January, 2011 Archives

27
Jan

Opportunities

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week

An Open Door How odd!

They were slaves less than two months ago. The first law that is presented in this portion is about a slave. The Torah describes a slave who does not want to leave his master. His life as a slave is better than his life as a free man.

In how many hearts did this scenario resonate? How many of the people understood exactly what that slave described in the verse felt? Did they not often say that they missed Egypt? Was there a small seed of hesitation in each and every one of the Children of Israel? Perhaps we would be better off…

The master brings his devoted slave to the Beit Din – the court- and the slave’s ear is placed against the doorway and pierced. Why the ear? Rashi explains, The same ear that heard at Sinai that we are servants of God and no one else has stopped listening to that message.

But why the door? Because the door of opportunity was opened to him and he refused it. He is stuck.

The Torah is sharing with us its definition of slavery:

“One who is frightened of new opportunities”

The Torah is speaking directly to those Jews who still harbored doubts; it’s OK. You had doubts but you still stepped out of Egypt DESPITE those doubts. You are a truly free person.

And, there’s more…

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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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27
Jan

Echoes III

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week

I will echo myself: I still hear echoes:

“And these are the laws that you shall place before them.”

“This is the Torah that Moses placed before the Children of Israel.”

I believe that there is another difference between “Giving” a law, or “Placing the Law before”:

In my mind a given law is absolute. There are strict and unbending guidelines. The law is fixed. The Talmud teaches in Bava Metzia 30b that Jerusalem was destroyed because the leaders ruled, the courts put forth and the people practiced absolute law. They were inflexible. Jerusalem could not survive.

Torah is not “Given” law, it has been “Placed” before us to direct us, to guide us, but always with gentleness and compassion. Rabbi Akiva Sofer in his Tzuf Devash taught that the true measure of a leader or Beit Din –Jewish Court- is the ability to render decisions that lead to peace, healing, wholeness and happiness. To use the Torah as it is “Before” us and them LaHaloch – to Move forward with it – to digest its meaning and focus, to breathe the Torah’s approach to life and then nurture us and move us forward.

And there’s more..

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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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25
Jan

Which Child?

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in 613 Concepts, Portion of the Week, Relationships

“Matis! No, Aviva! No, Yehudis! No, Miriam! No, Naomi! Simcha! Take out the garbage!” I wondered whether my mother sylyt”a was certain of my name. It usually took her a few tries before she got the right name when requesting me to do something.

I was frightened the first time I went through a similar process: “Shoshana! I mean Betzalel! TL! Gilit! Anna! Oriel! No, Mikey! Take out the garbage!” I knew my children quite well. I named them. There I was having trouble getting the correct name. I’ve hear my siblings do the same thing with their children, but as with me, never with grandchildren.

I mentioned my experience to my friend Rabbi David W. who laughed as he remembered his mother going through the same process, although with a shorter list. His theory is that when parents are ordering their children to do something, they cease to see their offspring as individuals, and treat them as, in his words, “Child labor.”

One of my uncles, a wise and righteous man with nine children, was filling out a form on which he had to list all his children, and he forgot the name of one. (He never told anyone which name he forgot.) His theory was that he was so focused on his responsibilities at the moment, that he forgot to view his children as individuals.

I can’t count the number of times I heard parents tell a story about one of their children only to be corrected by their kids as to which child was the real subject of the story. I don’t believe that my friend’s theory about child labor, or my uncle’s explanation of responsibilities, explains all the instances when parents forget a child’s name.

Our portion tells the tale of a father who has forgotten his child’s name: The man who, in financial desperation, sells his daughter as a slave. I find it astounding that the Torah chooses this tragic story as the context to teach a husband’s obligations to his wife: 1) Love, 2) Food, and 3) Clothing.

The sale of a daughter comes with the understanding that the purchaser or his son will marry the girl/woman. The desperate father is compelled to consider his daughter’s future at that horrible moment. He may not sell her to someone who will simply use her as a maidservant. She may not work as a maidservant after she becomes a woman at twelve-years-old.

