Tag Archive for David

A deal is a deal

We begin the Shabbat services with the statement “LEH CHU NEH RANENA L’HASHEM” let us all sing to G-d, here Adam is in the taking charge role which fits him well as he leads the world in praises and songs to G-d. The plain explanation is that only he, a human, had the gift to do so. There was no other creature capable to lead the world like a human.
However, there is more to it. Adam personally, was tremendously gifted in the area of praise, song. It’s no coincidence that there was one other who dominates the Shabbat prayers with his praises and song, King David. Well, there is also a link between the two, or perhaps I should say a transaction that occurred that will bond them forever.
Adam was shown the soul of King David and the fact that he was destined to live only 3 hours. Adam was very grieved at this loss of potential. He inquired whether he was allowed to bequeath some of his own years to David. The Almighty answered that Adam was destined to live for 1000 years, but that he would be allowed to give up some of those years to David. Adam then bequeathed 70 years to David, so that Adam lived for 930 years and David lived for 70 years.
As we all know in the business world the more one thinks of a deal that he made, that he signed, sealed and delivered, that he signed mazal u’bracha on, the more he second guesses the transaction. The Sages teach that when Adam was about to turn 930 years old, he regretted his earlier generosity and wanted to back out of the deal. G-d urged Adam to keep his word.
The Rokeach cites an even more startling version of this Medrash: When Adam originally agreed to give over 70 years of his life to the future King David, he signed a document to that effect. The document was “co-signed”, so to speak, by the Master of the Universe and by the Angel Matat. In the Rokeach’s version of the Medrash, when Adam turned 930, he tried to deny that he ever made such an agreement. At that point, the Almighty pulled out the document proving that he had made the deal!
The Medrash in Tehilim cites in this vein, that King David’s comment in Tehilim [146:3]: “Do not trust nobles nor sons of man (ben Adam), for he holds no salvation”, refers back to Adam’s attempt to retract his gift of the 70 years.
In our world of business if someone negates on a business deal he is looked down on. He actually, to some extent, black listed in the industry. Honoring a transaction is one of the basic laws in business. I once bought an expensive ruby my first year in the Colored Stone business. My Father was shocked that I bought such an expensive stone; he was even more shocked at the lousy choice I made. He ordered me to bring back the dealer and negate the transaction. It was one of my most humiliating experiences in the industry. It is something that had never happened again. My father explained to the dealer that “he’s young and inexperienced”, which I apparently was, and luckily he accepted and took back the stone. However, he never did business with me again. I learned, from then on, to be real sure before I utter the word “deal-mazal!!” and to be an expert in the merchandise I buy.
One of the methods a businessman conducts himself is using the shock system. He says in a stern voice:  “I’m buying this product at this price and that’s my last offer, take it or leave it!! Make a decision quickly or I’m leaving now, there is another place I saw a similar product; is it yes or no?!!” One businessman used the shock treatment a bit too much and it cost him dearly. On a colored stone buying trip in Bangkok, Thailand one individual took the stones in his left hand and stuck it out the open window and threatened if you don’t agree on this price and not say “mazal” I’m throwing the stones out the window. They agreed, and the transaction took place. The natives, the Thai people are a very honorable people and would never negate on a transaction that they shook hands on; however, they don’t like to be threatened, so when he left their building, there in the courtyard, they broke the very arm he threatened to throw the stones with.
Astonishingly, Adam was not rebuked by G-d for trying to turn back on the deal. As a matter of fact, incredibly, he was praised. How can that be?
The book Mayanei haChaim by Rav Chaim Zaitchik makes an interesting observation.
This desire to retract, in this particular special situation, does not stem from evil or shortcomings on Adam’s part. On the contrary, it stemmed from his greatness and his understanding of the value of life…….How is it possible, one may ask?
In order to understand why G-d not only did not punish Adam for wanting, having chutzpah to negate on the deal, but praised him, we must explore why G-d chose for the first man the name “Adam.”
