Archive for G-d and Us


This article was constructed with the help of either writings, lectures or shiurim of Rabbi’s , Yissachar Frand, Lenny Bromberg, Yossi Bilus, Aaron Tendler, David Hochberg, Pinchas Avruch  and
Dr. Abba Goldman, also Mr. Emanuel Aminov
 Har Nof
Passion can be construed in many ways. We saw this past week the ugly side of passion, a passion based on hate, where the evil Arabs MACHSHEMAM butchered our brethren in a Bet Haknesset in Har Nof, Israel. However, it can be very complex, as we will see from  recent current events.
A doctor,  Craig Spencer, in New York City who recently returned from treating Ebola patients in Guinea became the first person in the city to test positive for the virus.
 Dr. Spencer recalled that in his five weeks in West Africa, “I cried as I held children who were not strong enough to survive,” but that he also had celebrated with those who were cured and “invited me into their family as a brother.”
Spencer posted a photo of himself on Facebook wearing protective gear and wrote, “Off to Guinea with Doctors. Please support organizations that are sending support or personnel to West Africa, and help combat one of the worst public health and humanitarian disasters in recent history.”
New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center said in a statement that Spencer “went to an area of medical crisis to help a desperately underserved population. He is a committed and responsible physician who always put his patients first.”
Seventy percent of Ebola cases in West Africa are fatal, but eight of the nine people treated in the United States have recovered. Dr. Bassett said a key reason was the labor-intensive job of managing body fluids and replenishing lost blood, allowing the body’s own defenses to kill the virus.
 However, what tends to happen at times, when one does a passionate good deed, we learn in King Solomon’s  Mishlei; Passion can blind you; it blinds the smartest people. Once you think you’ve scored brownie points, one thinks he has a licence to do whatever he wants.
 Spencer didn’t follow protocol. He lied to the police and told them he didn’t go anywhere when he arrived back. He actually went to few parties. He did not care that he might be carrying the infectious disease.
Passion – strong and barely controllable intense  emotion, compelling enthusiasm or desire for anything.  It’s a term applied to a very strong feeling about a person or thing.
Dr. Craig Spencer had a passion!!  He left his job  as a doctor at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, a prestigious job in the medical field, to travel to West Africa and risk his life to treat a deadly virus.
Passion, sometimes even momentary, can change ones life, sometimes in a drastic way. Doctor Goldman, Psychologist at Yeshiva Chaffetz Chaim said that President Bill Clinton’s affair with his aid Monica Lewinsky not only had a very negative effect on his legacy, but a rippling damaging reaction on a country. Reports indicate that his cabinet and staff lost faith in his ability to command. As result, they became lethargic in their duties. They felt betrayed defending their leader who then without informing them confessed to the country of his misdeeds. This is all in result of moments of perhaps passion, or perhaps just flimsy moment of desires.
Passion can change a life time of achievements.   Our forefather Yaacov had an evil brother, Eisav, however he had one virtue, one good deed, that he passionately performed most of his life. In fact many Torah Scholars marveled  at his performance  and encourage us to emulate this one mitzvah, which he did. He honored his father to the highest level.  The Torah tells us that Yitzchak loved Eisav. And Eisav loved him back. He respected his father and served him faithfully. The Sages even deem  his act of “honoring parents” greater than that of his brother Yaakov’s. And so Yitzchak requested Eisav to “go out to the field and hunt game for me, then make me delicacies such as I love, and I will eat, so that my soul may bless you before I die” (Genesis 27:3-4). Yitzchak wanted to confer the blessings to him. Eisav won his father’s regard. And even when Esav found out that his brother, Yaakov beat him to the blessings, he did not yell at his father,  “How did you let him do that?!” All he did was “cry out an exceedingly great and bitter cry, and said to his father, “Bless me too, Father!” (ibid v.34). Yitzchak finds some remaining blessing to bestow upon his older son, but the grudge does not evaporate. What troubling  is not the anger of defeat or the desire for revenge, rather the way Eisav expressed it. “Now Esau harbored hatred toward Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him; and Esau thought, “May the days of mourning for my father draw near, then I will kill my brother Jacob.” “May the days of mourning for my father draw near” Think about it. How did the love for a father turn into the eager anticipation of his death?

Passions overrule sanity. They even overtake years of love and commitment. When one is enraged, he can turn against his best friend, his closest ally, and even his own parents! Eisav, who spent his first 63 years in undying adulation of his father, changed his focus in a burst of emotion. Now, instead of worrying about his father’s fare, he awaited the day of his farewell. All in anticipation of the revenge he would take on Yaakov.
When passions perverse our priorities, and obsessions skew our vision, friends become foes and alliance becomes defiance. In the quest for paranoiac revenge, everyone is an enemy even your own parents. But mostly your own self.