She may only be sold to work for a man who is willing to make a lifelong commitment to her. Only such a commitment allows the purchase of the maidservant. She is not “purchased” for her work; there are limitations to how much work we can expect from such a young girl.

The “Purchase” must be a statement of commitment: “I will care for you more than you experienced from your father. He may have forgotten your name. I never will. My commitment extends ‘beyond’ your father’s.”  That ‘beyond’ is inherent in every marriage; it is a promise of more, better, beyond. The ‘beyond’ means that a marriage will never remain what it was yesterday. It will always be a promise and an expectation of more.

The husband’s obligations are presented as a negative commandment: He may not deprive her of HER food, HER Clothing, Her Time. A relationship that lacks the commitment of ‘beyond’ will soon lead to deprivation – a loss of what is already there. The Torah is telling us that it is either “beyond” or “Do not deprive.” There is no middle ground.

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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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25
Jan

Listening For The First Time

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week

One of my favorite songs is “Hallelukah” by Leonard Cohen. I have listened to the music hundreds of times and only knew one word of the song; “Hallelukah.” For some reason, when I listened this morning I paid attention to the words and realized that the song is about King David and Batsheva, and is, at least from my perspective, disrespectful of David. I have hummed the tune, meditated to it, but never took the time to really listen. The tune masked the words.

Jaroslav Pelikan describes a similar story in a monastery high up on a mountain in Europe. Dr. Pelikan heard the magnificent singing from the road and ran inside to see whether the voices were, as they sounded, those of angels, or of men. It was a choir of men singing with beatific smiles. They were in a different world. They sang the Latin words to a soft, sweet tune that pierced the hearts of all privileged to hear them. Dr. Pelikan approached them after the service and asked them if they understood the words they had sung. They did not, but they were certain that they were singing of God’s love. They were not: They were singing a verse that asked God to smash the brains of children on rocks! They were moved by the mysterious words. They were elevated by the music. They had never really listened. They never asked for a translation. They weren’t curious. The song masked the words.

“We will do and we will hear,” pledged Israel at Sinai. “Hear Israel!” we declare each day. Are we hearing? Are we listening? Are we fulfilling the pledge we made at Sinai?

My friend in Yeshiva took his time praying. He was careful to recite every word with intent and understanding. He was obviously moved by his prayers. I once asked him what he had just recited in a specific prayer. He was shocked. He had carefully recited that prayer every day for years and yet he had no idea what he had said. He knew only that he was moved by the prayer. Deeply disappointed in himself, he ran to our Rebbi, Rabbi Yochanan Zweig, who explained that although his “hearing” was lacking when not paying attention to the paragraphs as opposed to each word, he was listening to his soul’s longing. I suggested that my friend was focusing on the “Nishma” – “We will hear,” – without the “Na’aseh,” – “We will do,” – the work necessary to hear the messages. “We will do,” refers to more than performing commandments. It is a commitment to work at listening, to be constantly curious, to explore, to question, to “Na’aseh,” as in “To become” a real listener.

The Sinaitic pledge of “Na’aseh,” is to work to become a “Nishma,” one who knows how to listen. It is not the husband who listens to his wife because he is “supposed” to, but because he is a listener. To concentrate when praying as a listener, not just the requirement of prayer.

Those who “Na’aseh,” work to become “Nishma,” ‘listeners,’ will be able to hear the echoes of Sinai each time he studies, each time he prays. It is he who will sing “Halelukah” and mean 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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25
Jan

Thought Tools by Rabbi Daniel Lapin: Actions For All

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week

One of the families in the congregation I was privileged to serve had four children.  Three followed in the ways of their parents while the fourth, a teenage son, did not.  Although he was not behaving in a hostile manner, he declared himself an atheist and didn’t want the family imposing its values upon him.

He absented himself from family Sabbath meals, watching television in his room.  He politely insisted that he had a brain to think out his own approach to life.

