Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Parshat Toldot





Yetzer Tov                   Yetzer Hara

"ONCE YOU HAVE MASTERED CONTROL OVER YOUR EVIL INCLINATION, YOU HAVE CONQUERED PEACE IN YOUR MIND"
פרשת תולדות
Genesis: (25:19-28:9)
Parashat Toldot is the beginning of the conflict between two nations, a conflict that was predestined from the womb and that continues until today. As we read in last weeks Paarsha, Isaac took Rebecca as his wife and loved her. This weeks Parsha begins by telling us that Isaac was 40 years old when he married Rebecca and that she was barren. Isaac prays to G-d and Rebecca soon becomes pregnant with twins. However, the children struggled together within her and she said: If it be so, wherefore do I live? And she went to inquire of G-d (25:22).
Rashi comments that one way to interpret this struggle within the womb is that whenever Rebecca would pass by the Torah study houses of Shem and Ever, Jacob would run and struggle to get out, and when she would pass by the houses of idolatry, Esau would run and struggle to get out.
G-d answers Rebecca, saying Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be separated; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger (25:23).
Soon, Rebecca gives birth to the twin boys. The first to come out was red, and his whole body was like a hairy garment; so they named him Esau. (25:25)
And After this, his brother came out, with his hand grasping Esaus heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when Rebecca gave birth to them (25:26).
As the boys grow up, they indeed go their separate ways, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was a quiet man, staying among the tents (25:27). The Torah comments that while Isaac loved Esau, Rebecca loved Jacob.
One day, Jacob is cooking red lentil stew and Esau comes in from the field, tired and hungry. Esau begs Jacob to give him some of this red, red stew for I am faint (25:30).
Jacob asks Esau to sell Esaus birthright to him in exchange for the meal, to which Esau replies, Behold, I am at the point to die; and what profit shall the birthright do to me?
Esau then sells his birthright to Jacob and Jacob feeds him bread and stew. ...Thus Esau despised his birthright (25:34).
There is a famine in the land and Isaac settles in Gerar, which belonged to the Philistine king Abimelech. Like Abraham, Isaac pretends that Rebecca is his sister so that the Philistine men do not kill him and take Rebecca. However, Abimelech soon discovers that Rebecca is his wife and orders all his people not to harm the couple, saying, He that touches this man or his wife shall surely be put to death (26:11). 
G-d blesses Isaac and he grew more and more until he became very great. And he had possessions of flocks, and possessions of herds, and a great household; and the Philistines envied him (26:13-14).
Abimelech tells Isaac, Move away from us; you have become too powerful for us (26:16) and Isaac moves to the valley of Gerar.
In Gerar, Isaac digs open the wells of water that had been dug in the days of Abraham, but which the Philistines had filled with earth. Isaacs servants find water in two wells and the shepherds of Gerar and Isaacs shepherds quarrel over the water in both. Isaac moves on and digs another well, over which there is no quarrel, and he names it Rehoboth, saying, For now G-d has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land (26:22).
G-d appears to Isaac in Beer Sheba, telling Isaac not to be afraid, that G-d is with him and will bless him for the sake of Abraham, his servant (26:24). Isaac builds an altar to G-d and then pitches his tent and his servants dig a well.
Abimelech, his friend Ahuzzat, and Pichol, the captain of his military, approach Isaac in Beer Sheba to forge a peace treaty, telling him that We saw plainly that the L-rd was with you...and let us make a covenant with you. that you will do us no harm, as we have not touched thee, and as we have done unto you nothing but good, and have sent you away in peace; you are now the blessed of the L-rd (26:28-29). Isaac makes a feast for the men and the next morning, they swear to one another to maintain peace between them before Abimelech and his men depart.
At the age of 40, Esau marries Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite and they were a bitterness of spirit unto Isaac and to Rebecca (26:35).
And it came to pass, that when Isaac was old, and his eyes were dim, so that he could not see, he called Esau his older son, and said unto him: My son; and he said to him: Here I am. (27:1). Isaac commands Esau to hunt and prepare a meal for him so that Isaac can bless him before Isaac dies. Overhearing their conversation, Rebecca tells Jacob to bring her two kid goats so that she can prepare a meal for Isaac so that he will eat and bless Jacob with the blessing of the firstborn instead of Esau. Rebecca covers Jacobs hands and neck with the skins of the kid goats so that Isaac would believe that Jacob was Esau. Indeed, when Jacob then comes before Isaac with the prepared meal, Isaac wonders aloud, The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau(27:22). However, feeling and smelling the hairy skins with which Rebecca had covered Jacob, Isaac believes that Jacob is Esau and blesses him with the blessing of the firstborn.
Isaac blessing Jacob, So God shall give you of the dew of heaven, and of the fat places of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine. Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and let your mothers sons bow down to thee. Cursed be every one that curses you, and blessed be every one that blesses you (27:28-29). 
Soon, Esau returns from the hunt, and realizing, what he had done, Isaac trembles and tells Esau, Your brother came with guile, and has taken away your blessing(27:35).
Esau raises his voice and weeps, and asks his father to bless him as well. Isaac blesses Esau, saying, Behold, of the fat places of the earth shall be your dwelling, and of the dew of heaven from above. And by your sword shall you live, and you shall serve your brother; and it shall come to pass when you shall break loose, that you shall shake his yoke from off your neck (27:39-40).
And Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him. He said to himself, The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob (27:41).
Rebecca, fearing for her sons life, sends Jacob to her brother Laban in Haran and orders him to remain there until Esaus wrath subsides. Rebecca tells Isaac that she does not want Jacob to take a wife from the girls of Heth and Isaac orders Jacob to go to to his grandfather, Bethuels house, and take a wife from the daughters of Laban. Isaac blesses Jacob again and sends him to to Padan-Araim, to Laban, son of Bethuel the Aramean, the brother of Rebekah, Jacobs and Esaus mother (28:5).
Esau, seeing that Isaac had blessed Jacob and ordered him not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan, goes to Yishmael, and marries Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael Abrahams son, the sister of Nebaioth.

