Archive for Jewish Values

Dance to the beat

Dance to the beat

  As I was becoming more interested in learning Torah and exploring the ‘black-hat’ American Orthodox world, I discovered something very interesting. At a friend’s ultra-Orthodox wedding, I overheard someone of importance showing concern at the ‘laibidig’ fast-beat music that was being played. I remember saying to myself, “Man, get real. This is right-wing Jewish music. What’s your problem?” There are no women singers or naughty lyrics; it’s harmless. After doing some inquiries about the subject, curious that I am, I discovered the Rabbis (unofficially) are not in favor of fast-paced music; it makes the individual lightheaded. Although they will not implement any action against the fast-paced music, however, their disapproval is weighed heavily.
I felt that the Orthodox religious authorities were making a big deal out of this and are stifling the ability for the youngsters to let out some steam on the dance floor. Hey! I want to be religious and have a good time as well. Then a number of years later, I read an article in the New York Times about a new fast-beat music called trance, where there was concern on the behavior of the listeners. The rhythm and beat of trance is faster than Rock-n-Roll and R&B; the BPM reaches 140 as compared to Rock’s 120.The article showed reports of people caught speeding because of listening to the faster paced computer-generated music; it seems like it’s harder to produce that kind of speed with the conventional instruments. The response of the offenders was, “I just got carried away with the music and didn’t realize the speed”. Reports show a change of brainwave activities.
The Jewish Rabbinical authorities were concerned about the light- headedness that some music can cause. There is an argument among the Rabbis over the last 500 years when listening to music. Although they say it’s therapeutic, however, it has to be listened to at appropriate times. Judaism emphatically believes that the intellect should always be in control of emotions. Perhaps there should be some regulations or at least awareness of the affects of music.

I want the Bracha First!!!

This article was constructed with the help of Dr. Robert Goldman, Psychologist of Yeshiva Chaffetz Chaim and Rabbi’s Baruch Dopelt, Eliezer Finkleman, Yitzchak Aminov

Who doesn’t want to receive a bracha from their beloved father or grandfather? It’s a big honor. One gets a feeling of warmth and an awareness that the bracha has been passed down for many generations, for thousands of years. It’s beautiful!!



Interestingly, though, what happens when the beloved patriarch wants to give a more important bracha to your younger sibling? How would you feel? Would you feel slighted?  Does one still have that warm feeling?



We have an ancient tradition, and many would say, one of the most beautiful customs in Jewish life is for parents to bless their children at the start of the Friday night Shabbat meal. What makes it more important is it’s done at Shabbat table which is designed to be the grand stage for family communication and family love, especially in todays fast pace lifestyle where one doesn’t communicate with his family all week.  Girls receive the blessing: “May God make you like the matriarchs Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah.” Boys, meanwhile, are blessed “to be like Ephraim and Menashe.”
What happened to the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob?! Why were Ephraim and Menashe chosen instead as the subjects of this important tradition?



In this week’s parsha, the last in the book of Sefer Bereshit, we see a very interesting pattern, the rejection of the first-born. When Yosef brought his two sons for a blessing from Yaacov, his father, who was old and ready to pass on, he did something very peculiar. Yaacov crossed his arms so that Efraim, who was the youngest, would be under his right hand and Menashe, who was older and purposely placed by Yosef at his grandfather’s right, got the left. Yaacov, who emphasized that Menashe also received a nice bracha, gave the more important blessing to Efraim.


We see through history that the first born, the well-respected elder, receives double the inheritance, losing, on many occasions, the status in which he inherited. This was apparent in the first generation of the world; Cain was the oldest; however Hevel got the reward. We know that Shem, (where our ancestors come from) one of three sons of Noach, was not the first-born. Abraham passed the baton to Isaac, the youngest, and not to Yishmael. The same is said about Isaac’s sons, Eisav, who was the bechor, but Yaacov was the brother chosen. Reuben, the eldest of the twelve tribes, neither got the first-born rights, the kingdom nor the kehuna (high priest).



First and foremost, the Torah is trying to emphasize that even though the first-born has changed the status of man and has made him a father of this precise bechor, nevertheless, the bechor has to earn the benefits that has been bestowed upon him. There’s no freebee; no job is safe. Apparently, it’s a demanding role and has to be maintained to the highest standard, or else he loses it.



There is a puzzling question: Okay, we learn “one has to earn his brownie points and nothing is a freebee” from the tragic story of Cain and Hevel, but the Torah keeps on harping the same pattern over and over. Why? We learned the lesson. Perhaps one didn’t get it the first time, so the Torah wants to accommodate those slow thinkers and present similar storyline; possibility?


Ephraim and Menashe represent a break from this pattern. This explains why Yaacov purposely switched his hands, blessing the younger Ephraim before the older Menashe:  there was no
resentment from Menashe. He was ok with it!!  There was no jealousy; he didn’t feel slighted. This was a tremendous revelation. Yaacov wished to emphasize the point that with these siblings, there is no rivalry. For this reason Menashe and Efraim both received their own tribe. They were the only grandchildren to receive this recognition. It was a tremendous act of respect on Yaacov’s part to give them such honor. He knew what refined character they both had.

