December, 2009 Archives

31
Dec

Layers

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week, Reflections & Observations, Relationships

The story is told of a young man who came to the Chatam Sofer requesting approbation from the great rabbi for his scholarly book. Rabbi Sofer read the book and responded, “I don’t mind when you quote my words as your own, but please, don’t put your words in my mouth!”

I always wondered whether Joseph’s brothers were actually quoting Jacob when, upon retuning to Egypt from Jacob’s funeral, they told Joseph, “Your father gave orders before his death, saying: Thus shall you say to Joseph, ‘O please forgive the spiteful deed of your bothers and their sin for they have done you evil.’” Were they putting their words in Jacob’s mouth? Would Jacob have approved of a lie after they had lied to him for so many years?

The Talmud (Yebamot 65b) and Midrash (Tanchuma 7) describe this as an instance of when one may alter the truth for the sake of peace. Rashi explains that they dispatched the sons of Bilhah, with whom Joseph had always been very friendly, to tell him this story about Jacob’s secret instructions. After the emissaries delivered their message, the rest of the brothers came to him.

Let’s picture the scene: The sons of Bilhah, Joseph’s erstwhile “friends,” who did not raise a hand to protect or save him, take advantage of their friendship to “alter the truth” and convey this secret message from Jacob. Joseph, who spent a great deal of private time with his father, and had never heard a word from his father regarding his 22 year disappearance, “believes’ his friendly brothers enough so that the remaining brothers can approach him.

I suspect that the message was actually, “This is what your father would have wanted us to do.” They carefully listened to the words of reproach intermingled with Jacob’s blessings, and they inferred that Jacob wanted them to address the issue.

Bilhah’s sons approached first as friends in order to acknowledge that they failed him as friends. They were not preparing the way for the remaining brothers; they were addressing their own specific sin against Joseph. The entire extended family was dependent on Joseph’s friendship and love in order to eat. The foremost issue on their minds was their failure as friends.

Joseph immediately understood that they were not directly quoting Jacob, as Bilhah’s sons expected. The most obvious issue was not the most important. They would eventually discuss his sale into slavery, but they understood that they first had to address everyone’s failure as brothers, and Bilhah’s sons as friends.

It takes great skill and courage to apologize, but it takes great wisdom to apologize correctly and discuss the issues underlying the obvious. Bilhah’s sons, and all of his brothers approached Joseph with unbelievable wisdom; they ‘altered the truth” to admit that they lied to Jacob. They approached in stages, dealing with all the layers of their sin against Joseph.

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Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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29
Dec

A Celebration of Possibilities

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Reflections & Observations, Spiritual Growth

I received the best birthday gift of all last night: A group of people made a very special party. It was a celebration of possibilities.

I meet with these people every two weeks and we study all sorts of topics and subjects. The last time we met we read a Midrash together and we all joined in tearing it apart, searching for understanding of its hidden messages.

When I walked into the house everyone knew that it was my secular birthday. They had read it on Facebook. Little did I know what these friends had in mind for me.

We decided to study Megillat Esther – The Book of Esther – every time we meet so we can finish (right!) before Purim. These people gave me one of the most wonderful hours of my life. We read the text without any Midrashim or commentaries. We wanted to simply read the text as if Mordechai and Esther were telling the story directly to us.

I sat back and observed and listened as a group of incredibly insightful people read Bible with passion. They tore each word apart. They “pictured the scene.” They imagined asking Achashveirosh, “What are you thinking?” They placed the king on a therapist’s coach and they clearly outclass Freud.

The insights were mind blowing! How could the king invite officers and servants to the same party? Was he not worried about insulting the officers? Why did he make the party “as he was displaying his wealth?”

How do you rule such a diverse empire? Do you use the melting pot approach of the United States? Do you allow each society to preserve its own culture? How do you impose your rule while allowing diversity?

The questions kept flying. Achashveirosh took a beating, but I received a most magnificent gift.

