Archive for November 2015

Lying in order to get married, is it permissible?

This article was constructed with the help of either writings, lectures or shiurim of Rabbi’s  Baruch Dopelt, Yossi Bilius, Aron Tendler, Doniel Neustadt,  Eliyahu ben Chaim and Dr. Abba Goldman,  Miedel Weissman,  Erez Okchon

It’s not easy getting married: it’s not easy staying married. For that matter, it’s exceptionally not easy being single. What shall one do?  Interestingly, human nature is such that most gravitate towards finding a mate to wed. Subconsciously to find a mate and to do it legally, not just to live with someone is what people strive and feel the need. Having weak knees and having the feelings of being forced and dragged down in shackles to the altar is for the most part not true. That’s our western society sense of humor…HA- HA- HA. There is a built-in mechanism in all of us to get married. Our religion encourages matrimony and indicates that one elevates their status in the world. There is an element of maturity, responsibility that one takes upon themselves that G-d likes. In fact it is written in the holy books that G-d forgives one’s sins when they get married. How is that for an incentive!! They start a new, fresh clean slate.
 Interestingly, most people are more at peace with themselves when they tie the knot.  Does one ever wonder why we say “Shiduch” referring to finding a mate? The word “shiduch” is Aramaic for “peaceful” or “tranquil” (see Targum Shoftim 3:11), referring to the peacefulness which a woman senses when she finds her match and establishes her home (Ran, Shabbat 12a).  A man has a better concentration on spiritual matters when married. For this reason the Sages recommend that on one of the holiest days of the year, Rosh Hashana, the Chazzan should be married.
Others maintain that the word “shiduch” means “to bind or tie” together (Aruch).  One is only a half until he meets and binds with his shiduch.
It is a mitzvah to arrange a shiduch between a man and a woman for the object of matrimony even to arrange it on Shabbat, and if necessary, it is even permitted to discuss financial arrangements on Shabbat. This is unprecedented considering how stringent it is to keep the Shabbat.
  Considering the importance a shiduch might mean to one’s life, its human nature that one would do anything to get a mate that they think is most suitable. Competition is fierce.  Some might resort to enhance themselves in a very exaggerate way. One can argue “what’s a little white lie?”  It’s for constructive purposes…..Well, is it allowed?
This week’s Parsha is the only place in the Torah where a shiduch investigation is initiated and conducted.
Avraham summoned his servant and charged him with the mission of finding a suitable wife for his son Yitzhak. Avraham had his servant swear that he would not take a wife for Isaac from the local Canaanite women. Instead, he asked him to travel to Aram, his native land, and find a wife for Yitzhak.
The servant set out for his master’s homeland and evening time found him beside the city well. He prayed for success in his mission, and asked for a heavenly sign to confirm his choice of a girl for Isaac. He would ask a maiden for a drink of water, and the one who would answer: “Certainly, and I’ll also give your camels to drink as well,” would be the proper choice for Isaac. Immediately a young lady approached and in response to the servant’s request for a drink, she offered to give his camels to drink too. Upon questioning her, he discovered that she was Avraham’s great-niece, Rivka.
Interestingly, the servant is the one who is burdened to find a mate for his master’s son. It seems like there is no effort on Yitzchak’s part to hunt for a wife. Perhaps, this is as close as one gets to a mail order bride. It was different in our generations: we were subjugated to the long grueling and humiliating single events to find our Eshet Chayil.
As one examines the scriptures, one realizes that Eliezer alters the account of the story – as he tells over to Rivka’s father and brother of how he met their daughter. He changes the sequence of events telling the father and brother, Betuel and Lavan, that he gave the girl the jewelry – only after she disclosed her name. However, that was not so. He gave her the jewelry first – before he asked her name.
Our Sages were puzzled as to why the Torah devoted so much space to this single episode. “The conversation of the servants of Patriarchs is more pleasing before the Omnipresent than the Torah of the sons. For the section of Eliezer is repeated in the Torah, whereas many important principles of the Law were given only by hinting.” (Rashi 24:42).
In the Torah, words count for much. Something that is especially important is often repeated, such as the mitzvot of Shabbat and circumcision. Here, too, it is for us to discover what is so significant in this story.
Eliezer didn’t think Betuel and Lavan would appreciate if told about the miracle through prayer. As soon as he finished his prayers, it materialized. For the girl that he described to G-d actually appeared and performed the kindness in his presence. He knew without a doubt: G-d was sending what he asked. Therefore, he altered the truth. Evil people like Betuel and Lavan would dismiss his explanation. Eliezer rationalized they wouldn’t believe him, that he made up the whole thing, that he was some kind of “nut” and therefore spoil the shiduch if told the truth.
We learned two very important lessons from this incident.  Firstly, one almost always needs a miracle in the area of shiduchim. Much of shiduchim is illogical; much of shiduchim leaves people scratching their heads.  G-d is the ultimate signer of every shiduch and HE puts it together, no matter what and where, as HE sees fit, in the craziest circumstances, it will happen!!!
 Secondly, even more astonishing, the Torah gives leeway for altering the truth, ever so slightly, nevertheless, point be taken, for the sake of finishing the deal, for making the shiduch take place. For putting two people together the little white lie has to take place.
Once a Rabbi overhears his wife, who is on the phone in the kitchen, persuading a young man to go out again even though he didn’t think she was for him. A little while later she tells the girl, the date, “yes, I received a call from him and he’s crazy about you and can’t wait to see you again”.  The shadchan-matchmaker was afraid that if she knew he’s “pareve” about her, she will be discouraged and lose interest. Incredibly, this couple got married and has six kids.    
The million dollar question is to what extent one can lie? Is there a gauge of how truthful one can be?  What often happens when one is asked to give his opinion, of course in confidentiality, about a particular young man or young woman, is that people tend to speak when they should be quiet and hold back when they ought to speak up.
Interestingly, from the beginning of matchmaking, till this very day, it’s understood, that the parties are not telling the truth to a certain degree. The truth, for the most part has been slightly altered.  Should one always expect that a few years have been latched on or off the age disclosed for both a girl and a boy?
