"[Avraham] looked up and saw: And behold! three men were standing near him" [Vayeira 18:2]
Rashi explains that the three "men" were actually angels that had been sent to carry out specific missions. One angel was to inform Sarah that she was going to bear a son, another angel was sent to destroy Sodom, and yet another one was sent to heal Avraham. Each angel was to perform only one task, as an angel is never sent to carry out more than one mission at a time.
Rashi goes on to inform us that the angel that healed Avraham subsequently travelled to Sodom in order to save Lot.
Soon after being appointed as rabbi of Brod, R'Shlomo Kluger was given the honor of being the sandak at the bris milah of one of the distinguished members of the town.
However, when he arrived at the shul where the bris was to be held, he noticed that everyone there seemed downcast and dispirited. R' Kluger approached one of his congregants and asked him what was the matter.
"The father of the infant is deathly ill." responded the man. "Being that his end is near, the family decided to delay the bris so that they could name the child after his father."
"Hurry" exclaimed R' Kluger, "bring the father here and perform the bris immediately!"
The father was brought to the shul and the bris was performed. Amazingly, as soon as the bris concluded, the father's medical condition improved! The father's life was, miraculously, no longer in danger. News of the miracle brought about by the new rabbi spread quickly throughout the town.
R' Kluger, however, dismissed the rumors about his "miraculous powers". "It wasn't a miracle at all." he insisted. "I learned to do so from the words of Rashi in Parshas Vayeira. Rashi there explains that the angel that cured Avraham later went on to Sodom to save Lot. But this is perplexing..." continued R' Kluger. "Were there not enough angels available that one had to be sent to carry out two missions?"
"Rather", he answered, "Lot's zchus [merit] was not great enough to earn him an angel that could be sent specifically to save him, so the angel that was sent to cure Avraham was then sent to save Lot.
"It occurred to me," concluded R' Kluger, "that in all likelihood the father's life was being weighed at that very moment. But I was concerned that perhaps the father would not have sufficient merit to deserve a special angel to cure him. But since Eliyahu HaNavi, the angel of the bris, is present when the infant is circumcised, it was possible that he would bring about a recovery for the father as well."
The highest aspect of the Jewish soul - the yechidah - is so sublime that it cannot be contained within the body, and it spreads to a distance of four cubits [approx 6 feet] around a person. The yechidah is also a level of the soul which can never become tarnished, because it is not susceptible to any negative influences.
Thus, when G-d placed the entire Land of Israel within four cubits of Yaakov to stress his future ownership of it, the Land became connected with Yaakov's yechidah, and so too, with the yechidah of every single one of his descendants.
And that is the reason why "it would be as easily conquered by his children", because the Land was associated with a level of the soul which is impervious to any opposition.
His last stop during the war was at the Yanowka death camp, where the Bluzhever Rebbe was one of the eleven people that survived among the three thousand inmates.
In Yanowka, on the night of January 13, 1943, a kapo entered the barracks where the Rebbe slept and called for the Rebbe to come forward. Everyone thought that the Rebbe was being singled out for torture, so no one—including the Rebbe—moved. However, the kapo, himself a Jew, assured everyone that he had come only to deliver an important message to the Rebbe. The Rebbe then rose from his bed and came forward. The kapo handed the Rebbe a crumpled envelope which contained a piece of paper on which someone had hurriedly scribbled a note. The note read:
My dear Rabbi Yisrael Spira,
May you enjoy a long and happy life, They have just surrounded the bristle factory in which some 800 of us have been working. We are about to be put to death.
Please, dear Rabbi, if you should be found worthy of being saved, and if you should be able to settle in the Land of Israel, then have a little marker put upon our holy soil as a remembrance for my wife and me. No matter where you will make your new home, perhaps you can have a sefer Torah written in our memory. I am enclosing fifty , American dollars which I hope the messenger with whom I am sending this note will give to you.
I must hurry, because they have already ordered us to remove our clothes.
When I get to the Next World, I will convey your greetings to your holy ancestors and will ask them to intercede on your behalf so that your days may be long and happy.
Aryeh ben Leah Kornblit
P.S. My sister's children are now living with a gentile family named Vasilevsky, near Gredig. Please take them away from there and place them with a Jewish family. Whatever happens, they must remain Jews. My wife, Sheva bas Chaya, was shot yesterday.
An old fifty-dollar bill fell out of the envelope.
From that day and on, the Rebbe carried this letter with him wherever he went. In 1946, at a public gathering in New York, the Rebbe read the letter to the crowd and appealed to everyone to help him fulfill Mr. Kornblit's wish. Though few among those present were well-to-do, virtually everyone responded generously. A sefer Torah was written and placed in the aron hakodesh (ark) of Yeshiva Torah Vodaath. A few days prior to the sefer Torah's dedication, the Rebbe held Mr. Kornblit's letter in his hand and, with tears streaming down his cheeks, said,
"Take note of the spiritual strength God gives his people! Here is a man whose wife was already killed and who himself was about to die. Yet, he found in his heart the strength to think of others—not only his sister's children, but also those whom he would never know, and would hold his sefer Torah in their arms.
"How good is our lot, how beautiful is our heritage!"
The Kabbalah speaks of "50 gates of spiritual understanding", 49 of which can be achieved by a person as a result of his own initiative. The final 50th gate is then granted by G-d from Above.
When Avraham had circumcised himself, he had reached the greatest degree of spiritual perfection that he could possibly achieve as a human being - the 49th gate - and he became "sick" yearning for the 50th gate. This is alluded to by the fact that cholehחולה [the Hebrew term for "sick person"] has the numerical value [gematria] of 49. Then "God appeared to him", revealing to him the 50th gate of spiritual understanding, which cured his spiritual sickness.
And, being that his physical sickness was a reflection of his spiritual dissatisfaction, the Divine revelation healed him physically too.
Based on Sichat Shabbos Parshas Vayeira 5750 - Lubavitcher Rebbe
Rachel Imeinu's yahrzeit is this Shabbat, which is also being celebrated by 550 cities worldwide as The Shabbat Project.