  Furthermore, Eisav married his uncle Yishmael’s daughter, an act that his parents favored, however, he did not divorce his two wives which his parents greatly disapproved.  Seemingly, his passion for those women were still burning.
  One of the most famous and endearing story line in our Torah is the one when Avraham is commanded to sacrifice his son. At the end, though, G-d withdrew his command to slaughter his son. Sforno  explains “instead of his son: in exchange for that which was in his heart to offer his son, a ram was then brought. Avraham had  to maintain the faithfulness to that which he had previously committed in his heart.” Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler finds this amazing: G-d gave Avraham the command to bring Yitzchak (Isaac) up on the altar as a test, for just as G-d had commanded Avraham to bring him, he was commanded to remove him. There is a strong determination to perform an act of passion and Avraham viewed this act as a spiritual opportunity.  Once one initiates  an act of passion and enthusiasm, it’s very hard to stop.The “commitment” that Avraham made to bring his son as an offering was in error, a colossal misunderstanding. Nevertheless, notes Rabbi Dessler in Sforno’s words, without an alternative vehicle with which to serve G-d, Avraham would have been dishonest to his commitment to serve. Indeed, Rashi explains that the ram was “instead of his son” because Avraham literally requested that G-d view each act – from the slaughter through each subsequent step – as if it was performed in his son’s stead. Rabbi Dessler notes that Avraham was correlating every action to his original intent and commitment. That even though he was absolved by nothing less than a Divine decree, Avraham was concerned with fulfilling his “obligation”.
Why such a burning passion? Because Avraham realized that this was not simply some contractual obligation that was now moot because the contract was revoked. This was the ultimate of Avraham’s Divine trials. But these trials did not test Avraham’s G-d consciousness, they FORGED it. This opportunity was presented to Avraham to allow him to transcend his human condition and offer his entire future to G-d in His service. Avraham very keenly appreciated this unparalleled opportunity and knew he was bound to follow through. And G-d agreed, such that He built this parallel chance into Creation.
 The  Satan, though,  was also rather aware of this unique circumstance, for it was he who entangled  the ram’s horns in the bushes to brake the momentum and defuse the passion of Avraham.
  Passion can be powerful and sometimes has to be curtailed. The book of Devarim, the last of the 5 books of the Torah, is replete with warnings against idolatry, but perhaps the parashah in which the repetitiveness is most obvious is Parashas Va’etchanan. Dozens of pesukim – including nearly one third of the pesukim in the second rendering of the Ten Commandments – contain numerous admonitions not to serve idols.
Nowadays, these warnings seem unnecessary.  Almost no sane humanbeing today has any interest in worshiping a graven image of any sort. In fact, it seems strange to us that anyone ever had such a passion.

Truthfully, our utter disinterest in idol worship is not a credit to our advanced, developed intelligence or our purer faith in G-d. The Anshei Knesses HaGedolah, a group of 120 sages, some of the greatest Torah scholars ever, convened during the era of the second Temple and determined that the inclination to serve idols was too strong for mankind to withstand. The Talmud (Yoma 69b) relates how the Anshei Knesses HaGedolah captured the yetzer hara-evil inclination for idolatry and destroyed it.
We can still have an idea of how strong the inclination for idolatry was before they conquered it. The Talmud tells us that the Anshei Knesses HaGedolah was encouraged by their success in conquering one of the two major passions of mankind, so they decided to turn their sights on the other major passion: the inclination for promiscuity.
When the sages succeeded in capturing the passion for promiscuity, however, they came to the realization that if they destroyed this passion people would no longer procreate, so they released it.
We are all aware of how difficult it is to control the inclination for licentiousness. Our Sages teach us that people once had an equal passion to serve idols.
 So, the Chachamim dissolved a major passion but left us with another. G-d created an extremely powerful attraction and passion between the sexes. It exists and cannot be ignored. The Rabbis explain that G-d did this in order to perpetuate the human race. Without desire and attraction, people would not reproduce and the world would remain desolate. Therefore, He created this intense desire between men and women.
 Here is one scenario where people for the most part are vulnerable, the workforce. One is especially vulnerble when there are bumpy roads in the marriage. For the most part one can say, who doesn’t have bumpy moments in their marriage. Mind you can develop in a crowded office environment but once one is alone with the other, that stuation can accelerate the passion.
You may like her. She may like you. Obviously, both of you have lines that you will not cross when it comes to inappropriate behavior. You have self-respect and know that you will keep to those guidelines. You know that you would not be able to look at yourself in the mirror the next day if you crossed your line, whatever your particular line may be. Now, all of a sudden, you find yourself alone with him or her. You glance at each other. The attraction and desire is there. No one is around and no one will know. Everyone has a vulnerable moment. What will you do? Will you cross your line? How far? How will you feel the next day? What will it feel like, knowing that your line, your boundary that you always said you wouldn’t cross, has just been violated?
Some of you may be say, I am stronger than that and will never cross my line, no matter what. That may be true, but lets ask ourselves something: Which requires greater self-control; controlling yourself when you are never alone together or controlling yourself when you are alone in a room with him or her AND the attraction is there? The Torah is providing you with a boundary that does not require superhuman self-control on your part. It is protecting you from moments of vulnerability, when you may do something you may feel badly about later. Don’t be alone together. Let’s be honest here. It is a lot more difficult to control yourself from acting inappropriately when you are alone together than when you aren’t. Don’t put yourself in the position where you have to rely on greater self-control. Don’t play near the edge of a cliff. True, nothing may happen, but why take the risk? Don’t forget, you have to face yourself in the mirror tomorrow. Make it easy on yourself.
 We learn something valuable from Yaacov, our forefather. Yakov’s blessing to Shimon and Levi as he lay on his deathbed was intended as directive, not just critical. Shimon and Levi had displayed enormous devotion and courage in defending the honor of the family, even if it was misguided. They decieved and destroyed the entire city of Shechem avenging the rape of their sister Dina. Yakov’s “blessing” of Shimon and Levi was intended to direct that same devotion and courage into constructive channels. As the Pasuk says, “Into their conspiracy I will not enter, with their congregation I will not join.” (49:6) Because they did not first seek Yakov’s advice and direction, he would not have anything to do with their actions. However, if Yakov’s teachings and truth would direct their passion and strength, they would be indispensable to the nation’s survival.
 Passion, at times, can be channeled in the right way. One has to realize the power of it. In a moment, one can act on it and regret a life time. Passion, if used right, can elevate one to a lofty level. The key is to be aware of our feeling  as well as anticipate what we will be feeling when we will be faced with life challenges!

Life is fragile, handle with care!