It is prohibited for either party in a prospective match to give false information or to withhold pertinent information about them. In certain cases, withholding or falsifying information could result in the invalidation of a marriage (22). Even a couple who has been married many years may be considered to be living in sin if pertinent information was withheld at the time of their marriage.
The Sages give some examples of information that may not be withheld in a prospective match [and which–if withheld–may invalidate a marriage]: A serious physical or mental illness (23), infertility (24),   and financial status (25), lack of religious observance (26), previous marital status (27), previous illicit relationships (28), conversion (29), and adoption (30).
One is not required to divulge a deficiency which most people do not consider to be an impediment, such as a minor illness (31), a physical weakness or a minor blemish in one’s lineage (32). Similarly, it is not required to divulge a transgression in the distant past for which the sinner has repented (33).
Since it is often difficult to gauge and judge minor drawback versus major deficiencies, a Rabbi must always be consulted.
An individual who is asked for [or is aware of (34)] information about a shiduch must divulge what he knows regarding a “major deficiency”, as detailed above. One who deliberately withholds such information: transgresses the prohibition of “lifnei eiver lo sitein michshol” (35) -“placing an object to stumble before the blind man”.
However, when does this rule apply?  When should the person being asked disclose the information? When should the couple mention the information?
Second date, fifth date, ninth date, when is it the right time to disclose before transgressing the prohibition of “lifnei eiver lo sitein michshol” (35).
There was a young man who was slightly handicapped; few of his fingers were paralyzed due to polio he contracted when he was a child. After, a number of dates, his deficiency not being noticed by the girl he was seeing, the young man consulted Rabbi Kanievsky as to when to tell the young lady.
 The reply was before the engagement. The Rabbi ruled the illness that the young man contracted as a child will not affect the future. Therefore, in this particular case, he had to tell the young lady before the engagement.
However, Dr. Goldman indicates that perhaps that’s a unique case. Many Rabbis are under the opinion that information should be told in the early part of dating before the couple is emotionally involved. It should be disclosed way before the engagement. It’s a tremendous responsibility.
Interestingly, a number of professional shadchanim interviewed for this article expressed how careful they are about stretching the truth (age, height, weight), more so than friends and family who volunteer to set up their loved ones out of the goodness of their heart. The professional Shadchanim are more careful of their reputation to be more accurate, for if they disappoint their client with false information they will not be called again and not be recommended to others.
Detrimental information about a shiduch may only be conveyed with the proper intention–for the benefit of one of the parties, not as revenge or in spite of any individual. Even then, the information may only be relayed when (36):
*The condition is serious;
*The condition has not been exaggerated;
*There is a reasonable chance that the information will be accepted and acted upon. If it is likely to be ignored, it is prohibited to be relayed.
One who is unsure if a particular point of information is a major deficiency or if the above conditions have been met should consult a Rav before divulging or withholding any information?
What should parents be looking for in their investigation? Before beginning the search, it is important to decide which values are important to your family and what criteria should be used in evaluating a potential shiduch.
After deciding what you are looking for in the categories of character, family, finances, and looks, evaluate your list in relation to your child. Are you being realistic in your search? Does your child deserve the potential prince or princess that you imagine? Are you underselling your child and limiting his or her choices? Will the son or daughter-in-law you imagine make your child happy? Do you really know better than your children do: who and what they need in a spouse? The Rav of Manchester, Harav Segall Zt’l, once mentioned that after all is said and done, a parent has the obligation to find a shiduch that will make his child happy. It is therefore important to include your son or daughter in the process. Find out who their fantasy spouse is and challenge them to be more realistic and honest. It is a parent’s responsibility to lower or raise a child’s expectations.
Midel Weismann a professional shadchan and a good friend relates an incident when he attended a sheva brachot of a friend’s son.
During the meal of the sheva brachot: the father of the Kalah rises up to speak and discloses the reason why he picked this young man to be his son in-law.  With pride he begins “my daughter had a lot of suiters; however, Moshe struck me to be one with exceptional fine character. I was in B’nai B’rak waiting for a hitch to Tveria, when someone, Moshe, pulls over and after disclosing where I desired to go, he mentioned he’s going in that direction. During the ride I asked what Yeshiva he is learning at and how he likes his Rebbeyim and teachers. I must tell you throughout the two hour journey, which entailed many traffic jams and sudden stops, Moshe did not beep the horn once. It was a pleasure to see such a relaxed individual. I have to compliment his parents and Rebbeyim for instilling in him the trait of tolerance. He was very calm; he never showed any annoyance at the often tumultuous ride. Even when we were about to enter Tveria where there was a Bedouin on a camel who planted himself on the road in front of us, ones immediate reaction is to honk the horn and wave your hands to move off the road. Moshe never even made the motion to hit the steering wheel”.
 “When I left the car I made sure to get as much information so I can inquire and have the shiduch take place with my daughter. Moshe I am proud that you are my son-in-law”
T here was a moment of silence where then Moshe burst laughing. Now he rises and tells the guests and his new father-in-law “the horn of the car was dead. The reason I was in B’nai B’rak that day was to have it fixed. However, the Mechanic was not available and that’s when I met you”.
Whether it be a horn, a car, a camel, a lie here and a lie there, this one a few years older, a few pound heavier if it is meant to be and G-d wants it done it will happen. We, though, have to make a refined sensitive effort to help create a potential family.
One should keep in mind when confronted with a question of a young man, woman, and their families, think through your response carefully. Make sure the information you give is accurate. Don’t exaggerate; one should transmit the information with the express purpose of aiding a shiduch. One should ensure that the information is transmitted in the least harmful way possible. One should weigh the amount of harm your information is liable to cause against its benefit.