And yesterday we were informed that the Kever of Rachel, as well as the Cave of the Patriarchs are now listed as Muslim sites. If you read the words below you will learn that '''Only tears from Mama Rochel can bring the Geula.'' May it come speedily in our days !
Jewish Mother's Day The 11th of Cheshvan
by Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh
One of the most important days in the month of Cheshvan is the 11th, which commemorates the day of passing of our matriarch Rachel. Rachel was Jacob's most beloved wife and was the principal of his household and thus the principal of the entire house of Israel. From the first day of the year, the 1st day of Tishrei, the 11th day of Cheshvan is the 41st day. 41 is the numerical value of the Hebrew word "eim," which means "mother," thus the 11th of Cheshvan is truly the Jewish Mother's Day.
"Rachel cries for her children, she will not be comforted…"
Rachel constantly mourns over the exile of her children, the Jewish people, and the Almighty comforts her with the words: "Withhold your voice from crying and your eyes from tearing, for there is a reward for your actions… and the children will return to their border." Literally, "return to their border" refers to the return of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel. But, more deeply, it refers to the return of our people to our natural spiritual environs: Judaism and our ancestral Jewish nature. These are the borders that truly circumscribe the uniqueness of our people. Amazingly, numerically, the value of the Hebrew word for "border" (g'vul / גבול) is exactly the same as the value of the word for "mother" (eim / אם); both equal 41.
In Hebrew, Cheshvan is written with the four letters: חשון. The borders (the first and last letters) of Cheshvan are chet - ח and nun - ן, which together spell the word chein - חן, meaning "beauty." The word chein - חן, "beauty" equals 58. The 58th day of the year is the 28th day of Cheshvan.
Rachel is described as the most beautiful woman in the Torah. The numerical value of the two middle letters, shin and vov, שו, is equal to isha -אשה , meaning "woman." Thus, the name of the month itself hints at the special and unique grace endowed to women.
King Solomon says that external beauty by itself is deceitful. If external beauty is all that a woman seeks then the name of the month becomes Marcheshvan, which means Bitter-Cheshvan. It is of such a woman King Solomon says: "And I find the woman to be more bitter than death." But, of true beauty, the beauty of a Jewish woman that emanates from within, he says: "The woman of beauty shall support honor." This true beauty is given to us, the Jewish people, by G‑d through the Torah, for "there is no truth but Torah" and "there is no honor but Torah."
It was Rachel, who was first endowed with this real beauty. Rachel is described as the most beautiful woman in the Torah, "She had a beautiful face and a beautiful figure." Thus, Rachel was the embodiment of the verse: "A woman who fears G‑d, she shall be praised," praised both for her grace and true beauty.
The beauty of the Jewish woman is not just a passive agent of spirituality. The sages teach that the offspring of Esau and his grandson Amalek can be defeated only by the children of Rachel.
Who embodies the spirit of Amalek in our day and age? In Hebrew, the words "Amalek" (עמלק) and "doubt" (safek / ספק) have the same numerical value. Thus, the spirit of Amalek that continues to plague each and every Jew is doubt; doubt in our faith, doubt in our Torah, and doubt in ourselves and the moral justification of our path.
But, sometimes the spirit of Amalek becomes bolder and captures a Jew (whether he be a private individual or a political figure) to the point of driving him or her to unconscious or even conscious self-hatred. This can result in a Jew's cooperation with the enemies of our people.
Finally there are the direct spiritual offspring of Amalek: those enemies who threaten the lives of Jews and our return to the Land of Israel.
The sages say that beauty is a woman's weapon. With everything that we have said about Rachel, her role as our matriarch, as the progenitor of Jewish nature, and of her beauty, it should now be clear that our weapon for defeating Amalek is the special beauty and grace of the Jewish mother. Joseph the tzaddik (righteous one) inherited his mother Rachel's beauty and he too is described as having a beautiful face and a beautiful figure. That is why the prophet says about him that "the house of Jacob will be fire and the house of Joseph its flame and the house of Esau straw, and together they will ignite him and consume him; and there will be no remnant for the house of Esau."
True Jewish beauty and grace destroy the enemy indirectly but, beauty is no regular weapon. True grace and beauty work by attracting the sparks of holiness that are bound within the enemy. These sparks are G‑d's will that the enemy still exist. Yet, when they are redeemed by their attraction to true beauty, they escape the enemy's grasp, leaving him void of any Divine source and causing his demise. True Jewish beauty and grace destroy the enemy indirectly by leaving him void of any beauty or grace himself, making him irrelevant and powerless.
The battle against Amalek in our generation must be conducted primarily with our ability to communicate to all around us the true nature of Jewish beauty and grace. It is to this beauty of Jewish nature and character that we return during the month of Cheshvan by reconnecting with our matriarch Rachel, with our own Jewish nature, and with ourselves.
Rachel lost her own spiritual luxury - the privilege of being buried in the Cave of Machpeilah - in order to help her children. This represents the unparalleled quality of the "Jewish mother" who is always willing to sacifice her own needs, spiritual or physical, for the sake of helping her children.
And this is the inner reason why Jewish identity follows the maternal and not the paternal route. For even though the father possesses a greater degree of spirituality - since he has the privilege of observing more mitzvos than a woman - the quality of a Jewish mother is nevertheless greater, that she is willing to forego much of that spirituality in order to enable her to raise a family with tender loving care. And since this quality is even more quintessentially Jewish than the spirituality of the man, it is the mother that actually makes her children Jewish.
Based on Likutei Sichos of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
Parshas Vayechi: Gutnick Chumash
Mama Rochel understood that tending to a broken heart comes above even Kavod Hashem....
When Rochel, out of frustration, complained to Yaakov about not having children, Yaakov got angry with her. The mefarshim say, based on a medrash, that Yaakov was punished for getting angry at Rochel and telling her that she needs to daven to Hashem and not complain to him.
Rav Moshe Shmuel Shapiro points out that Yaakov was defending Kavod Shamayim (the honor of Heaven) and was correct that Rochel's complaints were unjustified. His mistake was that he addressed the words that she spoke and not the pain in her heart. Had he pierced the veil of her soul, he would have known that because of her anguish, the words escaped her mouth and she was not accountable for them. He should have been slower to defend Kavod Shamayim and faster to understand human suffering.
