November, 2011 Archives

30
Nov

A View of a Place

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week, Prayer

The second I enter the room that was, originally, my grandfather zt”l’s, and then my father zt”l’s, study, I am overwhelmed. It is not the number of Sefarim that daunts me, but the level of learning and achievement that took place in that room. It is a magical room; powerful, and holy. It makes perfect sense that both their places at the front of the Beit Midrash remain with empty chairs. The place where they prayed and studied are different because of what they accomplished.

What did Jacob feel when he climbed to the peak of Moriah, the place where both Abraham and Isaac achieved their greatest heights with the Binding of Isaac? His grandfather and father visited with their arms full of fire and wood, prepared to make the most awesome offering to God. Jacob arrived with empty arms.

Moriah represented the peak of achievement for the first two patriarchs. For Jacob, it was an inadvertent stop on the way as he ran for his life from Esau, heading toward the home of the wicked Laban.

Did Jacob intend to charge his spiritual batteries at the holy place, drawing energy from the place and from his father and grandfather? Or, did Jacob arrive with a sense of inadequacy and weakness?

The portion stresses the significance of place. “Vayifga baMakom,” “and he met the place,” or, as the Sages teach, “When a righteous person leaves a place, it has an effect.” What was this place to Jacob at that juncture of his life? If the presence of a righteous person makes a mark; how did Jacob’s visit change Moriah?

Whatever was on Jacob’s mind as he went to sleep surely affected the nature of his dream. Even a prophetic dream is specifically designed for the prophet as, and where, he is. The dream of the Stairway to Heaven must be interpreted as a reflection of Jacob’s reaction to the place, the place itself with its history, and how the place was affected by Jacob’s presence.

“He encountered the place (Genesis 28:11),” indicates engagement, an engagement so powerful that the Sages determine that Jacob prayed in the place. Jacob arrived ready to encounter the greatness that had been achieved at this place. He still thought of this as the place where Abraham and Isaac had accomplished great heights, but he was still to learn, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the abode of the Lord and this is the gate of the heavens (Verse 17).” The place itself was powerful and holy. It was not because of what his father and grandfather had achieved, but because of its nature.

Since Adam was exiled from the Garden, we have been told about people, not places. Noah’s Ark was a place constructed by a righteous person. The Tower of Babel is a tale of people not a place. Jacob’s experience was of a place. He, the third patriarch, the great balancer, would learn the importance of the interaction between person and place, a necessary step to prepare the nation to settle in the Land of Canaan.

The Stairway in Jacob’s dream, the connection between Heaven and earth, is the connection between people and place; that a person can connect one place to another, earth to heaven, and that certain places are the key to allow the connection.

This is why we are urged to pray in a Makom Kavu’a, a set place; we can approach our prayers as Jacob learned to pray, as taking advantage of a holy place to fulfill our mission of connecting heaven and earth.

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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
Nov

Final Partings

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week, Prayer

“Would that there were in this world no final partings (From Ahihara No Narihara, The Tales of Ise).”

I am more moved by listening to a recording of my father zt”l speaking, than I am by visiting his grave. I honor him more by studying his Torah than by spending time at his burial plot. I do not feel compelled to visit his grave. When I do visit, I have difficulty leaving. I feel incomplete, so I return to my car and turn on a recording of his reading a verse, and again, am completely connected to him. His grave represents a parting. His Torah is a reminder that the parting was not permanent.

I feel closer to the Ramchal and honor him more when I study his teachings than when I visit his burial plot. I am not compelled to visit Tevariah just to spend time sitting near his grave. There are no final partings from the Ramchal. I grasp a copy of The Path of the Just in my hand as I walk away from his grave because I will not part from him.

When I am fortunate enough to visit Israel, I always go to the Ramchal’s resting place, just as I do Rabbi Shlomo haLevi Alkabetz, the Ramak, the Ari, and the Bet Yosef. I will go to Safed just to visit with them, something I do not do just to visit Hoshea’s grave, despite his being one of my favorite prophets. While in the Safed cemetery, I’ll walk up the hill to Hoshea, read one of his prophecies, and do my best to honor him, but, I do not go to Safed to visit his grave. I cannot walk away from their graves as if in a final parting; I carry part of them with me as I step back onto the street above the hill.