        The book of Bereshit concludes with the positive unity of Menashe and Ephraim as one of its lead story. After all the sibling rivalry which we encountered, mankind finally got it right. For this reason, the Torah goes out of its way in the beginning of the second book of Shemot, to relay a conversation between G-d and Moshe pertaining Moshe’s appointment  as leader of the Israelites. Moshe was concerned that his older brother will be slighted. He was afraid he would be humiliated. After all, he was the leader of the nation until that point. Although Aharon did nothing wrong as leader, it was evident, one didn’t need to be a rocket scientist to realize Moshe was born with unusual gifts and was destined to be the redeemer.  We see Aharon’s greatness was to recognize Moshe’s ability and to realize he would be best for the nation of Israel. Aharon was happy to step down. It was totally a selfless and courageous act.

        One has to realize that it’s not so simple to overcome such a test. In fact, it’s one of the CHULSHAT ENOSH human weaknesses. There are a number of very interesting stories in our history pertaining to this test.

        The great HILLEL came to Israel from Babylonia. His activity of forty years likely covered the period of 30 BC to 10 AD. As soon as he came, everyone realized how great he was. He answered all the questions that was presented to him and knew all the Jewish discourses that was presented to him cold. It seemed like Shmaya and Avtalyon, the leading Rabbis, also realized that he was far greater than they. In response to his presence they resigned their position as leading Rabbis, relinquishing the mantle of leadership to him. A generation later the famous Rabbi Yehuda the NASI-prince, the leader of the Jews of his generation and the author of the Mishna said it would be most difficult, for me, to give up the position of president. I would not be able to relinquish the honor. Kol Hakavod to Shmaya  and Avtalyon for placing the welfare of the Jewish people in front of their life time achievements, goals and pride.

        Being the leading Rabbi has always been in the forefront throughout our history. In every corner of the world the head Rabbi was traditionally always recognized as the authority. It commands tremendous respect but with it he takes upon himself tremendous responsibility.


        In the 1700’s, there was a large Jewish community in Prague headed by Rabbi Yechezkel Laundau. The position of head Rabbi was traditionally chosen by vote. Rabbi Laundau narrowly beat out Rabbi Zorach, who was also tremendous Torah scholar. Rabbi Zorach was not satisfied. He felt he would be the better choice in serving the community. On the first Shabbat of Rabbi Laudau’s new position, Rabbi Zorach asked him a question in front of the congregation that he could not answer. It was clearly an embarrassing moment right at the start of his tenure. He came home and cried himself to sleep. His father, who had passed away some time ago, came to him in a dream where Rabbi Laundau disclosed to him his anguish over the question asked by Rav Zorach. His father said “Son you will find the answer of the question in the Tosfot in this particular tractate of the Talmud,” disclosing the page. The next morning sure enough the answer was there. He then showed it to Rav Zorach who himself was not aware of the Tosfot answer. He then asked him “how did you figure out the answer?” When he found out about his father coming to him from the next world to give him the answer and save face in front of the congregation, he rationalized if the other world is interfering with matters of this world and providing answers so Rav Laundau can keep his position then perhaps this is what the heavens want; this is what is suppose to be. He then gave up the quest to overthrow Rabbi Laundau and eventually became a staunch supporter of him.

        Rav Zorach could have rationalized the situation differently. We tend to look at everything to our favor. If man develops a liking to a certain view, he can make a straight line look crooked.

        It’s too simplistic to blame the individual alone for being selfish. It’s a lot more complex. One has many pressures. On occasion, the wife and other family members get involved, egging the person not to give up. Perhaps they would feel slighted by the individual not being chosen. One, at times, succumbs to pressure.  What starts out as a sincere project often ends up as an egotistical struggle; it’s scary, however, we tend to be drawn in to this natural human nature deficiency.

        One of the most sensitive person that I have ever met, who worked and stressed good character traits was the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Chaffetz Chaim Rav Henoch Liebowitz t’zl.

        At his Eulogy, one of the eulogizers said something mind boggling. He quoted Rav Henoch saying that “the toughest decision that I ever made was to pass over the position of Rosh Yesiva to his own chosen heir apparent.”

        Here is a man well into his eighties knowing well he cannot function as the head Rabbi because of health issues, has difficulty giving up the mantle.

        It’s not so easy!!

        We now can appreciate and acknowledge that Menashe was a remarkable human being and the same can be said of Aharon.

Am I more loyal to being Jewish or being an American?

” trust of American Jews was never the same after the Jonathan Polard case”
        The question one should ask: Am I more loyal to being Jewish or being an American?  Hey, I know what some of you are thinking. It doesn’t matter Jewish or American, I’m here to make money!! That is my mission here in the land of plenty. This popular notion is more apparent among immigrants than natural born US citizens.  Don’t misunderstand me, those who were born here definitely have that competitive edge. However,  immigrants arrived here hungry and more or less one dimensional. That helped negate the  seductive venues this country has to offer. Nevertheless their children and grandchildren, who are United States born with the American mishaga’as-devonigi,  travel beyond that got-to-make-it mindset and have more of an emotional attachment to the American culture and its philosophies.
       Therefore if you are an American Jew, it can be a very serious question.
Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations  said he gets complaints all the time from Jews claiming they’ve been denied access to security-sensitive posts because they are Jewish. The trust related to  being that patriotic Joe has been compromised since the Jonathon Pollard case. Jonathan Pollard is an American Jew  who was convicted in criminal court of passing classified information to Israel while working as a civilian intelligence analyst.
       Just recently, the Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu ordered two Israeli ministries to withdraw a poll asking expatriate Israelis and American Jews about their loyalties. On Sunday, Netanyahu told the Immigrant Absorption Ministry and the Foreign Ministry to halt distribution of the survey after news reports of its contents were published in the Israeli media.  Seemingly there is pressure on American Jews on both sides to show their alliance.