ואלה תולדת יצחק בן אברהם אברהם הוליד את יצחק
These are the descendants of Isaac, son of Abraham. Avraham was the father of Isaac(25:19).
Why does the Torah emphasize that Abraham was the father of Isaac in this verse? We are already told that Isaac was the son of Abraham in the phrase son of Abraham.
Rashi explains that the scoffers of the generations were saying that Sarah conceived Isaac with Abimelech, for she lived with Abraham for many years and did not conceive. Therefore G-d shaped Isaacs face exactly like Abraham so that everyone could testify that it was Abraham, and no else, was the father of Isaac.
Another explanation is that the Torah seeks to emphasize that Isaac wast not influenced by the ways of his brother, Yishmael, but that he followed in his fathers footsteps.
(ויאהב יצחק את עשו כי ציד בפיו ורבקה אהבת את יעקב (כה:כח
(25:28).
One can wonder how come Isaac favored Esau. From here we can see Isaacs greatness. It is easy to love the perfect child, the one without faults. But Isaac understood that Esau needed more attention in order to lead him to the right way, as a famous Chinese proverb states, Give the child love when he least deserves it.
If we read the verse closely, we note that the word verb ויאהב or (he) loved is written in past tense. This is in order to teach us that Isaac favored Esau conditionally, in order to bring him closer to the Torah, but when it came to Rebeccas love for Jacob, the verb is written in the present tense אהבת, for Rebeccas love for Jacob was continuous.

ויקראו שמו עשו
עשו in gematriya (numerical value) is equivalent to that of שלום orpeace because if he did not have that name (to refine him) he would have likely destroyed the world (Baal HaTurim).

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Parshat Chaya Sarah




              Eiyshet Chayil was the famous poem said in Sarah Emeynu’s eulogy by Avraham Avinu. The midrash goes through the entire chapter in Misheli (Proverbs), ascribing each verse to different attributes that Sarah Emeynu represented. “Darshah tzemer ufishtim..(she seeks out wool and linen)” was when Sarah Emeynu separated Yitzchak and Yishmael. Just like wool and linen are polar opposites, unable to be worn together, Sarah Emeynu knew that Yitzchak and Yishmael could not stay together. Sarah Emeynu separated good from bad by sending Yishmael away from her son Yitzchak. Yishmael acquired good and bad attributes. Yishmael, was also the son of Avraham who also had a brit mila at the age of thirteen so therefore there was good in Yishmael. However, there was plenty of evil within him as well. It is not easy to recognize this admixture in another person, and it was Sarah Emeynu who was able to do so. She had the wisdom and perception to see that the evil part of such a person will ultimately corrupt the good in him. When Sarah Emeynu took the intuitive to untangle good and evil she became the tikkun (correction) for Chava- Eve. Rivkah too, continued the tikkun by separating her sons Yaakov and Eisav. We learn from Sarah Emenynu that all women have this power of discernment.  The Torah teaches us, that women in general are more spiritually oriented and less affected by physical passions and drives. Throughout Jewish history, in Egypt, our Chachamim-Sages point out that it is the women who have been the guiding force in pushing towards the positive and steering away from the negative. That is their job: to separate, to detect the evil and the good. This is the nature of a woman, to the extent that the Sages say that a woman has deeper insights into a guest’s character- all the more so, Rabbi Feldman points out, into her husband’s character. That is why there should be openness between husband and wife in all aspects of life, both physical and spiritual; they should work together closely, because the wife has the ability to give her husband tremendous insight into himself. Avraham and Sarah together could rectify the sin of Adam and Chava. Chava introduced the good and evil into the world while Sarah separated between good and evil. Adam listened to Chava who gave him bad advice from eating from the tree, Avraham Avinu was told by Hashem "kol asher tomar eilecha Sarahh shema bekolah"- "everything Sarah will say to you- listen to her." Avraham, listened to Sarah and because of this he benefited of the development of his family. Rabbi Moshe Wolfson mentions that under the chuppah (marriage canopy) we mention Adam Harishon in the blessing "asher yatzar es ha'adam betzalmo" "who created man in His image" because every couple has the ability to rectify the sin of Adam and Chavah by following Avraham Avinu and Sarah Emeynus ways of partnership. We each possess the tools within us. By working together as one, each doing our own unique part, we can help to create a world where there is discernment between good and evil. (Shira Smiles, 2010)

