October, 2010 Archives

31
Oct

Looking For Permanence

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week

[/caption] My wife and I were driving my father zt”l to a wedding in Monsey. As usual, whenever we had an opportunity, we peppered him with questions on all sorts of issues. We knew that every response would be direct, honest and an expression of well thought out ideas.

We asked my father whether he regretted taking such a broad approach in raising his children to be thinkers and choosers. “I would make the same decisions again. Each decision was correct and should not be evaluated based on the results not being exactly what I expected.”

I often think of that conversation. For example, I was dealing with a difficult situation in a Chassidic community and found myself wondering whether the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of the Chassidic movement, would recognize the Chassidim of today. He focused his teachings on finding the joy in serving God. He spoke to every Jew, from the most simple to the greatest scholar. He often spoke of the importance of the heart, more than the details of observance. The Baal Shem Tov was criticized for not sufficiently stressing meticulous observance of Halacha.

How would the Baal Shem Tov have reacted to his followers being known for their incredibly high level of observance?

I then remembered my father’s words and realized that the Baal Shem Tov would make the same decisions again. I suspect that he knew exactly how his movement would develop, and although it may have evolved beyond his original goals, the Baal Shem Tov would not have hesitated to do as he did, even if the long-term results were not exactly his original expectations.

How many people hesitate to move forward because they fear that the long-term results will differ from their original objectives? My father did not. The Baal Shem Tov did not hesitate. However, Eisav, did, and lost everything.

Rashi offers two explanations for Eisav’s surprising willingness to sell his birthright to Jacob for a pot of porridge: The Birthright was originally the position of Kohen – the one who would lead the Temple Service of God. Eisav knew that a priest could easily err and be punished with death. “Why would I want a “right” that comes with so much risk?”

Eisav wasn’t concerned about himself. The laws of Offerings, purity and impurity, did not yet apply. However, he felt that since in the long-term, the job would entail so much risk, it wasn’t worth more than a bowl of red beans.

Rashi offers a second explanation: Eisav foresaw that the firstborns would lose the right of being Kohen to the Tribe of Levi. “Well,” he said, “if the Kohen job will, 300 years from now, not go to the firstborn, why do I need the job now?”

Eisav viewed his role as having meaning only if it had permanent effect according to his wishes. If something would turn out differently centuries later, it wasn’t worth the current effort.

He was tortured by needing everything he did to be permanently according to his plan and desires. There is no such guarantee in life, so he simply devoted himself to doing what he immediately desired: “If it isn’t permanent why bother with spiritual efforts that demand so much?”

Eisav could never have produced a Baal Shem Tov. He would not have been able to father a family of Jews who have been able to thrive as they were exiled from one country to the next without any sense of permanence.

Eisav forfeited everything in his insistence that his accomplishments be permanent. Was it worth it?

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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30
Oct

Just That Little Bit Removed

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week

Most of my students had been taken on the Gehinnom – Hell – tour to scare them into observing all the laws carefully. It was, to say the least, an unpleasant experience for all of them, and it didn’t seem to work.

I decided to use the opposite approach and take them on the Eden tour, hoping to inspire them to live meaningful lives. We all packed some extra clothes and got on our way.

We began with the lowest level of Paradise and worked our way up. It was a wonderful and exciting experience for all. I could tell that it was working.

We were climbing the stairs to the penultimate level but no matter how far we climbed we felt that the entrance was just out of our reach. One student voiced his exasperation, “Am I the only one, or does everyone feel that no matter how many steps we climb the entrance is just that little bit removed?” The second he finished, the door opened directly before us and we entered.

There was a vast empty space beyond the door. The feeling of “just out of our reach” oozed from every direction. We could see many souls, beautiful shining souls (after all, this was the second highest level of Paradise,), you guessed it, just beyond our reach.

The angel assigned to our tour approached, and obviously accustomed to the question we all had on our minds, said, “This is the place in Paradise for characters who were of secondary importance. They played a role in the lives of the giants, but were not actually the heroes and heroines of their times. They are similar to the vice-presidents of the United States; just that little bit removed.”

I looked around and immediately noticed Yefet the son of Noah, and Ploni Almoni from the Ruth story. King David’s brothers were there. Gideon’s weapons man waved as he continued his conversation with Jonathan’s assistant. I challenged my students to a contest of who could identify the most people of this actually wonderful place.