The most popular reason why man is called Adam is because man comes from the ADAMA – the ground. However, there are other various names that Adam is called by; some are ISH, ENOSH and GEVAR. Why it is that ADAM was the name chosen to represent man? We just finished a month long of holidays and the one underlying theme throughout the month – or I should say two months – is TESHUVA – repentance. During this period, we pound our hearts and we recite the thirteen attributes of G-d. As we said in our High Holidays issue, G-d guarantees us that if nothing else works, that if no other method of prayer is accepted, the thirteen attributes will go through. What is it about this particular prayer that has that kind of ability? The philosophy behind the recitation is we have to strive to be like G-d, and by reciting His attributes, we affirm our commitment to work on ourselves to have just the right measurement of kindness, mercifulness, temperament, etc. This is the reason why ADAM, the name, represents man the best. We learn in the Prophets – Nevi’im – ADAMEH LE ELYON – we shall be similar to G-d. This is man’s mission in life. So our goal is to be like G-d, ADAMEH.
Now, the question of why G-d praised Adam and called him a tsaddik even though he wanted to negate the deal is becoming more clear.
The Ibn Ezra asks why we must honor the elderly by rising before them. The Ibn Ezra answers that people who are elderly have learned to appreciate the value of life. They deserve honor for that recognition. For appreciation is a fundamental feature in the Jewish philosophy.  A person acts differently, thinks differently, and has a different perspective on life when he is in his fifties and sixties than when he is in his twenties and thirties. He is a different type of person. We need to honor that perspective and attitude by rising before such people.
When Adam was “born,” and was told he had 1000 years in front of him, it was tantamount to someone coming to a millionaire and asking for $1000 donation. The millionaire is prepared to flippantly give over the 1000 dollars. It means very little to him. But if this same millionaire loses all his money he will be greatly aggravated over the fact that he gave away 1000 dollars.
At the end of his life, Adam was like the millionaire who lost his money. The 1000 years that he once had in front of him were now behind him. He had a different perspective on life now. It is because of that perspective that we rise up before the elderly. It is because of that perspective that we say “Precious in the Eyes of G-d is (the time of) death for his righteous.”
Rav Chaim Zaitchik interprets that Adam — as with all Tzadikim — cherished life so much that as he was approaching death he could not bear to forgo the opportunity he had to accomplish more with those extra years. The potential to live and be like G-d is a burning desire in all of us, and it’s awakened only through age and life’s experiences. There is so much that a righteous person, one who appreciates life can do with even one more year, with even one more month, with even a single day. Life is so precious that when he realized that his time was up, he became so distraught and irrational that he forgot his promise or was willing to retract the promise (depending of the varying versions quoted above).
 Interestingly, King David had fallen victim to the same desire to live. Towards the end of his life, he knew that he is destined to die on Shabbat. David also knew that if one learns Torah, the Angel of Death cannot harm him.  He then devised a plan, when his seventieth year was approaching, he would learn constantly without stop from when the Shabbat begins till it ends twenty-five hours later where then he will be safe.
One Shabbat he hears noise from his garden and after ignoring it for a while, succumbs to his curiosity. Those few minutes where he looked outside was all the Angel of Death needed. For those minutes of non Torah learning he was able to take David’s life.
Subconsciously, we want to be perfect. The Jewish philosophy is all about emulating G-d. G-d rested on the seventh day, for this reason we rest. We conduct kindness because G-d does kindness with us. Patience is a virtue because G-d is patient.  Perfection is the goal. Unfortunately, that goal is rarely reached.  Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto in the book Messilat Yesharim writes that Ninety-five percent of people when asked before they leave this world, if they fulfilled their life dreams, did they accomplish what they set for in life said “no”. We don’t realize how much life means till later in life.  That appreciation is special and G-d loves it.
 Interestingly, this episode accomplished several things.  David received seventy years and Adam elevated his status to a tsaddik.