This he explains was the greatness of Rochel. After the destruction of the first Temple, when Bnei Yisroel went into Galus, all the Avos and Imahos came before Hashem with all their great zechusim but were turned away empty handed. All the heroism of the Akeida, Yaakov's Torah, and lives of pure mesiras nefesh to build Klal Yisroel, did not impress Hashem in that dark moment of history.
The only one who merited Hashem's attention was Rochel Imeinu. What was her great act that warranted this special treatment? That she gave the simanim to her sister and helped fool Yaakov. With this bravery, in her mind, she was sabotaging the history of the Jewish nation since she understood that it was her and Yaakov that were destined to build the nation. Nevertheless she chose to cast aside her own destiny and Hashem's grand plan in order to save her sister from a single embarrassing moment.
Only Rochel, who had such a deep understanding of another person's pain and how it carries more weight than the entire Jewish experience, can be Hashem's emissary to bring his children's pain before Him. Only tears from Mama Rochel can bring the Geula.
"They will leave with substantial wealth" [Lech Lecha 15:14]
The above verse indicates that amassing wealth was one of the purposes of Egyptian exile. For this to be achieved, it was necessary for Yosef to become the ruler of Egypt and gather wealth from all the other lands.
According to chassidic teachings, ''sparks of holiness'' are trapped within the physical world and are released when a Jew takes the object and uses it to perform a mitzvah. Therefore, one of the inner purposes of exile is for the Jew to utilize physical objects in the service of G-d.
Thus, someone who truly desires to cleave to G-d needs to involve himself in the physical performance of mitzvot, for this is also the only way he can fulfill his soul's mission.
''He trusted in Hashem, and He considered this for him as an act of righteousness'' [Lech Lecha 15:6]
Why, asked the Chofetz Chaim, was Avraham's trust in Hashem considered 'righteousness' - as though it was something above and beyond what was demanded of him? After, all, Avraham fulfilled every commandment in the Torah; what was so unique about his trust in Hashem?
We see from here, answered the Chofetz Chaim, that trust in Hashem is more than just another mitzvah, rather it is the foundation of the entire Torah.
To what can this be compared? To a man drowning in the sea who suddenly sees a tree extending from the shore. Which part of the tree will he attempt to grab? Not the branches, for they can easily be broken off; rather, he grabs hold of the roots.
So too, concluded the Chofetz Chaim, is trust in Hashem. Trust in Hashem is comparable to the sturdy roots of a tree, which serve as a foundation and a base for the entire tree.
A brilliant essay, I highly recommend reading it, although it's long, you won't regret it ! Dev. by Rabbi Y. Y. Jacobson
Seeing the Other as Your Mirror
“Can I ask you a question?" the first snake says.
"You and your dumb questions!” replies the second. “What is it this time?"
"Do you know whether or not we are venomous?" asked the first snake.
"What difference should that make to us?!" said the second.
"It makes all the difference in the world to me," said the first snake. "I just bit my lip!"
This week's Torah portion, Noach, presents the tale of Noah, a man who watches an entire world consumed in a devastating flood. Only a handful of people survive the disaster. What is the first thing Noah does as he emerges into an empty and desolate world, charged with the mission to rebuild civilization?
"Noah, the man of the earth," relates the Torah (1), "embarked on a new project: He planted a vineyard. He drank of the wine and became drunk and uncovered himself in his tent.
“Ham [one of Noah’s sons], the father of Canaan, saw his father’s nakedness and told his two brothers outside.
“Shem and Japheth [the other two sons of Noah) took a cloak, laid it upon both their shoulders, and they walked backward, and covered their father’s nakedness; their faces were turned backward, and they saw not their father’s nakedness.”
This is an intriguing tale. But let us focus in on two aspects of this episode, among many others discussed in biblical commentary.
First, the Torah is not merely a book of historical tales and episodes. By identifying itself by the name Torah, which means “teaching,” the Torah defines its own genre and aim: It will inform us what happened in the past only when events that occurred then have a bearing on what we need to know today; when they can teach us how we ought to live our lives (2). What can we learn from this episode about Noah and his sons?
Second, anybody even slightly familiar with the Torah is aware of its unique conciseness. Complete sagas -- rich, complex and profound -- are often depicted in a few short verses. Each word in the Bible literally contains a myriad of interpretations in the realm of law, history, psychology, philosophy and mysticism.
For sages and rabbis over the past 3,300 years, it was clear that there is nary a superfluous word or letter in the Bible, and large sections of the Talmud are based on this premise. If a verse is lyrically repetitive, if two words are used where one would suffice or a longer word is used when a shorter word would suffice, there is a message here—a new concept, another law (3).
Yet this story about the behavior of Noah’s sons is replete with redundancy. Let us re-read the story: “Shem and Japheth took a cloak, laid it upon both their shoulders, and they walked backward, and covered their father’s nakedness; their faces were turned backward, and they saw not their father’s nakedness.” Now, once the Bible states that “they walked backward,” why does it repeat in the same sentence that “their faces were turned backward”? If you walk backward, obviously your face is turned backward.
The next question: Once the Torah tells us that they walked backward, and that their faces were turned backward, why does the Bible feel the need to conclude with the obvious: “They saw not their father’s nakedness”? Certainly, if you are walking backward and your face is turned backward, you cannot see that which lies behind you!
The great 11th century French biblical commentator, Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, known as Rashi, addresses the first question (4). His answer is simple: Though the two sons entered Noah’s tent backward, ultimately, when they approached their naked father, they needed to turn their bodies around to cover him. So at that point their bodies were facing Noah, but they still turned their faces backward so as not to view Noah’s nakedness.
Yet the second question still irks us: Why does the Torah feel compelled to conclude with the obvious statement that “they saw not their father’s nakedness”? Wouldn't that be totally clear without this addition?
One could comfortably suggest that the Torah is employing here a symmetrical style. First it states that “Ham saw his father’s nakedness.” Then it concludes that “Sham and Japheth… saw not their father’s nakedness.”