I am more moved by the verse that describes Sarah’s death than I am by visiting the Cave of Machpelah. I feel that I honor her life more when I study her life than when I visit her grave. I feel the same about all the Patriarchs and Matriarchs. Yet, I am still compelled to visit the Cave. I pause before the entrance to look up at the hill from where the huge stones were taken, as I was taught that King David’s first royal home stood there. He began in the place of beginnings, for although it was purchased as a burial plot, it was the beginning of our claim over the Land. King David wanted the beginning of his royal dynasty to be at the same place as that earlier beginnings.

I visit the Cave of Machpelah as a place of beginnings. I decided take the same approach to visiting my father’s burial place: I am going back to my beginning, to the person who not only gave me physical life, but spiritual direction. I returned to his grave to reconnect to my beginning. There was no sense of final partings. It was a reconnection to all my father gave me to approach my relationship with God and His Torah. I didn’t need to listen to a tape as I left. I pictured my father discussing with me what new steps to take. It was, not a sad experience, but an invigorating visit.

What would happen if I began my morning prayers, not as reciting what I’ve said so many times before, but as reconnecting to my beginnings?

It was thrilling. I’m going to try it with Shabbat this week; not a parting from the past, but as reconnecting to the beginning of the world.

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
Nov

The Blessing That Didn’t Work

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week, Prayer

The groom approaches the bride at the Badeken, and quotes Laban’s blessing to Rebecca, “Our sister, may you come to be thousands of thousands of myriads (Genesis 24:60).” Interestingly enough, the Ohr haChaim haKadosh teaches that Rebecca was barren (25:21) to prove that when she did have children, it was not as a result of Laban’s blessing, but Isaac’s prayer. Why did we make this blessing part of the wedding ceremony if it is a blessing that did not work?

It seems that it is not the blessing that matters, but who is reciting the blessing. This implies that all the blessings we recite in our prayers and throughout the day depend on who is the one reciting the blessing! We must reflect on whether we are someone worthy of reciting an effective blessing before we recite the words. Perhaps we can use our Tefillin mirrors all day, and take a peek before we recite a blessing. Each bracha will become an opportunity to do Teshuva. If only…

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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
Nov

Orchids and Dandelions

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week

The Swedish refer to children who are highly sensitive to their environment, especially to the quality of parenting they receive, as Orkidebarn, Orchid Children. If neglected, Orchid Children promptly wither, but if nurtured, they flourish. An Orchid Child becomes “a flower of unusual delicacy and beauty.” Dandelion Children have the capacity to survive, even thrive, in whatever circumstances they encounter. They are psychologically resilient.

Our first peek at Esau and Jacob offers us a Dandelion and an Orchid. “Esau became one who knows hunting, a man of the field; but Jacob was a wholesome man, abiding in tents (Genesis 25:27).” Esau is a Dandelion Child able to thrive in a violent world, even when standing unprotected in the field.

Jacob is presented as an Orchid, a child who can thrive only in the protective environment of tents.

We are familiar with Jacob the Orchid becoming a Dandelion. He forces Esau to sell the birthright. He steals his brother’s blessing. He will thrive in the house of Laban. He will successfully confront great enemies.

We are less familiar with Esau’s desperate drive to become an Orchid: “Then Esau perceived that the daughters of Canaan were evil in the eyes of Isaac, his father. So Esau went to Yishmael and took Mahalath, the daughter of Yishmael son of Abraham… as a wife for himself (Genesis 28:8-9).” Esau is convinced that he will only be safe in the arms of his father. Yes, he will confront Jacob, but only in the protective womb of a huge army.

Perhaps this is why Jacob dresses himself in Esau’s clothes; he wants Isaac to realize that he, Jacob, is not an Orchid, but a Dandelion. He wants Isaac to see that it is he who has the courage and strength to go out into the world and live as a child of Abraham and Isaac.

Why are they first presented in reverse roles? The Torah is teaching us that it is not the way we are born, as Orchids or Dandelions, that determines our success, but our choice of which flower to become?