Judaism and Loyalty

This article was constructed with the help of either writings, lectures or shiurim of  Rabbi’s, Yissachar Frand, Yossi bilus, Asher Hurzberg and Mrs. Leah Kohn

L o y a l t y

We’re loyal to our jobs; we’re loyal to our country; we’re loyal to our spouse; we’re even loyal to our sports teams (Go, Mets)!!  Loyalty is something we do.  There are even loyalty programs that reward buyers for sticking with company brands.  Perhaps we should even start a loyalty program with our “Cup of Coffee” newsletter. This notion of loyalty programs proposed by major US companies has steadily grown in popularity.  Between 2008 and 2012, U.S. loyalty memberships increased by 10 percent per year – reaching on average over 23 memberships per household.
However, a McKinsey study showed that those that spend more on loyalty, or have more visible loyalty programs, grow at about the same rate – or slightly slower – than those that do not.  Oops! Never mind about that proposal for our “Coffee”.  Despite relative underperformance in terms of revenue growth and profitability, over the past five years, market capitalization for companies that greatly emphasize loyalty programs has outpaced that of companies that don’t.  In other words, companies are still hoping and yearning that they will be rewarded with customer loyalty in due time.  Nevertheless consumers, for the most part, are not loyal.  Perhaps, human nature is such that, people want to believe that loyalty is important to all and therefore companies are banking on that premise.
The beginning of Parshas Tazria deals with the laws of purity and impurity associated with childbirth. At the end of the 40 day period of impurity and purity following the birth of a male, or at the end of the 80 day period of impurity and purity following the birth of a female, the mother is required to bring “a sheep within its first year for an olah-offering and a young dove or a turtle dove for a sin-offering” to complete her purification process [Vayikra 12:6].
 Even though there are many kinds of kosher birds, the only kinds of birds that may be brought as sacrifices on the Altar are the young dove [ben-yonah] and the turtle dove [tor].
The Ramban writes that the Torah singled out torim as an appropriate species for karbanot-sacrifices, precisely because of their loyalty to each other. The tor [turtle dove] has a unique quality in the fact that it mates for life. If its partner is taken away from it or killed, it will not seek out another mate, but will seemingly mourn – as it were – for the first mate for the rest of its life. This unique quality makes them the optimum choice for spiritual elevation sought by the one bringing a bird sacrifice. The Ramban adds that even though bnei-yonah do not share this quality, they have an alternate characteristic which makes them appropriate. The young dove (the only kind of “ben yonah” which may be brought) has the trait that they always return to their nest. Most birds will never return to their nest once a human being touches it. The bnei yonah are an exception. They have such loyalty to their nests that they will return despite the fact that human hands may have tampered with the nest. The Ramban writes “So too Israel will not switch from loyalty to their Creator and His Torah forever.” Therefore, according to the Ramban, torim and bnei Yonah are the bird species used in the Bait HaMikdash because they share the quality of loyalty with the Jewish people
Of course, how is it possible to talk about loyalty and not discuss the most sacred union built on loyalty, namely the one between husband and wife?
Our beloved and popular king, whom we often associate with royalty, David had a wife who was the daughter of the previous king, Shaul.  When David beat Goliath he was rewarded, as promised, the king’s daughter Michal. Now, Shaul was under much pressure from having to deal with the popularity of David, as David killed the heavily favored Goliath, and Shmuel’s prophecy which said that it was David who will reign after Shaul.
We learn in the Navi that Shaul was jealous of David and wanted to kill him. Interestingly, both David and Shaul were hailed righteous and have their sacred place in heaven.  Hence the reader has to realize the difficult situation the two are in for, as there is no good guy or bad guy in this historic chain of events.  Saul knows this prophecy to be already in motion, given that he has already experienced a loss of the special divine connection granted by God to leaders of the Jewish people. Even so…..
“…Saul sought to smite David even to the wall with a spear; but he slipped away out of Saul’s presence, and he smote the spear into the wall; and David fled, and escaped that night. And Saul sent messengers unto David’s house, to watch him and to slay him in the morning; and Michal David’s wife told him, saying: ‘If thou save not thy life tonight, to-morrow thou shalt be slain.’ So Michal let David down through the window; and he went, and fled, and escaped. And Michal took the teraphim, and laid it on the bed, and put a quilt of goats’ hair at the head thereof, and covered it with a cloth. And when Saul sent messengers to take David, she said: ‘He is sick’. And Saul sent the messengers to see David, saying: ‘Bring him up to me in the bed, that I may slay him.’ And when the messengers came in, behold, the teraphim was in the bed, with the quilt of goats’ hair at the head thereof. And Saul said unto Michal: ‘Why hast thou deceived me thus, and let mine enemy go, that he is escaped?’ And Michal answered Saul: ‘He said unto me: Let me go; why should I kill thee?'” (I Samuel, 19: 10 – 17)