They consulted me.  I advised them to spend two weeks agreeing with him that he alone could think through his own life philosophy.  What is more, they were to acknowledge his right to his personal beliefs.

Once their son knew they respected his independent thinking, they should explain that there is a gigantic gulf between beliefs and actions.  His beliefs were his, but while he lived under their roof, they would exert influence over his actions.

Needless to say, actions included speech.  My congregants were concerned about their son influencing his siblings.

“But surely I have freedom of speech?” asked their son.  “Constitutionally, yes”, they answered. But while they were thrilled to have him stay part of a united family, that meant voluntarily acquiescing to restraining his speech.   Just as freedom of speech doesn’t translate into a right to a radio or TV forum, it also doesn’t include the right to say anything one wants in all settings.

Shortly afterwards, my congregants reported back to me that their son listened to their argument and accepted it.  This brought welcome tranquility to their formerly troubled family.

These parents had often heard me say that the best way of gaining understanding into how the world really works was through the secrets of ancient Jewish wisdom. They wanted to know where in Scripture this permanent principle appeared.

When Moses presented the Israelites with the God-centric worldview of Sinai, they responded enthusiastically on three separate occasions.  The first two times, they responded ‘together’ or in ‘one voice’.

1:    And all the nation responded together and they said,

‘All that God has spoken
we will do’.…

(Exodus 19:8)

2:    And Moses came and told the nation all of God’s words

and all the rules, and
the entire nation answered in one voice,

and they said, ‘All the words that God has spoken
we will do.’

(Exodus 24:3)

Both these times focused on actions; doing. However, #3 is different.

3:       And he (Moses) took the Book of the Covenant and

read it into the ears of the nation, and they said,

‘All that God has spoken, we will do and we will hear.’

(Exodus 24:7)

This time, in addition to action there was an element of hearing. Hearing implies internal understanding. In terms of our personal relationship with God, we each appreciate Him in our own way. For this reason, the verse does not mention that they responded in one voice.

All Israelites heard the words and understood the covenant in individual ways but they all agreed to a group code of conduct.  In Hebrew that code is called HaLaCHaH.

People with different beliefs can live together in harmony as long as they agree on standards of behavior.  That is a central theme in the Constitution of the United States of America.  That is also how successful corporations and other organizations operate.  Common belief within a group is wonderful and converts it into a crucible of creativity, but it is not essential. What is critical is a common code of conduct.

Parents can’t impose God on their children. They can serve as models and create an appealing environment in which faith can flourish. But like the children of Israel, each individual must forge his or her own faith relationship. However, demanding certain actions is necessary for both families and businesses to remain cohesive.

This principle is one of those used by my colleague, Noah Alper, in creating a successful business. As his faith grew, in a departure from his family’s atheism, his actions, both personal and in business, changed. He chronicles this journey providing applicable business lessons for all, in his book Business Mensch, which we are delighted to make available to you.

Thought Tools

by Rabbi Daniel Lapin

www.RabbiDanielLapin.com

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24
Jan

That Ear Thing

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in 613 Concepts, Portion of the Week

I’m having difficulty understanding the pierced ear of the slave who does not want to leave.

The slave, six years after being sold into slavery to pay for stealing, is quite comfortable where he is. His master is obligated to pay attention to the slaves needs. The master must treat the slave with respect. If there is only a single pillow in the house, it is for the slave, not the master. The slave may have a Canaanite slave woman for his pleasure and to father children who will remain in the master’s home. The master will shower him with gifts when the slave is ready to return home.