Stylistically, this makes sense: Ham saw. Shem and Japheth saw not. Yet it is still superfluous. By stating that they walked backward and their faces were turned backward, it is clear that they did not see their father’s nakedness.
Upon deeper reflection, however, we come to realize that this clearly stated contrast between the brothers – Ham saw; Shem and Japheth saw not – captures the essence of the story. The difference between the brothers, the Torah is attempting to indicate, was not merely behavioral in the sense that Ham saw Noah’s nakedness and went to tell others about it, while his brothers went to cover Noah without gazing at his nudity. Rather, their behavioral differences stemmed from deeper psychological and emotional patterns: Ham saw; Shem and Japheth saw not. Their emotional perceptions of their father’s intoxication and exposure differed profoundly.
“A reading of Genesis suggests how it was that psychoanalysis began as a predominantly Jewish discipline. Long before Freud, the authors of ancient Israel had already begun to explore the uncharted realm of the human mind and heart; they saw this struggle with the emotions as the theater of the religious quest.” (5) This story with Noah and his children can serve as one more example of the psychoanalytical constructs that pervade all of Genesis.
To understand all of this, let us analyze an intriguing observation made in the 1700s by one of the greatest masters of Jewish spirituality and psychology: Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760), founder of the Chassidic movement.
Said the Baal Shem Tov (6):
"Your fellow human being is your mirror. If your own face is clean, the image you perceive will also be flawless. But should you look at your fellow human being and see a blemish, it is your own imperfection that you are encountering; you are being shown what it is that you must correct within yourself. Therefore it follows, that a complete tzaddik (righteous person) does not see any evil in any person.”
Now, this is a difficult concept to grasp and it sounds impractical. Say, for example, I invest money with you, and you turn around and betray my innocence. You lie to my face, deny our original business deal and cause me tremendous financial loss. Is the Baal Shem Tov suggesting that if I were truly virtuous, I would not perceive you as a liar and a thief? Why not? Can't an innocent person call a spade a spade, and a thief a thief?
What if I see somebody abusing his or her children? If I see him for who he really is – a criminal abuser – and I call him such, does that mean that I, too, am guilty of this abominable crime? That is ludicrous. And how about if I observe somebody engaging in an immoral disgusting act; does it mean that I have committed the same sin? Is the Baal Shem Tov suggesting that righteousness must go hand-in-hand with naiveté and denial of reality?
His observation, in fact, seems to stand against a fundamental principle of Judaism: that each of us has the duty to confront immoral behavior and to stand up to evil acts. In the words of the Bible (7), “You shall reprove and admonish your fellow man [when you encounter him or her behaving wrongfully].” But according to the Baal Shem Tov, when you encounter negativity in another person, you should actually see yourself as the source of the problem, because if you were pure and flawless, you surely would not have seen the dirt in this person. So instead of rebuking him, you should actually rebuke yourself?
On a personal note, I must share with you that I was privileged for many years to see and hear a great tzaddik, a true man of G-d, a passionate lover of humanity and an individual who cherished and internalized every teaching of the Baal Shem Tov. Yet I personally heard him numerous times admonishing wrong behavior. He reproached different individuals -- if it were in public, never with a name -- when he encountered them lying, gossiping, spreading hate, employing immoral violence, etc. Why did this tzaddik, a faithful disciple of the Baal Shem Tov, not say to himself that the negative behavior he was encountering in others was essentially a mirror of his own? If he were clean, he would not see it. So why rebuke them for his personal problem?
And how about the Baal Shem Tov himself? Many Chassidic tales relate how the Baal Shem Tov confronted various people for moral shortcomings and negative traits. How did the Baal Shem Tov, a tzaddik of extraordinary proportions, see all of this evil in others?
Two Ways of Seeing Negativity
Clearly, the Baal Shem Tov’s words must be understood in a subtler fashion. He was not attempting to poison us with the modern day, sophisticated, open-mindedness pontificated in our universities and magazines that butchering human beings is not evil. This great Jewish thinker would not reform the fundamental Jewish teaching to see evil and obliterate it. As with all of his Chassidic teachings, he was merely exposing the inner soul behind the biblical instruction, “You shall reprove and admonish your fellow man.”
What the Baal Shem Tov meant was this. There are two ways in which you can observe negativity in another person: 1) as a descriptive quality defining that individual; and 2) as a reality that calls for a particular response from you.
David and Sol both catch Sam saying a blatant lie, or cheating. Yet, emotionally, their response is different.
David’s emotional response:
This Sam is a miserable liar, a lowly piece of dirt, an obnoxious creep. I used to think Sam was a decent fellow. Now I discovered the truth: He is the scum of the earth.
For the next few days, David is obsessed with the thought of what a low-life Sam really is. He may keep it to himself or, more likely, verbalize it to others, yet his heart is deeply infatuated with hate, vengeance and evil descriptions of Sam.
Sol’s emotional response:
What Sam did was really not good; it was wrong, unfair. It upsets me strongly. Now, what should I do about it? Should I confront him directly and speak to him about it? What would be the best way of going about that? Should I instead avoid confrontation but use far more caution in dealing with him? Is it my responsibility to warn other people about the risks of dealing with him?
Both people, David and Sol, observed the same behavior in Sam. None of them was naive about what transpired. Yet David is consumed with how horrible Sam is, while Sol focuses on how Sam’s behavior should effect his own. Why the difference?
A Tale of Two Husbands
Here is another illustration.
Two husbands, Chaim and Moshe, both love having guests over for dinner. They are social animals (or so they claim), and enjoy schmoozing and hanging out with people. Both of their wives, whom we shall give the same name of Sarah, loathe having guests in their homes. Once, during a conversation about this, they share with their husbands how deeply insecure they feel in the presence of guests. They are worried that the house is not clean enough, that there is not enough food, that they won't be able to “perform perfectly” and will come across as failures. They are too self-conscious when guests come.
Both husbands hear the same story coming from their wives, but they respond emotionally in two very different ways.
Chaim's response (internally):
Why is Sarah such an insecure person? Why can't she ever get her life together? She must be really messed up and require endless therapy. Couldn't I have married a woman who is emotionally stable? Why did I have to end up with such an insecure kvetch who is frightened by a few stupid guests who have their own set of psychological problems?