These people are not the most learned, nor are they the most observant, but they study with a conviction that it all matters in very real and practical ways. It was as if I was watching God respond in kind. There was one brilliant insight after another. They applied the lessons to the current political situation in the US. They discussed the application of Torah to each generation according to the specific needs and concerns of that generation.

I was observing Torat Chaim – a truly Living Torah. They discovered level after level of meaning. We all felt that the possibilities are endless.

You know what? With such people, the possibilities are truly infinite. We ended the night by dreaming of creating an educational system that nurtures living life and Judaism with that sense of the infinite. What a night!

Thanks Guys.

Author Info:
Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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25
Dec

Unmasked

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week, Prayer, Relationships

What did Joseph feel at the moment that he revealed himself to his brothers? Was there a sense of relief? Was there anyone else in the world with whom he could be himself? Were there others who could understand Yosef as a human being, the son of Jacob, the dreamer, the Jew, better than his brothers?

Joseph functioned at incredibly high levels for at least nine years as viceroy of Egypt. He had to live as an Egyptian. He had to live as royalty. He could not ever share with anyone that he had always dreamed of achieving this position. He could not admit to anyone that one of his dreams was realized when his brothers bowed to him as they came for bundles of grain. There were innumerable layers and levels to Joseph that could only be shared with his brothers.

Perhaps this is why he can say, “I am Joseph!” only to his brothers. He was not Joseph until he was unmasked.

Is there anyone in our lives to whom we can say, “I am me?”

Perhaps this is why the Sages explain “Vaigash” – the approach at the beginning of the portion – as a form of prayer: We can use prayer to unmask ourselves and say to the One, Who truly understands, “I am me!”

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Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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23
Dec

Fasting As A Prayer

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays

(Kings II Chapter 25) “It happened in the ninth year of Zedekiah’s reign, in the tenth month, on the tenth of the month, that Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylonia, he and his entire army, came to wage war against Jerusalem and encamped near it, and built a siege tower around it.” Jeremiah had been predicting the arrival of a storm from Babylon for years. No one listened. “It could never happen to Jerusalem!” No one wanted to listen, so they threw the prophet into a pit and jail. Babylon’s armies had already visited Jerusalem. Zedekiah was king only because his brother, Jehoiachin, was taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar. Zedekiah was not his real name. The 21 year old Mattaniah was renamed by the Babylonians ; they controlled everything, not only who was king, but even his name! And Jeremiah continued to warn the people how vulnerable they were, and how insecure their situation. But the people did not hear the prophet. They did not want to listen. “It could never happen to Jerusalem.” “It will never happen to me.” The Babylonians were at the walls of the city and Jeremiah cried out to the people to listen to God’s message. Perhaps now they would listen to the man who spoke in God’s name. But the people did not pay attention to the prophet’s voice. They did not want to hear. They could have prevented the destruction of Jerusalem. They had ample opportunity to surrender to the Babylonians. But, they could not hear God’s voice in Jeremiah’s cries. They did not want to hear God’s message in their new circumstances, even as siege walls were being constructed around Jerusalem. They could hear the hammers banging away at the walls that would spell their doom, but they did not listen. They were not deaf. They chose not to hear. They may have chosen to shut out God’s voice, Jeremiah’s cries, the sound of Nebuchadnezzar’s soldiers marching, the noise of the construction and the loud and clear pronouncements of their political and military realities, but we can hear the sound of desperation and frustration in Jeremiah’s words. We, the people of the Shema, “Hear O’ Israel”, so often choose not to hear. We shut out the warnings of Jeremiah. We ignored the warning signs of Hitler’s rise to power. We shut out the very clear message in Iran when Islamic radicals toppled the Shah. We, who repeatedly remind ourselves to hear and pay attention, simply slide into selective hearing. How can we hear the words of Shema as we should if we can so easily choose what not to hear? Either we hear the voices of God, the prophets and history, or we do not. We remember the deafness of our ancestors in besieged Jerusalem and we “fast”! Would it not make more sense to dedicate the Tenth of Tevet to learning how to listen? Why do we fast? The Zohar (Volume 2, 20b) teaches us that we want God to pay attention to our fasting, just as He would pay attention to a sacrifice burning on His altar. We ask the Master of the Universe to pay attention, to hear us, to listen. We cannot accomplish anything with our fast if God does not take note of our feeble effort at fixing our mistakes. We cannot ask God to listen if we continue to shut our ears to Him. A fast is a prayer. A prayer must be heard. A prayer should begin a conversation. A conversation cannot develop if either party does not hear the other. Jeremiah expresses this idea in a powerful verse (14:12): “If they fast, I will not listen to their call.” The fast of the Tenth of Tevet is a prayer; a prayer that can only be effective if we remember to listen for God’s voice. Author Info: Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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22
Dec