Monday, November 3, 2014

Parshat Vayeira




פרשת וירא 
(Genesis 18:1-22:24)
Parashat Vayerah begins with the title word Vayerah or He appeared, as it is written-
And the L-rd appeared unto him by the plains of Mamre, as he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day (18:1).
Abraham lifts his eyes and sees three men opposite him and runs towards them and bows to the ground. Abraham invites the men to rest and rushes to his tent, telling Sarah, Hurry! Three measures of meal, fine flour! Knead and make cakes! (18:6)
Abraham then prepares a calf, tender and good, and places the calf, cream and milk before the men. The men ask Abraham where his wife Sarah is and he responds that she is in the tent. 
God says, I will surely return to you at this time next year, and behold Sarah your wife will have a son (18:10). 
Now Abraham and Sarah were old, and well stricken in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women.
Sarah was listening at the entrance of the tent, behind him. And Sarah laughed at herself, saying: After I have withered shall I again have delicate skin? And my husband is old! (18:12)
G-d asks Abraham, Why is it that Sarah laughed, saying: Shall I in truth bear a child, though I have aged? Is anything beyond Hashem? At the appointed time I will return to you at this time next year, and Sarah will have a son. (18:13-18:14). 
Sarah denies that she laughed because she was frightened, But Abraham responded, No, you laughed indeed. (18:15)
Hashem then tells Abraham that Because of the outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah has become great, and because their sin has been very grave, I will descend and see: if they act in accordance with its outcry which has come to me- then destruction! And if not, I will know. (18:20-18:21).
The men leave towards Sodom but Abraham came forward and petitions G-d, saying, Will you also stamp out the righteous along with the wicked? What if there should be fifty righteous people in the midst of the city? ...It would be sacrilege to You! Shall the judge of the earth not do justice? (18:23-18:25).
And Hashem said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous people in the midst of the city, then I would spare the entire place on their account (18:26)
Abraham responded, What if fifty righteous people should lack five? (18:28)
Hashem responded, I will not destroy if I find their forty five (18:28)
Abraham continued, What if forty would be found there (18:29)
Hashem responded, I will not act on account of the forty (18:29)
Abraham continued, What if thirty would be found there? (18:30)
Hashem responded, I will not act if I find there thirty (18:30)
Abraham continued, What if twenty would be found there? (18:31)
Hashem responded, I will not destroy on the account of the twenty (18:31)
Abraham continued further, Let not my L-rd be annoyed and I will speak but this once: What if ten would be found there?(18:32)
Hashem then responds, I will not destroy on account of the ten (18:32)
Two angels come to Sodom in the evening when Lot was sitting at the gates of the city. Upon seeing them, Lot stands up and bows down. He requests from the angels to spend the night, wash their feet, wake up early and leave. The angels responded that they would rather sleep in the town square but Lot urges them not to and they come with Lot to his house, where he makes a feast for them. However, before they lay down, the Sodomite townspeople surround the house, from young to old, from every quarter. They call to Lot, saying-
Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them (19:5).
Lot exits the house, shutting the door behind him and responds, I beg you, my brothers, do not act wickedly. See now, I have two daughters who have never known a man. I shall bring them out to you and do to them as you please. But to these men do nothing inasmuch as they have come under the shelter of my roof (19:7-19:8).
The men of Sodom grab Lot and shut the door. The angels then blind the men so that they cannot find the door and the angels order Lot to gather his family and leave the city, for we will destroy this place, because the outcry against its people has become great before G-d and G-d has sent us to destroy it (19:13).
Lot and his family flee to a nearby city named Zoar and Then G-d caused to rain upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from G-d out of heaven and He overthrew those cities, and all the Plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground (19:24-19:25). 
Lots wife turns around to witness the overthrow of the cities and she is turned into a pillar of salt as a result.
Lot then leaves Zoar and dwells in a mountain cave with his two daughters. Believing that they were the only ones left alive in the world, the two girls make their father drink wine and lie with him. They each conceive a child from their father, the older daughter gives birth to a son, Moab, who becomes the father of the Moabite nation and the younger daughter gives birth to a son, Ben-ammi, who becomes the father of the Ammonite nation.
Abraham then moves to Gerar and when Abraham tells Abimelech, the king of Gerar, that Sarah is his sister, the king takes Sarah. G-d appears to Abimelech in a dream and tells him to return Sarah to Abraham, for he is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee, and you shall live and if you dont return her, know that you shall surely die, you, and all that are yours (20:7). Abimelech takes sheep and oxen, and men-servants and women-servants, and gives them to Abraham, and returns Sarah to him. Abimelech invites Abraham to live anywhere on his land, and Abraham prays to G-d and G-d heals Abimelech, his wife and his maid-servants and they bear children for G-d had fast closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abrahams wife (20:18).
G-d then remembers his promise to Sarah and she bears a son, Isaac. Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born, and Sarah notes, God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me, adding, Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age (21:6-21:7).
As Isaac grows up, Sarah notices Yishamel, Hagar and Abrahams son, מְצַחֵק or mocking. She orders Abraham to drive Hagar and her son from their house, which distresses Abraham. G-d tells Abraham to listen to Sarah and assures him that through Isaac will come his descendants and also of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation, because he is your seed (21:13).
Abraham sends Hagar and Yishmael away the next morning with bread and a bottle of water and the two stray into the wilderness of Beer-sheba. When the water runs out, Hagar sends Yishmael to sit underneath a shrub and sits at a distance away from him, for she said: Let me not look upon the death of the child (21:16). She begins to cry and G-d opens her eyes and she sees a well of water from which she gives Yishmael to drink. G-d promises Hagar that he will make her son into a great nation (21:18).
And G-d was with Yishmael, and he grew; and he dwelt in the wilderness and became an archer. And he dwelt in the wilderness of Paran; and his mother took him a wife out the land of Egypt (21:20-21:21).
Abimelech and Pichol, the captain of his military, observing that G-d is with Abraham with everything that he does, approach Abraham and ask him to swear that there will always be peace between them and their descendants. Abraham gives Abimelech seven ewe-lambs as a sign of their treaty, which they pronounce at the place called Beer-Sheba because there they swore both of them (21:31).
The last chapter of this weeks Parsha comprises one of the most famous stories and tests of Abraham, that of the sacrifice of Isaac, as it is written, And it came to pass after these things, that G-d did test Abraham, and He said to him Abraham and Abraham said: Here I am (22:1).
G-d orders Abraham to take Isaac into the land of Moriah and offer him up as a sacrifice. The next morning, Abraham, two of Abrahams young men and Isaac set out for Moriah. On the third day of their travels, Abraham sees the place from afar and orders the two young men to stay with the donkey until Abraham returns. Abraham takes the wood of the burnt-offering, the fire and the knife necessary for the sacrifice, prompting Isaac to ask, Here is the fire and the wood; but where is the lamb for a burnt-offering? (22:7). When the two arrive at the place that G-d had designated, Abraham builds an alter and lays the wood down, and binds Isaac and lays him down on the altar, on the wood.
When Abraham stretches forth his hand and takes the knife to sacrifice Isaac, an angel of the
 L-rd cries out to him, saying Abraham, Abraham to which Abraham answers, Here I am (22:11). G-d tells Abraham not to harm the child because it is now clear how much of a G-d fearing man Abraham is, that he was willing to sacrifice his own son because G-d commanded him to do so. Abraham lifts his eyes and sees a ram caught by its horns in a nearby thicket and Abraham sacrifices the ram to G-d in place of his son.
G-d promises Abraham that because he did not withhold even his son from Him, G-d will bless Abraham and multiply the number of his descendants as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the seashore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies (22:17).