This article was constructed with the help of either writings, lectures or shiurim of Rabbi’s Yissachar Frand, Akiva Grunblat, Baruch Dopelt Dr Abba Goldman
There are pluses and minuses to being multicultural. The minus is one never  really has the feeling of any one culture being “home”.  We understand the joke, but don’t appreciate the humor as much as they do.  However, the plus is one gets a taste of an enormous amount of knowledge having being exposed to the diversity of the world and knowledge is a power.
    I recently was in a major car accident and  a famous wise expression kept haunting me throughout the ordeal.
The   Bukharian Jews frequently use an expression in a regretful connotation when reflecting on one who passed on; it’s two words “haifi odam”; its either said, just is or “haif” with a person who is no longer in this world attached to it.  An example,”Haifi Joe” would be the correct way it’s used.
It’s a loaded two words, deep in meaning and probably needs a couple of paragraphs to explain. Nevertheless an attempt will done as condensed and as clear as possible:
   What a pity on an individual life; what a pity on the essence of a person. How short life is and we are robbed of enjoying the particular individual. He/she left before we could enjoy them more. How vulnerable a human is; here today and gone tomorrow.  Only he was able to do it a certain way and he is not replaceable.  Life is too short!
   The “HAIFI ODAM” expression came into full bloom on two experiences in my life. When my father past away, my father-in-law, who was very close to his mother, appeased me by saying “Haifi onim” sadly. “The human being doesn’t have the worth as we seemingly think. They’re gone before we appreciate them”. The second experience of “haifi odam” is my recent accident experience.
   A few Saturday nights ago I made Havdalah (prayer that separates the Shabbat from weekdays) where then I was on my way, as I usually do every motzai Shabbat, to visit my elderly mother. I had some laughs with my kids and off I went.  Seven minutes later I awaken after loosing consciousness,  on the street next to my car, where I just had an accident, awaiting an ambulance. Funny, how one moment my family and I are enjoying each others company and moments later it can be an unfamiliar script. I remember thinking as I was regaining consciousness, looking up and seeing the accident scene, saying  “Oh, no, this bad dream is continuing. I did not make it to my mother.” There is a certain reassurance of the concept of habit and the accident had diverted my life from my usual routine.


   We can learn a valuable lesson from this week’s parsha to what we discussed above.
   This parsha contains the mitzvah of Bikkurim (offering one’s first fruits in Jerusalem) and the mitzvah of reading the associated Parshas Bikkurim (First-Fruit Reading). In Parshat Bikkurim, a person offers praise to the Almighty, expressing gratitude for the many kindnesses He has bestowed upon the Jewish people in general and on this farmer in particular. In expressing this gratitude, the person testifies that he not only appreciates what he has received now, but he appreciates the whole process by which he has arrived to that point in time. In Parshas Bikkurim, we trace the whole history of the Jewish people from the earliest Patriarchic era to our present day. In detailing the suffering we experienced in Egypt, the narrative includes the following declaration: “The Egyptians mistreated us and afflicted us, and placed hard work upon us.” [Devarim 26:6].

Rabbi Yissachar Frand mentions that the commentary the Alshich is bothered by a statement of the Sages. One of the three fundamental commandments in our holy Torah is the Mitzvah of Bikkurim. He remarks that Bikkurim would not seem to be in anyone’s list of the “top 3 mitzvot” and yet here this Midrash states that the world was created for the sake of this mitzvah! What is the meaning of this Midrash?

    Secondly, once again the topic of Yetziat Mitzraim – the exodus of Egypt is brought up. It seams like on almost every corner of Jewish holy scripture the Torah mentions the Exodus from Egypt. Even the first of the Ten Commandments where it says “I am Your G-d” it continues “Who took you out from Egypt”. Why does that incident stand out in all that is associated with belief in G-d?  Secondly, it seems there is an association to the mitzvah of bikkurim. What is it?
Rabbi Akiva Grunblatt quotes the Rambam’s question of how in the good old days did pangenetic worship start. Idle worship was very popular in biblical times. He answers: it actually started very innocently. They actually believed in G-d, however, they wanted to honor the second in command. What first was a tribute to, for example, the stars, later evolved into being the main focus of worship. They were under the impression that they weren’t worthy of going direct to G-d, so they settled. Who am I to bother the King. It’s a lack of respect to bypass the officers. This is how the second fiddle, the go between, transformed to the primary.
     The essential directive of Yetziat Mitzraim – exodus from Egypt was as G-d explicitly decrees “I will take you out” – not an angel! This is a clear message against paganism. It’s a direct attack toward the trend of the world. There is a direct relationship between G-d and an individual Jew. It’s personal, it’s a relationship.
We are about to enter the Judgment month and as one is aware: Rosh Hashana we emphasize and refer to G-d as King. However, we also express that he is Our Father – AVINU MALKEINU! This is the personal relationship we have with HIM and it’s a very special one!
     Rabbi Grunblat gives a parable. Jews have the kind characteristic of helping each other. One wealthy man committed himself to help a particular down and out individual.  They agreed every Monday, at 8:00am, the needy man will come and the wealthy man will give him a check for $2,000; this will be sufficient to sustain him for the week. After the initial Monday when he received the first installment the down and out man showed up, on Tuesday knocking at the door. “I just want to remind you  to fulfill your promise next Monday”. The rich man said “no problem, it’s ok, I remember our agreement”. The next day the poor man came again knocking on the door and reminding the rich man again.              The wealthy man surprised at the man’s appearance again, reiterated, “don’t worry, you’ll have it Monday. There is no need to remind me again”. Sure enough, though, the poor man came again the next day.
    We pray three times a day and for the most part have the same request. Why do we repeat the same thing?  If we pray once a week, I’m sure, G-d’s not going to forget. In fact, G-d should probably be annoyed at the constant repetitiveness, don’t you think?
   No, absolutely not!!! It’s personal; G-d wants the communication to constantly be there. It’s an intimacy we share with Our Maker. The personal relationship is important!  There is more opportunity for appreciation!
Let’s get back to the mitzvah of Bikkurim.
The Alshich answers that the mitzvah of Bikkurim contains within it something that is fundamental to being a human being — the obligation for people to express their gratitude and hakarat haTov- acknowledgement of gratitude. HaKarat haTov is so basic and primary that the whole world’s creation was actualized just for this mitzvah, which teaches us and trains us in the attribute of gratitude.
The Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer [Chapter 7] writes, “There is nothing harder for the Almighty to live with (as it were) than an ungrateful person. The reason Adam was exiled from the Garden of Eden was due to his ingratitude. His sin was not merely eating from the Tree of Knowledge (Etz HaDaas). For that sin alone, perhaps he could have remained in Gan Eden. The straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak, was the fact that in response to G-d’s question ‘why he ate from the Etz HaDaat’, Adam said, “The woman you gave me, she gave me the fruit and I ate it.” As Rashi points out, Adam was being ungrateful. G-d presented him Chava as a gift and Adam complained that she caused him to sin.
Appreciation of G-d and the people around us who are created in G-d’s image is essential part of life.  However, we take those relationships for granted. Though, at times it’s not done intentionally. We tend to get busy with our own lives and focus on specific things therefore neglecting loved ones and old friends. Only after the individual passes on, do we regret not spending more time or being nicer to them.
There was a mutual friend from the neighborhood, Forest Hills, David Kagan, who had abruptly passed away a number of years ago at age 45.  His death shocked us all. A few weeks later I received a call from our mutual friend, Ronny Alibayof, who expressed interest in having a mini reunion. He told me “Kagan and I wanted to get