Moses Signed My Bible

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Reflections & Observations

The most recent issue of Forbes magazine has an article about autographed first editions. Many can be found on ebay, but the greatest one of all, can be found right here on The Foundation Stone Blog! Moses signed my bible!

I can already see Rabbi Moshe Stepansky’s response: “Good for you! God signed mine!”

He will be right, of course, but he probably won’t put his up for auction.

The Holy Reb Moshe, will also argue that it is impossible to find Moshe’s signature anywhere on my bible; he was, of course, too humble, and would not take any credit for the bible.

But, I will tell you, without any doubt, that whenever I open my bible, I have absolute clarity that I am studying with Moshe Rabbeinu. His signature may not really be there, but he is, in each and every word. When I study Chumash, I am sitting with Moshe before God and learning and receiving the gift of Torah.

Can there be a greater thrill? I doubt it. You are welcome to join me.

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Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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21
Dec

What Will The Future Bring?

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week

(Dedicated to the memory of Rabbi Yossi H. z”l)

I was writing a sermon on the Mishnaic dictum: “Who is wise? He who can see ahead.” I wanted to focus on the idea of being a Boteiach – someone who trusts in God’s commitment to His creations. A wonderful story from my years in yeshiva in Miami popped into my head: My friend Yossi H. had graduated college and his parents, both Holocaust survivors who had lost their first spouses and their children in Auschwitz, came to celebrate their only son’s great future as an accountant.

Yossi told his parents that he had decided not to pursue a career as an accountant and to become a rebbi in Yeshiva. His parents were devastated. “How will you live? How will you feed your family? You don’t know what it is like to have nothing, but we do. You will never have money.”

We could all hear his mother’s anguished cries as he insisted that he had Bitachon – trust in God – and that God would take care of him. “Did Bitachon save my children from Mengele? Did their Bitachon save my first husband from the gas chambers?”

Yossi wouldn’t budge. He was openly weeping as he tried to convince his parents that he was making the proper choice.

Finally, they gave in, and they offered to take Yossi shopping for food, snacks and cigarettes at the local supermarket. They invited me to come along, I believed to make amends for all the times that their son beat me up when we were both in Day School in Toronto.

Yossi filled a cart with food and his mother insisted that he fill a second cart, which he, a champion nosher, and devoted son, readily did.

Father, Mother, Yossi, and yours truly, unloaded the two carts onto the cashier’s table. The total was over $110! (A lot of money in those days.) His parents heard the total and started to leave without paying. “Ma, where are you going? How am I supposed to pay?” Yossi was desperate. Yossi had opened some of the boxes of cookies and bags of chips in order to make sure they were kosher and fresh.

“Oh,” she said, “no problem. Just tell her that you have Bitachon!” and she left.

My eyes were closed as I remembered the story ten years later, and the phone rang. Yossi, who had become a yeshiva rebbi, had just died. He had a heart attack from all the stress of trying to survive.