        We learn a very important lesson from this weeks parsha about our status outside our land, the land of Israel,  that is,  which the Hagaddah expounds on a bit. During the Pesach seder we read:
        And he went down to Egypt” forced by Divine decree. “And he sojourned there” – this teaches that our father Jacob did not go down to Egypt to settle, but only to live there temporarily. Thus it is said, “They said to Pharaoh, We have come to sojourn in the land, for there is no pasture for your servants’ flocks because the hunger is severe in the land of Canaan; and now, please, let your servants dwell in the land of Goshen.”

        We learn that Yaacov came down to Egypt with the intention of  “LAGUR SHAM”- to live there only temporarily – until the famine was over, not to “LEH’HISHTAKEAH- to live there permanently. Yaacov’s children did not intend to tare down houses and build them from scratch  with fancy brick gates.The  patriarch Yaacov’s mind set was , ” we’re only here for a cup of coffee and a quick thought, then we will leave”. We will soon learn this is the proper thought we all must have out side of our homeland.

         As a matter of fact the vital philosophy that Yaacov instilled in his children of being ” guests” saved them from remaining in Egypt and integrating with them. That being said they would never have become a nation and would have lost the Jewish identity forever
        However the RAMBAN asks a very interesting question. If  Yaacov’s intention was to reside on a temporary basis then why did Yosef buy them houses in the land of Goshen which is on the outskirts of Egypt? Why not, just,  rent?!
       Secondly Yaacov sent his son Yehuda with specific instructions to set up study halls and notified  Yosef, to make arrangements  for them to live in the land of Goshen. The simple understanding is that its away from the Egyptians and their culture. This will prevent intermingling. Apparently Yaacov knew there were tremendous benefits in residing , at least temporarily, in Goshen. What was the benefit?

       Thirdly, G-d decreed upon  Avraham’s descendent in his covenant with him (15,13 Bereshit) ” Know with certainty that your offspring’s shall be aliens in a land not their own and they will serve them, and they will oppress them 400 years”. However Yaacov lived 17years in Egypt in peace tranquility. What happened to the oppression?

         Yosef purposely bought houses for them ONLY in the land of Goshen. One reason for this is so that they should not intermingle with the natives. Another reason is that Goshen is in close proximity to Israel. The plan was to be in and out. The last reason for this is that the land of Goshen was given as a gift to Sarah by Pharoah. . Sarah withheld herself from the advances of Pharaoh and thereby elevated herself spiritually.  This was a tremendous test for both, Sarah, as well as Avraham. Sarah’s morality and loyalty was tested.  Also we read in the scriptures that Sarah protected her son Yitzchak from the evil influence of Yishmael. She forced Avraham to remove Yishmael from the household. Goshen was infused with her spirit in which outside influence will not be tolerated. In her merit, the land of Goshen was on a different spiritual plane. When the Mashiach comes, Goshen will be part of ERETZ YISRAEL proper.
        Our ancestors needed to stay in Goshen. There, the curse of oppression did not take place because of the merit of Sarah. Since it was Jewish land therefore the Egyptians honored that. Perhaps if the Jews would have stayed in Goshen, in the user-friendly and protective ghetto, they indeed would have been out in a short period of time. However, the Pasuk says (Shemot1,7) “and the Israelites blossomed and prospered and filled the land”. They began to live outside the ghetto, in the heart of where the Egyptians lived, in the center of town. Jews have a certain “ants in the pants” attitude that they cannot feel at home. “We have to get out and move uptown, we’re the intelegencia”. The only ones who actually stayed behind were from the tribe of Levi who continued to study Torah in Goshen. The tribe of Levi was untouched.

        We see on many occasions  in our Jewish history where we’re down trodden after being persecuted we then migrate to a new country. The Jews, with difficulty, put their lives back together. They slowly rebound. However, when ” they make it”  they get too comfortable; they imitate the host culture, dress, language. In fact they do it better then the non-Jews. We act like Goyim better then the Goyim!!! Jews then try to blend in where, once again, they get persecuted all over again. The cycle continues.
        The Meshech Chochma, Rabbi Meyer Simcha said over a chilling prophecy in the early 1920’s about the Jews in Germany who called Germany “our country”. The popular slogan was “Berlin is our Yerushalayim”. Rabbi Meir Simcha predicted the Holoucaust. How history repeats itself. It happened with the Golden age if Spain, Uzbekistan,  Iran……chas veshalom…don’t say it!!!!

        We have to adopt Yaacov’s Philosophy of ” being guests.” If we feel that way then we will retain our Jewishness, our culture, our sense of self.
       One should be aware, how blessed we are. When we do make the move uptown, to a better neighborhood, we should look for, first and foremost, a good Synagogue of close proximity, a good Yeshiva, a place to learn torah,  (study hall) and a kosher PIZZA PLACE!!

        We should not contemplate “are we an American first or a Jew first”. We have to maintain the attitude of our immigrant parents, who, for 40 years always said “we’re going back to Israel soon”. Although they never did, they subconsciously protected themselves from becoming an American and thereby getting too comfortable and making them susceptible to the dangers of losing their Jewishness.