together for a long time  but never had the chance. I don’t want that to h

appen to us. Let’s enjoy each other’s company while we can, considering the uncertainty of tomorrow.”

We have to cherish our relationships and value them whether it be between us and G-d or with our loved ones. One never knows, one can be laughing and enjoying loved ones and seven minutes later things can change.

Why do we have to cover our eyes when we say the Shema?

Brief background: Shema is the famous prayer we say four times a day; twice in the morning, once in the evening, and once at bedtime. We cover our eyes and recite the passage. Why?


We find in this week’s parsha when Yaacov met his beloved son, Yosef, after 22 years, when he thought he was dead, Yosef emotionally embraced him while Yaacov was so grateful to G-d that he recited the Shema. The concept behind Shema is that the whole body has to be emerged in the dedication to G-d. Symbolically, we are expressing it by covering our right hand on our eyes. The hand has five fingers representing our whole body. Instinctively, each finger covers its own territory.


* Thumb – instinctively cleans the mouth area
* Index finger – instinctively cleans the nose
* Middle finger – instinctively scratches the back area
* Ring finger – cleans the eyes
* Pinky, little finger – instinctively cleans the ears


When we say the Shema, it’s usually deep into the prayers where the concentration is intense. So when we do cover our eyes, this thought pattern should be applied.

The Pleasures of Chanukah

There’s an interesting story told by Rabbi Isaac Olbaum at one of his lectures about Rav Levi Bardichiva that teaches an important lesson about the pleasures of Chanukah in which we’re in the midst of celebrating:


Rav Levi Bardichiva once walked into a room where his friends convened. He found it quite odd that they stopped their conversation so abruptly as if they were hiding something from him. After he pressed the issue, they confessed that they were embarrassed at the topic of conversation and felt he would think they were wasting valuable time that could be spent learning Torah. The friend mentioned how they marveled and were so impressed with the exquisite mansion of Count Potosky.



Count Potosky was a very rich man who had a son who was executed by the non-Jews because he converted to Judaism. The gentiles gave Potosky’s son an ultimatum: either convert back or be executed. He said ‘I’m staying a Jew’. Soon after, young Potovsky was hung and then burned, and many years later, a tree grew from his ashes. Till this day, people would point to that tree and tell you the story of Potosky.



Apparently, the friends of Rav Levi were admiring how rich he was and how he would indulge in all kind of pleasures. Rav Levi responded, ‘Did Potosky light the candles of Chanukah?’ Obviously he didn’t; but if he did, Rav Levi seems to imply, that would be the most pleasurable moment he would have experienced.



What is so special about lighting Chanukah candles?



The Rambam (Maimonides) who, besides being an authority on medicine, was a tremendous halachic figure (expert on Jewish law), is quoted as saying, ‘The sages enacted these eight days as eight days of happiness and praise (Hallel). What constitutes happiness? Happiness is interpreted as having meat and wine. Apparently, this is what gives pleasure to the body and soul. Every time there is a reference to ‘happy’, a meal is required. After a delicious meal then he’s able to sing praise (Hallel).



However, we know a meal is not required on Chanukah. Do you mean to tell me that lighting the candles is a substitute pleasure for the meal? How so?



Chanukah is often compared to the holiday of Purim; but why is a meal required for that holiday and not this one?



In the story of Chanukah, the Greeks didn’t want to kill us; they wanted to embrace us. Their goal was to destroy us spiritually (no Shabbat, no brit milah, etc). Purim, the wicked Haman wanted to destroy us physically. Therefore, we counter back by using our physicality and getting a pleasurable experience with a lavish meal. We use the physicality as a gratitude to G-d. On Chanukah, though, we use the spirituality as gratitude.



‘Everything is from the heavens except fearing G-d’. Although one has to make an effort, for the most part, we have a hard time controlling our lives whether it is making money, marriage, kids, and death. Many aspects of life are determined by the heavens with the exception of spirituality, which is determined by you. It’s our choice whether to keep Shabbat, keep kosher, and be nice to people. It’s in our hands, we’re in control.