 The above passage relates one incident in the ongoing conflict between David and Saul. In this instance Michal (who is both David’s wife and Saul’s daughter) is directly involved in the sequence of events. She finds herself in the middle of the struggle between the two men and is forced to choose between two family members whom she loves and admires and who are important pillars of the Jewish nation. Because of her equally deep connection to Saul and David, Michal will most likely cause great pain to whomever she does not ultimately assist.
Michal’s decision is a difficult one, but her responsibilities under the circumstances in which she finds herself are outlined by Jewish law. The Torah obligates a married woman to act first and foremost in support of her husband, if he is in need. As the text relates, Michal does so by helping David to escape from their home, and then creating a “stand-in” so to speak for her husband, by disguising a life size statue with a wig of goat’s hair and placing it in bed under the covers. She next tells Saul’s men who have come for David that her husband is sick and cannot be extradited to the palace. This ruse buys time enough for David to escape to safety.
Michal’s obligation to her father, Saul, runs diametrically opposite her responsibilities to David. Specifically, the Torah prohibits a child from causing pain to a parent – and Michal knows her father will suffer, once he finds out she has orchestrated David’s escape. Thus, under the inordinate pressure of a life or death situation, Michal must quickly make her decision and act. She does so, with great loyalty to Torah, by saving David, as Torah dictates she must. And having acted within the parameters of Jewish law, Michal might have stopped at this point and found consolation for her own distress as well as for the inevitable pain of her father. She might have admitted to herself that – like many difficult decisions in life – this one involved human suffering.
While others in her position may have chosen this route to resolution, Michal pushes onward, and this is where she distinguishes herself as a great Jewish heroine. She insists upon re-evaluating the situation and in doing so, she comes up with a plan to spare her father any pain, by relating to her father a second version of what has transpired with David. When Saul realizes that Michal has enabled David’s departure, he asks her, “Why hast thou deceived me thus, and let mine enemy go, that he is escaped?” The answer Michal contrives – “He said unto me: Let me go; why should I kill thee?” – implies for Saul’s benefit that David did not want to harm his wife in order to prevent her from informing Saul of his escape. In addition, her response conveys the message that, even when his own life is in danger, David is careful not to inflict harm on another. Michal suggests to her father that, for the sake of their marriage and because of his true love for his wife, David had virtually begged Michal to assist him and to gain for him the extra time necessary for his escape to safety.
Michal suggests to her father – hoping he will conclude on his own – that David is a person of high caliber, who has a high regard for the life of each and every individual, who cherishes his marriage, and whose character Saul might well reassess. From this point of view, Saul may reconsider his own decision to kill David. Seeing how David cares so deeply for the life of others, Saul may ultimately conclude that David wants neither to harm him nor rebel against him. Michal’s subtle appeal to Saul takes place on an emotional level, as a daughter’s request that her father reconsider his opinion of the husband she so loves and esteems.
Michal’s plan works. For the moment she convinces Saul to cease his pursuit of David.
There is an amazing story pertaining to the great Rabbi Chaim Berlin. He would often read the Shir Hasirim to the congregation on Shavuot, as per the Ashkenazi custom, and would get choked up when reading the passage “Your eyes are beautiful like a dove”.  The Sages suggest that King Shlomo was referring G-d talking his children, bnei Yisrael.  When asked, why he would react that way, he respond that as a mohel he was once approached, discreetly, by someone who wanted him to perform circumcision on his son. However the father emphasized “there will not be a minyan (quorum of ten men) present” for he did not want anyone to discover that he was Jewish.  The Rabbi complied and the circumcision was performed with only the Mohel the father and a close friend present.
Sometime later, the Rabbi reached out to the father and asked “I don’t understand. It seems like you’re completely removed from Judaism where you don’t even resemble in any way, being a Jew, why would you care then if your son is circumcised?
The father answered, “I made my choice not to practice Judaism however if my son ever decides to pursuit the idea of being Jewish I don’t want the brit Milah to be an obstacle, to stand in his way, if he wants to return.”
Rabbi Chaim Berlin would cry when reading this particular passage, for a dove never strays too far from the nest for he knows that no matter what, he’ll always return. The same thing applies to us Jews. Even though we stray a bit far in our hearts we always know we can return. That is loyalty!
Michal offers today’s couple an example of exemplary conduct, even under duress. Given that we spend a great deal of time under the duress of day to day life in our fast paced world, Michal remains a role model who performed loyalty to her husband, a trait that G-d seeks in all of us.