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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23
Nov

A Letter From Israel’s Border With Egypt

by developer in Reflections & Observations

My name is Aron Adler.

I am 25 years old, was born in Brooklyn NY, and raised in Efrat Israel.

Though very busy, I don’t view my life as unusual. Most of the time, I am

just another Israeli citizen. During the day I work as a paramedic in Magen

David Adom, Israel’s national EMS service. At night, I’m in my first year

of law school. I got married this October and am starting a new chapter of

life together with my wonderful wife Shulamit.

15-20 days out of every year, I’m called up to the Israeli army to do my

reserve duty. I serve as a paramedic in an IDF paratrooper unit. My squad

is made up of others like me; people living normal lives who step up to

serve whenever responsibility calls. The oldest in my squad is 58, a father

of four girls and grandfather of two; there are two bankers, one engineer,

a holistic healer, and my 24 year old commander who is still trying to

figure out what to do with his life. Most of the year we are just normal

people living our lives, but for 15-20 days each year we are soldiers on

the front lines preparing for a war that we hope we never have to fight.

This year, our reserve unit was stationed on the border between Israel,

Egypt and the Gaza Strip in an area called “Kerem Shalom.” Above and beyond

the “typical” things for which we train – war, terrorism, border

infiltration, etc., – this year we were confronted by a new challenge.

Several years ago, a trend started of African refugees crossing the

Egyptian border from Sinai into Israel to seek asylum from the atrocities

in Darfur.

What started out as a small number of men, women and children fleeing from

the machetes of the Janjaweed and violent fundamentalists to seek a better

life elsewhere, turned into an organized industry of human trafficking. In

return for huge sums of money, sometimes entire life savings paid to

Bedouin “guides,” these refugees are promised to be transported from Sudan,

Eritrea, and other African countries through Egypt and the Sinai desert,

into the safe haven of Israel.

We increasingly hear horror stories of the atrocities these refugees suffer

on their way to freedom. They are subject to, and victims of extortion,

rape, murder, and even organ theft, their bodies left to rot in the desert.

Then, if lucky, after surviving this gruesome experience whose prize is

freedom, when only a barbed wire fence separates them from Israel and their

goal, they must go through the final death run and try to evade the bullets

of the Egyptian soldiers stationed along the border. Egypt’s soldiers are

ordered to shoot to kill anyone trying to cross the border OUT of Egypt and

into Israel. It’s an almost nightly event.

For those who finally get across the border, the first people they

encounter are Israeli soldiers, people like me and those in my unit, who

are tasked with a primary mission of defending the lives of the Israeli

people. On one side of the border soldiers shoot to kill. On the other

side, they know they will be treated with more respect than in any of the

countries they crossed to get to this point.

The region where it all happens is highly sensitive and risky from a

security point of view, an area stricken with terror at every turn. It’s

just a few miles south of the place where Gilad Shalit was kidnapped. And

yet the Israeli soldiers who are confronted with these refugees do it not

with rifles aimed at them, but with a helping hand and an open heart. The

refugees are taken to a nearby IDF base, given clean clothes, a hot drink,

food and medical attention. They are finally safe.

Even though I live Israel and am aware through media reports of the events

that take place on the Egyptian border, I never understood the intensity

and complexity of the scenario until I experienced it myself.

In the course of the past few nights, I have witnessed much. At 9:00 PM

last night, the first reports came in of gunfire heard from the Egyptian

border. Minutes later, IDF scouts spotted small groups of people trying to

get across the fence. In the period of about one hour, we picked up 13 men

– cold, barefoot, dehydrated – some wearing nothing except underpants.

Their bodies were covered with lacerations and other wounds. We gathered

them in a room, gave them blankets, tea and treated their wounds. I don’t

speak a word of their language, but the look on their faces said it all and

reminded me once again why I am so proud to be a Jew and an Israeli. Sadly,

it was later determined that the gunshots we heard were deadly, killing

three others fleeing for their lives.

During the 350 days a year when I am not on active duty, when I am just

another man trying to get by, the people tasked with doing this amazing

job, this amazing deed, the people witnessing these events, are mostly

young Israeli soldiers just out of high school, serving their compulsory

time in the IDF, some only 18 years old.

