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May 3, 2016 / 25 Nisan, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Hashem’

Who Is Sandy?!

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

“Sandy gives New York a real thrashing!” screamed the headlines. “Hmmm, who exactly is Sandy and why is she thrashing New York,” I wonder. How about this one: (an exact quote) “For all those left homeless, for all those left scared and frightened, there is an enormous lesson from this hurricane – mother nature will do what she wants, when she wants, and our modern world can only bow before it.” Now I am really confused – who is this mother and why is she acting so mean – aren’t mothers supposed to be nice? And more so – what exactly is this “enormous” lesson? Why should I bow to her?

Baruch Hashem, we Torah abiding Jews know the truth. Even though the meteorologists have explained what brought about Hurricane Sandy and the post-tropical superstorm that resulted, we know the cause of all those factors. Hashem, the “Cause of all Causes,” orchestrated this great showing of His Power, and there was a reason for it. We do not have prophets who can tell us which one of the many sins of our world was the basis for the great punishment Hashem inflicted – nor is it our job to point fingers. We must share in the pain and suffering of those who experienced bodily harm or damage to their property, and offer whatever help possible. The outpouring of chesed seen in our communities created a great Kiddush Hashem and is definitely a great zechus for Klal Yisroel. On the other hand, the Gemara in Yevomos (63a) tells us that when punishment comes to the world it is to teach us a lesson. Let us suggest one possible lesson that Hashem was teaching us when He sent Sandy to the East Coast.

The Downside Of Modern Technology

Rav Aryeh Leib Kahn (Rosh Kollel Yad Halevi Kiryat Sefer) once pointed out that with the rapid advancement of modern technology we are in danger of becoming distanced from Hashem. For example, before the advent of cell phones, if you traveled out of town, and suddenly started to worry that perhaps you forgot to turn off the fire under a pot, there was nothing to do other than daven to Hashem that everything will be okay. But now, all you need to do is whip out your cell, call the neighbor and ask them to make sure the fire is out!

The more technology we have, the more we can chas v’sholom, forget Hashem. With our heated and (supposedly) waterproof homes, fitted with gas, electricity, and running water, we feel prepared. This mindset is the antithesis to the reason for our existence, as Hashem created us to become close to Him. The more trust we put in our own actions, the further we become from Hashem. To save us from this serious error and its dreadful results, once in a while Hashem sends us a reminder that He is the one in charge. Sometimes the wakeup call is on a small scale, to an individual in his own private life – and sometimes, like now, it is an extremely painful one to a larger community.

What Can We Put Our Trust In?

In the “olden days,” when night fell, the day ended. But in the modern day, that has changed. Everywhere we go, bright lights make it seem like daytime – we feel that we have conquered the darkness. When we are suddenly thrown into pitch-blackness, we realize that Hashem is the one who is lighting up our nights. When we cannot use all our electric powered appliances and devices, we realize how vulnerable we really are. When a tree comes crashing down on two pedestrians the day after the storm, we remember that we only make it home safely because Hashem is protecting us. And when ferocious winds, which sound like a freight train rattling through the empty streets, hurl objects through the air, we realize what it would be like if Hashem were not usually holding back those winds. When the temperatures begin to drop and the heat does not work, we see that we have no control over the cold. And taking cold showers certainly is not pleasant.

But the lessons don’t stop there. Hashem wanted to show us that He is always “ahead of the game.” Many people weren’t scared of power outages because they had generators to produce their own electricity. But even that doesn’t always help. In some places, the generator was flooded and stopped working. In others, due to the gasoline shortage, there isn’t fuel to power the generator! Many felt secure with their cell phones – they would be affecting by down phone lines – and then the cell phone services were disrupted because cell towers were down.

Rabbi Eliezer M. Niehaus

The Age Of Disrespect

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

And Lavan and Betuel answered and said, “It is from Hashem that this has come forth. We can speak neither for nor against it.” – Bereishis 24:50

Eliezer, the servant of Avraham, went to find a wife for Yitzchak. He approached the city of Charan, waited at the well, and asked Hashem for a sign. “Let it be that the girl who not only gives me water when I ask for it, but says, ‘Not only will I give you to drink, but I will give your camels as well.’ She should be the one that is right for Yitzchak.”