A Life and Death Lesson about dating

Parents communicating with children: The Jewish way

This article was constructed with the help of either writings, lectures or shiurim of Rabbi’s Noach Isaac Oelbaum, Baruch Dopelt, Asher Hurtzberg , Yossi Bilius and Dr. Abba Goldman

Why did G-d love Avraham so much?
 Since the beginning of time man would travel to many places. Upon ones journey one inevitably is forced to acquaint himself with other passengers who are from different walks of life. The subway of New York City is the best example. Often one sees someone he knows even the slightest and he will begin to schmooze. That’s nice isn’t it; perhaps one can say there is a very pro-human side to travel.
  On one occasion two important figures in the world, although with different philosophies on life, the great Torah sage, Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky and the Secretary-General of the Israeli Trade Federation, Histadrut, happened to be sitting next to each other, on an El Al flight; both were in first class… While conversing on the flight with the great Rabbi he was impressed with the caring service the Rabbi’s, presumably, personal staff was giving him. Through the course of the flight they would come and make sure his pillow was set correctly or they would ask him how his meal was and if he needed anything. The Secretary General commented to the elderly Rabbi “that’s some dedicated staff you have working for you”. The Rabbi answered back “you’re mistaken they’re not my staff; they’re my son and granddaughter”.   He was amazed at the dedication of the son and granddaughter had given to the elderly Rabbi. As related in the book, Reb Yaakov: His Life, pp.218-219: “He confided sadly to Reb Yaakov that he almost never saw his grandchildren and his children only rarely. Rav Yaakov explained to him that the difference in their relationships to their children and grandchildren could be traced to their differing views of Creation … ‘You … believe in the Darwinian view of life as the result of random, purposeless events,’ he told [him], ‘so as far as your descendants are concerned you’re just one generation closer to the apes than your children are. That make the younger generation more intelligent and sophisticated than the previous. The children are less monkeys then us. The philosophy is that they’re smarter then you. We, on the other hand, do not believe that we are superior to our ancestors. Quite the contrary. For us the central event in history was the Revelation at Sinai. The generations immediately after that Revelation lived in awe of their parents as people to whom G-d actually spoke. And their children in turn viewed them with veneration for having known those who heard G-d speak. And so it is with each passing generation. Every generation looks at the previous as great and with the utmost respect. My children and grandchildren honor me as one who had contact with spiritual giants whose greatness is almost beyond their comprehension, and therefore they attribute to me a wisdom and spiritual sensitivity that they do not possess.”
This is the second week we read about our forefather Avraham, the grand-daddy of them all. One may say an extraordinary human being to say the least. The Torah says that G-d loved Avraham.