“But if the bondsman shall say, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children – I shall not go free,’ then his master shall bring him to the court and shall bring him to the door or to the doorpost, and his master shall bore through his ear with the awl, and he shall serve him forever.” (Exodus 21:5-6)

The Jew who prefers to be a servant of a human master rather than owe his allegiance entirely to God, has rejected the lesson of the doorpost in Egypt. Therefore the boring is done against a door. (Kiddushin 22b) “Rabbi Yochanan taught, ‘The ear that heard, ‘You shall not steal,’ at Sinai, should be pierced.” (Mechilta)

I understand why the doorpost and why the ear. I do not understand why the Torah obligates the master rather than Bet Din to pierce his ear. If the piercing is a punishment for ignoring, “Do not steal,” the court should pierce his ear for having stolen. Why is it the response to his desire to remain in his very comfortable existence as a slave?

Perhaps the piercing is not only for the servant, but for the master as well: We are discussing a master who desires that his slave remains. (Rambam Hilchot Avadim, Chapter 3, Halacha 11) What is the master thinking as his slave declares his desire to remain?

The Talmud (Kiddushin 20a) teaches, “Whoever purchases a Hebrew slave, purchases a master for himself.” Tosafot explains that the master must give the servant preferential treatment that goes over and beyond the Mitzvah of brotherly love.

A master is obligated to provide sustenance for the wife and children of the Jewish slave. (Rambam, Hilchot Avadim, Chapter 3)

Does the master desire “ a master for himself?” Why is he willing to give up so much for a slave who is more an obligation than benefit?

We can understand a situation in which the master is not fulfilling his full obligations to the servant, that he too, is stealing; from the servant. Hence, the reflection on “Do not steal.”

However, I suspect that there is something unhealthy in the relationship between this master and his servant. The master seems to feel that he is benefitting from having a slave despite the enormous financial and moral obligations. The bottom line is that he enjoys having a slave. The Bet Din insists that he act out the power he has over his slave by piercing the slave’s ear, marking him as a slave, his slave.

The slave physically experiences his master’s power and desire for power. Bet Din is forcing the slave, who “love his master,” to confront his master’s love for him, on what it is based.

When first purchased, the master was helping the slave pay off his debt. The master accepted responsibility for the slave and his family. The master was instructed to restore the slave’s sense of self. The master, who was to heal him, now enjoys the power. The slave who is willing to serve such a man is a slave in essence. He remains, whether physically free or not, a slave forever. His ear is permanently marked as a person who chose to be a slave to someone who thrives in power over others. He never “left” Egypt.

This is why I insist that the second blessing of the Amidah, “Gevurot,” is not praise of God’s power, but ‘Empowerment.’ God’s power is never used over us, but for us to fully realize our potential. God is not the master who is willing for the slave to so remain, but the master Who pushes His servants out the door, into the world, and the responsibilities of freedom.

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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24
Jan

Echoes II

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week

I still hear echoes:

“And these are the laws that you shall place before them.”

“This is the Torah that Moses placed before the Children of Israel.”

What is the difference between “giving” the Torah and “Placing” it before Israel?

It’s even more interesting that we refer to this great event, or, more accurately, series of events, as the Giving of the Torah, not as the Placement of the Torah before us. The Torah blessings describe God as the “Notain HaTorah” – The Giver of the Torah.

It is almost as if we are saying that God “Gave” the Torah, but Moshe “Placed” it before us.

The Maharal of Prague explains in his introduction to Tiferet Yisrael that the reason we stress “Placed Before” is that all of us have equal access. God, through Moshe, placed the Torah before all of Israel. We simply must step forward and participate in the process.

My Rebbi, Rabbi Yochanan Zweig, compared the process of placing before as similar to a college student choosing from among the thousands of courses offered by the school. The options are placed before the student and he can choose what most interests him.

Torah is vast, deep and broad. It addresses every part of life. God gave all of it to us when He gave us existence. It has wisdom, directions and advice for every aspect of every life, anywhere in the world, anytime in history. Moshe placed this all before us, so we can choose what to learn, on what to focus and where we can find that one part of Torah that is uniquely ours.

Only God can give the torah. Even Moshe, the greatest of all teachers can only place before, present all that is there, make it attractive and then allow the child and student to choose.

And there’s more

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
Jan

Echoes I

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week

I hear echoes;:

“And these are the laws that you shall place before them.”