I flew from St. Louis to Miami to pay a shiva call to his widow, and told her the story, which, it turned out, she knew. (According to her inaccurate version, I was the one who had opened the boxes of cookies.) “You know,” she said, “I have no doubt that if he knew at that moment that this would happen, he would have made the same decision.” He probably would have.

How many of us can say with certainty that we would have made the same decisions had we known the future?

Joseph and his brothers had just experienced the power of God’s Hand guiding them even when they had been convinced that they were making all the decisions. The brothers sold Joseph into slavery to make sure that his dreams of royalty would never actualize, only to see that they had prepared the way for him to become viceroy of Egypt and all his dreams to become true. They had acted on principle only to find that all their efforts were to ensure the future of Israel in Egypt, an idea that they never fully accepted.

“Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept; and Benjamin wept upon his necks.” (Genesis 45:14) The Midrash comments that Joseph and Benjamin wept over the destruction of the sanctuaries that would be built in their respective territories in Israel.

Joseph and Benjamin appreciated God’s Guiding Hand, and understood that no matter how scary the future may be, God would do as He did in this story, and guide us through history. There would be suffering, but it would always lead to redemption.

They cried anguished tears over the pain of the future with tears of joy and confidence in a future shaped and guided by the Almighty. They saw the possibilities – ha-nolad – of the future, even its most horrible moments, and trusted that God would guide them in their decisions, just as He guided the brothers.

No matter how far we may see into the future, we must always be aware that it reaches beyond us, guided by God, Who wants us to take responsibility and make decisions, trusting in His Guidance.

Author Info:
Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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20
Dec

The Miraculous Story of the Jews of Zakynthos

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Reflections & Observations

ZAKYNTHOS, Greece – I needed a break at the end of a long and exhausting semester. My family was off to the southern end of the Balkan Peninsula, to an unknown island in Greece. I decided to join them.

We flew from Tel Aviv to Athens. From Athens, towards the famous sunrise of the eastern isles, we landed on the island of Zakynthos – “Fiore di Levante” (Flower of the East) – which is also known by its Italian name – Zante.

During the ride, I read the travel guide, and learned a little about the history, the agriculture, the weather and finally about the poetic origins of the national anthem. I did not read one word about what I was really about to discover on the island.

The drive from the airport to our villa lasted a few minutes. From the coastal plateau, we drove up through twisted village bends to our destination.

An old lady, a typical Greek villager dressed all in black, welcomed us with a warm smile into her home. She asked to show us around her beloved mansion. It was obvious that this place was the source of her pride.

The landlady gave us a short tour of the old-style bedrooms, bathrooms and salon. In the kitchen, we noticed the beautiful authentic Greek dishes that were hanging over her antique-looking stove. All these were for our use.

We explained to her that for religious reasons, unfortunately, we would not be able to enjoy using her kitchenware and that we had brought our own.

This is when it all began.

She seemed confused. She looked at my dad and suddenly her eyes lit up. She noticed his kippa (yarmulke). We were asked to follow her out to the garden.

From the high point where we were standing, we saw a fantastic view of the ocean and the ships. But she pointed the other way completely.

“Look over there!” she said.

She wanted to know what we saw.

“Trees, vegetation,” we said.

“Look again and focus!” she demanded.

“Something unidentified that looks like teeth, white dots,” my dad said.

She stared at us for a long moment and said: “That is the Jewish cemetery.”

I was shocked. We were all astounded. Here were were on an isolated island in Greece. Who ever heard of Jews here?

I tried reminiscing about stories and experiences I had heard from friends who had visited here. Nothing came to mind.

From this moment on until I left Greece, the relaxing summer holiday drinking ouzo on the beach became a fascinating journey. By the end of it, I uncovered an unforgettable story.

The next morning, I got on my rented moped and drove to the cemetery. The shudder that went through me started when I first saw the Star of David on the little black gate. The trembling grew as I walked in. It was a huge cemetery containing hundreds of graves from the 16th century up until 1955. The grounds were well-kept and little stones were set on many graves, as if they had had visitors recently.