Why did G-d love Avraham more than anyone?
Was it because:
*The Medrash describes Avraham as a charismatic towering popular figure that had a certain magnetism to attract many to his home where he did kindness. “Kindness is what the world is built on” and it’s G-d type of language.
 One may ask how Avraham received his prophecy. Prophecy is learned studying G-d work; one has to place tremendous thought and concentration with meditation. How was it possible that Avraham achieved that level where he spoke to G-d, he always was entertaining guests? His hospitality was second to none. Where did he have the time?
Since kindness is the fundamental building block of the world one can achieve prophecy and closeness to G-d equating it to the time spending learning G-d’ work.
* Avraham’s analytical highly intelligent mind was crucial in his ability to come to the understanding himself that there can only be monotheistic concept. This was unheard of. The mindset of just having one G-d irked many people and went against societies pangenetic beliefs. The new wave philosophy of our forefather placed Avraham’s life in danger. Let’s just say he was the lone ranger who had guts for he stood up for what he believed in and not succumbing to the pressures of society. The term Hebrews was conceived from Avraham’s nick name “Ha-Ivry”which cenotes “ev’er”-the other side of the river.  The world was hinting then that we, the world are on one side and you, Avraham are on the other. I’m sure this sounds familiar to all who are reading this.
*Avraham was thrown in a burning furnace on behalf of G-d’s honor.
* Avraham was the first to be circumcised following G-d’s instructions.
* Avraham listens to G-d whether it was on command to leave his homeland, to slaughter his beloved son, Yitzchak. One of the ten big tests G-d placed upon him.
*Avraham was… “a big fan of the New York Mets”.
Well reader, there is a smorgasbord of choices….Please, choose, which one of Avraham’s tremendous traits did G-d love?
Which is the one for which G-d said I will make you into a great nation?
Perhaps there’s something else we overlooked.
We read in this week’s parsha:
     [18,19] “For I have loved him for he commands his children and his household after him that they keep the way of G-d.”
Shockingly, it’s not any of those noble famous actions that we have grown accustomed to admire about the great Avraham – our forefather. What G-d loves about Avraham the best, is the fact that he’s able to communicate the message. He’s able to talk the same language as his kids. There is no generation gap. There are no cultural differences. Avraham is the great communicator of all time. His kids listen to him.
There were others in his generation that believed in G-d. However, none of them were able to communicate and deliver the message to the next generation.
Even the notorious evil Eisav, his grandson, adored and listened to Avraham. Avraham had Eisav contained and made tremendous in roads into his development. However, the Midrash states that the day Avraham passed away Eisav was in a state of shock and despair and committed five major averot -sins – including murder and adultery.  We can only imagine what Eisav would have become if G-d gave Avraham a few more years.
This is the gifted trait that Avraham passed down to us the ability to communicate to the next generation. This is what keeps the chain continuing: generation after generation.
One of the most mindboggling extraterrestrial miraculous episodes in our Torah involves the two Keruvim (Keruvim [Cherubs]: angels-resembling young children; relief images of two winged cherubim were part of the cover of the Holy Ark in the Temple). Many commentaries mentioned that it wasn’t two young children as the popular assumptions are of the two Keruvim but one was an image of a man the other was of a child. Interestingly, it resembles a father and son. The reason the Keruvim-the father and son were placed on the cover in the Holies of Holies, the most important place in the world, the heart and soul of the children of Israel, is because this is the lifeblood of the Jewish people; this is the continuity of our nation, it is the father and son relationship, the parent – child relationship, the Rebbi/Morah – student relationship which keeps our people alive. It’s the pulse of our existence. It’s a must to perfect and to nurture the communication. There should be a flow between the one passing down and the one receiving. No clogged arteries please.
However, there is one piece of the puzzle missing. What will make the chain from generation to generation more secure is a an important verse found in Parshat Lech Lecha
 2. And Abram said, “O Lord God, what will You give me, since I am going childless, and the steward of my household is Eliezer of Damascus?”   ב.וַיֹּ֣אמֶראַבְרָ֗ם אֲדֹנָ֤י יֱהֹוִה֙ מַה־תִּתֶּן־לִ֔י וְאָֽנֹכִ֖י הוֹלֵ֣ךְ עֲרִירִ֑י וּבֶן־מֶ֣שֶׁק בֵּיתִ֔י ה֖וּא דַּמֶּ֥שֶׂק אֱלִיעֶֽזֶר:
3. And Abram said, “Behold, You have given me no seed, and behold, one of my household will inherit me.”   ג.וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אַבְרָ֔ם הֵ֣ן לִ֔י לֹ֥א נָתַ֖תָּה זָ֑רַע וְהִנֵּ֥הבֶן־בֵּיתִ֖י יוֹרֵ֥שׁ אֹתִֽי:
4. And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “This one will not inherit you, but the one who will spring from your innards-he will inherit you.”   ד.וְהִנֵּ֨ה דְבַר־יְהֹוָ֤ה אֵלָיו֙ לֵאמֹ֔ר לֹ֥א יִירָֽשְׁךָ֖ זֶ֑ה כִּי־אִם֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר יֵצֵ֣א מִמֵּעֶ֔יךָ ה֖וּא יִֽירָשֶֽׁךָ:
These pasukim are crucial to understand in the proper development and relationship between parents and kids, between teacher and student. The commentaries interpret Avraham’s concern that even my trusted servant Eliezer who will transform my words exactly as I said is not the optimal choice. Why not? Why is Eliezer not good enough?  He is transforming the holy words of Avraham just as he said it. You can’t get more perfect than that.
When a servant repeats what one said, he is still a servant; we are not passing down the tradition to a tape recorder. Yitzchak, Avraham’s son who inherited the mantle and passed it down to his son, absorbed the words of his father, however, was able to make his own input, his own emotions, his own intellect, his own strengths along the way. As we learned: Yitzchak had quite a different personality than his Father. He was a “no non-sense” type (Gevurah).  His approach was the antithesis than that of his father’s soft-kindness. The difference was legendary. However, their communication was also legendary. Although he passed it down to his son unchanged: Yitchak’s own flavor was added to it. And so it was for generations after. Each father passed the words of G-d with his KOCHOT-strengths, his personality, his creativity.
Interestingly, each child is different and has to be approached and taught differently. Children are not tape recorders (remember those things) and it will be a tremendous injustice to treat them like the factory assembly line. One will be depriving the child in making his unique input in this world if they’re not approached in a way that is appropriate for them.