A final story. When Rabbi Pinchas Sheinberg’s wife was very ill laying in a coma at the hospital, the old and frail Rabbi would make it his business to visit her every day. One of the nurses asked the Rav Sheinberg, “Rabbi why do you come here every day? She doesn’t see you”. He replied “I’m not here so my wife to see me; I’m here to see my wife”..

Secret power of a Talit at a traditional Jewish wedding

This article was constructed with the help of either writings, lectures or shiurim of Rabbi’s  Yissachar Frand, Yitzchak Aminov, Yossi Bilus

The flowers, the color table cloth, the hall, the caterer, the orchestra, the ring, I most likely missed some, my wife is better at coordinating weddings, are all necessary in preparing for today’s traditional Jewish wedding. Interestingly at my wedding, my florist gave me great advice in order to save money, since our wedding was separate seating, men and women, in accordance with modesty laws. He said “only put flowers on the women’s side since the men wouldn’t notice one way or the other. They’re more concerned about the food than the color table cloth, etc.” He was right.  No one from the men’s section asked about the flowers.  I actually took the initiative and asked some of the guys “what color were the flowers at your table? Many didn’t know; one said he thinks blue color flowers.  The old saying goes “men are from Mars and women are from Venus”.
 Many of the elements that are recited, conducted, served and sung at one of the most emotional charged celebrated Jewish event have deep meaning to them. For example, our brothers – the Ashkenazim – have a custom that I always found to be fascinating and I feel is one of the most fundamental concepts of life. At the chupah, the Kalah circles around the Chattan seven times.   This resembles the seven days that the world was built, so will the home the new couple build be blessed by G-d. Perhaps what I am also reminded by ushering the new home builders in the revolving door of life. I remember attending a funeral in the morning only to celebrate a wedding that very night. One begins to build while the other lets go, that is the circle of life!!
Furthermore, Kabbalists explain it that there are seven walls of evil that surround a person before marriage that falls when the Kallah circles the Chatan.
 Before the sheva brachot are recited, according to  Sepharadic and Yekkeshe [German Jewry]  tradition, the Chattan makes a  bracha of shecheyanu (blessing on something new), on his new Tallit. He then raps it around himself and spreads it over, with a little help from his friends, the bride. In essence, it looks like they are under a tent.
 What does the Tallit have to do with getting married and why cover it over the bride? Well, this tradition and the source stems from this week’s parsha.
 We are taught with regard to the restrained  Hebrew servant (eved ivri) that if “b’gapo yavo” then “b’gapo yeitzei” [Shmot 21:3]. What does this ambiguous term mean?
Rashi translates — based on Onkelos’ rendition — if he comes in by himself (i.e. – unmarried) then he will leave by himself. This interpretation fits in smoothly with the continuation of the pasuk [verse] “if he is married (im baal isha hu), his wife goes out with him.”
In modern Hebrew, we would use the term “ravak” [bachelor] for a single man and “nasui” for married person. The term “b’gapo” is very peculiar. It does not even appear in Mishnaic Hebrew. How does the word “b’gapo” indicate a person is single? The most common explanation is that it comes from the word “b’gufo” – meaning “with his body” (and with no one else). Rashi, however, cites another derivation for this word. Rashi equates “b’gapo” with “b’knafo”, meaning with his garment (i.e. – the shirt on his back).
According to Rashi, the metaphor for being single is one’s garment. The pasuk is saying: If you come in with (only) your coat, you leave with only your coat. What is the connection between a person’s garment and being single? The answer is that we define a person who is single as being one whose world ends at the end of this garment. He is a self-contained unit. His world ends where he ends.
If the definition of a single person is one whose world ends where his coat ends, then carrying the metaphor one step further, a married person is one whose coat extends over other people as well. A married person’s world extends to all others who have to come under his protection.
 With this idea, we can understand the Tallit’s role at a wedding. The groom puts on a Tallit and spreads it over himself and his bride. This ritual acts out the very implication of our metaphor. Under the Chuppah, at the moment of his marriage, the Chattan demonstrates that his world has now been extended by spreading his garment over someone else in addition to himself. My coat now has to cover someone else.