Everyone was having such a wonderful time that they did not want to leave, but you know how tour schedules can be, we had our final tour upstairs scheduled. We regrouped and everyone felt as if they needed to stay for just that little bit longer, as if they were not quite finished.

The Tour Angel was saying his goodbyes, when one student called out, “Where is Isaac? Doesn’t he belong here? After all, he did not seem to accomplish as much as his father, Abraham, or his son, Jacob?”

Total silence was the response of everyone in the section. The Tour Angel turned to me and said, “Many people ask the same question. I think you better write a few blogs about Isaac.”

OK!

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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30
Oct

Parenting – The Questions

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week

“The lads grew up and Esau became one who knows trapping, a man of the field; but Jacob was a wholesome man, abiding in tents.” (Genesis 25:27) Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch points out that the verses implies that Esau and Jacob only went their different ways after they grew up. Rav Hirsch believes that Isaac and Rebecca raised and educated the two boys the same way until they were thirteen years old: As long as they were little, no attention was paid to the slumbering difference in their natures, both had exactly the same teaching and educational treatment. Esau could hardly wait for the time when he could throw the old books and a whole purpose of life, behind his back.”

I love Rav Hirsch, but I respectfully, and with great trepidation, disagree. I am convinced that Isaac and Rebecca knew exactly what they were doing. Rebecca certainly knew that the boys were different, but she also insisted that they be raised and educated the same way.

“And Isaac loved Esau for he was also a hunter with his mouth, but Rebecca loves Jacob.” (Verse 28) Imagine, one child is loved “because,” not unconditionally, but for a reason, while the other is loved without condition. How could Esau become anyone other than the man he became?

Esau had to pretend to be someone other than himself to earn Isaac’s love. He knew that Isaac did not love him, but the person he pretended to be. Of course, he became the angry resentful character with whom we are familiar?

The Midrash says that Isaac was so concerned over Esau’s coloration that he did not circumcise him for a few years. Once he realized that it was Esau’s natural color, Isaac decided to wait until Esau was 13, so he could choose circumcision, as Isaac’s older brother, Yishmael, had. When asked at his Bar Mitzvah whether he would agree to be circumcised, Esau refused!

The boy who pretended to be a Tzaddik to earn his father’s love, refused to be circumcised! Did he not expect Isaac to be furious, or at the very least, disappointed?

Why did Rebecca go to Shem and Ever to consult God about her difficult pregnancy? Why did she not simply go to Abraham who lived right there? How do the Sages know that Rebecca went to Shem and Ever?

I have heard numerous lectures about Isaac and Rebecca’s poor parenting skills, but I find it hard to believe that one of the three patriarchs and one of the four matriarchs did not know exactly what they were doing!

What were they doing?

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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29
Oct

“There Was a Child Went Forth”

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week

Walt Whitman

From “There Was a Child Went Forth”

There was a child went forth every day.

And the first object he look’d upon, that object he became,

And that object became part of him for the day or a certain

Part of the day,

Or for many years or stretching cycles of years.

I first read this poem when I was very young.  My sister (#2) made up a story about a Simcha who could become something else once each day simply by staring at something he wanted to be.  She showed me the poem when I asked her from where she came up with such a great story idea.  I spent the next few days trying to become something else. One day I stared at my Chumash, the next day, an airplane, and then all sorts of things, until I accepted that it would never happen. I made sure to not stare at any of my sisters for fear that I might become one, a sister, that is. Horrors!

I wonder whether Isaac ever stared as his father, hoping to become another Abraham, or that Abraham would become part of him.  We know that father and son were different, which is why we refer to the “Lord of Abraham and the Lord of Isaac,” rather than, “The Lord of Abraham and Isaac;” each had a different relationship with God.

However, it’s natural for a child, especially of someone as remarkable as Abraham to want to be like his father. Is there a point at which we can see Isaac choosing to be different from his father and forge his own way, a different relationship with God?

