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October 22, 2016 / 20 Tishri, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘gift’

The Sensitivity Of A Tzaddik

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

When Yaakov met Rachel at the well, he experienced conflicting emotions. He felt tremendous joy at having finally met his bashert, yet he raised his voice and cried. Rashi explains that he cried because he came empty-handed. He said, “My father’s servant came with ten camels laden with gifts and finery, and I come with empty hands.”

Rashi goes on to explain why Yaakov didn’t bring a gift for Rachel. When Yaakov found out that Eisav was plotting to kill him, he fled from his father’s home. Eisav sent his son Alifaz to chase down Yaakov. Alifaz was a tzaddik, and when he approached Yaakov he said, “I can’t kill you because you are an innocent man. On the other hand, what will be with the command of my father?” Yaakov said to him, “A poor man has the halachic status of a dead man. Take my money, and it will be considered as if you killed me, so on some level you will have fulfilled your father’s words.”

As a result, Yaakov came to the well empty-handed. When it was time to propose to Rachel, he didn’t have the gifts that would be expected, and so he raised his voice and cried.

This Rashi becomes difficult to understand when we focus on who these people were. The Avos may have walked the same planet as do you and I, but they lived in a very different orbit. Their every waking moment was occupied by thoughts of Hashem. They lived and breathed to attain closeness to Hashem. That was the focus of their lives and existence. It was the only thing that mattered to them.

For many years, Rachel knew she was to marry Yaakov and be a matriarch of the Jewish people. You have to assume that when she finally met her bashert, she was overcome with joy. Here was the man she had waited for. Here in front of her was this great tzaddik, the man of her dreams, offering to marry her so she could fulfill her destiny. Her very life’s ambitions and desires were now coming to fulfillment. It is hard to imagine that at that moment she was concerned about glitter and trinkets.

Yet Yaakov cried because he didn’t have a diamond ring to give her. The question is – why? All that Rachel really wanted was being delivered to her. If so, why did Yaakov cry?

It seems the answer is that the lack of gifts may not have bothered Rachel much but the bottom line is that it wasn’t respectful to her. When you come to your kallah, you bring her a gift. That is the way dignified people act. That is the way of the world, and it isn’t proper to come without a gift. On some level, it is treating her without the kavod due to her, and that caused Yaakov pain – so much pain that he raised his voice and cried.

Everyone Hungers for Recognition

This is a tremendous lesson to us because the people among whom we live aren’t on the level of Rachel. A slight to their honor causes them real pain. People will go to great lengths to protect their reputation and dignity because these things are very important to them. And for that reason we need to develop a real sensitivity to other people’s dignity and honor.

But this concept goes much further. The reality is that there are few people who get enough recognition and respect. We humans have many needs. We need food and drink, shelter and protection, friends and companionship – and most of those needs are met. The one need that that is almost never met is the need to be appreciated. It is something we hunger for, something basic to our success and vitality. Yet there is no store in which it can be bought, no marketplace in which it can be acquired. And a person often can go around with a deep hunger, not even realizing what is amiss.

One of the greatest acts of kindness I can do for another person is to treat him with honor. If I find your currency and can acknowledge you in that vein, I can give you that which you deeply crave – and it costs me nothing.

Rabbi Ben Tzion Shafier

Library of Congress Celebrates 100 Years of Hebraica

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

A new exhibit at the Library of Congress is celebrating 100 years of Hebraica with its new exhibit, “Words Like Sapphires”.

The exhibit includes approximately 60 objects from the Library’s over 200,000-piece Hebraica collection, including works in Hebrew, Yiddish, Ladino, Judeo-Persian, Judeo-Arabic, Amharic, Aramaic, and Syriac.

The collection, established in 1912 through a gift of New York banker and philanthropist Jacob Schiff, includes a 19th century copy of the U.S. Constitution in Yiddish and Hebrew, a Yiddish copy of “Curious George”, a 15th century Hebrew book from Italy opened to a series of excerpts censored by the Catholic Church during the Inquisition, a 4-inch tall Jewish bible, the first complete Hebrew Bible printed in the United States, and the first printed book published in the land of Israel, a commentary on the Book of Estherby Eliezer ben Isaac Ashkenazi of Prague published in 1577 in Tzfat.

Portions of the exhibit include “People of the Book”, “Holy Land Tongue”, and “Power of the Tongue”.  The oldest piece of on display is a 7th century clay bowl with Aramaic writing from Mesopotamia.

Malkah Fleisher

Gold Buyers Beware: Fraudulent Gold Found in the Marketplace

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

A fake gold bullion bar makes a fine gag gift, but think twice before making it part of your investment portfolio.