No sooner did he finish speaking than Rivka, the daughter of Betuel, came upon the scene and fulfilled his request exactly as he specified. Eliezer knew that he had found the right one.

He then asked Rivka to take him to her father. As they neared the house, Rivka’s brother Lavan saw the camels laden with treasure and ran out to greet the new guest and usher him in. Eliezer described the miracles that happened and then asked for approval of the marriage. Lavan and Betuel exclaimed, “It is from Hashem! How can we stop it?”

Rashi comments that from here we see Lavan’s wickedness. Why did the Torah mention his name first? To teach us that he spoke before his father. This shows us that he was a rasha.

This Rashi is difficult to understand. Why does Lavan’s speaking before his father show that he was wicked? Disrespectful, yes. Rude, certainly. But a rasha?

The answer to this can best be understood from a historical vantage point.

A yeshiva student learning in Israel found himself on a bus, sitting near two secular American Jews. Noticing that one was a bit older than the other, he was surprised to hear them calling each other by their first names. “Bob, did you notice that?” said one. “Hey, Joe, what do you think?” said the other. His surprise deepened when in the course of conversation it became clear that the two were father and son. Dad explained, “I don’t want barriers between us, so we call each other by our first names.”

That isn’t the way that it used to be. Not all that long ago in America, a teenager wouldn’t dream of calling an adult by his first name, let alone his father. And certainly a child wouldn’t dare open his mouth when his father spoke. It didn’t matter how foul-mouthed the child was, and it didn’t matter how unpolished the father was. Children knew their place, and the idea of a child speaking back to an adult was unheard of.

Things have changed. The countercultural revolution of the 1960s brought new attitudes and ideas. And while much of the hysteria of those times has passed, one of the relics is that respect is no longer part of the culture. Gone is respect for leaders. Gone is respect for the clergy. Gone is respect for elders. In its place is the cynicism of a new age – an egalitarian age – where we are all equals.

We no longer need to treat institutions with reverence, and we no longer need to treat authority with deference. And so we argue with our doctors. We argue with our lawyers. And we argue with our parents, who don’t really know that much anyway. Welcome to the Age of Disrespect.

This seems to be the answer to this Rashi. In the times of Lavan, society was still relatively normal. Workers respected bosses. Students respected teachers. Younger people respected older people. As such, there were things that were done and things that were not done. In that world, for a child to answer in his father’s presence was outrageous. It simply didn’t happen. The only time such a thing could occur was when the child had veered way off course – had become deviant. And so Rashi tells us that Lavan’s response shows just how wicked he was.

This is especially illustrative because Lavan wasn’t known as a paradigm of virtue. He died trying to poison Eliezer in order to steal his money. Yet even in his home, for a child to answer before his father did was so out of the norm that it could only happen if that child was wicked.

Rabbi Ben Tzion Shafier

The Rare Torah Oracle

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

Rebecca, hitherto infertile, became pregnant. Suffering acute pain, she went to inquire of the Lord – “vateilech lidrosh et Hashem” (Bereishit 25:22). The explanation she received was that she was carrying twins who were contending in her womb. They were destined to do so long into the future:

Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger – “v’rav ya’avod tzair” (Bereishit 25:23).

Eventually the twins are born – first Esau, then (his hand grasping his brother’s heel) Jacob. Mindful of the prophecy she has received, Rebecca favors the younger son, Jacob. Years later, she persuades him to dress in Esau’s clothes and take the blessing Isaac intended to give his elder son. One verse of that blessing was “May nations serve you and peoples bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may the sons of your mother bow down to you” (Bereishit 26:29). The prediction has been fulfilled. Isaac’s blessing can surely mean nothing less than what was disclosed to Rebecca before either child was born, namely that, “the older will serve the younger.” The story has apparently reached closure – or so, at this stage, it seems.

But biblical narrative is not what it seems. Two events follow that subvert all that we had been led to expect. The first happens when Esau arrives and discovers that Jacob has cheated him out of his blessing. Moved by his anguish, Isaac gives him a benediction, one of whose clauses is: “You will live by your sword and you will serve your brother. But when you grow restless, you will throw his yoke from off your neck” (Bereishit 27:40).

This is not what we had anticipated. The older will not serve the younger in perpetuity.