Hagar and Yishmael had been chased away by Sarah years earlier in an effort to protect Isaac from their negative influence. Yet, Isaac, still inconsolable after Sarah’s death, goes to bring Hagar back to Abraham for marriage. The man, so devoted to his mother, while still mourning for her, brings back the woman she chased out for his sake, to marry her husband! It is at that particular moment that the Sages see Isaac forging his own path: Abraham had prayed Shacharit, as a “Stander,” Isaac prayed Minchah as a conversation. Isaac instituted a new time and a new form of prayer. Surely the two events, bringing Hagar back and instituting new parameters of prayer, are related.

I also wonder if Isaac would have been ready to marry Rebecca before he took these two steps.

What happened at that moment?

Until that moment, Isaac was almost passive, just as he insisted on being at the Akeidah, when he requested to be tied up so as not to flinch. Eliezer went to find a wife for him. It was being done for him, not, by him. Until that moment, Isaac had to be protected by Abraham and Sarah, and they expelled Hagar and Yishmael for his sake.

Isaac would not passively enter his marriage; it wouldn’t be a real relationship. He had to demonstrate to his father and himself that he no longer would or needed to, stand on the sidelines while others did for him or protected him. He brought back Hagar to show that he could protect himself.

Isaac was ready to engage life on his own. He prayed, not in a standing position, as did his father, but as part of a conversation, an active participant. He did not pray in the morning when all was light and bright, but at the meeting point between morning and evening, as if to say that he could deal with ambiguity.

Thus, when Rebecca first sees him, the verse describes him as an “Ish,” a man, a fully-grown man, ready to become himself, not to be his father.

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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29
Oct

Certain Misunderstood People Of The Book

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week

The jury, passing on the prisoner’s life,

May in the sworn twelve have a thief or two

Guiltier than him they try.

–William Shakespeare from Measure for Measure

I remember my father zt”l’s response when someone said, “We have to realize that the most wicked people in the Bible were more holy and righteous than the holiest people in our time.” My father rolled his eyes and said, “It seems to me that you live in Purim (the time when everything is reversed) all year long!”

Yet, when thinking about the quote above, I wonder, not if if the biblical bad guys were great people, as plaited by that fool, but if they generally get a bum rap.  I wonder whether we the jury, passing judgment on them, are not “Guiltier than him they try.”

Laban is one of the most infamous biblical characters and yet we use his parting blessing to his sister Rebecca at every wedding. We may describe at the Seder, how he was more dangerous than Pharaoh, but when Isaac and Rebecca wanted a wife for Jacob, they sent him right back to Laban.

Human beings such as Rachel and Leah do not spontaneously appear. There must have been something special in their environment, in Laban’s home, that nurtured such extraordinary women.

It’s almost impossible for us to see Yishmael objectively, but he’s there at his father’s funeral, in a state of Teshuva. God judged him at Beer-Lahai-Roi, “ba’asher hoo sham,” as he was at that moment, in Teshuva, good and innocent. The Midrash even shares tales of Yishmael learning to emulate his father’s chesed.  Are we the jury judging him fairly?

The really good guy, Eliezer, is rejected by Abraham even as the master trusts only him to find a wife for Isaac: The devoted servant’s daughter is less fit as a wife for Isaac than the daughter of the wicked Betuel and the sister of the even worse Laban.

It’s almost as if the Torah is directing us to not see the biblical characters in black and white, but to understand them as multifaceted human beings, perhaps no guiltier than we who judge them.

I once taught a series in Traditional Synagogue of St Louis for my friend Rabbi Ephraim Zimand, entitled, “Certain Misunderstood People of The Book.” I focused on Cain, Ham, Nimrod, Yishmael, Laban and Esau. I found so much important material that I offered the course again, about five years later, together with Rabbi Tzvi Blanchard, a big Talmid Chacham and a spectacular therapist: “A Rabbi and a Therapist Examine Certain Misunderstood People of The Book.” I continue to discover deeper layers in the text, commentaries and Midrashim, and am trying to convince a psychiatrist neighbor to work through all the material with me.

I am convinced that each of the biblical bad guys represents a specific strategy of the Evil Inclination, and that only by studying the subtleties of their behavior can we understand the strategies of our greatest adversary and friend.

We can find hints of our own struggles in Laban, Yishmael, and Esau. We cannot afford to sit in judgment as a jury until we understand these people for who they really were.