“This is the Torah that Moses placed before the Children of Israel.”

Place before. It does not say to give, but to place something in front of them.

Rashi explains that Moses was commanded to present the laws to his nation in the same way that a caterer will prepare an attractive table for guests. Moses was commanded that he should not teach only laws, but he must present the laws in an attractive manner. He had to make the laws accessible and meaningful.

Imagine: the Torah is in the middle of the most important story within its pages; the Revelation; in which God teaches Israel about Himself. In the middle of the story, God paused, and told Moses that he had to become the teacher extraordinare, the paradigm of a rebbi. Moses had to learn how to present each and every law that he was given in an attractive manner.

I wonder; how did Moshe teach the laws he had given over until now?

Was it possible for Moshe to, not simply teach, but to place the laws in front of the people before Revelation?

I don’t think so. Moshe was being instructed to teach all laws from now on as a continuation of Sinai, as an expansion of the Revelation of God.

That is exactly how we must study the Torah and its laws: Each law is a spreading out of the light of Revelation.

And there’s more..

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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21
Jan

Benefit and Usefulness

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week

Thirty spokes share the wheel’s hub;

It is the center hole that makes it useful.

Shape clay into a vessel;

It is the space within that makes it useful.

Cut door and windows for a room;

It is the holes which make it useful.

Therefore benefit comes from what is there;

Usefulness from what is not there.

– Lao Tzu

The mountain was there. The people could see Sinai and numerous manifestations of God’s Presence. But there also was the “center hole,” that which was not there: The space between the people and the mountain. They benefitted from what was there, but the ultimate “usefulness” was from what was not: How would they bridge the empty space between them and the mountain? Would they use the yet to be defined to make independent decisions? Would they attempt to fill that empty space with their own efforts? Or, would they wait for God to fill the empty space?

Were they willing to step forward or were they waiting for God to approach?

This is the question we ask ourselves each time we take three steps back before prayer: There is a three-step empty space. Will we wait for God, or will we step forward into that empty space?

We step forward, each time using what is not there to say, “This is what I would have done at Sinai!”

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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21
Jan

The Study Partner

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

I recently took out a sefer – holy book – that I studied in the summer of 1980 in order to certify as a Shochet – a ritual slaughterer. I was surprised to find that it was a far more enjoyable study and challenge than the first time. The book is highly technical and my chavrusa, or study partner, at the time, a good friend, was more interested in adventure than technical details. His strong feelings influenced me. We spent 12 hours each day together, studying, practicing sharpening our knives, and standing with our rebbi, Rabbi Katz z’l, as he shechted more than a hundred animals each day. You can’t spend so much time with someone, especially a good friend, without being influenced. So, I didn’t love the Tevuot Shor thirty years ago, but, boy, do I love it now.

I can recall exactly what I felt the first time around. I have changed. My learning has changed. My thinking has changed. Everything has changed, but the months spent with B. studying this holy book, left their mark.

My love for my favorite masechata – Temurah – is also an expression of the magical learning I had with Y, my chavrusa at the time, as is my love for Kiddushin. Ketubot resonates deeper than any other tractate; a reflection of the period of my Rebbi’s greatest influence on me.

When I open a Chumash, Ramchal, or Rambam, I immediately associate the learning with my father. My grandfather speaks to me through the pages of the Tur. At least fifty times each week I open a sefer of one of the great Chassidic Masters, and I hear the voice of Reb Shlomo. The list goes on.

A sefer is not just a sefer; it is also a collection of voices and experiences.

My learning experience is evolving as I strive to attach closer to God. I increasingly feel His Presence when I learn, and then I understand why Sinai was so important. Our first experience of all of Torah was impressed onto our souls for we studied directly with the Melamaid Torah l’amo Yisrael, the Torah teacher of His nation, Israel.

If we just listen carefully enough to those impressions on our souls we will recall that first taste of studying Torah. We will hear His voice in every word and thought.

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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