Friday, December 09, 2005

Vayetzei (Genesis 28:10-32:3) Vayetzei 5766

Parashá da Semana


Someone once said, "The problem with the rat race is that even if you win, you're still a rat!" We live in hectic times. Perhaps more hectic, intense, frenzied, pressured, multi-tasking, pulled in all directions at once than any time in history. With the cell phone, blackberry, instant messaging, WI-Fi we are connected 24 hours a day. Even our vacations are scheduled and crammed to milk every last experience out of our time away from the grind. Is it true that he who dies with the most toys wins? Is this life? Running on a treadmill and only getting off when you fall off dead?
For thousands of years the Jewish people have had the secret to balancing life - Shabbos! One day a week from before sunset on Friday to after the stars come out Saturday night the Jewish people have celebrated Shabbos. For 24 hours no telephone, no televisions, no traffic, no rushing. Shabbos is a time to reconnect to the Almighty, to things spiritual and to put the material world in proper perspective. For as the Almighty said:
"You shall observe My Sabbaths for it is a sign between Me and you for all generations to know that I am the Lord, Who makes you holy." (Exodus 31:13)
It used to be that the norm for the Jewish people was to celebrate and observe the Shabbat. The declination in observance is not because we know more or are better educated in our heritage than our ancestors. Perhaps in secular knowledge we know more than our forebearers, but a Jew in our age can have a Ph.D. in physics and be on a kindergarten level in his Torah knowledge.
For many Jews of our generation, observing Shabbat is considered perhaps quaint, possibly medieval, even antiquated. One might hear comments like "Ridiculous! Not turn off and on lights? Not answer the telephone? It could be important!" There is even a fear amongst some non-Shabbat observers about trying to observe a Shabbat - "I'll be embarrassed because I don't know what to do! I might make a mistake!"
I'd like to paint a picture of what Shabbat is like in the mind of a Shabbos observer: All week long it's work hard, run around, accomplish... but in the back of one's mind it's 4 days to Shabbos, it's 3 days to Shabbos, it's 2 days to Shabbos, tomorrow's Shabbos! And then on Friday, it's preparation to finish off the day's work in time to come home in time to shower, change into Shabbos clothes (what in America they used to call "Sunday go meeting clothes") and help with the last minute preparations.
Eighteen minutes before sunset, the candles are lit and if it's a mother who is lighting them she will say a special prayer and then give each of her children a blessing. A sense of peace spreads over the household. A special quiet. A spiritual warmth. That's it; the work week is over. Whatever was supposed to be accomplished was accomplished. What didn't get accomplished will just have to wait until Shabbos is over.
Shabbos has been called an Island in Time ... peace and tranquillity, a time for family and friends. A time which puts life in perspective. The Friday night meal starts with Kiddush prayer said over wine or grape juice. Then comes the motzie, the blessing for bread over the 2 Challahs (why 2 Challahs? because the Torah tells us that on Shabbat during the 40 years in the desert, we received a double portion of manna on Friday to last through Shabbat). The meal may go on for 2 to 3 three hours starting with questions for the kids on the week's Torah portion, special Shabbos songs, words of Torah giving insights into life ... and talking and being with the ones you love! And all of that punctuated by delicious courses of food - soup, fish, salad, chicken, kugels, drinks, desserts. Shabbos is special and every effort goes into making it special, particularly the food.
Want to bring Shabbos into your life? The easiest way is to find a Shabbos observant friend and ask him if you could come for a meal. Don't be hesitant. He will be thrilled that you ask! Avraham our forefather had a tent with 4 doors open to all directions so that passersby could come for a meal. He instilled the value of kindness and hospitality into our Jewish nature. Probably if a friend asked if he could come to your home for a meal with your family, you would be happy; don't think your friend's reaction would be any less than yours! As you see how different families celebrate the Shabbat, you can incorporate into your own Shabbat celebration the foods, customs and even songs.
Learn about Shabbat. I highly recommend Lori Palatnik's "Friday Night and Beyond -The Shabbat Experience Step by Step." If you want peace and happiness for your family, Shabbos will make a big difference!