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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29
Oct

It Takes A Thief

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week

He is a great friend and neighbor. He is well-read, intelligent, insightful, and generous. So, when Debbie and I were stuck in Brooklyn and needed something from the house, we called him for help. The problem was that he didn’t (pretended to not) have a key. We needed a cat burglar, not a scholar teacher. No problem; our good guy neighbor is a skilled thief. You never know.

Andy is proud of his criminal skills, and prefers that I not mention that he has a back-up key to our home and the alarm code. He wants to be known as a thief. I’ll leave that to his wife, a prominent psychiatrist.

I am confident in stating that Andy never stole anything in his life, but that still does not clear him of suspicion.  Abraham was not satisfied in never having robbed anyone; it takes more to be cleared of all potential criminal charges.

“So the man entered the house, and unmuzzled the camels.” Rashi points out that if the Torah informs us of such a seemingly insignificant detail, it must be of supreme importance: “Abraham’s livestock were muzzled whenever they were away from home, so that they could not graze in other people’s fields.” Impressive behavior, but still unnecessary for the Torah to tell us as we already learned that, “Lot’s dishonest shepherds grazed their flocks on other people’s pastures. When Abraham’s shepherds rebuked them for stealing, they found a way to justify their actions.” (Rashi, Genesis 13:7) The Torah already taught us about the extreme care Abraham took to prevent even his animals from stealing. Why was it necessary to repeat as part of the Eliezer in the house of Laban story?

It is not enough to not steal, especially when dealing with Labans, or people such as Andy the Thief with dark secrets. In such situations we must go beyond normal care, to extremes, such as muzzling the camels as a sign that even our animals will not steal.

It is not enough to avoid conflict, or to simply stay away from arguments when we find ourselves in a conflict ridden environment.  We have to go to the opposite extreme in such situations, and work assiduously for peace.

Does this mean that we, who live in a promiscuous environment, should insist that women should dress in burkhas?

We are taught that Rebecca lived in such an environment, and yet, it is only at the moment when she meets Isaac that, “She then took the veil and covered herself.” (24:65) She did not wear her veil at home, in Aram Naharaim, a place without morals; she covered herself only when meeting her husband! Should she not have worn a veil while in Laban’s home to make a statement similar to Abraham’s with his muzzled camels?

There is a difference between a statement of honesty to one of modesty: Abraham signaled to the world that they were safe with him. He was not a threat. He would not take anything from them no matter how innocent or insignificant.  Abraham’s statement may have had a message of rebuke, but it was not a challenge. However, modesty is not an external statement, but an expression of internal dignity.  Rebecca’s veil would be meaningless to anyone other than an Isaac who would honor her dignity. A veil would only be a challenge to a society in which people feel entitled to grab what they want, no matter the feelings, morals, or desires of the victim.

There is a difference between a statement of modesty to a world that honors such statements and one to a world that ridicules such values. A veil in Aram Naharaim would have been a joke. Rebecca would have had to constantly go to further extremes to make her statement. She would have been living in a constant battle against her world, rather than fighting for her own dignity.

Ironically, the most important place to make a statement of internal dignity is only in an environment that would honor and respect such a statement. This is not to say that modesty and internal dignity are of supreme importance in a hostile environment. It is to say that modesty and dignity cannot be an expression of battle against society. It is an internal process of nurturing dignity; not a statement against the world.

I think of the new law in France against Burkhas, and think of a society that perceives the veil as a provocation.

I then think of a stranger in an elevator, remarking after a group of Satmar women exited, “Those women are beyond me. They are untouchable.” He noticed the look on my face and added, “I meant that as a compliment. They have something other women do not.”

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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29
Oct

Well, Well, Well

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week

Eliezer met Rebecca, Isaac’s intended, at a well. Jacob met Rachel at a well. Where is the well of Abraham and Sarah?