The refugees flooding into Israel are a heavy burden on our small country.

More than 100,000 refugees have fled this way, and hundreds more cross the

border every month. The social, economic, and humanitarian issues created

by this influx of refugees are immense. There are serious security

consequences for Israel as well. This influx of African refugees poses a

crisis for Israel. Israel has yet to come up with the solutions required to

deal with this crisis effectively, balancing its’ sensitive social,

economic, and security issues, at the same time striving to care for the

refugees.

I don’t have the answers to these complex problems which desperately need

to be resolved. I’m not writing these words with the intention of taking a

political position or a tactical stand on the issue.

I am writing to tell you and the entire world what’s really happening down

here on the Egyptian/Israeli border. And to tell you that despite all the

serious problems created by this national crisis, these refugees have no

reason to fear us. Because they know, as the entire world needs to know,

that Israel has not shut its eyes to their suffering and pain. Israel has

not looked the other way. The State of Israel has put politics aside to

take the ethical and humane path as it has so often done before, in every

instance of human suffering and natural disasters around the globe. We Jews

know only too well about suffering and pain. The Jewish people have been

there. We have been the refugees and the persecuted so many times, over

thousands of years, all over the world.

Today, when African refugees flood our borders in search of freedom and

better lives, and some for fear of their lives, it is particularly

noteworthy how Israel deals with them, despite the enormous strain it puts

on our country on so many levels. Our young and thriving Jewish people and

country, built from the ashes of the Holocaust, do not turn their backs on

humanity. Though I already knew that, this week I once again experienced it

firsthand. I am overwhelmed with emotion and immensely proud to be a member

of this nation.

With love of Israel,

Aron Adler writing from the Israel/Gaza/Egyptian border.

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23
Nov

Thanksgiving : Take Note. Be Grateful. Enjoy. by Prof Gerald August

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Reflections & Observations

What do a bracha (blessing) and Thanksgiving have in common?

A bracha’s essential element is to recognize a good that was done for us and to express appreciation for that good. It is gratitude, and gratitude is the essential ingredient for a human being to be happy. If you expect nothing and get something, you’re happy. A bracha is an opportunity to focus on the things we receive but don’t really pay attention to.

I learned this lesson from Rav Simcha Weinberg. We were sitting down to have lunch, and he asked me if I wanted to make an olam hazeh (this world) blessing or an olam haba (heavenly)

blessing. I said, “The heavenly blessing. What is that?” He explained that a “this world” blessing is muttered in haste. The heavenly blessing slows us down and focuses us. So he told me to describe all the people involved in producing the pasta I was about to eat.

I started enumerating: a person planted a seed, someone cultivated the seed, then the wheat was harvested, someone had to put it in a truck and take it to the silo. Then it had to be shipped across country in a truck so there was a truck driver. It got to New York and had to be delivered by another truck driver to the particular cafeteria where we were eating. Then someone heated the pasta and poured the sauce.

The Rabbi said to me, “Look at the gratitude you owe to all of the people involved in bringing you this food.” A lot of people worked to deliver the pasta, so gratitude is due.

Then he told me to close my eyes and just breathe and appreciate the aroma coming from the pasta and sauce. With my eyes closed, my focus was totally on the sensation of my sense of smell. I had really never noticed an aroma as I had when I closed my eyes. Then he finally told me to make the blessing, slowly, and think about everything I was saying . He was correct. The blessing was a different blessing filled with gratitude. I appreciated my meal both mentally and through more of my senses. I took note, was grateful and enjoyed.

Thanksgiving is a holiday that teaches us to focus on the everyday bounty we may take for granted. Thanksgiving is a meaningful holiday for people of the United States of America. We all need to appreciate what we have, and as the Rabbis teach us, “Who is rich? People who take joy in what they have.” Please note that it does not say that people should be content to stay with what they have. Striving to gain more of what you want is okay. But happiness can be achieved today, as well as in the future.

Thanksgiving is a time when we need to reflect on how safe and good the United States has been to Jews and other persecuted peoples. It is a country that pioneered religious freedom. Have you ever read the letter George Washington sent to the Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island?

The key phrases are: All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.

May the children of the stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the goodwill of the other inhabitants; while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.