What would happen if the gold bars you bought from a reputable dealer were “salted” with tungsten?

Word has been spreading that some gold experts have cracked open the gold bars that they bought only to discover tungsten (a metal worth about one-fifth of the value of gold) inside. Since tungsten has a similar density to gold, it’s easy to confuse people, amateurs and experts alike. With bars of gold that weigh ten ounces or more, using regular x-rays to determine the chemical composition of the metal doesn’t work well since the x-rays don’t penetrate deep enough.

Some alarmists have referred to the recent findings as evidence of a possible market-shattering conspiracy. What if there are hundreds or thousands of counterfeit bars of gold sitting in the vaults of companies and governments? If you can’t trust that the gold you buy is genuine, would you really buy it? Regardless of the veracity of the possibility that gold supplies are tainted, if people simply think that they are, the price of the commodity could start tumbling.

An additional way that falsified gold bars can affect the price of gold is that it also increases the cost of ownership of gold, as there may be increased costs involved in higher level testing for purity.

Regardless of how you purchase your gold, beware of the possibility that the whole gold marketplace might be affected by some bad eggs… just a reminder that you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket, no matter how shiny it is.

Buying novelty fake gold coins or a 24K gold dipped real rose is fine if that is your aim, but before you buy gold for an investment, you might want to read my previous post on buying gold.

Doug Goldstein, CFP®

People Eat for Free and They Work for Free

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov once revealed what he called a great secret – people eat for free and they work for free. He explained this with the following parable.

There was a wealthy man who was renowned for his hospitality. He would happily and generously provide all guests that came his way with the finest food, drink and lodgings, leaving them content and satisfied.

Not far from his home, lived another very wealthy person; a great miser who wouldn’t even give a slice of bread to the poor.

Once, a pauper who hadn’t eaten for a few days, heard about the wealthy donor with the compassionate heart, so he dragged his feet to his door to ask for a meal. But, as the saying goes, “poverty chases after the poor,” and instead of arriving at the door of the compassionate donor, the pauper erred and accidentally came to the home of the stingy miser. The poor man bowed before the landlord, lavishly praised him, and pleaded for a meal. The astonished miser realized that the pauper had made a mistake, and decided to take advantage of the situation.

“Of course, I’ll feed you!” he said, “But first I have some errands for you to do.” Following the man’s instructions, the pauper chopped wood, drew water, and did other difficult chores until he was utterly exhausted.

Finally, the miser said, “Okay, now it’s time for you to have your meal.” Pointing to the home of his compassionate neighbor, he said, “Just go there and someone will serve you.” The pauper didn’t realize that he’d been fooled. He thought that both houses belonged to the same owner and that it was the accepted, general custom to work in the first house before being served in the other.

As soon as he entered the second home, butlers greeted him, washed him, and brought him to a lavish table were many different foods and delicacies were served. They treated him like a nobleman.

As he was eating his meal, he moaned, “It’s true I had to work so hard first…but it was worth it!”

The curious master of the house asked him, “My good friend, you said you worked hard for this meal. For whom did you work? It wasn’t for me!”

The pauper told him that he’d worked at the neighboring mansion, and the kind philanthropist immediately understood what had happened. “My friend, I’m sorry to tell you, but you worked for free and you’re eating for free. Where you worked, you didn’t eat. And where you eat, you didn’t work!”

Rebbe Nachman said that the same thing occurs in regards to our livelihood. We work and we think that it is our work that is earning us our livelihood, but actually, our income comes from another source; it is a gift from Hashem. “Where we work we do not eat, and where we eat, we do not work.” This is a great secret of life. While it appears that our work provides our livelihood, it is really provided by Hashem.

Of course, while Hashem is our Provider, we are still obligated to do hishtadlus and to work for our livelihood. And while the hishtadlus doesn’t essentially support us, it does serve several other important purposes, as the holy sefarim explain.

The Mesilas Yesharim (21) writes: “…Man should theoretically be able to sit idly, and the livelihood that Hashem ordained for him should come to him effortlessly. However the Torah states, ‘By the sweat of your brow, you shall eat bread.’ This ‘curse’ [that mankind received after Adam ate from the Tree of Knowledge] requires everyone to exert some form of effort, or hishtadlus for their livelihood. It has been decreed by the exalted King, and is a tax that all mankind must pay, which can never be evaded…”

The Chovas Halevovos (Sha’ar haBitochon 3) teaches us two other reasons why we must work: (1) To test our integrity, as the workplace constantly requires us to choose honesty or its opposite. (2) To make life more difficult. History has proven that in the generations where life was too “easy” and there was an abundance of easy comfort and pleasure, people began to forget Hashem. This is what happened to the generation of the flood (at the time of Noach) and other times as well. Therefore one must work for his livelihood, so life won’t be too easy, and we will remember our Creator.