1955. I thought for a moment. Whoever knows the history of Greece and its islands even faintly knows that there was no place struck harder by the Nazis.

Rhodes, Corfu, Salonika, Athens. The loss of Jewish life in Greece was devastating.

From 1944, there were almost no Jews left even in the bigger communities.

I did not, however, understand the meaning of the “1955” grave, and decided to investigate.

In a small house that stood in the heart of the property, I found the cemetery keeper, a third generation of custodians of the Jewish graveyard in Zakynthos. My inability to speak the language prevented me from having a deep conversation with him.

I sought to continue my search for the Jewish history of this town, and within five minutes I was at City Hall.

When I told the clerk at the front desk what I was after, he asked if I had already been to the synagogue. The question was posed casually, as though it’s asked on a daily basis.

“Excuse me?” I thought I hadn’t heard right. “A synagogue on this island?”

He gave me directions.

The synagogue was located on a busy road in the center of the island. Off the main street, in a space between two buildings, was a black iron gate, just like the one I had seen not long ago at the cemetery. Above it was a stone arc with an open book.

It read, in a loose translation from the original Hebrew, “At this holy place stood the Shalom Synagogue. Here, at the time of the earthquake in 1953, old Torah scrolls, bought before the community was established, were burned.”

Through the locked gate I saw two statues. Judging by their long beards, they looked to me like rabbis. The writing on the wall proved me wrong: “This plaque commemorates the gratitude of the Jews of Zakynthos to Mayor Karrer and Bishop Chrysostomos.”

What was the acknowledgment about? Who were these people? Why the statues? What happened here? I had lots of questions. I had to find a lead, if not an answer. I returned to City Hall, excited and trembling.

I approached the clerk, who already recognized me, and started questioning him about what had happened here. He referred me to the mayor’s deputy on the third floor. I found his room, knocked at his door and asked him if he would spare me a few minutes. He willingly accepted.

HALF an hour later I came out with this:

On September 9 1943, the governor of the German occupation named Berenz had asked the mayor, Loukas Karrer, for a list of all Jews on the island.

Rejecting the demand after consulting with Bishop Chrysostomos, they decided to go together to the governor’s office the next day. When Berenz insisted once again for the list, the bishop explained that these Jews weren’t Christians but had lived here in peace and quiet for hundreds of years.

They had never bothered anyone, he said. They were Greeks just like all other Greeks, and it would offend all the residents of Zakynthos if they were to leave.

But the governor persisted that they give him the names.

The bishop then handed him a piece of paper containing only two names: Bishop Chrysostomos and Mayor Karrer.

In addition, the bishop wrote a letter to Hitler himself, declaring that the Jews in Zakynthos were under his authority.

The speechless governor took both documents and sent them to the Nazi military commander in Berlin. In the meantime, not knowing what would happen, the local Jews were sent by the leaders of the island to hide inside Christian homes in the hills. However, a Nazi order to round up the Jews was soon revoked – thanks to the devoted leaders who risked their lives to save them.

In October 1944, the Germans withdrew from the island, leaving behind 275 Jews. The entire Jewish population had survived, while in many other regions Jewish communities were eliminated.

THIS unique history is described in the book of Dionyssios Stravolemos, An Act of Heroism – A Justification, and also in the short film of Tony Lykouressis, The Song of Life.

According to tour guide Haim Ischakis (see box), in 1947, a large number of Zakynthinote Jews made aliya while others moved to Athens.

In 1948, in recognition of the heroism of the Zakynthians during the Holocaust, the Jewish community donated stained glass for the windows of the Church of Saint Dionyssios.

In August 1953, the island was struck by a severe earthquake and the entire Jewish quarter, including its two synagogues, was destroyed. Not long afterwards, the remaining 38 Jews moved to Athens.