There were many wells in Abraham and Sarah’s story: After the Akeidah, Abraham “Stayed at Beer-sheba.” (22:19) Just before the Akeidah, Abraham planted an ‘eshel’ in Beer-sheba, where he had just entered into a covenant with Abimelech, and where he “disputed with Abimelech regarding the well of water that Abimelech’s servants had seized.”. (21:30-33) God opened Hagar’s eyes, and, “she perceived a well of water.” (21:19) It was Hagar’s second well: “Therefore the well was called, ‘The Well of the Living One Appearing to Me.’” (16:14)

With all wells in the Abraham and Sarah saga, we don’t find them together at a well, that is, until after she was buried:

“Now Isaac came from having gone to Beer-lahai-roi [The Well of the Living One Appearing to Me; Hagar’s well} for he dwelt in the south country. Isaac went out to supplicate in the field towards evening and he raised his eyes and saw, and behold, camels were coming. And Rebecca raised her eyes and saw Isaac; she inclined wile upon the camel. And she said to the servant, ‘Who is that man walking in the field toward us?’ And the servant said, ‘He is my master.’ And Isaac brought her into the tent of Sarah his mother; he married Rebecca, she became his wife, and he loved her; and thus was Isaac consoled after his mother.” (24:62-67)

Isaac, returning from Hagar’s well, saw camels. Rebecca, coming to Isaac, “raised her eyes and saw Isaac.” This was the ‘Meeting at the Well’ of Isaac and Rebecca; and, the ‘Meeting at the Well’ of Abraham and Sarah: “And Isaac brought her into the tent of Sarah his mother.” “And thus was Isaac consoled after his mother.”

Abraham’s father arranged the match between Abraham and Sarah. There was no magical moment of meeting. They had to create their own magical moments, their own sense of a future shaped by them, not by their past. Abraham and Sarah had to create their ‘Meeting at the Well,’ their sense of the possibilities of life. Isaac was raised with that sense of possibility, as was Jacob.

Isaac searched for the ‘Meeting at the Well’ of Abraham and Sarah; he was looking for camels, not people, because he wanted a sign of a well for his parents. He was returning from Hagar’s well, something Sarah seemed to never have. He was never consoled that his parents never shared a well. He knew that his intended was on her way to him, but he was out at Hagar’s well. Where was that magical moment of connection between Abraham and Sarah?

It was in his connection with Rebecca. The moment that Isaac found his destiny, he realized that all the hopes and dreams of his parents were realized. They had something far more powerful than a magical ‘Meeting at a Well,’ they had a magical meeting at the end of their lives, when everything they had done, came together. “And thus was Isaac consoled after his mother.”

Which ‘Meeting at the Well’ is the more powerful?

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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29
Oct

Eshet Chayil – Singing With The Angels

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week, Relationships

“Give her the fruits of her hand, and let her be praised in the gates by her very own deeds.”

The Zohar teaches that we create an angel with each positive action. These angels accompany us before God and attest to our accomplishments. The Woman of Valor is praised before God by the angels she has created.

We honor her angels, the same angels we welcomed in Shalom Aleichem, and join them in singing the praises of the Eishet Chayil of our home.

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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29
Oct

Eshet Chayil – Knowing How To Pray

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week, Relationships

“False is grace and vain is beauty, a God-Fearing woman – she should be praised.”

Rabbi Yose bar Jeremiah said: Why are the prophets likened here to a woman? Because, just as such a woman is not embarrassed to demand the needs of her household from her husband, so were the prophets not shy about demanding Israel’s needs from God.” (Midrash Mishlei)

I always read this Midrash as describing a woman who knows how to pray: She will pray to God, demanding the needs of her household just as she would demand the same from her husband. The prophets learned how to pray from such a Woman of Valor.

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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29
Oct

Eshet Chayil – A Complete Person

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week, Relationships

“Many daughters have amassed achievement, but you surpassed them all.”

My daughter wanted a specific dress, but it was far too short. “Don’t worry,” she assured me, “Mommy can fix it.” I suggested that even Mommy can’t make a dress grow, but she insisted, “Mommy can do anything!”

My children are convinced that their mother can do absolutely anything. They have seen her successfully tackle one insurmountable problem after another. They do not need proof that she possesses the specific skill necessary for a particular task. They know that she will succeed at whatever she does.

The Woman of Valor projects that sense of surpassing anything and anyone. She is a woman without limitation. She incorporates everything she learns. She lives all that she believes. She has confidence and courage, determination and destiny. She is a Whole and Complete person, a paradigm of a person striving to master herself and attach to the Creator.

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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