The Biblical source for this custom is the Book of Ruth. Ruth tells Boaz, in suggesting that he marry her, “And you shall spread your garment over your maid-servant” [Ruth 3:9]. In other words, “take me into your world.” Let your world no longer be the world of a single man that ends where your coat ends, let it be an extended world that includes someone else as well.
 It seems like a garment has a very important role in life and one cannot disregard its role. David in his quest to be King of Israel cut King Shaul’s coat while he was sleeping to show that he can easily infiltrate the inner privacy of his chambers.  One would have taken David’s act of “cut clothing” as showing his strength to Shaul as just that. However, David erred tremendously and was punished that his last days of his life, he would suffer by not being able to stay warm. No clothing would make him feel comfortable and warm. Midah k’neged midah – Measure for measure!
Why was David punished so severely for cutting King Shaul’s cloth? And why by covering the bride does the groom demonstrate that his world has been extended?
It’s our mission as Jews, who are the ambassadors of Almighty, the chosen people, whom we represent to emulate G-d. Yes, basically we’re copy cats.  We keep Shabbat because we read in the Torah that he rests on the seventh day. We put on Tefilin because we learn that He, metaphorically, puts on Tefilin. We take upon ourselves to do kindness because G-d does kindness with us. This is the primary directive, in this beautiful world. We pursuit this goal by acknowledging the very essence of what the word “world” means. The Ohr Gedalyahu points out that the word “olam”, world, has the same root as ‘he’elem’, which means hidden. The world is defined as the place where G-d’s presence is hidden. G-d reveals himself in a minimal way. He makes space for us to have our own world. He hides His light from us, so that we can make our own choices. But He remains immanently present within that hiddenness. In a way, He is yet more present in His absence than in His presence.  It’s our job to discover Him; however, that task is accomplished best by also being hidden. Although it’s impossible to be totally incognito, we have to accomplish without being too noticed.
 Walking the streets of Boro Park when we first got married, I commented to her of a few of the run down looking houses on the local streets. She laughed as I pointed to one particular one. She said, “Although it looks run down from the outside, however, the interior contains marble floors, a modern kitchen and a state of the art elevator”. She said, “It looks decrepit from the outside by design. They don’t want to be noticed”.
 The bracha of life is hidden, it’s covered. Strange – how nature works. The roots which are the most critical of plant life are formulated underground. A baby is conceived in the confines of privacy of the bedroom in the dark under the covers. We are obligated to cover some of major parts of life; married women cover their hair; the challah on Shabbat is covered; the ANANAI HACOVOD – the Cloud of glory covered the nation; we cover our heads with a kipah.
 David, by cutting his garment, breached the respect both of the King of Israel and Shaul –  personal virtue  for he was known to be careful with modesty laws. The apparent violation to clothing, a tool for Tzniut-modesty, a protection not to reveal, something G-d cherishes very much, cost David a great deal later on in life.  David, indeed, compromised the essence of the King; it wasn’t just the King of Israel but also the KING of the heavens. Therefore, he was punished with one of the benefits clothing has to offer, “Keeping warm”. No matter how many layers of clothing and blankets that was placed on David at the end of his life he could not stay warm.
 In a few weeks we will read Migilat Esther. Perhaps, it’s not a coincidence that Esther which means “hidden” is the descendant of King Shaul.
   The Chattan symbolizes, by placing the Tallit on the Kallah-bride, that we are now blessed. We are extending the bracha beyond the single status and are ready to start a family. Here the bracha starts from being covered-hidden by the Tallit which symbols the mitzvoth-commandments of the Torah.           
 May G-d grant us the perception to recognize that it is His presence, His light that permeates all that surround us in this olam. May this light enable us to see and realize all that we can accomplish.
 An accomplishment successfully done purely, discreetly but at the same time pronouncing and spreading His name.