The second scene, many years later, occurs when the brothers meet after a long estrangement. Jacob is terrified of the encounter. He had fled from home years earlier because Esau had vowed to kill him. Only after a long series of preparations and a lonely wrestling match at night is he able to face Esau with some composure. He bows down to him seven times. Seven times he calls him “my lord.” Five times he refers to himself as “your servant.” The roles have been reversed. Esau does not become the servant of Jacob; instead, Jacob speaks of himself as the servant of Esau. But this cannot be. The words heard by Rebecca when “she went to inquire of the Lord” suggested precisely the opposite, that “the older will serve the younger.” We are faced with cognitive dissonance.

More precisely, we have here an example of one of the most remarkable of all of Torah’s narrative devices: the power of the future to transform our understanding of the past. This is the essence of midrash. New situations retrospectively disclose new meanings in the text (see the essay “The Midrashic Imagination” by Michael Fishbane). The present is never fully determined by the present. Sometimes it is only later that we understand the now.

This is the significance of the great revelation of G-d to Moses in Shemot 33:33, where G-d says that only His back may be seen – meaning, His presence can be seen only when we look back at the past; it can never be known or predicted in advance. The indeterminacy of meaning at any given moment is what gives the biblical text its openness to ongoing interpretation.

We now see that this was not an idea invented by the Sages. It already exists in the Torah itself. The words Rebecca heard – as will now become clear – seemed to mean one thing at the time. It later transpires that they meant something else.

The words, “v’rav ya’avod tzair,” seem simple: “the older will serve the younger.” Returning to them in the light of subsequent events, though, we discover that they are anything but clear. They contain multiple ambiguities.

The first (noted by Radak and Rabbi Yosef ibn Kaspi) is that the word “et,” signaling the object of the verb, is missing. Normally – but not always – in biblical Hebrew the subject precedes, and the object follows, the verb. In Job 14:19, for example, the words “avanim shachaku mayim” mean “water wears away stones,” not “stones wear away water.” Thus the phrase might mean “the older shall serve the younger.” But it might also mean “the younger shall serve the older.” To be sure, the latter would be poetic Hebrew rather than conventional prose style, but that is what this utterance is: a poem.

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

Dealing with Adult who Sexually Abuses Children

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

A sexual abuser is someone with visceral urges who often spirals down into an abyss from which he usually cannot fully recover. Research shows that sex offenders are among of the most difficult to treat, as their behavior is caused by such powerful forces.

There are clear mental dysfunction and depravity that go along with being an adult who sexually abuses children. This is an explanation, not an excuse. Perpetrators deserve our empathy – possibly – but need to be dealt with justly and in methods that ensure our children’s safety, without any compromises. It is a sad fact that for each perpetrator there isn’t only one victim, but more likely there are sometimes scores and even hundreds of victims. That sounds hard to believe, but simple math tells us that stopping just one perpetrator may protect hundreds of potential victims.

Most abusers have at one time themselves been abused and now prey on others. For many of us this is difficult to fathom; how could someone so acutely aware of the pain and suffering abuse entails now mete out those same feelings onto another?

Let us try to understand this psychological phenomenon from a theoretical perspective. When people are sexually abused, much of the inherent power and control they once had over their bodies and minds becomes either severely compromised or downright damaged. When the abuse takes place repeatedly, the power and control we speak of can become a distant memory, and victims often develop serious trauma.

The question for the victim now becomes, how can I regain that elusive power and control? Unfortunately, the form of power and control he knows best is sexual abuse – and to regain it he perpetrates what happened to him onto another. It is important to note that the former victim, now abuser, is most likely unaware of the trajectory and evolution of his own thoughts; he is merely desperate to recover what has been missing from his life all these years. This absolves none of his personal responsibility; he remains fully culpable for his actions, but it is important to examine his motivations.

Now that we understand why abuse occurs, the question becomes, what can we do about it? There are many ways, and addressing only one aspect or having one direction won’t fully incorporate what is necessary to eliminate abuse from our midst (although, complete eradication is most likely impossible).

I believe an increase in education as to the effects of sexual abuse on victims – rather than dry statistics of abuse prevalence – may help. Too often I hear, “It happened so long ago, can’t the person just get over it?” Many fail to comprehend the association between abuse and long-term trauma, and don’t understand why there is a significantly increased risk of serious mental issues in victims, such as depression, anxiety, addiction and suicide.

