Friday, November 27, 2015
PLEASE!!!! This Sunday join our Charidy event. Call all your friends, neighbors, relatives, acquaintances, places you shop in, random people from Shul or the street get them to pledge. Every dollar is worth four for us. Or call the office: (718) 434-0795 or (347) 386-0500
Eisav’s move from the Land of Canaan to Mount Se’ir was motivated by very practical considerations. He knew that the Land of Canaan had been promised to the descendants of his grandfather Avraham, but it came with a price tag. Whoever would inherit the Promised Land would first pay off the “family debt”—G-d's decree that Avraham’s descendants would be “strangers in a land that is not theirs” (Bereishis ). Eisav reasoned, in Rashi’s words (36:7), “Let me move away from here. I will have a share neither in the gift nor in the payment of the debt.”
But why was Eisav’s move to Se’ir regarded as avoiding the debt, and not as paying it off? G-d’s decree was that Avraham’s descendants would be “strangers in a land that is not theirs.” In what way was Eisav moving his entire family and fortune to Se’ir less payment of the debt than Yaakov relocating with his family to Egypt?
The answer lies in the word “strangers” that G-d stated in His decree. The debt that was left for Yaakov to pay was not that his family would be forced to journey from their homeland, as Eisav did, but that “גר יהי’ זרעך—your children will be strangers.”
Eisav “settled on Mount Seir.” He wanted his children to have the comfort of blending in with their new neighbors and not remaining perpetual outsiders. Yaakov’s children, however, would never become citizens in their host country. The payment of the family debt meant they would remain strangers and foreigners throughout their stay in the Land of Egypt.
The same is true of the Jewish people today, the descendants of Yaakov, in the current exile—the debt of which we continue to pay until the coming of Moshiach. We must constantly maintain our uneasiness and discomfort with the norms of exile, and anxiously await the Geulah, the Redemption, when we will be able to collect our long-awaited inheritance and finally settle in the Land of Israel.
—Likkutei Sichos, vol. 10, p. 114
Friday, November 20, 2015
There is a well-known teaching of the Baal Shem Tov (explained in Tanya, Iggeres Hakodesh 25) that if a Jew is standing in prayer and a gentile is trying to disturb him, he should not be disheartened; for this disturbance too has a G-dly purpose. It came about in order to motivate him to delve even more ferventlyand passionatelyinto the prayers he is reciting, to a point that he cannot even hear the disturbance. For, in fact, what prompted this act of disturbance was the provoker’s spiritual and holy source, whose goal is to contribute to the realm of kedusha, holiness. The negative form that this energy assumes, i.e. a disturbance to a Jew’s prayers, is only because the medium through which it is channeled into the physical world is unholy. At its core, however, this disturbance is only a means of adding depth and passion to the Jew’s communion with G-d.
In a similar vein, the Maggid of Mezritch explained why Lavan chased after Yaakov and his family when they left Charan. The goal of Yaakov’s stay with Lavan had been to extract the spiritual “sparks of holiness” that were hidden there and to restore them to their rightful place—their holy purpose. When Yaakov left, however, there were still some holy sparks left behind. Lavan was therefore “compelled” to pursue Yaakov, in order to cause those sparks to be given to Yaakov. Those restored sparks are the holy letters in the Torah that tell the story of Lavan’s chase and encounter with Yaakov (see Or Hatorah, Hosafos 5).
The above teaches us the perspective with which we must approach any difficulties we encounter in our efforts to do G-d’s bidding. Instead of allowing an obstacle to weaken our resolve, we must recognize that even a disturbance can be a catalyst for bringing about greater kedusha in this world. By carrying on with our efforts unabated, we will reveal that, at its core, a challenge is only a means of generating even greater motivation and resolve in our service of G-d.
—Likutei Sichos vol. 1, pp. 80-81
Thursday, November 12, 2015
וַיֹּאמֶר הִנֵּה נָא זָקַנְתִּי לֹא יָדַעְתִּי יוֹם מוֹתִי (בראשית כז, ב)
AND HE SAID, “BEHOLD NOW, I HAVE GROWN OLD; I DO NOT KNOW THE DAY OF MY DEATH” (BEREISHIS 27:2)
Yitzchak was one hundred and twenty-three years old when he called his son Eisav and said, “Behold now, I have grown old; I do not know the day of my death.” And so, he instructed Eisav to prepare a meal for him, so that he may bless him before he dies.
What was the occasion that inspired Yitzchak’s words? Rashi explains:
“If a person is approaching the age at which his parents died, he should worry five years beforehand and five years afterwards. Yitzchak was one hundred and twenty-three years old. He thought, “Perhaps I will live to my mother’s age; she died at one hundred and twenty-seven. I am thus within five years of her age.” He therefore said, “I do not know the day of my death”: I may reach my mother’s age or perhaps my father’s.”
All odds considered, Yitzchak at that point was five yearsyounger than his mother had been at her passing, and there was still a good chance that he would live another fifty years or more, as his father had. (In fact, he ultimately lived to the age of 180, five years longer than his father did.) What’s more, his mother’s passing at the age of 127 had been due to unnatural causes (from the news of the Akeida, the Binding of Yitzchak,) so it was safe to assume that he would live longer than she did. Yet, Yitzchak began concerning himself with his end-of-life affairs at the age of 123, the youngest age—according to his calculations—that it was likely for him to die.
This degree of caution was not out of character, however, for Yitzchak, whose dominant personality trait was gevurah, discipline and restraint (see Zohar, vol. 3, p. 4a, Raaya M’heimna). He therefore assessed everything in life from a very cautious and moderate perspective.
We find, however, that despite Yitzchak’s nature of discipline and moderation, the blessings that he bestowed (ultimately, upon Yaakov) were the most extensive and richest blessings given in the Torah, from the “dew of the heaven” to “the fat of the earth.”
Yitzchak’s paradoxical behavior serves as a lesson for us all, his descendants and spiritual heirs. Yitzchak teaches us that even if you are extremely disciplined and strict on yourself, this cannot have any bearing on the way you relate to and give to others; your relationship to your fellow Jew must always be one of affection and benevolence, generously sharing “from the dew of heaven and the fat of the earth.”