(והוא יושב פתח האהל.. (יח:א
And he was sitting at the door of the tent...
Rashi comments that Abraham was sitting at the door of his tent in order to see if there were any people around that he might invite into his house to fulfill the mitzvah of הכנסת אורחים or welcoming guests.
רבי שלום מבלז adds that Abraham was sitting at the entrance of גן עדן (The Garden of Eden), looking for people who had made תשובה (repented) in order to let them inside the Garden.
Another explanation is that Abraham was spreading his love for Torah, praising G-d and His ways with those that passed by his tent .


(ויקח את שני נעריו אתו...(כב:ג
And he took his two young men with him...(22:3)
Rashi explains that these two young men were his son, Yishmael, and his servant, Eliezer.
The בעל שם טוב (Baal Shem Tov) reads the phrase שני נעריו not as two young men but as שנות נעוריו or the years of his youth. For when Abraham went to sacrifice Isaac, he did so with the passion and courage of his youth.

Lessons to learn from this weeks parsha:
1. Connecting with Hashem: Avraham's ability to sacrifice his own worldly pleasure and comfort for Hashem in order to have a relationship with Hashem? Hashems not asking you to sacrifice your son/daughter/mother etc. just turn off your worldly distractions and connect with Hashem whether its during Shabbat, davening, one hour a day where you can sit and meditate as to what your true purpose is in this world etc.
2. Bikkur Cholim: visiting the sick- Hashem went to visit Avraham Avinu on the third day of his brit mila.
3. Greeting guests: Avraham Avinu went outside his tent to greet guests regardless of how much pain he was in all he wanted to do was to teach people about Hashem.
Shammai would say: Make your Torah study a permanent fixture of your life. Say little and do much. And receive every man with a pleasant manner (Ethics of the Fathers 1:15).