In 1978, Yad Vashem honored Bishop Chrysostomos and Mayor Loukas Karrer with the title of “Righteous among the Nations.”

In March 1982, the last remaining Jew in Zakynthos, Ermandos Mordos, died on the island and was buried in Athens. Thus the circle of Jewish presence came to its close after five centuries.

In 1992, on the site where the Sephardic synagogue stood before the earthquake, the Board of Jewish Communities in Greece erected two marble memorial monuments as a tribute to the bishop and mayor.

A FEW days before I had planned to leave the island and return home, I went into a bank to convert some dollars into euros. But even in a simple place like a bank, I managed to add another piece to this Jewish puzzle.

A clerk who had been on the phone and eating a sandwich, called on me when my turn came. When I gave her my dollars to be changed, she handed me the converted money in an envelope without asking for any identification.

Later on, when I opened it, I was surprised to see so much money.

The money that had been put into the envelope had not been counted properly, and instead of changing $1,000, she had given me the equivalent of $10,000!

This was really no surprise to me, because the clerk hadn’t paid me any attention. Ultimately, however, once the bank realized that the money was missing, it would have no way of reaching me since no contact information was requested.

The following morning, I called the bank and asked to speak to the manager. I inquired to know if there was a problem with the previous night’s accounts.

“You must be the woman with the dollars,” he said, immediately inviting me to his office.

An hour later, I was at the bank. When I walked into the office, the man sitting across from the manager moved to another chair and gave me his seat.

I shared my bank experience with him, saying how easy it would have been for me to disappear with the money.

The manager himself was profusely apologetic about the unprofessional way I was treated and thanked me repeatedly for returning the money.

To express his gratitude, he invited me and my family to dinner at an exclusive restaurant. I explained that eating out was too complicated for us due to the fact that we were observant Jews.

He asked for my address so he could send us a crate of wine.

“That is a problem too,” I said.

I told him I had come from Israel a week ago for a holiday, but had gotten sidetracked.

“A few days after I landed, I was surprised to discover the Jewish community that was here up to 25 years ago,” I said. “You don’t owe me anything. Indeed, you have given me and my people a lot. The least I can do as a Jew to show my appreciation for what you have done for the Jews of Zakynthos is to return this money that doesn’t belong to me and say, ‘Thank you!'”

There was silence for what appeared to be a long minute.

The man who had given me his seat when I walked in and hadn’t said a word during the conversation, stood up with tears in his eyes, turned to me and said:

“As the grandson of Mayor Karrer, I am extremely overwhelmed and want to thank you!”

Dec. 13, 2009

LEORA GOLDBERG, Special to The Jerusalem Post , THE JERUSALEM POST http://www.jpost.com /servlet/Satellite?cid=1260447422761&pagename=JPArticle%2FShowFull

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Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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17
Dec

Is That God Smiling?

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays

When does something achieve the status of a miracle? It is almost universal for parents holding their newborn in their arms for the first time to believe that they experienced a miracle. The first smile, the first crawl, the first steps are usually celebrated and appreciated as part of the miracle of life. Teenage issues are definitely not perceived as miracles. Many people considered the victories of the Six Day War as miraculous. Others were dubious. It seems that the quality of a miracle is determined by our perception.

The Chashmonaim rose to the occasion when they credited their victories to God and called them miraculous. Would their claims of miracle survive the test of time? The excitement usually dies down over time, and we begin to question whether that amazing experience was actually a miracle. Chanukah was not declared a holiday for a year. The sages wanted to see whether the people’s experience would hold steady and pass the test of time. The people rose even higher than the Macabees when they looked back over the distance of twelve months and still saw everything that happened as a miracle; an historic miracle. They treated their experiences as extraordinary, and by doing so they achieved the same quality. It was that conviction that we celebrate as Chanukah.

Chanukah is our opporunity to see the extraordinary in our lives and to capture that potential for ourselves.