So what are the pleasures of Chanukah? We”ll get a better picture from a little glimpse of history. Achav was the wicked king of Israel (kingdom was split Israel and Judea). The Gemarah says he has no share in the world to come. At the time, Aram, the neighboring country who was superior in might, was at a state of war with the Israelites. Aram sent a team to Achav with their demands of surrender. These demands included the Israelites to give up their possessions, wives, and children. Achav was listening and agreeing to the surrender demands. Then they said ‘give up your object of desire, your Sefer Torah.’ ‘Absolutely not!!’ he said, ‘we’ll go to war with you first!!’ he answered back. The Israelites went to war with Aram and won.



Achav, whose reputation as a rasha is unprecedented, violated everything in the book. Why all of a sudden did he say no? What does he care about a Sefer Torah? We see how a Jew can be so complex in his behavior. Every Jew has a certain Jewish pride, a deep down caring about his religion, about his people. When push comes to shove, a secular Jew will bang on the table and declare ‘I’ll show you what it means to be Jewish’. Perhaps this is the reason we are required to light the menorah by the window so that the whole world can see what miracles G-d did for his chosen people. We show the world, but for the most part, it is for us to feel good about ourselves. We light the menorah with pride like the Maccabees lit after they miraculously defeated the mighty Greek army. The pride in doing so should bring out a tremendous pleasure.

Have you ever been Bullied?

Advice and insights from Doctor Robert Goldman Psychologist at Yeshiva Chaffetz, Rabbi Isaac Oelbaum, excerpts  from the teachings of Rav Henoch Leibowitz, also excerpts from “The New York Times and The Miami Hearold”

Is intimidation a way of life?  Or perhaps one can say being intimidated is an initiation to life. Does the reader recall being tormented by a classmate, fellow worker, a friend, or I should say an ex-friend? Everybody has had a bully at one point in his life; it’s part of life. If he was spared the bullying throughout childhood years, the tormentor may found him in high school. Perhaps it happened in freshman year of college. How difficult was it, or perhaps still is, to show up to class, or to the office, knowing that this monster will be there, ready to pounce on you, the first opportunity it gets?


We learn a valuable lesson from this week’s parsha from the interaction between the Tormentor, Eisav , his descendant Amalek, and our forefather, Yaakov. But, first let’s examine a bazaar situation that occurred recently.


“For the entire season-and-a-half that he was with the Miami Dolphins, he attempted to befriend the same teammates who subjected him to the abuse, with the hope that doing so would end the harassment.
A puzzling question is asked:
How do you bully a 6-foot-5, 300 pound, ferocious player (starting offensive tackle) in the National Football League?

This is not the first question that should come to mind in the wake of the hazing story coming out of the  Dolphins’ locker room during the past week (hazing is the practice of rituals and other activities involving harassmentabuse or humiliation used as a way of initiating a person into a group). The proper response is to mourn the absence of civility in the N.F.L. and to demand that Richie Incognito, the player accused of bullying and threatening a teammate, Jonathan Martin, to be exiled from the league.


But in a league defined by its violence, where every player aspires to impose his will on opponents, how does bullying become so intense that a massive football player stands up, leaves the team and simply goes home?


Did Incognito, a veteran with a checkered history and a reputation as a dirty player, do this on his own? Or did he have the help and participation of teammates who went along for the ride?


In Miami, it was apparently a combination of the two.


Judging from their reactions, some of Incognito’s teammates enjoyed watching Martin being used as the butt of jokes.


Incognito has been suspended indefinitely by the Dolphins, accused of crossing a long-established line of rookie hazing to torment Martin. Yet Dolphins cornerback, Will Davis, said to reporters earlier this week of Incognito: “He’s a funny guy. Everybody loves him.”


Wide receiver Mike Wallace was more effusive.


“I love Richie,” he said. “I think he’s a great guy. He’s an intense guy. Everybody knows that. I think he was just being Richie.


“I love playing with Richie. I wish he was here right now.”

As if the N.F.L. didn’t have enough headaches on and off the field between concussions, drug testing, and crime, now the commissioner has to deal with bullying in the locker room.


I’ve been in plenty of locker rooms, from grammar school through high school and college, and things can be raunchy. There is a lot of name-calling.


By the time the players reach the N.F.L., a billion-dollar business played by millionaires, one would hope, they have flushed this out of their systems.


Clearly, that is not the case. Though on teams with great leadership, locker-room tensions don’t usually reach the commissioner’s office. Now that these have, Roger Goodell, must deal with Incognito. A lifetime ban would be too harsh. But a suspension, possibly for the rest of the season, even if the Dolphins were inclined to bring Incognito back, which they do not seem to be, seems fair. That, and a stern message to the players that the days of hazing young players, everything from making rookies pay for dinner to carrying veterans’ bags, are over.


My concern for Martin is how this will mark him for the rest of his career. Many are paying lip service to how terribly he has been treated, but in locker rooms and team offices, and not just in Miami, there may always be whispers that Martin is “soft.”


The N.F.L. is not the Boy Scouts. Professional football is not an ordinary workplace. In a world where most fans make their livings, corporations would look at Incognito’s resumé and run the other way. In the N.F.L., personnel directors might look at Incognito, crude, troubled and violent, but also a former Pro Bowler, and say, “He’s our kind of guy.”


As for Martin, at another time and in a different context, he would be lauded for refusing to be provoked. He obeyed the biblical decree to turn the other cheek, that “if someone hits you on the side of your face, let him hit the other side too.”


It’s a wonderful sentiment. But the N.F.L. has its own bible, and that passage isn’t in it.