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Parshat Lech Lecha




פרשת לך לך
Bereishit: (12:1-17:27)
This weeks Parasha, Parashat לך לך (Lech Lecha) is the beginning of the life story of Abram, the first patriarch of the Jewish people. The Parasha records the many promises of bounty and blessing that G-d makes to Abram and to his descendants, but the Parasha also harbors echoes of the years of enslavement that we as a people will undergo later in Egypt.
The Parasha begins with Gods commandment and promise to Abram:
לך לך מארצך וממולדתך ומבית אביך 
Go for yourself from your land, from your relatives, and from your fathers house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation; I will bless you, and make your name great, and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who curses you I will curse; and all the families of the earth shall bless themselves by you. (12:1-12:3)
Abram does as God commands, and takes Sarai, his wife, and Lot, his brothers son and with all their wealth, they leave Haran. (Abram is 75 years old when they leave Haran)
They arrive at Canaan, where God appears to Abram and says, To your offspring I will give this land (12:7)
There is a severe famine in the land and Abram descends to Egypt to settle there. As Abram is about to enter Egypt, he notes how beautiful his wife Sarai is, and he tells her to tell the Egyptians that she is his sister and not his wife, so that they will allow Abram to live and not kill him in order to take Sarai. However, Pharaohs officials see Sarai, praise her to Pharaoh and take her to Pharaos house. Abram is rewarded heavily with sheep, cattle, donkeys, slaves and maidservants, female donkeys and camels. G-d afflicts Pharaoh with great plagues over the matter of Sarai, causing Pharaoh to summon Abram and demand,
What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she is your wife? Why did you say, she is my sister so that I would take her as my wife? Now, here is your wife; take her and go! (12:18- 12:19)
Abram then goes up from Egypt, he with his wife and all that was his and Lot and many gifts that Pharoh gave him including his daughter, Hagar to be their maidservant. Abram and Lot are unable to dwell together because their possessions are too abundant and there is quarreling between the herdsman of Abram and those of Lot. Abraham proposes that the two separate, saying, if you go left then I will go right, and if you go right, then I will go left.(13:8-13:9). As a result, Abram dwells in the land of the Canaan while Lot settles as far as Sodom. After Lot parts, G-d speaks to Abram, telling him,
Raise now your eyes and look out from where you are: northward, southward, eastward, and westward. For all the land that you see, to you I will give it, and to your descendants forever. I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth so that if one can count the dust on the earth, then your offspring, too, can be counted (13:14-13:16).
Then the king of Sodom, along with the king of Gomorrah, and the king of Admah, the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela engage in battle against the king of Elam, king of Goiim, king of Shinar, and king of Ellasar, four kings against five. The side of Sodom and Gomorrah and the five kings are defeated, and they seize all the wealth of Sodom and Gomorrah. including Lot and his possessions.
A fugitive reports to Abram that his nephew Lot was captured. Abram arms his 318 disciples, and moves to retrieve Lot. The numerical value of Avrams servant Eliezer is equal to 318. Abram and his servants deploy against them at night, and strike them down. Abram brings back all the possessions, his kinsman Lot, and the woman and the people.
Afterwards, the king of Sodom offers Abram, Give me the people and take the possessions for yourself (14:21). 
Abram responds to the king of Sodom, I lift up my hand to Hashem, God, the Most High, Maker of heaven and earth, if so much as a thread to shoe strap; or if I shall take from anything of yours! So you shall not say, It is I who made Abram rich. Far from me! (14:22-23).
After these events, G-d reassures Abram that he will bear descendants that will inherit his wealth, saying, Fear not, Abram, I am a shield for you; your reward is very great (15:1) and instructing him, Gaze, now, toward the Heavens, and count the stars if you are able to count them! So shall your offspring be! (15:5-15:6). However, G-d also tells him that Know with certainty that your offspring shall be aliens in a land not their own- and they will serve them, and they will oppress them- four hundred years. But also the nation that they will serve, I shall judge, and afterwards they will leave with great wealth (15:13-15:14).
Now Abrams wife, Sarai had no children but she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar. Because she had no children of her own, Sara said to Abram, See now, Hashem has restrained me from bearing; consort, now, with my maidservant, perhaps I will be built up through her. (16:2) Sarai gives Hagar as a wife to Abram and Hagar soon conceives and begins to despise Sarai. Abram tells Sarai to do as she feels fit with Hagar and when Sarai deals harshly with her, Hagar flees. 
However, an Angel of G-d finds Hagar by a spring of water in the desert and asks her, Where are you coming from and where are you going? 
Hagar responds, I am running away from Sarai, my mistress. (15: 8) 
The angel tells Hagar to return to Sarai and to submit to her mistress and that G-d will greatly increase her offspring and they will not be countable. He tells her that she will have a son, and that she should name him Ishmael for Hashem has heard your prayer (16:11). Abram is 86 when Hagar gives birth to Ishmael.
When Abram is 99 years old, G-d appears to him and says, I will set My covenant between Me and you, and I will increase you most exceedingly... (17:2). G-d then changes Abrams name to Abraham for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you most exceedingly fruitful, and make nations of you, and kings shall descend from you. (17:5-17:76) The sign of the covenant between G-d and Abraham is that every male shall be circumcised, as it is written,
You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, and that shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you. At the age of eight days every male among you shall be circumcised, throughout your generations...Thus My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. An uncircumcised male who will not circumcise the flesh of his foreskin- that soul shall be cut off from its people; he has invalidated My covenant (17:11-17: 14)
G-d also changes Sarais name, from Sarai to to Sarah, telling Abram, As for Sarai your wife- do not call her name Sarai, for Sarah is her name. I will bless her; indeed, I will give you a son through her, I will bless her and she shall give rise to nations, kings of peoples will rise from her (17:15-17:16).
Abraham laughs, thinking Shall a child be born to a hundred-year old man? And shall Sarah- a ninety-year old woman- give birth?(17:17-17:19)
G-d tells him, Nonetheless, your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; and I will fulfill my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him...He will beget twelve princes and I will make him into a great nation. But I will maintain My covenant through Isaac who Sarah will bear to you by this time next year (17:19-17:21)
The Parasha ends with Abrams circumcision at age 99, On that very day was Abraham circumcised with Ishmael his son, and all the people of his household, born in his household and purchased for money from a stranger, were circumcised with him (17:26-17:27).