Torah Portion of the Week Vayetzei

This week we have the trials and tribulations of Jacob living with and working for his father-in-law, Laban. Jacob agreed to work as a shepherd 7 years for Rachel only to have Laban switch daughters on him at the marriage ceremony. (This is why we have the bedekin, the lifting of the veil, at traditional weddings - to ensure one is marrying the right bride.)
As Jacob tries to build his equity, Laban changes their agreement time after time. After 20 years, the Almighty tells Jacob the time has come to return to the land of Canaan. Jacob and his household secretly leave only to be pursued by Laban who has claims to put forth. The story ends with peace and blessings between Jacob and Laban.
Dvar Torah based on Love Your Neighbor by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states:
"And when Rachel saw that she did not bear children to Jacob, Rachel envied her sister. (She envied her good deeds. She said, 'Were she not more righteous than I, she would not have merited sons.' -Midrash cited by Rashi) And she said to Jacob: 'Give me children, if not I am as a dead woman.' And Jacob's anger was kindled against Rachel; and he said, 'Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?' " (Genesis 30:1-2)
Why did Jacob grow angry at Rachel? What is our lesson?
Rabbi Yeruchom Levovitz cites the Sforno who explains that Jacob grew angry at Rachel because she said, "Give me," implying that her bearing a child was dependent on Jacob, rather than on God's will. His anger was for the Almighty's honor and this took precedence even over his love for Rachel.
Nevertheless, we find in the Midrash (Braishis Rabbah 71:7) that Jacob should have controlled his anger. Despite the justice of his rebuke, he should have appreciated the immensity of Rachel's suffering and not have spoken so sharply. For this lack of consideration he was punished.
The Chofetz Chaim's son wrote that his father was particularly careful not to hurt the feelings of beggars, although sometimes these unfortunate people say things that could arouse one's anger. The Sages comment in the Mechilta on Mishpotim that the prohibition against vexing a widow or an orphan includes anyone who suffers. Causing such a person even a slight discomfort is forbidden.

Acendimento da velas: - 9 de Dezembro:

Jerusalem 4:01Guatemala 5:15 Hong Kong 5:20 Honolulu 5:32 J'Burg 6:34 Porto 3:33 Los Angeles 4:26Melbourne 8:15 Mexico City 5:40 Miami 5:14New York 4:11 Singapore 6:41 Toronto 4:23

Pensamento da semana

Nunca é muito cedo para sermos amáveis, pois não sabemos quão rápido pode ser demasiado tarde.


Vayetzei (Genesis 28:10-32:3) What's Bothering Rashi: Vayetzei 5766

This week's parsha recounts Jacob's flight from his brother, Esau, to his uncle, Lavan's home. There he marries Leah and Rachel and there they (and Zilpah & Bilhah) bear him eleven sons (Benjamin was born to Rachel later). On his way to Lavan, Jacob rests and dreams his famous "ladder" dream. This is a divine vision in which God promises Jacob to guard him on his way and to bless him with many offspring who will inherit the Land of Israel.
Let us begin with a difficulty in the Torah text itself and proceed to Rashi. After Jacob awakens from his dream, he vows that if God's promises are fulfilled, Jacob will build Him an altar and he will offer up a tithe to God.

Genesis 28:22
"And this stone which I have set as a monument, will become a House of God and all You give I will give a tenth to You."

Look at our verse and compare its grammar with that of the previous verses (20-21) of Jacob's vow. Do you see a problem?

Your Answer:

A Question: Jacob refers to God in the second person in our verse ("all that You give me I will give You a tenth"). But in verses 20-21 he refers to God in the third person ("if God will be with me, and He will guard me and He will give me..."). Why this switch from indirect (third person) reference to God to a direct (second person) reference to Him?

To understand this we will now look at the Rashi-comment.
Genesis 28:17
In the long Rashi on the words "This is the House of God" Rashi makes the following comment:
"When he reached Haran he (Jacob) said 'Is it possible that I passed the place (Mount Moriah) where my fathers prayed without my having prayed there?' He decided to go back (to Moriah)" etc.

Compare this statement with verse 17 and Jacob's surprise. What would you ask?

Your Question:
Why was Jacob surprised that the place where he slept was a holy place? Had he not intentionally returned there precisely because he thought it was special for his fathers had prayed there?
Can you suggest an answer?

Your Answer:

Jacob knew that Moriah was a holy place. There Abraham and Isaac proved their faith in God by going through the Akeida ordeal. The place was holy because his fathers had had a divine experience there. It was a place that Jacob knew through tradition as a holy place. For him, God (Elokim - the more impersonal name for God) ) was here.
But after his "ladder dream," which was Jacob's personal vision from God, Jacob personally experienced God himself, not just as a tradition from his forefathers but as a personal religious experience. Now God was to Jacob not the third person, indirect 'Elokim,' but the second person, direct, 'Hashem,' the personal God.
So Jacob says: If my dream is fulfilled I will know this was not just an ordinary dream, but a true prophecy from God to me personally. Then Elokim will become for me Hashem - I will no longer refer to Him indirectly. And I only now realize how holy this place is for me. It is my gateway to heaven - to God. I will then speak directly to Him as in "and all You give me I will give You a tenth."

There is always much mystery and deeper meaning in the subtle nuances of the Torah's words.
Shabbat Shalom,Avigdor Bonchek