Moshe’s response (internally):
Sarah's struggle with insecurity is painful, and, truthfully speaking, it makes my life harder. Now, what can I do to help her and myself? Perhaps I can help her get to the bottom of her fears? Maybe I can get her somebody good to speak to? Maybe I should complement her more often on her achievements? Maybe I need to hire extra help in the home? Maybe she is just extra irritable now because she lost her job, and things might get better soon?
Here again, Chaim and Moshe both observed an identical situation, or flaw. None of them denied the reality of the condition, yet their emotional responses differed drastically. While Chaim became obsessed with his wife's weaknesses and failures, Moshe focused on how her issues affected him and what he could do to remedy the situation. Why the difference?
Chaim, just like his wife, also suffers from insecurity. He, too, is trying to impress his guests and is fearful of how they will view him. It is just that his way of dealing with his insecurity is by inviting guests, rather than by avoiding them. Both he and his wife are incapable of dealing with visitors in a natural, healthy fashion. He responds in one direction; she responds in the opposite direction. Both are uncomfortable with themselves.
So when Chaim encounters Sarah's fear it brings to the fore his own awkwardness with guests. Instead of confronting his own fears, he resorts to “wife bashing” in order to deflect his own shortcomings. What Chaim is really upset about is not Sarah's insecurity, but his own.
Moshe, on the other hand, is confident with himself, so his wife's fears do not consume him. When he observes his wife's insecurity, he does not become entangled in her emotional web and needs not resort to mentally writing a critical biography of her. Her struggles are not his, so he instinctively focuses on how to help resolve the situation.
The same is true concerning David and Sol. David is so obsessed with telling and retelling himself and others how low Sam is because something in Sam reminded him of himself. His hate toward Sam is a form of hate toward a part of himself that he never confronted and resolved.
Sol, on the other hand, never lies and never cheats, and he is completely secure and content with his honest lifestyle. He loves it and cherishes it. So when he encounters Sam’s misdeeds, he focuses on what he can and ought to do about it. He feels no need to tell himself over and over again how bad Sam is. Why would he be emotionally obsessed with describing another person's nature? Why would another person's negative profile occupy his own mind unless it was lodging there all along?
Depends What You See
This, more or less, is what the Baal Shem Tov meant when he stated that your fellow human being is your mirror. If your own face is clean, the image you perceive will also be flawless. But should you look at your fellow human being and see a blemish, it is your own imperfection that you are encountering; you are being shown what you must correct within yourself.
In other words, if you observe a blemish in another human being and find yourself caught up in that person's problems rather than in your own appropriate response to them, you might be struggling with a similar blemish. It is time to take a good look in the mirror and confront your own issues.
However, if you encounter a negative quality or negative behavior in another person, and you do not “see” his negativity per se and don’t find yourself enwrapped in defining how horrible and evil he is, but rather, you see in his negativity a call to take appropriate action to stop the behavior or to defend yourself and others from it, then you are pure. That person's problem is really not your problem.
How to Rebuke?
This, incidentally, is the reason for the redundant terms in the above mentioned biblical mitzvah: “You shall reprove and admonish your fellow man.” Why the redundant terms “reprove and admonish”?
The Chassidic masters explain it thus: Before you admonish your fellow human being, you must first reprove yourself. You must first make sure that you are rebuking him or her because you yourself suffer from a similar flaw. If you are admonishing them as a way of repressing or deflecting from your own shortcomings, the rebuke will usually be counter-productive. They will sense that you are not trying to help them but attempting to protect yourself.
Only after you reprove yourself, dealing with your own similar flaws, should you proceed to speak to your fellow human beings and help them confront their own shortcomings.
Pointing the Finger
Now we can understand the dramatic difference between Noah’s son Ham, and the other two sons, Shem and Japheth. Their respective actions stemmed from differing emotional responses. And it this difference that the Torah is attempting to capture when it states that “Ham saw his father nakedness,” while Shem and Japheth “saw not their father’s nakedness.”
Ham himself struggled with immodest passions and shameful trends. So when he observed his father in a shameful, degenerate condition – he actually “saw” his father’s nakedness. He saw his father as drunk and naked. Noah was a mirror for Ham.
Shem and Japheth, on the other hand, were more refined inside. It was not only that they walked backward so as to avoid the physical sight of their nude father. Rather, in their own mental experience, "they saw not their father’s nakedness." When they heard from their brother about what has transpired with their father, they did not “see” in the message a description of how lowly their father fell. Rather, what they saw in the experience was their own responsibility to maintain the ethos of moral modesty: to go and cover Noah with a cloak.
Shem and Japheth did not get entangled in their father’s problem, because they were liberated from it. They focused instead on their duty to their father and to G-d at this painful moment.
So here is the timeless lesson of this Torah episode: When you point a finger at someone else, you must remember that simultaneously you are pointing three fingers at yourself (8).
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1) Genesis 9:20-23.
2) See Zohar vol. 3 53b. Radak and Gur Aryeh in the opening of Genesis.
3) The Chumash ("Five Books of Moses") contains 79,976 words and 304,805 letters. The Talmud states that Rabbi Akiva would derive "mounds upon mounds of laws from the serif of a letter" in Torah (Menachos 29b).
4) Rashi to Genesis 9:23. See Toras Moshe of the Alshich who addresses the second question as well.
5) Karen Armstrong, “In the Beginning, A New Interpretation of Genesis” (New York, 1996) p. 8. Unfortunately, the author reduces the Bible to the limitations of her imagination, thus stripping Genesis from the infinite divine depth flowing through its pages. Yet the author makes many great points in her analysis of Genesis tales.
6) Quoted by his great disciple and one of the great Chassidic masters, Rabbi Nachum of Tcheranbil (d. in 1810), in his Chassidic work Maor Einayim Parshas Chukas. Cf. Toldos Yaakov Yosef (by the oldest and greatest student of the Baal Shem Tov, Rabbi Yaakov Yosef of Pulnah), end of Parshas Trumah. See also Sefer Hasichos Summer 5740 (by the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yizchak Schneerson) p. 83.