Does one ever wonder that there are two times in the entire Torah that the parsha starts with the word Toldot. The two are found by Noach-ELEH TOLDOT NOACH and by Yitzchak- ELEH TOLDOT YITZCHAK.  The Torah hints that by Noach the next word after  – ELEH TOLDOT NOACH is NOACH. Noach, who was a tsaddik, however he produced, at best, someone equivalent, nothing more – maybe less, to himself. However, the words after ELEH TOLDOT YITZCHAK  is “the son of Avraham”. The chain was passed to Yitzchak. It follows in the verse AVRAHAM HOLID ET YITZCHAK – Avraham gave birth to Yitzchak creating a new creation. For Yitzchak developed into his own whole person. He loyally followed the tradition; the chain was passed to him. However, Yitzchak was able to create and rise to another level.
 We all want our children, students to be better than us. We want them to reach their potential and exceed our level. To do so: one has to give individual attention to each child.
It says in the morning prayers in the Halelukas which is found in the Pesukey d’zimra section “young men and also young women, old men and young men”. This seems incorrect, it should say “old men and old women” why is it out of sequence?
If one doesn’t have the proper tradition and communication between the elders and the young, one cannot reach the opportunity between man and woman.

Altering Life in the Blink of an Eye
There are times when it seems that all one’s effort is for naught. No matter how much one tries, it just doesn’t go. It’s similar to when one puts their car in neutral and presses the gas. The vehicle doesn’t move. It doesn’t help if one presses on the accelerator with more force. Absolutely nothing helps. This is how many of us feel sometimes. Does this sound familiar?

  Rav Henoch Liebowitz z’l teaches us something very inspirational in this week’s parsha. When the two angels came to Lot’s house revealing that the city and all its inhabitants would be destroyed, Lot informed his household that they would have to leave quickly. However his future son-in-law laughed at him. “How can this city be destroyed? The economy is bustling” the son-in-law said. “The kids are playing in the street and there’s not a cloud in the sky; it doesn’t seem like anything is going to happen”. Boy, was he surprised; he and the entire city were destroyed. Interestingly, even though he ridiculed Lot, the son- in-law was a believer of G-d. So why didn’t he comply? Rav Henoch says, human nature is such that one doesn’t believe change will take place. Everything will remain the same. This is what the son-in-law believed. Perhaps that’s why a person never is able to comprehend that he will die one day. It could happen to my friend but it can never happen to me.

  Just like change took place in a blink of an eye for destructive purposes, so too one can believe that changes can occur in the blink of an eye for the good. One can be single for twenty years and one day he dates a girl and in a couple of months is engaged to be married. The same goes with having children – one may think life follows a script however the captain of the football team doesn’t always get the head cheerleader. Life takes funny bounces and sometimes for the good.

  Rav Henoch is trying to teach us one never knows. In the blink of an eye our prayers can be answered.

Parshat Highlights
the source for quick D’var Torahs
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

The impossible dream: Lech Lecha

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

“Stars”, “Stars”, “Stars” – this is one of the glaring words, part of one of the famous Jewish blessing catch phrases. G-d answered Avraham, when Avraham questions G-d: “What can you give me, I am childless?” G-d answers by promising Avraham that he will have children. G-d directs Avraham outside and asks him to look up and count the stars, saying “Thus will be your descendants” [Bereshit 15:2-5].

Well, may I ask the reader: “What would you do?” It’s a great vote of confidence where G-d assures Avraham that he will have children, however, now he has the dubious task to follow G-d’ command and count stars.

Are you kidding me, there are billions of stars? How long shall I count? Ones might ask themselves. It’s an impossible Dream, To Count the Impossible Count.
Rav Meir Shapiro asks, “What would be our reaction if someone told us to go out and count the stars?”

Our reaction would be to simply ignore the request. We would say, “I know this is an impossible task. I know it is beyond the realm of possibility. Why even bother?”

What did Avraham do? He went out and counted the stars! Yelp that’s exactly what he did. He attempted to do the impossible. He actually went outside and began to count the stars. G-d responded “This is the way your descendants will be” (Koh Yihehye zarecha).

“This attribute that you are showing here now — when it looks impossible, when it looks beyond the reach of human beings, nevertheless to try; nevertheless to give it one’s best — Koh Yiheyeh Zarecha. That is the characteristic of the children of Yisrael. That is what a Jew is going to be like. Even though the task seems strenuous and back breaking, it seems almost impossible, we still must try.”

The least we can do is trying. And when we try, we sometimes see that amazing things can happen. We think that we don’t have such strengths and such abilities to withstand that which life deals us. We think it is beyond our capability. But we try and we are gifted and granted with ‘kochot meyuchadot’ – ‘ special strengths’ that we never dreamt we possessed.

