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October 21, 2016 / 19 Tishri, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Lech Lecha’

Lech Lecha: The Most Important Lesson We Can Teach Our Kids (And Ourselves)

Friday, October 26th, 2012

The new Jewish year is still young. The new Parshas HaShavua cycle is but a few weeks old. It is indeed time for new beginnings.

This is part of the reason why we read about the birth of the Jewish nation and of the challenges and successes of the most important man, Avraham Avinu. Can you even begin to imagine the uphill battle he mounted – standing against the entire world and their pagan and polytheistic beliefs? One man against the world and Avraham succeeded beyond his wildest dreams – to this day most of mankind has monotheistic beliefs because of him!

The obvious connection of the haftorah to our parsha is the description of Avraham Avinu. Hashem calls him, “Avraham Ohavi, Avraham, The One Who Loved Me (Yeshaya 41:8).” Rav Yaakov Weinberg, ztl, my Rebbe and the rosh hayeshiva of Ner Yisrael in Baltimore, would often point to this pasuk as the most unique of phrases, a totally different way of portraying a tzaddik and leader of the Jewish people. No one else, not even Moshe Rabbeinu, merited being referred to in such a loving way by HaKadosh Baruch Hu.

Why did Avraham do to merit this highest of compliments? It was all due to his tireless efforts to fight for the belief in Hashem, the One G-d, Creator of the world.

Listen to a Rambam; actually, listen to two Rambams:

“Once Avraham was weaned, he, as a child, began contemplating and thinking day and night, and wondered how the world could follow a fixed path without being directed. Surely it would be impossible for it to rotate on its own! Avraham did not have a mentor, but was immersed among the foolish idolaters of Ur Casdim, where everyone, including his mother and father, served idols, as did he originally. In his heart, however, he continued to contemplate, until he realized the way of truth and understood the ways of righteousness from nature, and knew that there is a G-d who created the world, and besides whom there is no other god.

“He also knew that the whole world was erring . . . Once he achieved this, he began to reason with the inhabitants of Ur Casdim and to argue with them, saying that by serving idols they were not following the way of truth. He broke their images, and began to proclaim that it is not fitting to serve anyone other than G-d . . . Avraham also proclaimed that it was fitting to break and destroy all the figures, so that nobody will err on account of them . . .He went and gathered people together from cities and kingdoms, until he reached the land of Canaan, where he continued his proclamations . . .Since people were coming to him with questions about this matter, he would answer the people so that they would return to the way of truth, until thousands and tens of thousands came to him. These were the people of the house of Avraham. He placed this important principle in their way of thinking, wrote books, and taught it to his son Yitzchak.” (Rambam, Avoda Zara, 1:3, paraphrased)

What an amazing life Avraham lived! We don’t begin to truly appreciate what he accomplished!!

And now listen to the second Rambam (Sefer HaMitzvos, Mitzvah 3, Loving Hashem, paraphrased):

“Our Sages also said that this mitzvah includes calling out to all mankind to serve G‑d and to believe in Him. This is because when you love a person, you praise him and call out to others to draw close to him. So too, if you truly love G‑d, you will certainly spread this true knowledge that you know to as many others as possible.

“We see that this mitzvah includes spreading love for G‑d to others from the Sifri: ‘You shall love G‑d, meaning to make Him beloved among the creatures as your father Avraham did.’

“Avraham, as a result of his deep understanding of G‑d, acquired love for G‑d, as the verse [Ed: in our haftorah] testifies, ‘Avraham, who loved Me.’ This powerful love therefore caused him to call out to all mankind to believe in G‑d. So too, you shall love Him to the extent that you draw others to Him.”

Rabbi Boruch Leff

Menifa – Completion of The School Year

Friday, July 6th, 2012

“Every child is a flower that grew and will flourish and will succeed”

“You have all been through a long and difficult journey,” belted Rafi to the group of twenty-five boys at the end-of-year ceremony for Menifa’s Lech Lecha program in Gilo. “I remember the falls and climbs you each experienced.”

Menifa’s Lech Lecha program is located in the Eretz HaTzvi Religious Boys High School in Gilo, a suburb of Jerusalem. Lech Lecha is an alternative high school program for at-risk teenage boys who have dropped out of high school. The program is one of close to forty such programs that Menifa – Leverage for Life runs throughout Israel. Some of the boys in this program have a history of drug or alcohol abuse, others have emotional or psychological problems. There are boys with a history of crime, from broken homes and families with severe financial difficulties and then there are those who come from normative situations. The uniting factor for each boy who enters “Lech Lecha” is that he is unable to remain in a regular high school program and requires an alternative framework that will allow him to grow and develop.