        The key is to feel that this is not our land. Our land is Israel. We are strangers here and the goal is to eventually return to our homeland. This frame of mind will protect us. How dangerous it is to talk like them, think like them, enjoy the same foods and entertainment they do. If one doesn’t hang on to his Jewishness, what will prevent him from pursuing the attractive Irish girl in the class. One can be an American. We must,  however, act like an immigrant; a perfect stranger.

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.

Qualities We Should All Have and A Leader Most Certainly Have…

        What president, prime minister, rabbi, community leader would you vote for? What qualities should he/she have?
        Let’s look at the weekly parsha, Mikeitz, our current holiday, Chanukah, and this week’s anniversary of a tragic event in order to fully understand what we look for, and should look for, in a leader.
        YOSSEF THE DREAMER….was that his claim to fame? We see he became a leader for interpreting Pharaoh’s dream but what propelled him to be considered a leader?
        This past week we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F Kennedy, who was the President of the United States at the time.

        A new national poll finds John F. Kennedy is the most popular president of the last half century. The CNN/ORC International survey found 90 percent of all Americans approve of how Kennedy handled his job as president. No other president of the last half century even comes close. However if one looks at his accomplishments during his short tenure as president its mediocre at best. So why was he so popular?

        Granted,, Kennedy’s untimely end may play a part in his popularity. He’s become enshrined as a martyr, particularly in Democratic households. But William McKinley was another popular, energetic president cut down by an assassin’s bullet. He faded from the popular mind in a way JFK has not.

        Kennedy had style but not substance. A poll was taken of the radio listeners and television viewers of his presidential debate with Richard Nixon. The radio listeners of the debate favored Nixon; those who watched on television thought Kennedy won. True, much of the adulation for Kennedy during his life and since, originated in arguably superficial attributes; his youth, personal attractiveness and sophistication and many of us are seduced by those traits. The country was hypnotized by his Hollywood looks and his beautiful young family and he took advantage of the media any chance he got. His press conferences were interesting, compelling and humorous. It seems the thing that gave Kennedy’s such greate success was the thing that his detractors often criticized, his charisma. He had such a feel for the importance of inspirational leadership and the willingness to use it to great ends. But his election at age 43 to succeed the 70-year-old Dwight D. Eisenhower represented a generational shift in American leadership that was as much a source of popular excitement as Kennedy’s individual qualities. As he said in his inaugural address, “the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans – born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace”.

        My mother told me that my father cried the day Kennedy was assassinated and many I spoke to said their parents did the same. However Rabbi Baruch Dopelt quotes his mother ” if I knew then what I know now about the immoral things he did then I would not of had the same sad tears”. At the time Kennedy famously came across as caring about his family and about the nation.

        The brothers sold Yossef and he wound up in Egypt and then, after a period of living in master Potifar’s house as the head butler, ended up in jail. In jail Yossef met two Individuals, the head butler and the head baker.

        The attribute of caring for others was Yossef’s ticket out of jail and eventually lead to his appointment by Pharaoh as Viceroy of the superpower of the world, Egypt. As we read in last week’s parsha (40:7) there were 4 words that Yossef uttered “MADUA PENECHEM RAIM HAYOM?”-why are you so sad today? The caring, sincere concern, which they sensed, of Yosef towards the 2 jailed officers of Pharaoh enabled them to open up to him and eventually disclose their personal dreams.

        We see in this parsha as well, It says (41,56) “VAYISHBOR LE’MITZRAIM”- Joseph opened all the containers of stored food during the famine yearshimself and gave the people. Again we see an act of caring on Yossef’s part.

        Mr. Yehuda Fouzailoff, a prominent founder of the Bukharian community in New York, said one such person who fits that description is his brother-in-law, Mr. Hannan Benyamini. Hannan, as he was lovingly known, was one of the few who was recognized by just his first name, cared very much about his community. “People sensed his sincerity and perhaps this quality was one that made him so successful as a leader. He was then able then to spread different tasks among prominent individuals in the close-knit community”. Mr. Fouzailoff continues “I never saw a leader quite like him. His goal was to bring individuals to synagogue on a weekly basis. Because this was the Jewish thing to do; it worked! Every week after the services there was a Kiddush. The wives came to help; they cut vegetables for Israeli salad which combined well with the Shabbat eggs”. This warm, caring and homey environment eventually grew to a very big gathering on Shabbat and eventually the enormous community it is now.”

        This caring quality is evident throughout our Torah especially as a prelude to leadership. Both Moshe and David spent time as shepherds in order to fine tune their character for caring. The ingredient for caring comes from humility. One has to be subservient to his people; they come first.

        How many times did Moshe attempt to sacrifice himself for the sake of the Jewish people? David didn’t care about his honor by dancing for the sake of G-d. There were those who didn’t think it was dignified. Nevertheless, G-d was honored by David’s devotion.

       It says that Yossef was cold to his brothers when they greeted him. Although they did not recognize him, he recognized them. Later on though it said Yossef could not hold back the tears and disclosed to them who he was.

        What soften Yossef from his cold feeling towards his brothers? What changed his attitude towards them?

        A very important growing experience, among the brothers, occurred in this week’s parsha. Lets examine the verses.