That is the Blessing of “Thus shall be your descendants.” The children of Yisroel has the attribute of looking at something which seems impossible, but nevertheless trying, never giving up… and being rewarded with powers that they never thought they had.
We can see how great the potential of man and how he can beat the odds and reach for the stars from this story presented to me by Rabbi Yossi Bilus.
A survey was taken in rural Baltimore section, on the effect of the lifestyle and achievement of low social working class. Most of the two hundred students surveyed from the high school were from broken families who were confronted by drugs, high crime and gang related issues daily.
The conclusion related by many of the socialist and psychologist, that were leading the study, was that sadly it was very difficult to believe that the majority of the group surveyed would make a positive contribution to society.
Interestingly, twenty years later one of the students of the surveyed grade of the high school, now a professor in psychology in the local university came across the transcripts of the study and was curious as to how are fellow comrades faired in life.
The professor committed himself to take the dubious task to locate and interview the student of twenty years past.
Out of the grade of two hundred, fifteen were no longer in the world, approximately ten he couldn’t track, however, the majority of the one hundred and seventy five, surprisingly, were living productive lives. How was that possible? How were they able to beat the odds? How they were able to make all these socialists and psychologists look terribly wrong?
It seems like a name of one teacher surfaced on many of the interviews. This teacher made an impression on the students.
The professor realized what a priority it was to locate the teacher and ask her miraculous method of teaching.
He located her in a nursing home and made an appointment to see her. Old and frail, however, very conscious and alert, he asked what was your secret in your teaching method that many of your students looked at you so admirably?
The old teacher said: “I implanted in them the understanding that they can succeed, they can do it!! We have to believe in ourselves. Then our dreams can come true.”
We Jews should especially take note of this story for if the gentiles believe in the “impossible dream”, we who are blessed with “Koh Yihehye zarecha” our dreams are on the threshold of reality.

The Torah hints of many examples of this bracha – blessing come to the person.
Yosef built his hopes for the future. He implored the butler/officer of Pharaoh to remember him to the king and set him free.

We can learn a valuable lesson from Yosef – the dreamer who in his chance encounter in prison with the butler/officer, the opportunity to pursue his goal and rise to greatness. Yosef will not squander that opportunity nor will he wallow in despair or go against the fate that has treated him so cruelly. He will not allow events and circumstances to deter him from the realization and actualization of his dreams and visions.

Rather, he will attempt to use and exploit all of those circumstances to make his dreams reality and to achieve the greatness that he believes he is entitled to and has been promised to him.
Yosef eventually became viceroy of Egypt, only second in command to Pharaoh. He became leader of a superpower, reaching for the stars and achieving greatness.

Many immigrants come to the land of opportunity to build their dreams. Many have had financial difficulties and are looking to improve. America is a dream to many.

In addition to the financial strains in their homeland, one couple’s main incentive to come to the land of opportunity is “MESHANEH MAKOM MESHANEH MAZAL-change of place is a change of mazal”, in the area of having children – it was ten years and the couple was still childless. Although it wasn’t easy, especially in the late 1950’s – early 1960’s to leave family behind, however, to have an opportunity to make the impossible dream a reality was a tremendous incentive.

They were advised, after a year in their new place of residence, Boro Park, Brooklyn NY, to see the Lubavatcher Rebbi for a bracha. Perhaps his intervention, his prayer will open the door to childbirth.
At the meeting the Rebbi asked if the couple observed the Shabbat where the response was “Although we come from a long line of Rabbis we’re traditional”. The Rebbi then presented the couple with a proposition: commit to Shabbat right at this very moment, observe it to the letter of the law and I promise you’ll have a baby boy in nine months.
The commitment was made and the wife became pregnant right away. Approximately a month before the baby was born which happened at Motzei Pesach-the end of Pesach, the Rebbi usually throws a party. At the party the Lubavitcher Rebbi sees the man who committed to observing Shabbat and again reiterated you will have a boy next month. The next month the promise came to fruition and they had a baby boy.
I know firsthand the accuracy of this story for I am that baby boy. My parents’ hope and dreams were fulfilled for they never gave up. They traveled half way across the continent, left behind friend’s family and culture to accomplish their burning desire, to have children. Ironically, they brought back after a brief absence from their lives the one ingredient needed for having a child – Shabbat.

Speaking about Shabbat, the introduction to the Friday evening prayer is very powerful. There is a passage that is found in the first few paragraphs which states “Moshe and Aharon were among His priests and Shmuel among those who invoke His Name…” [Tehillim 99:6]. The Talmud states that in righteousness, the prophet Samuel (Shmuel) was on the same level as Moshe and Aharon, the two great leaders of Israel. For this reason, the pasuk in Tehillim equates them. The Medrash states that before Shmuel was born, a Heavenly Voice (Bat Kol) proclaimed, “A child is going to be born who will be on the same level as Moshe and his name is going to be Shmuel.” The Medrash says that all the pregnant women at that time named their sons Shmuel when they gave birth, in the hope that perhaps their son was the baby about whom the Bat Kol spoke.

Rabbi Yissachar Frand learns “You know how a Shmuel was produced? He was produced because there was an environment in which everyone strived to have such greatness for their son that he should grow up to be like Moshe Rabbeinu and Aharon!” If EVERYONE is striving to have a Shmuel haNavi, then in fact ONE Shmuel haNavi can emerge! However, if everyone has pedestrian ambitions for their children then greatness will not emerge from anyone in that generation.

When a woman gives birth, she must believe “I just gave birth to the next Gadol HaDor (great man of the generation)”. If a mother thinks like that, she may indeed be able to achieve greatness for her child. If her goal is “okay, he should be a mediocre child,” greatness will never come.