(לך לך מארצך וממולדתך ומבית אביך (יב : א
Go from your land, from your birthplace, and from your fathers House. (12:1)
The question is, why the repetition? If G-d would have said, from your land or from your birthplace, it would suffice!
The answer is that G-d was alluding to not only a physical journey but to a spiritual journey.
Therefore, מארצך or from your land means from your evil inclination. 
וממולדתך or from your birthplace means from the the bad attributes that are innate in man.
ומבית אביך or from your fathers house means from the habits that you learned in your fathers house.


You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, and that shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you. Thus My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant (17:11-17:13)
The covenant that God makes with Abram is the most important covenant- A covenant that lasts forever.
In last weeks Parsha Noah, God makes a covenant with Noah through the rainbow in the sky. The rainbow is an external covenant.
Here with Abram, God makes an eternal and everlasting covenant- the circumcision of the foreskin of all males in the household. The circumcision is a much stronger and binding covenant because any nation can claim the rainbow to be their sign of covenant, but only the Jewish people can truly hold the true everlasting covenant with Hashem.

Footprints

One night a man had a dream. He dreamed he was walking along the beach with the Lord. Across the sky flashed scenes from his life. For each scene,he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand; one belonged to him, and the other to the Lord.

When the last scene of his life flashed before him, he looked back at the footprints in the sand. He noticed that many times along the path of his life there was only one set of foot - prints. He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in his life.

This really bothered him and he questioned the Lord about it. "Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you, you'd walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, there is only one set of footprints. I don't understand why when I needed you most you would leave me."

The Lord replied, "My precious, precious child, I love you and would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you." 



Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Parshat Noach

    

"Tzadik in His Times"

  G‑d instructs Noah the only righteous man in a world consumed by violence and corruption to build an ark, coated within and without with pitch. A great deluge, says G‑d, will wipe out all life from the face of the earth; but the ark will float upon the water, sheltering Noah and his family, and two members (male and female) of each animal species.
       Rain falls for 40 and nights, and the waters churn for 150 days more before calming and beginning to recede. The ark settles on Mount Ararat, and from its window Noah dispatches a raven, and then a series of doves, “to see if the waters were abated from the face of the earth.” When the ground dries completely—exactly one solar year (365 days) after the onset of the Flood—G‑d commands Noah to exit the teivah and repopulate the earth.
         Noah builds an altar and offers sacrifices to G‑d. G‑d swears never again to destroy all of mankind because of their deeds, and sets the rainbow as a testimony of His new covenant with man. G‑d also commands Noah regarding the sacredness of life: murder is deemed a capital offense, and while man is permitted to eat the meat of animals, he is forbidden to eat flesh or blood taken from a living animal.
         Noah plants a vineyard and becomes drunk on its produce. Two of Noah’s sons, Shem and Yafet, are blessed for covering up their father’s nakedness, while his third son, Cham, is punished for taking advantage of his debasement.
The descendants of Noah remain a single people, with a single language and culture, for ten generations. Then they defy their Creator by building a great tower to symbolize their own invincibility; G‑d confuses their language so that “one does not comprehend the tongue of the other,” causing them to abandon their project and disperse across the face of the earth, splitting into seventy nations.
            The Parshah of Noach concludes with a chronology of the ten generations from Noah to Abraham, and the latter’s journey from his birthplace of Ur Casdim to Charan, on the way to the land of Cnan.


בפיה
In its mouth:
Rashi comments that the dove said It is better to eat bitter food from G-d than a sweet food from the hand of the human being for a person always should rely on the mercy of G-d and not a mortal human being.
As it says in Psalms 146:2:
Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man in whom there is no salvation.
Another explanation: In its mouth is a reference to prayer, because only through praying genuinely to G-d can we hope to be saved.
צהר תעשה לתבה
Make an opening for daylight in the ark(6:16)
Rashi notes that some believe that צהר means a window and some believe צהר is a precious, luminescent stone.
Another explanation is that the צהר or window is only symbolic and is meant to teach us a lesson in perspective, to teach us to try and view the events and situations in our lives from both sides of the window.

Something to think about?!?!?!?!?!
Even if the entire world considers you a Tzadik you should nevertheless think of yourself as if you were sinful (Niddah 30b).