        Yaacov was hesitant to send Benyamin, his youngest son and the son of his most beloved wife Rachel, to Egypt. The viceroy, Yossef, who’s real identity was not yet disclosed to Yaacov and his sons, offered a proposition. If Yaacov’s family would like to purchase food, the youngest brother had to travel with the other brothers down to Egypt. This did not sit very well with Yaacov, considering that Benyamin’s older bother from the same mother, was already lost in Egypt. It wasn’t until Yehuda’s guarantee that if he does not return Benyamin unharmed then he will lose his share in OLAM HABA-the next world, that Yaacov acquiesced to their request.

         For thousands of years ever since then, the tribe of Yehuda would act as a protector for the tribe of Benyamin. As a matter of fact, this is the reason that their tribes are adjacent to each other in their respective territories in Yerushalayim. Most Jews today are from these two neighboring tribes.

When Yossef saw how Yehuda, who was from a different mother, cared for and protected his little brother Benyamin; how he was willing to give up his life both in this world and his olam habah, he realized they have grown , matured and learned to care deeply for each other. He thought now I forgive them. Now is the time to reunite.

I heard a beautiful story at the eulogy for Rabbi Joseph Grunblatt this past week.

It was right before the first scud missile attack where the mad man, Saadam Hussain was threatening to launch these weapons into Israel. One of the congregants of Rabbi Grunblatt synagogue, the Queens Jewish Center, called with a concern. Apparently his son was learning in a Yeshiva in Israel for the year. The father wanted to know how soon can he bring him home back to the states before the rocket attack starts in the following week. Rabbi Grunblatt said “I thought you were going to ask me how long should he stay, perhaps another year!!. He will be fine there.”

Well the following Sunday, when the evil monster Hussain promised to launch the attack, the parents of this boy were glued to the TV set watching CNN coverage and there was a knock on the door. It was Rabbi Grunblatt. He wanted to sit with the parents and see the coverage with them.

As one knows their history, Israel was able to intercept the majority of the scuds. Miraculously we had not one fatality throughout the whole ordeal.

Rabbi Grunblatt apparently thought their child was in no danger from the scud attack. This is exactly what the Greeks wanted to accomplish in the Chanukkah story. They wanted us to abandon our spirituality. They wanted to take away the Torah that we learn. Torah is what makes us Jewish. We are not prepared to do that. We would not let them succeed.

The good Rabbi also showed humanity; he showed he cared and he showed what any good leader should do.

Everyone has a favorite teacher…do you?

This article was constructed from the insights of Rabbi Akiva Grunblatt, Rosh Yeshiva  Chaffetz Chaim, Rabbi’s Baruch Dopelt, Yossi Bilus 


Each one of us had a favorite teacher who had a great deal of influence on us. Some actually had more than a few teachers over the years that fall under that “favorite” category. When we look back, with a certain fondness about them, a memorable smile breaks out.

        However, one has to ask himself, has this person actually made a difference when a crucial decision came into play? Were they there, in our conscience, when the game was on the line? Was their teaching tested and we were able to take their words of wisdom to the finish line and declare “I WON!! I PASSED THE TEST!!!”?


In this week’s parsha, we find Yosef telling over to his brothers the dreams he had. The Torah’s description of the dreams and the reaction of Yosef’s brothers are quite puzzling.
First and foremost, to say his brothers weren’t exactly thrilled about him and his dreams would be considered a huge understatement. They were contemplating killing him as a result.
But there is a substantial lesson that can be learned from this story that is applicable in our everyday life. Let’s examine the verses more carefully and get a deeper understanding.
The first dream that Yosef had involves sheaves. Yosef tells his brothers that their sheaves gathered around and bowed down to his sheaves.
The second dream was basically the same theme; Yosef revealed to them that the sun and the moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.
The brothers were angry and responded to the first dream by saying “Do you want to rule over us?” while there was no response from them after the second one.
The Torah states that the brothers hated him after the first dream was revealed while the scripture says the brothers were jealous after the second one.
Why was the reaction to each dream any different from the other?
What’s the difference between the two dreams?
Referring to the second dream it says “His father took it to heart”.
Why did his father take the second dream more serious?
In the first sequence about sheaves or stalks as its focal point, the scripture is hinting to a materialistic dominance. Its message, for the future, is that the brothers will depend on Yosef for their sustenance.
When someone sees his friend that’s financially more stable then he, he often questions why this is so.  “He’s not better than me. We’re the same in many ways. Perhaps that’s just plain old mazal.” However, human nature is for hatred to develop as a result.
The brothers knew that dreams for the most part are a reflection of the sub-conscience. They concluded, “This is what he’s thinking of us. He wants to be our boss”.
The brothers, though, took the second dream a bit more serious. The scenario of the sun, moon and the stars is a spiritual concept. Here, they realized that it’s not a reflection of the sub-conscience but a spiritual revelation. Therefore they were jealous of Yosef’s motivational and spiritual abilities. There is a Talmudic concept of SHTIKA KEH HODA’A – silence is a form of admittance.
Yaakov, their father, although he did not admit it, was startled by the second dream. The reason is that only Yaakov knew that in the heavens they referred to him as the sun.

It seams like the Torah is hinting that Yosef possessed certain abilities, which perhaps came through personal teachings from his father, as a gift from the heavens, or a combination of both. Apparently, life is such that the narrative will soon reveal that this gifted person will soon be tested.