In addition, as described above, abuse becomes repeated and multigenerational. The facts are out there, they merely need to be disseminated. An increase in knowledge invariably causes an increase in sensitivity and understanding. Sadly, almost ninety percent of abuse never gets reported – in all communities. But the courageous few who do come forward, need our full backing and support.

As to our own community, it has been copiously documented by the media how we responded in the past to cases of abuse – everything from, “this doesn’t happen in our communities,” to “it’s a chillul Hashem to allow this to get out.” By increasing our understanding of what abuse causes, rather than merely stating that abuse exists (which at this point is difficult for anyone to deny, though some inevitably try), we might discourage cowardly individuals from within from attempting to prevent deserved justice. While this may be only a small step towards eradicating wrong from the world, it can, hopefully, be a start.

 

Dovid Katzenstein

An Ode To Sandy

Friday, November 9th, 2012

Living in a house
With more than 20 people
Is no fun
Especially when there is no gum
Eating and baking chocolate and cookies all day
Really blew our diet away
Hurricane Sandy made a mess
And left us all depressed
Lots of people lost power
They have no food and can’t take showers
Even though it’s hard to cope
As Jews we know there is always hope
We pray to Hashem for menucha
And anxiously await the Geula.

An Anonymous SKA Student

Yad Hashem – Shown With A Foot!

Friday, November 9th, 2012

The following story is 100% true, without embellishment or hyperbole. I can say this because I know each of the parties involved.

As the expression goes, “Hashem fir zich der velt” – Hashem orchestrates all the events that occur in the world. Most of what Hashem does is hidden from us. However, on occasion something happens in such an open way, one would have to be totally oblivious to the world around him to not see the powerful display of Yad of Hashem.

HE was going through a challenging time. He was in his 30s, recently divorced, had limited access to his children and was dealing with parnassah issues. In addition, his grandfather who had been his mentor, advocate, guardian angel and best friend, had passed away. He was existing, but not living; surviving, but not thriving. As days turned to weeks and weeks to months, he settled into a depression, simply going through the motions.

It was a beautiful July 4th day; the sun was shining, not a cloud in the sky. Perfectly perfect – until a freakish misstep propelled his entire body to the left, with the exception of his right foot, which buckled to the right. As he struggled to get up, his body crumbled to the ground, powerless to withstand his own weight. His initial reaction to his torn ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) was “Why me? Do I not have enough on my plate? Do I need this too”? Shortly thereafter he realized that it is not our place to question, but rather to accept that all He does is for our good.

Two months pass. It was just before Labor Day and he was enjoying the company of his children. Although still walking with a minor limp, he experienced a spark of true life for the first time in recent memory. The next day, however, the sounds of glee were replaced by the deafening sounds of silence; the unadulterated joy, replaced by an emotional hangover, as his children returned to their mother. Never before had he experienced such a deafening sound as this sound of silence.

SHE was a woman in her 30s, also living a life devoid of true meaning. She had faced challenges from infancy, but embraced her obstacles, never lamenting them. She was a friend to many, yet in essence was alone. She was eager to help a friend in need, yet her personal needs and requests appeared to go unanswered. She danced at the weddings of so many, yet each time the music stopped she lay alone with her thoughts. As the years began to pass her by, she wondered if she would ever find true happiness. Was it Hashem’s plan for her to live a life fraught with unfulfilled dreams?

Many a night she cried herself to sleep; reluctantly accepting her fate, as it appeared to be the will of Hashem. She tried to hold on to the proverbial ledge, even as she felt herself slowly losing her grip on life.

HE and SHE serendipitously crossed paths on one of the Jewish dating sites. They conversed for an hour via the computer as they both wondered if this would be yet another dead-end. Skeptically, he dialed her number as the clock struck midnight. With an accelerated heartbeat she answered her phone. They were both unaware that it was Yad Hashem orchestrating the telephone conversation. I suspect, however, they were somewhat wiser when they finally ended the conversation – 7 hours later!