Monday, October 13, 2014

Bereishit

                                                    

G‑d creates the world in six days. On the first day He makes darkness and light. On the second day He forms the heavens, dividing the “upper waters” from the “lower waters.” On the third day He sets the boundaries of land and sea, and calls forth trees and greenery from the earth. On the fourth day He fixes the position of the sun, moon and
stars as timekeepers and illuminators of the earth. Fish, birds and reptiles are created on the fifth day; land animals, and then the human being, on the sixth. G‑d ceases work on the seventh day, and sanctifies it as a day of rest.
G‑d forms the human body from the dust of the earth, and blows into his
nostrils a “living soul.” Originally Man is a single person, but deciding
that “it is not good that man be alone,” G‑d takes a "side" from the man,
forms it into a woman, and marries them to each other.
Adam and Eve are placed in the Garden of Eden, and commanded not to eat from the “Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.” The serpent persuades Eve to violate the command, and she shares the forbidden fruit with her husband. Because of their sin, it is decreed that man will experience death,
returning to the soil from which he was formed, and that all gain will come only through struggle and hardship. Man is banished from the Garden.
Eve gives birth to two sons, Cain and Abel. Cain quarrels with Abel and murders him, and becomes a
rootless wanderer. A third son, Seth, is born to Adam; Seth’s eighth-generation descendant, Noah, is the
only righteous man in a corrupt world.


                                                
בראשית ברא אלקים את השמים והארץ 
In the beginning G-d created the heaven and earth (1:1)
Why does the Torah start with the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet, ב, and not the first letter, א?
According to the קבלה or Kabbalah, before G-d created the world, all the the letters came up to G-d and begged Him to chose them to create the world. When G-d choose the letter ב, the א stood shamefully and when G-d approached her and asked her Why did you not ask to be chosen? She replied that she did not want to interfere with G-ds decision. G-d said to her, Becouse you belittled yourself, I will glorify you that you will contain my Essence, as it says in the first of the Ten commandments, which begin with the letter א, 
שמות כ:ב) אנוכי ה אלקיך)
I am Hashem, your G-d (Excodus 20:2)
This is also to teach us that though we might start learning the Torah with the letter ב, the second letter, we should always strive to reach greater heights in our study of the Torah to achieve the level of the first letter, א.
Another explanation is that the numerical value of the letter ב, which is 2, teaches us that G-d created the word with מידת הדין (Midat Hadin is G-ds quality of judgement) and מידת הרחמים (Midat Harachamim is G-ds quality of compassion) for one can not exist without the other.
Finally, the use of the letter ב teaches us that we always have a second chance at connecting with the Torah and with G-d; if we fall or stumble, we should always remember that the Torah begins with the second letter, and not the first.

בצלם אלקים
In the image of G-d.
The word בצלם contains the word צל, the Hebrew word for shadow. From this we can learn that G-d always follows us and watches over us like our shadow.
Even though when times may seem dark and hard to see Hashem, He is standing right beside you.

“On the day G-d created man, He made him in the likeness of G-d ... and He named them Adam."
-Bereishit 5:1-2
Adam’s soul was a composite of the souls of all his descendants-all of mankind. The Hebrew term for a human  is adam.
Kabba writes that adam is an acronym for the names of three central figures: Adam, King David and Moshiach. The Baal Shem Tov derives from this that there is a spark of the soul of Moshiach within every single Jew. Thus he concludes that it is incumbent upon every individual Jew to perfect and prepare that part of the spiritual stature of Moshiach to which his soul is related.
By virtue of his bond with every Jew, because there is a part of him within every Jew, Moshiach is able to redeem the entire Jewish people.
Conversely, every Jew is able to effect and hasten the actual manifestation of Moshiach. This is accomplished by means of Torah and mitzvot. For Torah and mitzvot effect a purification of the world, gradually diminishing its impurity until “I shall remove the spirit of impurity (altogether) from the earth” (Zechariah 13:2). This will be with the coming of Moshiach, for he will reveal goodness and holiness in the world until “The earth shall be full with the knowledge of G-d as the waters cover the sea!” (Isaiah 11:9)


The earth was unformed and empty, and darkness was on the face of the deep; and the spirit of G-d hovered over the face of the water.”
-Bereishit 1:2
The Midrash (Bereishit Rabba 2:4) reads this verse as a prophetic allusion to Jewish history. The terms “unformed,” “empty,” “darkness” and “deep” refer to the four empires which oppressed, persecuted and exiled the Jewish nation. The phrase “the spirit of G-d hovered...” refers to Moshiach, the ultimate redeemer, as it is said: “The spirit of G-d will rest upon him” (Isaiah 11:2).
The principle of Moshiach thus is found in the very beginning of the Torah, at the very beginning of creation. In later passages of the Torah it is mentioned again, in some cases quite explicitly. Maimonides rules, therefore, that “Anyone who does not believe in [Moshiach], or whoever does not look forward to his coming, denies not only the [words of] the other prophets but [also those] of the Torah and of Moses” (Hilchot Melachim 11:1).
The Messianic era has two stages. Of the first it is said: “One is not to presume that anything of the ways of the world will be set aside, or that there will be any innovations in the order of creation. The world will continue according to its norms... The essential difference will be [our deliverance from] subjugation to foreign powers” (Ibid. 12:1-2).
In the second stage, however, the norms and the natural order of the world will change. It will be a time of wondrous miracles such as the resurrection of the dead and the fulfillment of all the other prophecies of ultimate bliss in the Messianic era.
The fact that the Torah refers to the principle of Moshiach at the very beginning of creation, even before the creation of man (thus also long before the giving of the Torah), teaches us an important lesson:
The concept of Moshiach includes everything that is related to him, not only the basic principle of the initial redemption of Israel, but also all the details of theultimate wonders and miracles.
The belief in Moshiach and the anticipation of his coming, therefore, must include awareness and knowledge of all the details of the Messianic era. First and foremost we must believe in, hope for, and look forward to the time when “Israel will enjoy relief from the wicked tyranny that does not leave them to occupy themselves with Torah and mitzvot properly, so that they will find rest and grow in wisdom” (Hilchot Teshuvah 9:2)-“they will be free for Torah and its wisdom, without anyone to oppress and disturb them” (Hilchot Melachim 12:4).
Even so, we must also keep in mind the later stage which transcends the first one. Practically speaking, this means the following:
As we “live with Moshiach,” our service of G-d must be even now not only on the level of the first stage with its “normative order” marked merely by the removal of external impediments, but also on the level of the final stage which is marked by innovations. In other words, our service must transcend the calculations and restrictions of mundane boundaries.
When we act as if Moshiach were here already, we effect that the “as if” will become a fact of reality with the actual redemption and its bliss.
The ultimate goal of the world’s creation, the Messianic era, is firmly established in the very origin of the world: “last in deed, but first in thought.” The very beginning of the Torah indicates the final purpose towards which all our aspirations must be devoted. This alone, already, infuses us with the ability to attain that goal.
(Exerted from chabbad.org and parsha to go app)