In order to fully understand the magnitude of Yosef’s test, we have to examine a very interesting part of our Jewish history.

       Yeush was born in the midst of troublesome days in the land of Judea, in the year 3055 (after Creation). He became king at the age of six!! (3061).  The Jewish nation was divided into two kingdoms.  On the throne, which once belonged to King David and King Solomon, sat a ruthless and cruel queen. Her name was Athalya, the daughter of Queen Jezebel, the Phoenician princess whom the wicked King Ahab of the Northern Jewish Kingdom of the Ten Tribes had married. In an effort to bring the two Jewish kingdoms into friendlier relations, the two royal houses intermarried. The crown prince Joram, the son of King Jehoshaphat of Judea, married Athalyah the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel.

After many heavy, underhanded, dirty and deadly maneuvering, Athalyah took control of the Monarch. One of her decree’s to assure she will rule undisputedly was that she resolved that there should be no heir to the throne of Judea from the House of David. She ordered the death of all the members of the royal house of King David, and established herself as the supreme ruler of the land of Judea. She surrounded herself with friends from Phoenicia and ruled with an iron hand, spreading a reign of terror in the land.

Athalyah felt secure in her position, believing that the royal house of David was extinct. But she was wrong, for G-d had promised that the line of King David would never be broken. Ahaziah’s youngest son, whom Athalyah had believed had been murdered with the other male members of the royal family, had been saved from his bloodthirsty grandmother. He was still a baby, and his name was Yeush. He was saved by Jehosheba, a sister of King Ahaziah and the wife of the High Priest Yehoyada. Astonishingly, the one year old prince was hidden in the Bet Hamikdash, above a room by the “Kodash Hakadoshim” and brought up, secretly, by his pious and G-d fearing uncle and aunt.

For six years Athalyah ruled uncontrolled, dealing harshly with the believers in G-d. During all this time, Yehoyada, the wise and pious High Priest, nursed in his heart the secret hope for the future of his people that was centered around the last member of David’s dynasty. Yehoyada had many friends and followers, who, like himself, had remained faithful to the pure worship of G-d, and who longed for the day when the hateful Athalyah could be overthrown, and the House of David reinstated on the throne of the Holy Land.

When little Yeush was seven years old, Yehoyada decided that the time had come to liberate Judea from the unpopular foreign woman who had desecrated the throne of David.

The coup attempt was successful with no resistance whatsoever. Athalya was executed and Yeush became king. He reigned for forty years, and was one of the outstanding kings of Judea.

However, after Yehoyada died, Yeush fell under the influence of the wrong people and was led astray into a life of ease and luxury. He abandoned the pure worship of One G-d, and began to indulge in the service of the Baal. Yeush fell so low that shockingly he killed the great Prophet Zacharia, who happened to be the son of Yehoyada, the same person who saved his life, the one who had nurtured, taught and cared for him through the years!!
How can you bite the hand that feeds you?

How can Yeush fall so low after the death of his teacher?

We see a similar situation after the death of Shimi ben Gaira the teacher and mentor of the wisest man who ever lived, King Shlomo. Shlomo began to slip and make errors in judgment after his death.

We learn a valuable lesson about communication and teaching. There are basically two ways one can convey the valuable message:
LEHOROT- giving instructions
LILMOD- teaching until one stands on his/her own two feet

It’s not ideal to memorize the manual one has to understand the content.
Yosef was tested with one of the most difficult situations in the history of physical temptations. He was being seduced, unsuccessfully though, with the beautiful wife of his employer on a daily basis.

The boss’s wife, eshet Potifar, would up the ante at every occasion until it reached a boiling point where she forcefully tried to have relations with him. Yosef at the moment of truth envisioned his father, his teacher. This motivated, or I should say distracted, him from pursuing sinning with a married woman.

       Yaakov successfully taught Yosef the valuable lesson of standing on his own feet. It’s not enough to be gifted. One has to use these skills properly. This is the spiritual greatness of Yosef.

There was a huge epidemic where many Jews were killed at the time of King David because he counted the people. For this reason we have a tradition to never count individual Jews. The Sages teach us that the reason there was death and suffering was because the Temple wasn’t built during David’s time.

Why is it the people’s fault?  It was David that had blood on his hands and G-d wouldn’t allow him to build it. Why blame the people?

       The Sages say, “Granted. David wasn’t worthy. However the people were. The nation of Israel delayed the building. They should have voiced their opinion ” Why don’t we have a temple?”.and “Let’s start a petition!!” ” They should have began some grass roots. One friend persuading another and perhaps one farmer from the Galil would be responsible in starting the building process.

Rav Henoch always would say “There is permission in one not using his brains”. It’s imperative that a Jew internalizes what he learns and who knows? Perhaps one may discover a way to bring the Mashiach quicker.

       There was a college Professor who relayed a story that many years ago. There was a psychological case study of inner-city ghetto schools where they would interview 200 students. The motive of the test was to predict, through mathematical analysis, the outcome of these students. As one can expect, many of the student came from broken, one-parent homes.

The result wasn’t very promising that these students would amount to anything.

       Twenty years later, this Professor, who happened to be one of those students, was curious to know how these students turned out.

After an extensive research of tracking them down He was astonished to discover how off the mark the study was. 80% of the students were living a productive life.

The professor decided to probe deeper into how these students beat the odds. He interviewed each one and found a common denominator, which was one particular teacher that they all liked.