7) Leviticus 19:17.
8) This essay is based on an address delivered by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Shabbas Parshas Noach 5726, October 30, 1965. Published in Likkutei Sichos vol. 10 pp. 24-29. My thanks to Rabbi Yohel Kahn who clarified some elements of the above address. My thanks also to Shmuel Levin for his editorial assistance.
The terrible decree that the inhabitants of Eretz Yisrael are going through the past weeks with bloodshed of holy and pure Jews by way of the children of Yishmael - may the names of the lowly, defiled murderers be wiped out - is in the final stages of Hevlei Mashiah [birthpangs of Moshiach].
Rainbow at North Poorton, Dorset - Photographer Kris Dutson Daily Mail UK
Question: When Moshiach comes, the primary branch of Torah study will be the mystical dimension, which deals with knowledge of G-d’s attributes and qualities. However, if this is the case, how we know how to observe the mitzvot?
Answer: Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi raises this question, and explains that in the future there will be no lapses of memory. Once we learn something, it will be imprinted in our memory forever. Memory loss is a manifestation of impurity and evil spirit, which will evaporate when Moshiach comes. Furthermore, any memories that we might have lost before Moshiach comes will be restored to us. Therefore, we won’t need to dedicate as much time to memorizing the details of the Law, and will be able to spend the bulk of our time studying the inner dimensions of Torah.
Additionally, Rabbi Schneur Zalman explains, in the Messianic era we will be granted an extra level of understanding, and from our study of the Torah’s mystical dimensions, we will be able to infer all the practical laws of Jewish observance.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe adds a unique interpretation: When Moshiach comes, our evil inclination will be removed, and our nature and instincts will be transformed. Just as a young child instinctively draws his hand away from fire, we will have a natural aversion to those things forbidden by the Torah, and a natural inclination to do the things the Torah requires. The details of Jewish Law will be hard-wired into our system, and will not require as much time for us to master.
[Igeret Hakodesh, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, ch. 26; Hilchos Talmud Torah, 10:2; Likutei Sichos, vol. 25, p. 263]
from the writings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov; translated by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan
Many types of fruit do not grow in some lands, only because people do not understand.
The world has a foundation stone. Channels emanate from this stone, reaching every land. The Midrash teaches us that the wise King Solomon knew the details of these channels and was therefore able to plant all types of trees.
If people knew the exact location of these subterranean channels, they would be able to grow fruit trees even in these lands. They could grow many that never grow there now.
Each channel has the power to stimulate a particular species. Even if a particular channel does not pass through one land, all channels are intertwined and flow into each other. If one knew the exact place, he could plant any type of tree.
If one knew the location of all channels, he could dig a well and know where to plant trees around it. He could then make any type of tree grow.
The foundation stone of the world constantly rises and descends. If one knows its position, then he knows what to plant at a particular time.
All these things are concealed from the world for some things may not be revealed.
People say that the world is gaining knowledge, but earlier generations made the primary discoveries, and this took the greatest wisdom.
Later generations make discoveries only because earlier ones prepared the way. One generation makes the basic discoveries, and later generations apply them, but the latter contribution is really the smaller.
The Talmud says "If you would not have removed the piece of clay, you would not have found the jewel under it."
There are things that may not be revealed, for if they were revealed, later generations would make an idol of them. There is knowledge that may not be revealed, for later generations would use the basic knowledge and continually add to it, often irresponsibly. They could then develop concepts leading to cataclysmic discoveries.
It is written [Lev. 19:23] "When you enter your land and plant any tree... three years shall its fruit be forbidden to you". The Zohar teaches us that the evil forces of klipah dwell in trees duirng these first three years.
Earlier generations misunderstood this and thought that they were obliged to worship a tree during the three years that it was under the influence of the klipah. According to their error it was a logical necessity to make such a tree an object of worship.
URGENT: I know a woman who is in desperate need of help. She is in an abusive relationship, a victim of domestic violence. She is regularly beaten, cut, and her life threatened. Any time she tries to fight back, the community leaders tell her that she is wrong to do so.
They ask her questions:
What did you do to incite the violence?
Maybe you said something to cause anger?
Maybe you didn't make supper in time?
Maybe the house wasn't in order?
They urge her not to fight back. They say she must deserve it for some reason. Go home. Resume your life. Just keep low, stay quiet. Maybe give him some more space in your home. Try to give him things to make him happy. She does. She listens. She gives him sentimental gifts that were given to her by her parents. All in the name of peace. Anything for peace.
But he's insatiable. No matter how much she gives, he always wants more. The only thing that seems to make him happy is her suffering, and her death.
She listens to what her leaders say, for all she wants is to live in peace. Enjoy her home. Enjoy the sun. Enjoy her family.
After each domestic explosion, things calm for a short period of time until she's beaten again. She asks why. The answer? Because I can. Because you breathe. Because I decided that you shouldn't be in existence. Yes, you give me things, but I just destroy them. I pretend I want peace, but I just want to hurt you. Your suffering makes me happy.
When they go to the hospital after a fight, the doctors tend to him first. Assess his injuries. Patch him up. Give him pain medication. They write in his medical chart that he was attacked. Beaten. They ask her if she's hurt.....Yes? Just walk it off. Stop complaining. Stop causing violence.
She is confused. No one is helping her. Everyone is blaming her. How can people be so ignorant? How can they blame a woman who lives in fear of being killed....for the sole reason of just existing?
Always blamed. No matter what, always her fault. But faulted for what? For providing him with a beautiful home that she literally built from nothing? For allowing him to live freely? For feeding him? For taking care of his every need? But yes, his anger is her fault. At least that's what everyone is telling her.
But she alone knows the truth. She and G-d. She's stopped trying to convince people otherwise. She's tired of the beatings. Tired of living in fear. Tired of the attacks. She's ready to live without fear. She's ready to fight back despite everyone telling her not to.
The only thing she needs? G-d. She calls all of her friends and asks them to pray for her. Be better people for her. Care for each other, for her. Provide her with as many merits as they can, because she knows the fight may be ugly, but that Gd and her ability to be close to Him is her only weapon. And with that, she will prevail. She will survive. She will prosper.