It is a little letter with large implications.

The question I have is, can we make the sehechiyanu blessing? It is a blessing that gives thanks that we have survived and reached this season. It would seem to be appropriate. After all, the prayer is there to have us focus on all the ramifications of reaching this season. If you don’t think that saying the first part of the blessing, which includes G-d’s name, is warranted, then just start from the word sehechiyanu, or say the last part in English: Bless He who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this season. Take note, be grateful and enjoy.

With the freedom to be Jewish perhaps a good way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to do something you haven’t done in terms of being Jewish. Maybe you will pick up a Jewish book on ethics or philosophy and read it. Maybe you will give a little more charity to a Jewish organization. There are numerous books, websites and posts on Youtube. This website has many short ideas that are quick to read and will expand your mind. Even if you are a devotee, try one of the resources you never look at.

Another way to celebrate Thanksgiving, an American holiday, is to donate money to a food bank so that more Americans will celebrate Thanksgiving.

Have a delicious dinner… and savor it!

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12
Nov

No Fear of The Lord In This Place

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week

What was Abraham thinking? He was already famous as the person who defeated the Four Kings in battle. Abraham could not simply choose to settle anywhere without being perceived as a potential threat. Yet, he wants to move away from Sodom because the area has been devastated and he cannot spread his message of God. Did he believe that he could settle down, even temporarily, in Gerar, the land of the Philistines, without making Avimelech nervous? Abraham knew that his arrival would catch the king’s attention.

Abraham had no reason to be intimidated by Avimelech, and the Philistine King was probably desperate to establish peaceful relationships with this powerful personality. He had reason to want Abraham’s “sister” as a wife. What better way to form a bond with Abraham?

People were already nervous. A major commercial area, Sodom and her sister cities, had been destroyed, reminiscent in everyone’s mind of Noah’s Flood. When Abraham traveled, everyone knew. Reporters researched his background and probably uncovered the story of Pharaoh and Sarah. Avimelech had good reason to assume that Abraham, secure and strong, wouldn’t pull the same “sister” trick. What was Abraham thinking when he settled in Gerar? …when he presented Sarah as his sister?

The only hint we have of Abraham’s thinking is when he justifies his lie by saying, “There is no fear of the Lord in this place (20:11).” Abraham was the perfect person to consult about the Divine destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Avimelech’s first question should have been about the devastation, not peace treaties! The King had good reason to suspect that marrying Abraham’s sister wouldn’t help: Sodom was destroyed despite the fact that Abraham’s nephew, Lot, lived there. Avimelech doesn’t mention the terrifying destruction of Sodom. It’s as if he took it all in stride. Avimelech wasn’t paying attention. He learned nothing from Sodom. Abraham knew that there was no fear of the Lord in this place.

He suspected that Avimelech was someone who refused to learn from the past, so he pulled the same “sister” trick he had famously pulled in Egypt. He was right! Avimelech ignored all the press reports and chose to move ahead with his own agenda. Avimelech’s lack of fear of the Lord indicated a person who did not pay attention to the past. He would ignore Abraham’s great military victory.

Avimelech eventually considers the past: “At that time, Abimelech and Phicol, general of his legion, said to Abraham, ‘The Lord is with you in all that you do.” Rashi explains that they referred to Abraham’s victory over the Four Kings. “At that time,” only after Abraham exiled his son Yishmael, did Avimelech consider Abraham’s victory. Only then did Avimelech and his general consider the Lord. Why?

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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11
Nov

A Spiritual Workout

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week

“Good people strengthen themselves ceaselessly (Confucius).” My back is aching more than usual, and it’s my fault. I knew that if I would shovel the snow that fell over Shabbat  two weeks ago that my body would hurt. I was being a good person, as I cleared the snow (when my wife wasn’t watching) so that my wife could reach her car.

Then, my older neighbor, a doctor, mentioned to me that he exercises all year so that he can shovel the snow without hurting himself. I have not been regularly exercising to prepare for the winter, or even to strengthen my muscles to support my constantly aching back. I have not been ceaselessly strengthening myself; does that mean that I am not being the good person described by Confucius? Probably.