That is the Blessing of “Thus shall be your descendants.” The children of Yisroel have the attribute of looking at something which seems impossible, but nevertheless trying, never giving up… and being rewarded with powers that they never thought they had.
There was once a very important meeting discussing crucial issues in Judaism held in the house of Rav Avrohom Kamenetsky, son of Rav Yakov. All the head Rabbis were gathered there. When the meeting was over, there was a question of protocol as to who should leave the room first. Rav Yakov’s daughter-in-law, who was in the room, was pregnant at the time. She naturally assumed that the great Rabbis should walk out the door first. Rav Yakov insisted that his pregnant daughter-in-law should walk through the door first. Why? He said, “It is because she is pregnant and maybe she is pregnant with Moshiach!”

Can I give a priestly blessing after killing terrorist?

The Future: Noach’s Arc

This article was constructed with the help of either writings, lectures or shiurim of Rabbi’s Noach Isaac Oelbaum, Henoch Leibowitz z’l, Mordechai Aderet, Yossi Bilius, Pinchas Avruch and Mr. Avner Aminov

They’re standing in line in pairs waiting to enter the Arc knowing their future lies with going with Noach. The giraffe, the lion and the chimpanzee, the Arc is the place to be! The animals know it; this is the move to take in order to survive! Yes, it’s animal time, however, we – humans – learn a valuable lesson of life from the secondary being, one has to have foresight; meaning, for every step man must ask himself “What is my action going to result in?” “Where am I going?” This undertaking is a sign of maturity and considered a responsible train of thought.
 In this week’s parsha we find the animals playing a glaring role.  King Shlomo knew the language of the animals well, he actually never mentioned if any of the species have a sense of humor. It’s funny that over the course of history man has always learned from animals. Do rabbits really hate ducks-RABBIT SEASON-NO DUCK SEASON–OOH!!  Bugs bunny has smarts making a mockery of those around him, well aside from Hollywood rendition of animals at the helm and manipulating society, the Torah which preceded Loony Tunes and Hanna Barbera, provides the barometer of the wisdom of the animals. It encourages us to examine their qualities…We should exhibit an almost animal-like intensity in our zeal to fulfill G-d’s will. Leopards are not the largest of the big cats, but they have a ferocity found in few of the great hunters. So too, we should serve G-d proudly, almost fiercely, not being embarrassed to be different from others or to stand up for what we believe in!! 
Further teaching from the Torah, the lightness of an eagle implies not being earthbound by physical pleasure or human sluggishness. The swiftness of a deer implies the oneness of purpose and quickness of reflex to follow G-d’s will. Also, the strength of a lion implies possessing the resolve and conviction to withstand temptation and to hold firm to commitments and obligations. As far as the cat goes, Rashi, a major 9th-century commentator says we should learn about modesty from the cat, interpreting the cat’s “modesty” as referring to her habit of burying her feces.
 Why do we need this lesson from our furry friends? We tend to gravitate towards learning from them. Let’s just leave them alone. After all they’re just animals. 
 Interestingly, for those who inquire into the world around them in order to learn how to behave like human beings, and not like animals, the improbability of refined behavior in a bestial habitat will cry out for explanation. The existence of even a tiny minority of animals that act in a non-animal-like way will force the question—Why do they act that way? There is no apparent reason, no prohibition on animals against promiscuity or immodesty or theft. And yet some of these animals possess such traits that can make us humans look bad.  The Sages are telling us that the answer that would have come is that nature does have a lesson to teach us, and it is a single lesson—that just as there are animals which exhibit non-animal behavior, we too, although we are also much like animals in our physical make-up, there is an essential something within us that is superior to the animal. Therefore, we have to exceed those good qualities certain animals possess. If they can do it, we surely can do it too! 
  There are two which I would like to focus on that provides such a valuable lesson on life that it’s vital to peak into their world.
 King Shlomo writes if one wants to learn chochma – intelligence – he shall look at the Ant in how she conducts herself, her motives, her actions. 
Let’s explore and discover what we can learn from her. 
First look how she stores her grains. She makes a three story house. The most valuable of her collections she stores in the middle layer. The top is susceptible to inclement weather and the bottom can be vulnerable to dirt. 
Interestingly, the Ant only lives for six months. Yet, she stores food for approximately three hundred years and she does it in the most efficient manner.
Why is she so busy accumulating and storing food?
Shlomo HaMelech writes that the Ant reasons, perhaps G-d will grant me longer life so I need to store food, just in case.
However, there has never been a case where the ant lived longer than 6 months. And, even if she did manage to scrape up a month or two more years, at the most, of precious life, the amount which she feverishly collected is incomprehensibly disproportioned.
 We see how much hope and tenacity the Ant has, even though there has not been an Ant that has lived longer than six months in history.
 The question is asked on King Shlomo: Why does he advise “If you want to learn chochma – intelligence – you can learn it from the Ant. It should be if one wants to learn zeal, after all, look how fast and meticulously diligent the Aunt is. Why does Shlomo’ emphasis the Ant intelligence? 
 We learn here that zeal and tenacity comes when one who realizes the significance of potential. In order to value that potential, one needs chochma -intelligence, which is based on the sensitivities of the heart.
The Ant works her entire life thinking maybe G-d’s going to grant me longer life, knowing it would be against human nature. However, the Ant believes in miracles. She believes a miracle can take place.