She's asking that we pray for her.
Her name: ISRAEL.
However, as is true for many women, the world severely underestimates her strength.
''Noach was a righteous man, perfect in his generations; Noach walked with G-d.'' [Noach 6:9]
Later, the Torah tells us that Hashem told Avraham Avinu ''Walk before Me and be perfect'' [17:1], but here the Torah says that Noach ''walked with G-d''. What was the difference between Noach and Avraham?
The Midrash Rabbah answers this question with a parable: A father was once walking down the road with his two sons. The father turned to the younger son and said ''Give me your hand and we'll walk together.'' But to the older son, he said ''Go ahead, you can walk before me.''
''Father'', asked the older son, ''why won't you hold my hand as well?''
''My son'' answered the father, ''your brother is still young and I'm afraid that he might stumble or fall. You, however, are older and I'm not worried about your walking.''
The difference between Noach and Avraham was like the difference between the two sons in the parable. Though Noach was a tzaddik, he nonetheless needed protection to make sure he would not stumble in his beliefs. The verse therefore describes his relationship with G-d as ''Noach walked with G-d'', since Hashem stood by him at all times, to make sure his faith would not falter.
Avraham's faith, however, was much stronger, so Hashem told him ''Walk before Me - I'm sure you will not stumble.''
Rashi expressed this idea in one sentence: ''Noach needed support, but Avraham drew his strength from himself and walked in his righteousness on his own.''
Chassidic thought teaches that before the Flood, G-d sustained the world despite its low spiritual standing, due to His attribute of kindness. There was a limit, however, to how long G-d was willing to sustain a world without merit - hence the Flood.
The waters of the flood were not merely a punishment. They purified the world, making physicality in general more refined and spiritually attuned.
Consequently, in the post Flood era, people were more predisposed to repentance. This ensured that G-d would always sustain the world - not despite of, but because of its spiritual standing. For, even if man would become corrupt, people would inevitably repent, ensuring that the world itself would have sufficient merit for its continued existence.
With this in mind, we can explain the following details:
Noach was unaware of the above, so he was scared to repopulate the world, fearing it would be destroyed again. Therefore, G-d had to re-command him to ''be fruitful and multiply'' [9:1]
The inner reason why Noach's generation failed to repent was because, before the flood, the world was spiritually insensitive.
Meat is an extremely coarse food that can lead a person to excessive physicality. Thus it was only permitted to the spiritually-attuned post-flood generation. [9:3]
Before the flood, people had extremely long lifespans because the world was sustained by G-d's kindness which was bestowed disproportionately to people's merits.
Before the Flood, physicality was more coarse. This was true in a literal sense, to the extent that the clouds were too thick to refract light, so a rainbow never appeared. After the Flood, physicality became more refined, so the clouds began to refract light. Then, the rainbow was not only a ''sign'' of G-d's promise not to destroy the world, it was also a physical consequence of the refinement of the world that ensured its permanent existence.
[Based on Sefer HaSichos 5751, Likutei Sichos Vol. 15 - Lubavitcher Rebbe]
Every aspect of creation is governed by an angel. Even trees and plants (especially those with healing properties) have angels supervising their growth. As the Sages said [Bereishit Rabbah 10:6] "There is nothing below, not even a common herb, which does not have an angel on high that strikes it and tells it to grow". Each of these angels receives its life force from the particular Utterance which is the source of its creation. It then transmits a measured amount of this life force to its particular charge.
This power of the angels to receive and transmit life force is referred to as the power of the "hands". (The Hebrew word for power is ko'ach, numerically equal to 28, the number of bones contained in the fingers of both hands). With its "right hand" an angel receives life force. With its "left hand", it dispenses the exact amount needed to its charge below. This is the meaning of the Sages' statement: "he strikes it and tells it to grow". "Striking" is done with the angel's left hand (for the left side represents Gevurah, judgment).
The Torah tells us [Proverbs 4:20-22] "My son attend to my words, incline your ear to my utterances.... For they are life to those who find them and healing to all their flesh." We learn from this that all healing flows from G-d, through His Torah. The Torah is the source of the [healing] power of the angels, who in turn transmit it to all the various herbs in their charge. This power is manifest when one accepts the Torah and has faith in the Sages who reveal it, for the Torah was given over to the Sages, and one who deviates from their teachings is called "he who causes a breach in the wall [of faith].
This is the meaning of the injunction [Deut 17:11] "Do not deviate, neither to the right nor to the left, from what they teach you". If you deviate to the right (tending towards unnecessary zealousness), your angel's "right hand" (ability to receive from its corresponding archangel and Utterance) will be hindered. If you deviate to the left (by transgressing the Torah), the angel's "left hand" (ability to transmit) will be hindered.
Of course, the removal of your angel's hands means that you cannot receive your healing, for without an angel to bestow the life force upon it, the herb upon which your healing depends loses its power to heal.Thus, the degree to which a person is attached to Torah determines the degree to which he is able to be healed.
Two by two the animals came into the Ark to Noach. [Bereishis Noah 7:9]
The concepts in this verse are illustrated by the following allegory:
Sheker (lies/deceit) approached Noach and requested entry into the Ark. Noach refused sheker on the grounds that it did not have a “mate.” When sheker left Noach, it met pachsa (financial loss and destruction) and proposed that they form a partnership, so that together they could gain entry into the Ark. Pachsa agreed, stipulating that any profit which would be earned through sheker would be handed over to pachsa to be destroyed.
There are many questions to be asked about this allegory. Why did our Sages see fit to single out sheker from all the possible negative character traits? Furthermore, why was it necessary for sheker to find a mate? Surely it would have been better to deny sheker entrance to the ark altogether. On the other hand, if sheker belonged in the world, should it not have been allowed to enter the ark without having to fulfill any conditions?
The decree of the flood was sealed on account of the dishonesty of that generation. Sheker was rampant, and there was no way to stop it short of wiping out the entire world. In the process of reconstructing the world, God wanted to make sure that the sins which had caused it's demise would not be repeated. Therefore sheker could not be allowed to perpetuate in its present form. However, it was important that sheker continue to exist in order for the iniquities of the previous generation to be rectified. This could only come about through recognition of the utter futility of any involvement with sheker.