If I have to exercise to prepare for shoveling snow, I certainly have to exercise to be ready to be tested by God. I’ve been wondering whether this Spiritual Workout is what our Sages mean when they describe Abraham as tested ten times: The ten times that Israel tested God in the desert, are actually nine plus one that was more than the previous tests combined. The first nine tests were “tests” of how far Israel could go in testing God; they were all preparation for the tenth test. Abraham’s first nine tests were a spiritual workout, all meant to prepare him for the tenth and only test that truly mattered.

“He looked and saw the place from a distance,” can also mean that Abraham looked back on how far he had traveled through life to arrive at this test. He understood that all that preceded this moment was a complex workout to prepare him for the Akeidah.

We all feel tested by God, but I wonder how often we consider whether the immediate test is part of a spiritual workout, or the defining test. Failing a workout test, as the Ramban suggests Abraham did, is not a failure; it is a learning experience to train me for the defining test. The difference matters.

I think I’ll go exercise…

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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11
Nov

“The Pain of Abraham” by Prof. Gerald August

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week, Relationships

It was the third day after Abraham was circumcised and he was in pain. So how do we explain what he does? He saw men approaching his tent. He ran to greet them and bowed before them. He ran to tell Sarah to make cakes, and again ran to take a calf to be slaughtered for a meal. He then carried the meal to the men and stood by them as they ate, in case they needed something else.

Wait a minute. What about the pain? Did it magically disappear?

The answer is one I experienced years ago. I was visiting a friend in the hospital, and he was in bad shape. During the first 20 minutes of my visit, he was in discomfort and hardly spoke. I was distressed. But then I asked if he wanted to hear an idea I had on the Torah reading. After saying my part, he began, in an animated voice, telling me his thoughts on the Torah reading. He became a different person. After 5 minutes, his wife looked at me in astonishment, and I gave her the same look. This was the antidote. He was focused on something he was passionate about, and he ignored or did not notice his discomfort.

Abraham did the same thing. The story also teaches us how to visit the sick and be helpful. Engage them in something that is their passion, and they will be their own pain killers.

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11
Nov

Tested by Spiders

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week

I only notice them on Shabbat, up toward the ceiling; spiders. There’s nothing I can do about them because of Shabbat. I may not kill them, or even trap them to move them outside. I may not even plan to kill them after Shabbat, because one may not plan on Shabbat to do something that is forbidden on Shabbat.

I suspect that these spiders have spent so much time in the house listening to shiurim that they are experts in the laws of Shabbat. The spiders disappear immediately after Havdalah. They know that they are perfectly safe from me on Shabbat and Jewish festivals; yes, they also come out on those days, although, they avoid the living room on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur where we hold services. The spiders in my house are familiar with Halachah, respectful of prayer, and committed to test my observance.

I could, of course, determine that they are poisonous, finding justification to trap them, but they remain in one place all day and pose no threat. Perhaps they know even more Jewish law than I suspect. How sad that my biggest temptation to violate Shabbat has to do with spiders! The real test is not even the desire to kill them, but how they occupy my mind all day, disturb my peace. I have trouble maintaining my concentration for 25 hours because of tiny, albeit smart, spiders. I wonder how Abraham remained focused for 72 hours while headed to Moriah to offer Isaac to God.  The Midrash describes Satan as appearing as a huge river on the way, but I suspect that it was not a huge hindrance, but a series of minor distractions along the way, something such as, well, spiders. Abraham managed his spiders much better than do I.

Satan’s distractions were not intended to stop Abraham from offering Isaac, but from being able to make every moment of the three day trip part of the offering. I can attend prayers, properly celebrate the Shabbat meals, and still have hours of non-Shabbat, distracted from the nature of the day. You see, even when I am frustrated by spiders, I am thinking about Shabbat; how to apply her laws to the situation. The challenge is to focus even the most trivial concerns around Shabbat. Abraham could have remained in contact with his financial advisor even while traveling to Moriah, but he left his iPhone at home. He wanted to use every moment of the trip as part of his offering.

We tend to think of the Evil Inclination’s challenges as huge rivers and mountains and forget that he will take advantage of our concern for the big tests to distract us in small ways…with spiders.

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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