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.

Parshat Naso

“A Cup of Coffee 



A Quick Thought”



Steaming Cup of Coffee
Spark Of Jewish Experience

June 2, 2011

29 Iyar, 5771

Dear Friends,

For those of you who had the opportunity and privilege to learn Torah on a consistent basis throughout the year – or even a minimal amount – you should feel very proud about the upcoming holiday of Shavuot. It commemorates the Jews receiving the Torah from G-d on Mount Sinai. May G-d give us the opportunity to increase the amount of our learning and enjoy the fascinating gift which He bestowed upon us. Enjoy the holiday!!!

In This Issue
Love & Fear

Love & Fear
love & fear


The scripture (Parshat Yitro 19:1-25) describes in detail the monumental event of the Jewish people receiving the Torah. But one may raise his eyebrow as to where our ancestors were camped when the revelation occurred. The literal translation of where they were standing was, under the mountain. We assumed the Torah is indicating they were near the mountain, but Rashi, the mainstream commentary on the Torah, seems to believe that G-d raised the mountain over the heads of the Israelites and threatened them ‘if you do not except the Torah I’m going to drop the mountain and kill you now!’

Presumably, this seems to be contradicting to what we were led to believe, so proudly,’NA’ASSE VE NISHMA’; meaning we will accept the Torah so blindly that we will do the commandments first, and receive the explanations later. All the other nations probed ‘what’s in it?’ and then rejected it; however, our ancestors embraced it. ‘Hey! We agreed on the conditions without even looking at the contract, so why is G- d forcing us for no reason? ‘

Rabbi Jay Shapiro, one of my mentors, quotes Rav Eliyahu Lapian’s parable and explanation on the contradiction. I think this parable is really cool. Back in the days, there was a king that was very popular and loved by all. He had an important meeting cross-country and the optimal form of transportation was the royal train. It was a three-day trip, with planned designated stops all throughout the country. Towards the end of his route to the meeting, the royal train pulls into this town. It seemed like the townspeople were hungrily ready for his arrival. Banners were hanging on the rafters of the train station with the words ‘WE LOVE YOU KING’; the band was playing his favorite song in between a presentation by the second grade choir of its prestigious school; the clowns were juggling; the hot dog stand was full.

All were waiting to see the Majesty King; the enthusiastic noise was getting more intense. After fifteen minutes, a guard emerges and made an announcement. ‘The King loves you all but he had a long day and he’s trying to get some sleep; he has a major conference tomorrow and he would appreciate some quiet.’ After he returned back to the train the crowd continued the noise. ‘WE LOVE YOU KING!’ they proclaimed showing more of their intense love. The band played louder; the juggler added another ball; more hotdogs and Marino’s ices were added. A little while later, a guard emerged from the train, this time slightly agitated and a bit more firm, ‘We ask you nicely, the King has a very important meeting tomorrow and needs his sleep. Please refrain from noise’. The guard disappeared back into the train presumably satisfied that his words made an impression. But that did not stop the crowd; they anticipated this day for a while and were eager to show their love and affection to the king.