When pachsa joined forces with sheker, causing the loss of all profits earned through sheker, it made it glaringly evident that any association with sheker is totally counterproductive. The lesson that would be learned from the alliance between sheker and pachsa allowed sheker to continue to exist.
After leaving the ark, sheker came to pachsa and requested all of the profits that it had acquired through under-handed methods. Pachsa reminded sheker of their agreement, and sheker was unable to respond. Although under normal circumstances sheker would have denied ever making such a promise, this case was different. Denying the truth would be tantamount to self destruction, for without its partnership with pachsa, sheker would not be allowed to exist.
At the time of the flood sheker joined with pachsa to teach the following generations the futility of trying to acquire wealth dishonestly. Although this type of destruction is certainly a punishment for one’s crooked behavior, there is a flip side to this relationship. Since pachsa “wed” itself to sheker, it can not affect any money earned one hundred percent honestly.
This concept was vividly demonstrated to the Jewish people after their Exodus from Egypt. For forty years they were sustained every day with manna, a miraculous food that descended from the heavens. Each individual was instructed to take an omer each day – not more, not less. If someone tried to “steal” a little bit more than he was allotted, the extra manna would disappear. The futility of taking more than was Divinely allotted was quite clear. Although we are not privileged to see this principle in action in such a striking fashion, it is still in effect even in our times.
Someone once came to Rav Mordechai Schwab and told him that one of his investments had gone sour, causing him a loss of seventy thousand dollars. Rav Schwab asked him if the money had been earned honestly to which the man replied in the affirmative. Rav Shwab assured him that he would recover the money, for wealth acquired honestly does not get lost. Within a few months the investment turned a profit.
Similarly, when Rav Chaim of Volozhin was hosting a meal in his home, one of his guests inadvertently knocked over the table. All the delicate porcelain on the table came crashing to the floor. The guests were all stunned into silence, in anguish over the tremendous loss which they were certain had occurred. Only Rav Chaim remained calm. He explained to his guests that property loss can occur only if the money used to purchase that property had been acquired corruptly. Since he knew that every penny used to buy the dishes that now lay on the floor had been earned honestly, he was sure that none of the porcelain had broken, so there was nothing to worry about. When they picked up the dishes, they found that not a single one was broken or damaged.
From the above incidents we see that the partnership that sheker established with pachsa still remains in force. As such, we can be sure that any funds acquired without a tinge of corruption are not subject to pachsa, and will be spared from damage.
Our thoughts and prayers are with Israel. Video: Adele bat Miriam is the name of the woman who was stabbed early Sunday morning outside of Shaar Shchem. Her husband was murdered, and her 2-year old son was also injured in the attack.
When the messengers who bring suffering are despatched, they are made to take an oath: that they will neither set out nor return except on such and such a day, at such and such a time, and only (carry out their mission) by using the designated means. However, repentance, prayer and charity have the power to nullify (the enactment of) this oath.
Reciting the Torah chapters concerning the Choshen, the Breastplate [Exodus 28:15-30; 39:8-21] is a tikkun [rectification] for harsh judgments.
A person who suffers affliction should give charity. This charity will be considered as if it were a fee paid to a judge for his services, which when accepted, nullifies the verdict's validity. And through this his suffering will be alleviated.
When a person rebukes his friend for the right motives, he has a thread of lovingkindness drawn over him.
A person who does not accept rebuke will experience suffering.
To sweeten harsh judgments, recite Psalm 39 and Psalm 77.
When the nations have issued an evil decree against the Jews, Psalm 62 should be said.
A person can determine and understand his sins from the suffering which he experiences.
There are four things which abolish harsh decrees: Tzedakah (charity), crying out to G-d, changing one's name and improving one's conduct.
Crying out to G-d helps the individual only prior to the final decree.
A person's accusers are beaten off by the study of Torah.
A final decree accompanied by an oath cannot be abolished, even for the sake of an entire community.
The effects of a decree against a person apply only in a specific place. He can save himself by changing his location.
A person should tell others of his anguish so that they will pray for mercy on his behalf.
Accepting suffering with love is like bringing a sacrifice.
A person who falls down while walking should see this as a sign of a downfall on a spiritual level. Falling down while walking sometimes serves to nullify a pronouncement of death which has been issued against the person.
A person who finds himself suffering from harsh judgment should make it a habit to gaze at the Heavens.
The Holy One exonerates the person who teaches righteousness to the wicked.
A man of truth receives G-d's lovingkindness undisguised by judgments.
Trust in G-d sweetens judgment and draws down lovingkindness.
Through faith [emunah] it is possible to convince G-d to follow your will.
The pasuk [Genesis 2:20] tells us that Adam gave names to all the creatures. Chazal tell us that this was a great Chochma on his part. Rav Yehonoson Eibushitz asks, why was this such a great accomplishment?
He answers that for each animal, Adam linked, with his deep insight, each animal's characteristics to its parallel in the heavenly court. Just like there is an "Ari" and "Shor" in the Merkava, he was able to spot the traits of a lion and ox and understand the connection.
However when it came to his own name, he did not link it to something heavenly. He called himself Adam as in Adama, the lowly earth. This showed Adam's great modesty. He wanted to remind himself of his lowly makeup and always remain humble.
However, says Rav Yehonoson Eibushitz, the name Adam is in fact a very exalted name. Adam is from the word, "Adameh L'Elyon" - I am compared to the elevated. A person is created B'Tzelem Elokim and is compared to Hashem Himself, and not just the Merkava.
Furthermore he adds, that the comparison to Adama, the earth, is also very distinguished. Just like the earth never disintegrates and remains forever, similarly a person's neshama, his Chelek Elokai MiMa'al is also Nitzchi - eternal.
"Speak to the Children of Israel and let them take for Me a portion" [Terumah 25:2] Why does the verse state "...
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"But I don't want to go among mad people," Alice remarked. "Oh, you can't help that," said the Cat: "we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad." "How do you know I'm mad?" said Alice. "You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn't have come here."