Happy Chanukah

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Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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17
Dec

Hoisted By My Own Petard

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week, Reflections & Observations

I have yet to write thank you notes for my bar mitzvah gifts and now I have to write even more cards for the gifts I received for my 50th birthday. I wrote a newsletter about birthdays that made it clear, kind of, that I didn’t want any presents. People, cruel as they are, didn’t bother to read the newsletter or chose to not take it seriously. I now have a problem. I could take the same approach as I did after my bar mitzvah and wait a few years before writing thank you notes. The problem is that I have been posting many essays on Hoda’ah – gratitude – in honor of Chanukah, and it just wouldn’t seem proper to wait 37 years before expressing my gratitude. I have, as they say, been hoisted by my own petard!

By the way; I had what I then considered fantastic reasons for not writing my bar mitzvah thank you notes, but that is an entirely different, and currently embarrassing story. It was, believe it or not, Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz’s fault.

I am not alone. Joseph’s brothers had a similar experience in this week’s portion. They too were hoisted by their own petard: “Indeed we are guilty concerning our brother inasmuch as we saw his heartfelt anguish when he pleaded with us and we paid no heed: that is why this anguish has come upon us.” (Genesis 42:21)

How did they respond? Reuben is not impressed with their words, “Did I not speak to you saying, ‘Do not sin against the boy,’ but you did not listen! And his blood as well – behold! – is being avenged.” (Verse 22)

The brothers feel guilty for ignoring Joseph’s anguished cries, but Reuben, who wasn’t present when Joseph cried out from the bottom of the pit, remonstrates them for sinning against Joseph at all.

Why did Reuben choose to use this dangerous moment to get in an “I told you so?” The verses do not describe the brothers responding to Reuben or even considering what to do. These great men seem to understand that they are being punished, but it doesn’t seem as if they act as a result of their honest introspection.

The brothers’ response is more impressive than Reuben’s. They focused on a specific part of their sin, “we paid no heed,” something from which they could learn for the future. They would become better listeners.

Reuben, on the other hand, was angry with them about something they could not undo, nor apply in the present, unless they were considering doing to Reuben what they had done to Joseph.

The Sages refer to the petard experience as “Midah Kineged Midah,” – God responds to the realities we create. (This is quite different from, “B’midah sh’adam modaid, kach modidin lo,” – Heaven responds measure for measure.)

The brothers understood that they were experiencing Midah kineged Midah, and immediately focused on the practical lesson of the situation. Not regret, “We should have,” or “We shouldn’t have,” but, we can fix what we once did.

I guess I’ll have to write those thank you notes. I’m going to be busy for a while.

Author Info:
Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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15
Dec

Programa Chino

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Reflections & Observations

Help! I’m in the car with my wife and sister-in-law, two Argentines, who love, what they call “Progama Chino,” Chinese Programs. The challenge is to make a list of errands that can only be performed on the streets with the heaviest traffic in New York. The list must only be completed 30 seconds before Lulu’s plane leaves for Montreal. You must understand that participants in a Programa Chino may only arrive at the airport one minute or less before a flight. The most important part of the program is called, “Ya que estamos” – “once we’re here,” let’s add an additional task to our list. The added task must absolutely be impossible for anyone other than an Argentine.

I’m keeping tabs on tasks. We began with two, but once we realized that the holiday shopping traffic is so impossible, they added four more.

Sorry; it’s now five…six.

I came along because I benefit so much from Debbie’s Argentine essence that I figured I could suffer through one “Programa Chino.” I was wrong. I feel as if I am in a script for a new reality survival show called Program Chino. Someone save me! It’s my birthday!

The chutzpah! Debbie is claiming that I do the same thing with my learning on Shabbat: By the end of Shabbat I have piles of Sefarim on my desk with a list of ideas for essays that is so long that I would need a Programa Chino to complete it!

Am I becoming Argentine?

Author Info:
Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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