the old friend’s response stating that its inappropriatly misleading. He said comforting someone is one thing but lying is out of line.
Well, what do you say my fellow readers? Was the old friend inappropriate?
Interestingly, one will find a mind boggling approach from our Torah and the lesson is from the famous incident of Abraham and his three guests.
Avraham lifted up his eyes and saw three men standing a short distance from him. (Bereshith 18:2)
The three strangers who visited Avraham were not men at all; they were angels disguised as men. Since Avraham had been experiencing a great deal of pain following his brit milah, God brought a heat wave to the region so that people would not travel. This would give Avraham a chance to rest, for he would not be bothered by guests. However, seeing that Avraham was distressed by the fact that no guests were coming to his home, G-d sent three angels disguised as men to visit him
We find the three angels coming to Abraham with a number of tasks, one of which is to tell Sarah that she will have a baby. The angels made a point of inquiring about Sarah, ‘Where is your wife, Sarah?’ so as to endear her to her husband’ (Bava Metzia 87a). The question that the angels asked, set up a response by Abraham (she’s in the tent) and through those words that he uttered, made him realize the exceptional modesty his wife possessed. Therefore, she would become even dearer to him.
We find something interesting in the Gemara in Ketubot in which we see that it is permissible to lie to a groom and tell him ‘your wife is such a beautiful Kallah (bride)’, even though she’s not. But for the sake of endearing the wife in the groom’s eyes, a little white lie is permissible. Commentaries on this Gemarah extend this idea. For example, if one purchases an item, let’s say a tie, and you meet him for coffee, even though the tie is not nice, one should lie in order not to make him feel bad; (If there is no refund policy.)
Furthermore in the parsha, we find Sarah could not believe the good news of her upcoming pregnancy. But she had an interesting response about her husband, ‘How can we have kids? My master is old’. But G-d misquoted her to Abraham, saying only about her ‘I have aged’ (not mentioning Abraham). G-d lied for the sake of shalom (peace), so that her words should not offend Abraham. This, despite the fact that Abraham was indeed old (he was 99) and would certainly have realized that she had no ill intentions when she had said it. Yet to avoid that tiniest possibility of friction, to refrain from diminishing somewhat the peace and harmony (shalom bayit), G-d altered her words.
There were two lies in this story line. In circumstances in which it is clear to everyone involved that an untruth is being told it is not considered a lie.. For this reason, we may disguise ourselves on Purim, or dress in costume for a performance – even if our identity is unrecognizable – without fear that we are deceiving others.. Since everyone knows that the mask hides someone, we need not concern ourselves with the ramifications of using a ruse. Avraham, on the other hand, did not know that his “guests” were really angels. Was he not being deceived into thinking that his visitors were men? Was he not being deceived about what his wife thought of him?
The Gemara cites the story of Rav Akiva and his wife who were extremely poor and possessed nothing more than straw to sleep on. God sent the Prophet Eliyahu to them, disguised as a beggar, to ask them if they had some straw to spare. Rav Akiva and his wife, who had been feeling the privation of their dire financial situation, found new hope in the realization that someone else was even poorer than they were. For the sake of alleviating their anguish, Eliyahu was permitted to impersonate a beggar in need of straw..
From the above incident the Gemara derives that in a situation in which someone needs comforting, the halachah permits us to act like Eliyahu.. For example if someone complains to us about his monetary problems, we may tell him that we are experiencing financial difficulties of our own, even if this is not so. Similarly Avraham, the pillar of kindness, was greatly distressed that he did not have a single guest. The angels alleviated his spiritual pain, and performed a tremendous act of kindness by coming to Avraham dressed as mortal beings. In order to preserve harmony between Avraham and Sarah G-d told a little white lie.
One has to realize a major fundamental concept that has been misinterpreted. Its one of the most famous word not only with us Jews but infact the world; the definition of the word EMET. Western concept of EMET-truth is defined as- facts no mater what the consequences are.. The Torah definition is: if there is no kindness to Emet it is not Emet. If one hurts someone with words even though its factual it’s not Emet. One has to live life according to whats right strait-yashar. The Angels changed the story and told Avraham Sarah will have a child; factual is not correct.. How to be kind is the EMET. What is important is not being perverted by self-interest.
The girl with the white hat was in denial. She wanted to hear reassurance. She wasn’t interested in factual, Deep down she knew her faith. The old friend was correct in reassuring her everything will be okay. That is true comfort. He was kind to her at the end of her life. That is Emet.
An impactful EMET is what happened to our people at our lowest point in our history. The most intriguing and fascinating items of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) are the Keruvim. They were found on top of the Aron. They were two child-like faces with wings pointed upwards. When the Israelite’s were close to G-d, they would embrace each other, and when the Jews were not on the standards that they should be, the Keruvim would face away from one another.
Shockingly when the Romans destroyed the Temple they mockingly brought out the Keruvim and showed everyone that the two childlike figures were hugging each other. They should of been in opposite directions.
G-d wanted to show the Jews in this time of defeat in this time of trouble, in this time of devastation and death, the lowest point in Jewish history G-d loves us. That is the ultimate reassurance!! This is against the facts. However the Emet is the Jews will build the third temple again. G-d was showing the ultimate comfort