Rabbi Baruch Twersky

The Snake Made Me Do It

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

If Eve had read www.jewishsexuality.com, she wouldn’t have followed after her eyes and got us all kicked out of the garden. If Adam had read jewishsexuality.com, he wouldn’t have eaten the “apple.” Today, we don’t have to make the same mistakes they did. We have the teachings of the Torah and the advice of the Sages to rely upon. While I won’t quote from the holy Zohar here, for people who enjoy the secrets of Torah, there’s a lot more to the snake than his pretty long tail.

Which brings us to Noach. If his generation had taken the time to read jewishsexuality.com, they could have avoided the flood. The Zohar teaches that the wanton sexual sin of the time was the real cause of the flood. Measure for measure.

Concerning Noach himself, our Sages express a certain criticism. Yes, he righteously followed each and every order in building the ark, but he didn’t hurry around the countryside, from village to village, warning people what would be if they didn’t improve their ways.  Maybe he felt they wouldn’t listen. After all, the sexual urge is a powerful passion, and people don’t like being told that they can’t do whatever they please, like they did in the days preceding the flood. Noach was a private tzaddik, minding his own business, unlike Avraham who traveled to and fro, teaching people about the godly way to live.

If a person sees that his fellow man is erring in his ways, he has the obligation to enlighten him, so that the transgressor can correct his wrongdoing. If he doesn’t, he himself becomes part of the sin. True, not everyone is on a level to rebuke others, and rebuke isn’t an easy thing to do, but the principle is clear that when you see someone heading for destruction, it is a good deed to endeavor to save him.

That is what I have been doing when writing about the mitzvah of aliyah. I don’t seek to insult anyone – rather to wake people up to the higher and holier reality which we enjoy here in theLandofIsrael, living according to the guidelines of Torah. And this is why I urge readers to browse through the jewishsexuality.com website, to alert them of the dangers that brought on the flood.  Whether it is the flood of assimilation that is devastating the Jewish People in the Diaspora, or the flood of immodesty and licentiousness on the Internet in which the world is drowning, everyone must do his share to save not only himself, but also his fellow.

Put the two together and you get the Covenant of the Brit between God and the Jewish People, coming up in the Torah portion of Lech Lecha, where our sexual holiness and the gift of the Land of Israel are inseparably linked.

Tzvi Fishman

‘Setting Limits’

Sunday, October 14th, 2012

“Isn’t it ironic that kids whose parents fail to set and enforce limits feel unloved and angry? Although they tend to test and protest, we have learned over and over again that limits are what kids really want. Invariably, when we talk with out-of-control teenagers or adults who were juvenile delinquents and lucky enough to survive, we ask them, ‘If you could go back to when you were a child, what would you change?’ Most of them say something like, ‘I wish my parents had reeled me in when I was a kid. Why didn’t they make me behave?’

“A counselor we know sat down with a teenager we know who led a pretty rough life. She had been promiscuous… and was in trouble with the law. She went on to describe how she had smoked pot and guzzled beer with her dad as a ten-year old. When the counselor asked her what she thought about it, her eyes lit up with rage and she said, ‘I hate him!’ Surprised, the counselor said, ‘You had so much freedom. Why do you hate your father?’ Even more surprised, the teen responded, ‘I hate him ‘cause he let me do anything I wanted. He never made me behave. Look at me now!’

“If you want your children to have internal controls and inner freedom, you must first provide them with external controls. A child who is given boundaries, and choices within those boundaries, is actually freer to be creative, inventive, active, and insightful. How you expose your kids to the life around them – how you encourage them to use their creativity within limits, by using yours – is key to developing their personal identity and freedom. Setting limits does not discourage inventiveness. The world is full of limits within which we must all live. Give your children a gift. Teach them how to be creative within these limits.” (Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood, by Jim Fay & Charles Fay)

“In the beginning of G-d’s creating…G-d saw that the light was good…And there was evening and there was morning, one day.

“…And the earth brought forth vegetation… And G-d saw that it was good… And there was evening and there was morning, a third day.

“…Let there be luminaries in the firmament of the heaven… And G-d saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.

“…Let the waters teem with living creatures, and fowl that fly… And G-d saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, a fifth day.

“…Let the earth bring forth living creatures…And G-d saw that it was good…Let us make man…And G-d saw all that He had made, and behold it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, a sixth day.”