 Even more so, the Jewish nation that believes that we’re building for the next world, for Olam Haba, that is a basic fundamental concept of Judaism. There are much mitzvot, much brownie points to accumulate in a life time… If one says, let me take it easy, I have enough for this world; there is no need to do more mitzvot. He doesn’t have the hope, the belief and the understanding that he’s building for the future.
 We see another example of a chacham that is one who is sensitive about his future. After Pharaoh’s dream was interpreted by Yossef that there will be seven fat and prosperous years then seven lean years, Yosef then used the word chacham when referring to what kind of leader Pharaoh needs to carry out the mission and save the world from hunger.
However, the hard part is over and done with. The impossible dream was interpreted. Now all what’s left to do is find someone who is a good organizer, someone who has zeal. Gathering the excess grains, storing the food supply, making sure everything is persevered correctly, consists a person who has a gift of being meticulous. A chacham is not needed anymore. Why did Joseph’ emphasis chochma?
 The reason why Chochma is needed is because one has to be sensitive enough to gather all the grain during the fat years and the only way one can execute that task is if one is able to transform himself to the future and imagines that he’s living in the lean years. Then he will be able to collect all the amounts and not miss a grain… It’s quite difficult to gather for lean years when there is abundance.
 This is a feeling which comes from the heart which enables us and gives us the ability to transform ourselves to the future. This is not taking away from the concept “let’s live today to the fullest”. However, it’s a little tricky; one has to have the ability to switch gears, change tunes.
 Unfortunately, it’s against our nature to do so.  Short-sightedness is a natural part of the human condition.  We see Avraham making us aware of this when he gathered an army for he was forced to go to war to free his nephew Lot. The Talmud (Nedarim 32b) teaches that they were armed with gold; Tosafot explain that they were armed with wealth so that they would maintain their focus on their lifesaving mission and not be distracted by precious stones and pearls.
Implicit in this commentary is the lesson that had they not been given this wealth in advance they would have become distracted by riches and compromised their mission to save Lot. But these were the righteous students of the Patriarch Avraham.
Chidushei HaLev explains that in the heat of battle one becomes very focused on the ultimate short term goal – victory – and loses sight of the greater mission, the greater goal – in this case, to save Lot’s life. When caught in the throes of this inherently human short-sightedness, even the righteous can lose sight of their mission. With the ultimate objective out of mind, any and all distractions become possible. Thus, Avraham gave his warriors riches in advance, to preempt the power of this great distraction.
The mouse according to a legendary midrash (midrash- is the body of exegesis of Torah texts along with homiletic stories as taught by Chazal (Rabbinical Jewish sages of the post-Temple era) that provide an intrinsic analysis to passages in the Tanakh) fell victim to this short sightedness.
 There is a midrash composed by Rabbi Mosh HaDarshan. 
 Long before Tom and Jerry and Sylvester the cat. Perhaps, one can say might be the source, the root of the cat and mouse deep hatred toward each other.
Both the cat and the mouse were working for Adam who purposely employed many for the sake of unity. A reference to the harmony which Adam wanted to impose is found in the introductory prayer of the Friday evening prayer for Shabbat. LECHU N’RANENA L’HASHEM – let us all sing before G-d. This would bring a tremendous Kiddush Hashem. G-d loves unity and this attempt by Adam would have raised the level of spirituality in the world. 
 However, the mouse had other plans. The selfish and competitive mouse wanted the glory of serving man himself and approached Adam with a complaint that the cat stole from the house of man.
 Adam realized the mouse’s intentions and cursed him, stating “you came speaking evil about someone, which is equivalent to killing someone (the violation of loshon harah) – now the cat will pursue you for the rest of time in order to kill you”.
 And so it came to be, the mouse was pursued, caught and killed by the cat. The children of the mouse saw the tragic end of their father and were ever in hiding in different holes in the ground and corners in the walls.
 Years later, as all the animals were lined up paired, male – female waiting on line to enter the Ark build by Noach, the male cat said to the female cat “you see those mice, pointing to the ones on line, when I was little, my father killed a mouse and brought it home for dinner and it was delicious”. The cat then stared at the male mouse licking its paw and started to chase after it. The mouse luckily found a whole where it narrowly escaped the claw of the cat and jumped in.

 The cat stuck its arm in the whole to fetch the mouse where then the mouse bit it, however not before the cat scratched and ripped the lip of the mouse.
 After an hour the mouse went to Noach and said “you’re an Ish Tsaddik – a righteous man, can you please stitch my wound”. Noach answered “go to the cat when he’s sleeping and pull out one of his whiskers, for the whiskers are considered medically very sterile, and I’ll stitch it….And so it was. This is one of the reasons Noach is said to be an Ish Tsaddik.
There are many lessons one can derive from this interesting Midrash. One that pertains to our subject is the mouse was short sighted. The mouse wasn’t able to foresee the importance of Adam’s mission.  His greed ruined the cohesiveness of what Adam had intended and as punishment is pursued by the cat till the Mashiach arrives.
There are people who are considered very calculating. That seems to have a negative connotation; however, it’s not necessarily true. I would like to put a positive twist to that statement and say a calculating person is one that looks at the future on every move he or she makes. Although it goes against human nature but it’s a fundamental Jewish concept that is a MUST for our survival.