It seems like a 300 pound football player is having a difficult time in his working environment. How do we fair in our workplace?


       I asked our good doctor, whom always provides us with his intuitive insights, Dr. Robert Goldman, Psychologist of Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim, about the subject of bullying. He said “There are people who enjoy making others squirm. They love playing the dictator role; “I’m in command  and you are nothing” “.
       Lets explore the behavior of kids for instance. The nicest children can become the biggest bullies as a result of their insecurities. They want to be leaders at the expense of putting down others. These bullies pick on children that they know can not stand up for themselves; they pick on individuals that have no self confidence. They rally others against the victim feeling good that they were the ones who controlled the momentum, the situation and emotions of others. “Teachers”, he continues, “make a big mistake in telling the victim to come to them when someone bullies them. This in flames the tormentor even more. Although the teachers are in control of the class, they, for the most part, are not present at recess and after school. It leaves the victim hung out to dry”. The doctor continues with a grin “What the victim should do is fight back!! He should punch them in the mouth. When the tormentor see’s that there is opposition; the victim is standing up for themselves; when he sees that there are strong consequences, he’ll say “it doesn’t pay to bully again, at least for this victim.”

       “One of the classic memorable  episodes of the science fiction series Star trek where one of the characters, unknowingly, is able to bring back people from his past. “Be careful what you think” . This someone happened to be his biggest tormentor when he was a youth at the academy.”
       On two occasions in high school, I got into a fight with bullies and they never bothered me again. They were surprised I stood up for myself and one was even more surprised that I hit him in the eye with a right hook. When I responded to his request of “lets fight” with a yes, he was surprised as the room was beginning to get filled to see the fight. Nevertheless fighting should be a last resort, as we will soon learn.

How can you fight back against the non-Jews, especially when some of them are so powerful?

In many cultures we the Jews had our share of anti-Semitism. There is a common misconception that this time we’ll show some muscle. We have our slogan “Never again”. Yada yada yada. However, winning battles against the enemy was not done with our physical strength. The Jew fights back with his intellect; we have to be clever. The good doctor gives an example of  an anti-semite and someone who was more or less neutral, were running for office in a Polish town, many years ago. The Jews saw that they didn’t have enough votes to beat out the anti-Semite so they decided to give money to the anti-Semite. Basically they supported the Jew-hater. After the election the anti-Semite, who happened to win the election, was very supportive of the Jewish cause. What transpired was that the Jews learned from their history, particularly this week’s parsha, and how Yaakov, our forefather, had a 3 step plan – 1) flattery and bribes, 2)prayer and, as a last resort, 3)war. The flattery and bribe worked.
       Amalek, which is Eisav’s decedents, have been known to be our biggest bullies over the course of history. They have always had an intense hatred, manifested by their ferocious cruelty towards us. However, besides the incident in this week’s parsha, where Eisav comes with 400 solders, not with the intent to just bully Yaakov, but to kill him outright, one can say, through their previous dialogue, there was no trace of bullying. As a matter of fact they left each other in peace.
       What, then, transpired that they became public enemy #1?
       In order to understand why Eisav’s descendants turned out to be such monsters, we have to explore one of the dramatic moments in the Torah; the moment when Yosef revealed to his brothers that he was indeed their long lost brother, whom they sold. At the moment of his announcement they felt a terrible sense of embarrassment. What were they embarrassed about?  We assumed because they sold him as a slave. Not quite, the brothers were ashamed of their cruelty that they expressed when he was pleading with them to take him out of the dangerous pit. They heard his cry but showed no mercy. Instead, the brothers sat down and had a meal. At their moment of remorse they were afraid that they would lose their status as G-d representatives. ACHZARUT, cruelty, breeds cruelty. The brothers were concerned how they were desensitized to the situation at hand.
       We each have in our DNA a repertoire of character traits that are ready to sprout up, weather positive or negative. When that particular trait finally emerges, it can mutate and, in time, be a significant part of our personality. Therefore the child who bullies is susceptible to intensifying the character trait of cruelty. This trait can pass down to one’s descendants.
       Eisav’s eternal hate towards his brother manifested itself and intensified in his descendants. When the exhausted and displaced Israelite nation passed through the splitting of the see and into the dessert, Amalek were the first to greet them with an army ready for war. One can see the cruel intensity by the designed timing of there attack.
       We must be aware of the magnitude of the consequences of the bully and the victim. When children are involved in this action, one has to realize that the intimidator is starting his career, while the victim might incur scars for life.
       Mazal is Mazal; some are born with making money and it’s quite easy for them. Others have to resort to extensive, deeply concentrated, tearful prayers in order for Hakadosh Baruch Hu to budge and throw them a bone or two, if they’re lucky!!
       Such was the case of a very poor shoe maker, Shmuel, who’s mazal drastically changed when his long lost cousin died. (I often ask myself, why don’t I have these long lost cousins?) Shmuel inherited his fortune and within days his friends and family began to treat him differently. They offered him a closer seat to the bima in shul, where eventually, he became the president. Shmuel moved to a nicer block and a bigger house. People made sure to say hello to him in the street.
       There is one thing that Shmuel dreamed of more than anything in the world and that is he wanted his daughter to marry the Rabbi’s son. Shmuel began to use many of his contacts and resources to make that dream possible. One day, one of the matchmakers calls Shmuel and tells him that the Rabbi’s family agreed and are interested in his daughter. It seemed Shmuel was more excited than the girl, waiting anxiously after their dates and asking how it went. One day, the daughter comes home excited and said he proposed!!
       At the wedding, Shmuel was gleaming from ear to ear as the chupah started. However, not all the guests were happy for Shmuel. His old shoemaker buddies were jealous. When Shmuel, the kallah’s father, was called to recite one of the sheva brachot, one of his old jealous friends just couldn’t take it anymore. He gets up, takes off his shoe, and screams out “Hey, Shmuel the shoemaker, my shoe tore. Can you fix it?” Everybody in the hall was silent. Shmuel was so embarrassed and humiliated that he fainted. “Quick, someone call Hatzalah!” someone yelled out. Unfortunately, there was nothing anybody could do for poor Shmuel. He had a massive heart attack and died.
       One can say, in the heavens, his jealous friend would be accountable for Shmuel’s death. However, there is someone who is more responsible. That is Shmuel himself. One has to realize Shmuel should not have been embarrassed. G-d gave him the money. If he would have faith in G-d, he would realize G-d runs the world. He should have felt fortunate that G-d transformed him from a poor shoemaker to accumulating nice wealth. It wasn’t he who earned it. Once an individual begins to believe I made the money, the inflated ego sets in and he’s bound to get hurt and humiliated and fail the test.
       Everyone in life is faced with a tormentor. Some of us encounter them at every juncture of our lives. One has to know how to deal with them and realize its not the arrow but the shooter; its not the tormentor but G-d who’s testing us.