He was curious to meet this teacher, although twenty years latter he didn’t think she was still alive. Nevertheless after researching further he tracked her down at a particular nursing home. She was in her eighties. The professor went to visit the teacher. He asked her “What was your key to success?” She said “I tried to instill in them a sense of self. I had a motivating slogan “No matter what, you can do it”. These students and Yosef had this in common. They can honestly say that the influence their teachers had on them made a difference, especially when it counted. They can say with full assurance “”I WON!! I PASSED THE TEST!!!”

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.

Appreciating What One Does for You

            The King of the Jewish nation, Shaul, felt threatened by David who became very popular by winning one of the most lop-sided one-on-one battles in history, by beating the giant and heavily favorite, the ferocious Goliath. Goliath represented one of Israel’s archrivals, the Philistines. It was a tremendous show of courage and David became an instant hero. David was from the tribe of Yehuda where the kings were to be chosen from. Shaul, who came from the tribe of Benjamin, knew inevitably someone from Yehuda would become king. Later the prophet Shmuel anointed David the future king of Israel, which infuriated the present king. Shaul’s animosity became so great toward David that he wanted to kill him. However, as time went on, David became stronger, gathering up men to join him. In one of the more famous incidences in the Tanach (Prophets), David snuck up to where Shaul was sleeping, who was in the midst of chasing him, and cut Shaul’s garment. By demonstrating this act and showing it to him later, he wanted to be clear, as to convey that he has no hostility toward Shaul and how easily it would have been to kill him.’ I have no ill will toward you’; perhaps, Shaul should soften his stance towards him.
       It’s most puzzling that when David who was on his deathbed, he could not keep warm; he was constantly cold and no garment could make him comfortable. Apparently, he was being punished for cutting the garment of Shaul. But why? David wanted to make a point of strength; he wanted to make peace between them. Perhaps Shaul was humiliated, but, even so, it was not intended to be a malice act. Why was he punished so severely?
        In this week’s Parsha, we find Yaacov wanting to marry Rachel. He knew though, that her father, who has a reputation of a cheat, might trick him. Therefore, he gives Rachel signs that when implemented will ensure that indeed it would be Rachel he’s marrying. However, Rachel gives over the signs to her sister Leah, stating ‘I do not want my sister humiliated when Lavan’s plans foil and Yaacov discovers it’s Leah who he’s marrying and not me’.
       By Rachel giving over the signs, it fortified the marriage between Yaacov and Leah and through that union producing six out of the twelve tribes. In essence, Rachel sacrificed her having all of the twelve tribes because she did not want her sister Leah to be humiliated.
        The question Rabbi Olbaum asks, ‘I understand there’s no street lights and it’s properly pitch dark, but didn’t Yaacov realize it’s not Rachel he’s with? Even the breathing of a person is recognizable. If Yaacov was so careful with the signs, then wouldn’t he be as diligent and on the alert at this crucial juncture too? Nevertheless, the next morning he was surprised. How can that be?
       Our sages teach us that Rachel’s virtue was modesty, to such an extent that the sensitive Yaacov wasn’t able to discover and recognize her scent and voice. This characteristic of Rachel’s embracement of modesty enabled Leah to be saved. If it were any other woman, she would have been discovered. Clothing is the face of modesty; it creates a barrier from sinning. David, who is the descendant of Leah (from the tribe of Yehuda) cut the garment of Shaul (from the descendants of Rachel).
       In essence, you cut the hand that feeds you. If it weren’t for Rachel, where would Leah be? The modesty of Rachel saved Leah. David targeted one of the strengths of Shaul who also practiced, and was known for modesty, just like his ancestor. Seemingly, this lack of respect was a grave sin.
       We see modesty is one of the building blocks of Judaism and clothing is its vehicle. One of the reasons a Jew wears a Talit or Tzitzit is because it is a spiritual garment in which G-d gave us. It too is a garment that represents the foundation of Judaism to the highest degree.

Real Unity


       How many of you remember the famous Coca-Cola commercial of many years ago? “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (in Perfect Harmony)” is a popular song which originated as the jingle “Buy the World a Coke”[1] in the groundbreaking 1971 “Hilltop” television commercial for Coca-Cola. “Buy the World a Coke” portrayed a positive message of hope, unity and love. “Buy the World a Coke” repeated “It’s the real thing” as Coca-Cola’s marketing theme at the time. The commercial touched a lot of hearts…