The Medrash in Bereishis Rabba (9:6) discusses the difference between what the Torah deems “good” (throughout the six days of creation) and what the Torah deems “very good” (after the creation of man). The Medrash offers a few explanations: “Very good” refers to sleep, because when one sleeps a little he is able to toil exceedingly in Torah study. “Good” refers to when things are going well; “very good” refers to affliction. “Good” refers to the Garden of Eden; “very good” refers to purgatory. “Good” refers to the Angel of Life; “very good” refers to the Angel of Death.”

This Medrash is unquestionably enigmatic and perplexing. How can all of the pleasantries of life be referred to as “good” while all of the dreaded facets of life be referred to as “very good”?

The idea that this Medrash is espousing contains the basis for the implosion and unraveling of Western Society that we are privy to. When a society does not know how to set limits and “Just Say No” then it is doomed to disaster and destruction. The mighty empire of Rome, which ruled the ancient world for centuries, eventually succumbed not so much to external forces as it did to internal hedonism. The insatiable drive for narcissistic gratification and indulgence destroyed the fabric of its society until it was no longer able to maintain itself. The surrounding invading forces were simply the final blow to an already decrepit society.

Rabbi Dani Staum

Bereishis: Appreciating The Good

Friday, October 12th, 2012

And Adom said, “The woman that you placed with me, she gave me from the tree and I ate.” Bereishis 3:12

Adom HaRishon was given one mitzvah: not to eat from the Eitz HaDas. When he transgressed it, Hashem gave him the opportunity to do teshuvah. Not only did Adom not repent, he played the blame game – “It was that woman that You gave to me. You gave her to me as a helpmate and she turned out to be my ruination.”

Rashi quotes the Gemara that calls Adom a kofi tov, one who denies the good. The Gemara explains that this is a trait that has plagued mankind from that moment. Instead of appreciating the good, man has continued to deny the very good that is given to him over and over again.

The difficulty with this Rashi is that it doesn’t seem that Adom was guilty of denying the good. Hashem appeared to him and he felt trapped, caught red-handed. The correct action on his part would have been to admit his guilt and beg for forgiveness. That isn’t what he did. Instead, he shifted the blame. There was, however, a logic to it. “Because she was given to me as a helpmate, I relied on her and trusted her.” After all, the Creator of the heavens and the earth gave him this woman. Surely he could trust Hashem’s choice.

Adom was guilty of not owning up to his responsibility for the act. Maybe he was guilty of being dishonest. He just wasn’t courageous enough to admit that he did wrong. But his sin wasn’t one of not appreciating the good.

Appreciating Our Great Wealth

The answer to this question lies in understanding a different perspective. The Chovos Ha’Levovos gives a parable. Imagine a man who becomes blind at age 35. For the next ten years he does his best to reconstruct his life, but now without sight. Being a fighter, he struggles to create a productive life for himself. One day his doctor informs him of an experimental procedure that, if successful, would enable him to see again. He is both frightened and exuberant. If it works he regains his sight; if it fails, he might die.

He gathers together his family to talk it over. After much debate he announces, “I am going ahead with it.” The operation is scheduled. The long-awaited day arrives. Paralyzed with dread, he is wheeled toward the operating room. Given sedatives, he sleeps through the 10-hour operation.

When he wakes up, the first thought on his mind is to open his eyes. He prepares himself for the moment. He will now find out how he will spend the rest of his life. With his family gathered around, with the doctors and nurses at his side, the surgeon begins removing the gauze. The first bandage is off, now the second. The surgeon says, “Open your eyes.” He does. And he sees!

For the first time in ten years, he looks out and experiences the sights of this world – and he is struck by it all. Struck by the brilliance of colors and shapes; moved by the beauty and magnificence of all that is now in front of him. He looks out the window and sees a meadow covered with beautiful green grass. He sees flowers in full bloom. He looks up and sees a clear blue sky. He sees the faces of loved ones that had only been images in his mind – the sight of his own children whom he hasn’t seen in years. Tears well in his eyes as he speaks: “Doctor, what can I say? What can I ever do to repay you for what you have given me? This magnificent gift of sight! Thank you!”

This emotion, this extreme joy and sense of appreciation, is something we should feel regularly. The feeling of elation that man felt when he regained his sight is something we can feel on a daily basis if we go through the process of training ourselves to feel it. We have this most precious gift called sight, and it is something we are supposed to stop and think about – not once in a lifetime, not even once a year, but every day. A part of our spiritual growth is learning to appreciate the gifts we have. Every morning we thank Hashem for this most wonderful gift of sight. The blessing is meant to be said with an outpouring of emotion.

Rabbi Ben Tzion Shafier

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/bereishis-appreciating-the-good/2012/10/12/

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