Emet-The Truth

This article was constructed with the help of Rabbis Baruch Dopelt, Mayer Glasser, Yossi Bilus and Dr. Robert Goldman, and excerpts from the writing of Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz

One meets a variety of characters throughout one’s lifetime. In this week’s parsha, Toldot, the topic of EMET, truth, is presented. Every time we read this portion, I am reminded of one individual I knew in the jewelry business. He is an energetic fellow who knew how to make a buck, however he would always use this sacred word, EMET, very loosely. Some of the typical expressions he would say are:

” I bought the gem stones at a high price, EMET. I cannot sell you at a lower one; I will lose money!” “Those are the merchandise that my customer is looking for however the price is way too high. EMET. It’s not very competitive.” Or, with a chuckle he would sneer and say  “How can you have purchased it at that amount?  I can get it from others cheaper, EMET. Do you, seriously, want to make the sale?”

“EMET, I will pay you in 30 days ”


Does this guy sound familiar?
Regarding this fellow, we can apply the old expression: It is always good policy to tell the truth, unless, of course, you are an exceptionally good liar, EMET!! 

Interestingly enough, we learn many lessons about the truth from our holy Torah. Here are some points that it would be wise to take notice of:

The Sages say, King Shlomo was the smartest man that ever lived and the most famous incident that everybody always points out is the case with the two prostitutes and the baby:

“16) Now two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. 17)One of them said, “Pardon me, my lord. This woman and I live in the same house, and I had a baby while she was there with me. 18) The third day after my child was born, this woman also had a baby. We were alone; there was no one in the house but the two of us.
19) “During the night this woman’s son died because she lay on him. 20) So she got up in the middle of the night and took my son from my side while I your servant was asleep. She put him by her breast and put her dead son by my breast. 21) The next morning, I got up to nurse my son-and he was dead! But when I looked at him closely in the morning light, I saw that it wasn’t the son I had borne.”
22) The other woman said, “No! The living one is my son; the dead one is yours.”
But the first one insisted, “No! The dead one is yours; the living one is mine.” And so they argued before the king.
23) The king said, “This one says, ‘My son is alive and your son is dead,’ while that one says, ‘No! Your son is dead and mine is alive.'”
24) Then the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So they brought a sword for the king. 25) He then gave an order: “Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other.”
26) The woman whose son was alive was deeply moved out of love for her son and said to the king, “Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don’t kill him!”
But the other said, “Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two!”
27) Then the king gave his ruling: “Give the living baby to the first woman. Do not kill him; she is his mother.”

Perhaps a mother has more mercy for her own child, however……

Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz asks “One does not need to be a rocket scientist to figure out who the mother was in the King Shlomo/prostitute case. What was the clue’s that Shlomo saw that gave it away?”


Shlomo was a master in human nature. There is a concept in the Torah, AVEIRA GORERET AVEIRA, one sin leads to more sins. What typically happens, at times, for the most part, is that one follows the first sins with more severe sins.


This woman did not tell the truth and now she is ready to commit murder. Shlomo foresaw that. Rav Chaim rationalized that perhaps the other woman(not the mother) could have had mercy on the child as well. Or perhaps the woman was a good actress and played the sympathy part very well. The fact that the woman agreed to murder the child implicates her; it brings “not telling the truth” to the surface.

The Gemara asks a question on verse 27.  Why did Shlomo say “give the baby to the first mother” as the opening to his verdict? Why didn’t he emphatically proclaim right away that “AHH!! SHE IS HIS MOTHER!” instead?
Why didn’t he commit?
In fact the Sages say the last statement “she is the mother” was not Shlomo’s but a heavenly voice proclaiming that indeed she is the mother.
A valuable lesson is learned about the EMET, truth:
Unless you are 100% sure, one cannot state it as fact. Shlomo, with all his wisdom, was perhaps 99% sure. However, he was not there at the scene. Shlomo was very careful about EMET and all its implications because he knows EMET is a rare commodity. One cannot jump to conclusions. If someone is in a position as a judge, he should answer “I believe it’s like this”, but he cannot state it as fact. King Shlomo was careful with the truth, especially since he was a leader. It’s very different today. If you ever inject the truth into politics, you’ll have no politics.





I know it’s hard remembering childhood but let’s take kids, for instance. Before they learn the art of deception from “seasoned” adults, children simply do not know how to lie. The reason is because they do not live in a contrast universe. For children, everything is perfectly consistent. What you see is what you get. However, once we accept the “fact” that people lie, we become liars ourselves, and then we never turn back.