Ten minutes later six guards appeared on the high platform next to the locomotive, carrying submachine guns (they had machine guns in those days? No, I actually altered the story a bit to bring home the point). The head goon with the dark sunglasses spoke up, ‘Whoever makes another sound will be shot’. As a result of these frightening words, one can hear a pin drop among the three thousand well-wishers.

Rav Lapian asks, ‘Do they still love their king?’ The answer is yes, but now they fear him as well as love him. If there would be no fear, the important mission would not have been accomplished properly, even though the right intentions were at heart.

In order for us to function as proper Jews and to adhere to his laws correctly, progressively and efficiently, one has to incorporate a little fear as well as the love that one dearly possesses for Him, or else there will be total chaos. A person may eat pig and say ‘I appreciate the food G d has giving me’. There is an expression, which is used frequently ‘I love G d in my heart and I’ll show it my way’. This is considered inappropriate; there has to be rules and they have to be followed. For example, if one violates Shabbat he will pay the consequences. Logically, it makes sense to have law and order, or religion will be a free for all.

This is what G-d wanted to show the Israelites by picking up the mountain and threatening them – that love and fear are part and parcel. This is also the lesson that G-d is trying to convey to us.  One needs both to be a proper Jew.


When our ancestors uttered the famous line ‘NA’ASE VE NISHMA’, which propelled G-d to place us above all the nations, the angels asked ‘how do the Israelites know our secret’? One may ask, what secret are they talking about? And also, what is so important about the phrase that G-d found to be so important? In order to understand this, one has to examine a conversation between King Solomon and Hiram the king of Tyre.

‘You know that my father David was not able to build a house for G-d due to the wars that surrounded him’, Shlomo proclaimed. However this seems a bit hard to understand. Although King David fought many wars, he still made time to do various important functions, one of which was writing Psalms. Furthermore, there is a clear indication from the scripture, ‘The king was sitting in his house and G-d had given him respite from all his enemies’, seemingly, that David had time and was even planning the blueprint of the Temple. So why wasn’t he allowed to build it?

It is important to note a vital piece of history, which will help us understand this further. One of the reasons that the Jews were prohibited to attend the party of Achashverosh the king of Persia, (this is the story that commemorates the holiday of Purim) was because the utensils that were used at the party were the same ones used in the holy temple. They were taken by Nevuchanetzar, king of Babylonia after he destroyed the temple approximately 2500 years ago.  It was then passed down to Queen Vashti, first wife of Achashverosh, who was Nevuchanetzar’s granddaughter. Besides the utensils, Achashverosh went through great pains to wear the original garbs of the high priest, which were worn when he performed his duties. What, may you ask, was the motive of the Persian king?

Achashverosh was a student of history and took note that whenever the Jews went to battle, before they proceeded, they went in the temple, prayed to their G-d and were victorious instantly. He presumably thought the garb, which I will wear, and the utensils, which will be used at my ceremonial party, will guarantee victory among my enemies.

However, G-d said build me a temple, for me’and Rashi (mainstream commentary on the Torah) explains, ‘for my sake, one should build a temple with no ulterior motives’. For this reason, David was not allowed to build the temple, because people might think, and David himself might be tempted, that he had ulterior motives to build the temple so he can be victorious in his battles and not for the sake of G-d at all. Therefore, his son Shlomo, who lives in peace and tranquil times and would be sincerein his dedication to G-d, was allowed to build it.

One of the key and unique character traits, which Jews have, is the potential to possess sincerity. This is what they displayed on Mount Sinai when they proudly and lovingly proclaimed NA’ASSE VE NISHMA’. Sincerity is the secret that the angels possess in which they thought was their exclusive. They perform their duties solely and efficiently without any ulterior motives. Perhaps that is the reason David was prohibited to build the temple; humans reach an angelic state of holiness when doing the duties in G-d’s house.

Although it is difficult to be 100% sincere, human nature has tendencies in which there is always a bit of an ulterior motive involved; and it is understandable that one cannot manufacture feelings. However, in performing good deeds to our fellow human being, one may perhaps envision the benefit that the person you are doing the kindness to is receiving, and through that action develops sincerity.

Rabbi Avi Matmon
Spark of Jewish Experience