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Parshat Nitzavim: Survival for Your Body & Soul



         How does this weeks parsha effect us in our days today? The learning of the parsha is not only the study of our past, our present, our future, but most importantly it is the WORD of GOD. If you learn to properly delve into the parsha you will understand what Hashem is trying to tell us, His precious children to be aware of, to work on and succeed to be better individuals. This parsha in particular always gives illumination and enables you to react to challenges on a sophisticated level.
Parshat Nitzavim always coincides with Rosh Hashana and gives us guidance as to how we can prepare ourselves for the special days of the High Holidays, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. The parsha begins with the words, "Atem nitzavim hayom kulchem lifnei Hashem Elokeichem"- " You are standing today, all of you, before Hashem, your God," (29:9). In gematriya (numerical value) these words are equal to "La'Amod L'slechot"- " To stand before God and seek forgiveness." during the entire year we are so busy and occupied with the materialistic world that we tend to forget to our spiritual needs and closeness to Hashem. However, now Hashems' day of judgment is upon us and we are commanded to stand still, probe are souls, examine our hearts, and give an accounting of our lives to Hashem. The passuk continues saying the various groups of the population: the elders, the officers, the men, the small children, the women. The passuk already mentioned "all of you," so why would the Torah find it important to mention each group separately even though it is obvious about who the passuk is speaking about? We learn that every word in the Torah has a meaning and significance as to why it is written so the Torah is coming to teach us that we are responsible for one another. Our destiny is intertwined. The Jewish people are like one  body, and if just one joint is injured, the entire body is in pain; if one limb is amputated, the entire body is disabled. So too, it shows the importance of a single person in the Jewish nation. If one of us is missing, we are all diminished; if someone in the Jewish world is in pain we too, feel the pain in some way. The way we pray is in plural, r'fa'einue- heal us; shema kolenu- hear our voices etc. This lesson is very important to us today because we are the generation that is destined to go through the birth pangs of Mashiach. Chazal teach us that one way to protect ourselves during this difficult time is to unify ourselves, to forgive and to empathize with the our brother and sisters in the Jewish nation. If we can do that then we can be sure that Hashem will forgive us for our sins.
           There is another interesting understanding to "Atem netzavim"- "you are standing today, all of you, before Hashem, your God." In last weeks parsha, parshat Ki Tavo it discussed all the terrible and painful calamities that would befall Bnei Yisrael, and they were scared. The Midrash teaches us, that they turned colors. Moshe calmed them down with the powerful opening words of our parsha: "Atem nitzavim hayom kulchem lifnei Hashem Elokeichem... You are standing today, all of you, before Hashem, your God." In those words are to be found the secret of our miraculous survival. No matter what the Jewish nation went through in all centuries, various countries we must always see ourselves standing before Hashem. That is the secret of our miraculous survival. Mentioned above, we understood that "Atem nitzavim..." has the same gematriya (numerical value) of the words "La'amod Le'slichot", which teaches us that all we need to do is come near to Hashem with our heart and mind and verbalize our feelings towards Hashem, our father, our king. All a person needs to do is to do teshuva.


Derived from "Torah for Your Table" by Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis.

פרק ל פסוקים טו-יט) ראה נתתי לפניך היום את החיים ואת הטוב ואת המות ואת הרע...ובחרת) בחיים למען תחיה אתה וזרעך

See, I have placed before you today the life and the good, and the death and the evil... and you shall choose life, so that you will live, you and your offspring. (30:15-19)

Why was it necessary to write And you shall choose life? Isnt it expected that a person should choose life?

The answer is, that even when the choice between good and evil, blessing and curse is clear, it may not be the easiest choice. Sometimes, pressure from others and even from ourselves, makes us forget where our real priorities should lie. This verse in Parsha Nitzavim, like Moses encouragement of Joshua before entering the Land, are meant to strengthen us, reminding us you shall choose life...to love Hashem, your G-d, to listen to His voice and to cleave to him, for He is your life and the length of your days...