The conversation transformed two floundering yechidim into a potential zivug – two wandering individual lost souls connected in a most spiritual and emotional manner. They exchanged their personal life’s journeys as time seemingly froze in abeyance. Their somewhat parallel, yet totally different journeys, had them geographically thousands of miles apart, but on that night they were brought together, all human barriers and obstacles falling to the wayside. Ironically, although originally physically separated by over 6,000 miles, they now found themselves residing but a mile apart. Actually, it wasn’t ironic, it was Yad Hashem at work, but they didn’t totally grasp the magnitude of that – at least not just yet.

They consented to meet the following evening, to explore the possibilities of where this budding friendship may potentially lead. As he was still recovering from his torn ACL, and self-conscious of his mild but somewhat conspicuous limp, he reminded her that tomorrow when they would meet, she would most likely notice a mild limp, but assured her that it wasn’t a physical impediment, as he was still recovering from him knee injury.

Shmuel Zundell

The Greatness Of The Avos

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

“And Sarah died in Kiryas Arbah, which is Chevron, in the land of Canaan,
and Avraham came to mourn for Sarah and to cry for her.” – Bereishis 23:2

Every word in the Torah is exact and every nuance measured. Therefore, Rashi is bothered that the Torah places the burial of Sarah next to the Akeidah. There doesn’t seem to be any connection between the two events. Rashi answers that the Torah is teaching us that it was through the Akeidah that Sarah died.

The Midrash tells us that after the Akeidah, the Soton came to Sarah and said, “Did you hear?”

“No. What?”

“Avraham took Yitzchak with him to Yerushalayim to the very place where the Bais HaMikdash will be built. He built an altar right where the Mizbeach will one day be. He tied Yitzchak up, hands behind his back, and put him on that altar. Then Avraham prepared the wood and everything else needed to bring a korban. He took a long knife, held it over Yitzchak’s neck, moved his hand down…”

Before the Soton could continue, Sarah’s neshamah left her and she died.

The Taz on this Rashi explains that when Sarah heard the words of the Soton she imagined the pain and terror that Yitzchak must have felt at that moment. It was too much for her to bear, and that caused her death.

This Rashi is quite difficult to understand. Sarah Imeinu was a strong, emotionally stable woman. She had unshakable bitachon, having lived through many trials and travails. More than that, while all the Imahos matured at a very young age, Sarah was 127 years old at this point, not a flighty teenager. It seems difficult to understand how she could die from feeling the pain of her son. But even more, her son was not a toddler. At the time of the Akeidah, Yitzchak was 37 years old. He was a grown man. How is it possible that this news caused her so much pain that she literally died from it?

This question can best be answered by understanding the dynamics of the human personality.

Parental Instinct

In the wild, a mother cougar will risk its life to save its young. A mother bear becomes ferocious and almost uncontrollable when her cubs are threatened. In many species, we see a powerful maternal instinct to protect offspring, and this lasts until the young are about two years old. Then something strange happens. The same mother who would risk life and limb for her litter will turn against the now-grown cub and force it out of the group. The cub is no longer recognized as something to protect, but as a competitor to be shunned and chased out. The motherly instinct served its purpose. When it is no longer needed, it shuts off like a water spigot.

We see an eerie parallel in the world of man. If you go to your local hospital and look in at the new fathers in the nursery, you will witness very tender scenes. When Frank picks up Frank Jr. for the first time, there is a look of love and devotion in his eyes. You can almost hear him planning out their future. “Frank Jr. and I are going to be tight. We are going to play ball together, go to hockey games together. It’s going to be great.”

And it is, for a while. But then Frank Jr. hits the teenage years and it is no longer so beautiful. No longer does Frank dream about spending time with his child, no longer does he yearn for that relationship. What happened?

What happened was that Frank Jr. stopped being the little babe looking with love into his father’s eyes, and the relationship took on a very different nature. When the natural instinct begins to wane, a very different relationship ensues.

The Chovos Ha’Levovos tells us that Hashem implanted into the human heart all the instincts needed for survival of man. One of these is the parental instinct. The father didn’t ask for this sensation, nor does he control it, but he feels the pain of his child. In fact, if the son is cut, the father feels it as if it his own flesh that is being cut. This is an instinct that Hashem put into parents to give them the drive to care for and protect their young. However, that attachment doesn’t last forever. As the child matures and becomes his own person, the parent still loves the child but there is a change in the relationship.

Rabbi Ben Tzion Shafier

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/the-greatness-of-the-avos/2012/11/08/

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