The most underlying deception throughout the whole of existence is actually G-d deceiving us humans by hiding His presence from us! The rest, as they say, is history. Once matter is disconnected from spirit, and form from function, once we are disconnected from our inner selves, we are living a “lie.” When we do not perceive the force that gives us life, the very purpose of our being, we have the ability to lie to ourselves and to others. When we don’t feel that we are all part of one unit, we are able to hurt ourselves and others.


However there are those that have a natural instinct to gravitate towards truth; they do feel connected to the source; they are gifted. These individual might be spiritual but are they able to function well in society. But, how are they able to live among the deceivers?




Sometimes we see so clearly that G-d has a sense of humor. It’s funny. Many of us are faced with frustrating challenges in life. If one observes in this and last week’s parshiot, one can detect that our forefather Yaakov encounters situations that are totally opposite of his character. One can see clearly that it’s not us but G-d that runs the world!


We learn in Tractate Makot (24:71): “The world stands on eleven important principles” and the Gemara derives this from Psalms (16). One of the principles is “he pursues truth”, referring to Yaakov. He was not accustomed to lie and we see that from the words he uttered to his mother, out of fear, “Maybe father will feel me” and realize “I’m not Eisav”. Yaakov was put in a situation that he had to lie and say “I’m Eisav”. Rivka through divine sensory knew that Yaakov was the one that should receive the blessing. His mother coached him on what to say. “Son, don’t mention G-d when you address you father. Eisav doesn’t do that and we have to be convincing”. Well, guess what? Yaakov uttered G-d’s name when he entered his father’s tent, when asked by his father “How were you able to come here from hunting so fast?” Yaakov replied: “Because G-d arranged it for me”. It seems like he couldn’t stick with the script – too honest!  We see later, Yaakov, this wet behind the ears, honest-to-goodness, Yeshiva boy becomes the son-in-law to the biggest liar, cheater and swindler that ever lived, not to mention he was constantly being lied to.


Rav Eliyahu Dessler has a beautiful explanation on what EMET really is. We were always led to believe that truth is describing events accurately, while SHEKER, falsehood, is exaggeration of the event. Mind you, that is just a simplistic definition. However, we know that sometimes truth is better not to be revealed. For instance, saying negative things about a friend, even though it’s true may not be the best way to go about things.  It has no constructive purpose. That’s Lashon Hara! At times it’s better to alter the truth then to tell it as it is, otherwise people will get hurt. So we see, if the truth will not help, but, on the contrary, hurt, it’s prohibited.


We also see if one lies to help and progress the world, this falsehood eventually turns to EMET. A good example of this is when G-d altered the words of Sarah when addressing Avraham. G-d stated her words to be that “she is too old to bear children” instead of what Sarah actually said which was “My husband is too old”. This was done in order to preserve Shalom Bayit, peace between the husband and wife. We find that altering the truth which eventually brings good is what G-d wants.



Juggling traits


Dr. Robert Goldman, Psycologist at Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim says it’s easier to fight a bad characteristic trait then to set limits on a good trait. Two cases in point are our forefather Avraham and King David. Both had the tremendous characteristic of mercy but, nevertheless had difficulty in sufficiently infusing strictness on some of their children. This was particularly true in regards to Avram’s oldest son Yishmael and David’s children Avshalom and Adoniyahu.


Yaakov had to contain his characteristic trait of pursuing truth in order to receive the bracha. This was a very difficult task. The initiation of Yaakov to the world of deception, which was against his nature, apparently helped him later on in life in dealing with his father-in-law, Lavan.


Our daily prayer, EMET, and its significance


In the morning prayers, Shacharit, we say after Shema, Emet V’Yatziv which starts with the word Emet and then 15 consecutive words beginning with the letter Vuv.  The word Emet itself is Vuv because G-d’s seal is truth and the letter He seals with is Vuv. As we learned in previous newsletters, the number 15 represents completion. The Pesach Seder has 15 steps and King David’s Psalms has 15 shir hashirim. By having EMET, truth, enwrapped with the 15 words which correspond to completion. One is therefore shalem, complete, once all 15 have been stated. Evidence of this concept of completion can also be found in the word EMET, which has 3 letter;  ALEF-the first letter of the alef bet, a TAF-the last letter of the alef bet, and a MEM, in the middle, which is the middle letter of the alef bet. All the letters are symbolic to the whole world which the three letters of EMET come to indicate.


A sinner who was also a robber asked a wise man for advice on how to repent. He felt he could not take on all of the commandments, so he asked the wise man for an easier way. The wise man suggested that he take on one commandment but do it properly. The robber agreed. The wise man said to take upon himself to always tell the truth. After a time, the robber’s resolve weakened, and he set off to rob someone. On the way he met an acquaintance who asked where he was going. Remembering that he took on to always tell the truth, he told him. Then, the same thing happened again. Right away he thought, those two will be witnesses and get me killed! Because of this, he restrained himself and never stole again. (Sanhedrin 92 and the Maharsha)


Truth is complex. We were brought up with a very simplified expression: To tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. However, one has to know when to say it and when to be deceitful for the sake of the truth. When Yaakov met his future wife Rachel, she was puzzled when he drew up a plan to counter attack Lavan, his future father-in-law. He said “when dealing with an untruthful person, one has to be equally deceitful. EMET dictates when to use it.


From the day we lose our innocence, we are desperate to rediscover it. Innocence, childhood, truth, spontaneity, enchantment, seamlessness – these are attributes we adults seek out all our lives. We should continue to seek them, especially truth and innocence, reach for them and work to perfect them so we can complete the EMET of our lives and the world around us.

Parshat Vayeira

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rav Ovadia and the American Jews

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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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


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


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


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



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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Why not protect the other forefathers?


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


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


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


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


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


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

Parshat Lech Lecha

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

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