       It first aired in July 1971, featured a multicultural group of young people lip syncing the song on a hill outside Rome, Italy. The global unity of the singers is emphasized by showing that the bottles of Coke they are holding are labeled in a variety of languages. It became so popular that it was recorded by a number of recording artists and it  became a big hit.
The television ad “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke” was released first in Europe, where it garnered only a tepid response. It was then released in the U.S. in July, 1971, and the response was immediate and dramatic. By November of that year, Coca-Cola and its bottlers had received more than a hundred thousand letters about the ad. At that time the demand for the song was so great that many people were calling radio stations and asking them to play the commercial. Clearly, “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke” had struck a chord deeper than the normal response to the advertisement of a commercial product.
       “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke” has had a lasting connection with the viewing public. Advertising surveys consistently identify it as one of the best commercials of all time, and the sheet music continues to sell more than thirty years after the song was written. It had put Coca Cola which was already a head of its class in soft drinks to a astronomical mega giant cash machine
       The Coca Cola commercial expressed worldwide unity. This is an important issue in Judaism. Is the unity expressed in the commercial true unity?
       Every one of us has a connection to the land of Israel. When we do go to the holy land, it’s pretty much a given – a visit to Jerusalem is expected. One feels spiritually uplifted, especially when visiting the KOTEL.
This week, Yaakov, our forefather has the “famous dream”. He camps out in this PLACE. The famous place is where the Temple mount stands, today. Yaakov takes twelve little stones and surrounds them around himself as he’s about to go to sleep. When he gets up the next morning, the twelve stones have become one. According to the Zohar this stone became the foundation where the world stands and it runs deep inside the earth under the Temple mount.
       As we mentioned last week, the most underlying deception throughout the whole of existence is actually G-d deceiving us humans by hiding His presence from us! Therefore if one wants to acquire knowledge, Torah knowledge that is, we has to follow certain guidelines. The Torah has many secrets and we have to use certain tools to derive the vital messages that are essential for our survival.
       Our TORAH HAKEDOSHA can be understood on many levels. One level is using “the same word” method. There were evil people in the time of Avraham, who build a tower, so they can climb way up and destroy G-d. Although their intentions were bad, the fact that they were united – they were not destroyed! However, even though G-d loves unity, it was for the wrong reasons and any unity for the wrong reasons doesn’t last!
       The scripture describes the tower in Parshat Noach by stating: ” VE ROSHO BA SHAMAYIM- its head is in the sky”. In this week’s parsha when Yaakov dreams, he dreams of a ladder and its head reaches the sky – VE ROSHO (there’s that word again) MAGIYA SHAMAYMA.
       The Sages learn from it that there are two unities: one ROSHO – for evil and one ROSHO – for G-d. This spot, where the Temple mount is located and where the first and second stood, and where the future third Temple will stand. As long as the Jews are united for the right reasons, the Temple will be built. The twelve stones represent the twelve tribes of Israel united, fused together by one central being, G-d. This place -MAKOM – the temple is a representation of unity and peace. There was never any metal allowed to enter into the Temple because metal represents war. Our Shabbat table in many ways represents an altar that was an important vehicle in the temple. Many communities have the tradition to take the metal knives off the table when the grace after meal is recited. We do this to show a sign of peace, a sign of unity.
       The famous story of Iyov sheds some light on the characters of the Tower of Bavel and true unity.
       We learn that when Iyov (Job) was having all his troubles his so-called friends came to console him. However they began to converse with him. Their mouth was filled with criticism. “This happened because you probably didn’t do this or do that.
       We learn from our Sages one cannot rebuke someone when he’s in pain. For example “You see I told you so”
       Iyov retorted back, your friendships are like those of the generation of the flood. What did he mean by that?
       Apparently they didn’t care for each other . The tower people were company men; they were corporate machines. They were all for the company and they worked well together. When a brick fell by accident they  looked down in regret and said “there goes an important piece”. However when a fellow comrade fell, it meant nothing to them.  The person is not as important as the operation/ project.
       Interestingly when Yitzchak was about to get slaughtered on the altar. The Midrash says there was twelve stones surrounding him, however they didn’t merge. Yitzchak and our forefather Avraham were arguably performing the greatest act of self-sacrifice for the sake of G-d and did not merit that the rocks would merge. Only Yaacov merited such lofty hights . It was Yaacov who was fresh out from the teaching of Torah, who was known for his EMET that enabled him to carry unity.
       The united city doesn’t mean being united with other countries. It’s a place where all the Jews are supposed to be united. The ingredient for a lasting unity is realizing and learning G-ds masterpiece, The Torah. Then, when we are unified we will be allowed to build the Temple and live there in peace! May we see the rebuilding of the Third Temple in our times very soon!

Battling the Devastation of Sandy

       Hurricane Sandy has affected our communities tremendously. For the most part, the disposition is very hard for one to face. A home is something sacred, a place to relax because of the familiar surroundings after all, we are creatures of habit. Does one remember how Fred Flintstone use to come home and relax, the paper on his left and Dino on his right?
       This is quite difficult to write about because of the sensitivity involved. Never-the-less there is one concept which I think might help us cope with this disaster.
       Rav Gedalya Shorr writes in Or Gedalyahu about Avraham, who was extraordinarily proficient in CHESED kindness; he was a pioneer. Rav Gedalya writes that he imprinted in the genealogy this tremendous character of CHESSED in which every Jew that had come out from our great father Avraham, has. From then on, it’s built in us. The “super-duper we would love for you come to my house for Shabbat” was transformed through the Y chromosomes.
        There are many characteristic traits from our ancestors that our super imposed on us. One important one is found in the book of Bamidbar. Interestingly the scripture says that they traveled from place to place in the dessert. They would follow the cloud of glory at any given moment. Without warning the cloud would start to move; it didn’t matter if it was two months, two weeks or two days. The Israelites would get up and go. Rabbi Olbaum qoutes his sources’ saying that what’s astonishing is that they never complained. They possessed a tremendous virtue of dealing with the travel and disposition, considering there was no warning given. Those Jews, our ancestors were considered the generation of knowledge. It takes tremendous fate to maintain your composure during the disposition travel period and they were able to preserver.
       I’m sure we have that installed in our genes. I guess now is the time for that gene to sprout.