The end-of-year ceremony was quite emotional, as it should not be taken for granted that twenty-five boys who were thrown out of multiple schools and spent time on the streets are now celebrating the completion of a school year. A big part of this success is the staff’s devotion. Rafi, the life coach, recalled some difficult times but emphasized that he never lost faith in any of his boys. “I would call five times and ten times and fifteen times and you would not come to school. You would say, ‘Nu, don’t you get it, I am not coming’. After twenty times, you walked into the door.”

Perhaps the most moving part of the evening was the distribution of certificates to the seven graduating seniors. Some of these boys spent three years in the program. Each graduate will be continuing in either military service, a pre-military preparatory academy or yeshiva study. This is certainly an accomplishment for boys who were thrown out of school and were wandering the streets.

Natan* will be going to a pre-military preparatory program next year. He came to Lech Lecha three years ago, after having been thrown out of multiple high schools. The first two years, he rarely came to school. It was very difficult for him to sit and learn. However, the staff did not give up. They encouraged him to stay in the program, even if it meant not showing up for classes. In the third year of the program, a revolution occurred and he began coming to classes and participating in field trips.

Roi* was chosen by the other graduates to speak on their behalf. “After three years, I learned a great deal. You helped me learn more than in any other school I was in. You enabled me to advance and to stand up.” Roi will be enlisting in the IDF in the coming months.

When the boys who will be remaining in the program were asked what they want to see next year, they responded almost unanimously, “a water cooler”- something so basic and essential, yet clearly missing. The “Lech Lecha” program is located in the basement of the Eretz HaTzvi school. There are no windows and the conditions are sub-par. The bathroom is in need of serious repairs and the boys do not even have a water cooler where they can take a break and get a refreshing drink. Due to limited funds, Menifa is currently not able to refurbish the center.

The parents left the ceremony with hope. The teachers left with pride. The graduates left with dreams. The younger students left with a promise, “By the start of the school year, you will have a water cooler.”

A water cooler costs $1,000. Donations towards this project can be made payable to the P.E.F. Israel Endowment Funds, Inc. 317 Madison Avenue, Suite 607 New York, NY 10017. Please make sure to write in the memo Menifa- Leverage for Life. For further information please contact Alisa Bodner: alisa.menifa@gmail.com or (561) 914-9482 or in Israel 052-7710135.

Alisa Bodner, Tazpit News Agency

Tibbi’s Roundup: ‘Asifa’ Organizers Snub Women, Lubavitch

Saturday, May 5th, 2012

Happy New Week. I’m trying a topical approach to my roundup, so I went trolling for new, interesting things about Lag Ba’Omer (only a couple of days ahead), the ‘Asifa’ in Citi Field, and stam interesting Jewish tidbits. Let me know if this format works for you, I’m trying new things.

There’s a classifieds ad circulating the Israeli blogosphere which just has to be translated and shared as the most insightful sales pitch ever:

For sale, first owner! Encyclopedia Britannica, the complete set – 45 volumes! Bargain price, or to the highest bidder. I no longer need it. I got married last week – and my wife knows everything.

Is that deep, or what? And just in case you might actually be interested, since this year has seen the shutting down of the printed Britannica, the number for this wise seller is, in Israel, 03-576-9283.

Let’s blog.


Going to Meron. From Jerusalem people like myself including hundreds of thousands of Jews, are making their way to the Galilean city of Meron Wednesday night and Thursday 10th May, 2012, participating in the annual celebration of Lag Ba’Omer. Police in the quiet town situated just one mountain away from the mystical city of Tzfat are expecting half a million Jews to arrive, traveling in busses, private cars, and some even on foot.  As of 7:30pm Wednesday night, its expected for 20,000 people to have already arrived. Midnight Rabbi Inspires

First haircut & pe’ot shaping ceremonies for 3 year old boys are the highlight of Lag b’Omer for many families, as everyone gathers to help snip. Actually, everywhere in the world, Jewish boys born between Pesach and Lag b’Omer receive their first haircut and pe’ot on Lag b’Omer. Upon reaching the age of 3 (i.e., completing three years and beginning the “holy fourth” – see Lev. 19:23-25), a Jewish child begins to receive his or her official training in mitzvot. Rabbi Babs, Lech Lecha

Lag B’ Omer Picnic. The Jewish holiday of Lag B’Omer is next Thursday, May 10. Since this holiday is celebrated with picnics, parades and bonfires there’s still time to grab these great picnic essentials: Fun napkins from Target, Crate and Barrel’s collapsible basket… Rita from Connecticut, Design Megillah



The Internet Asifa @ CitiField. Some people expressed their frustration with the fact that women cannot attend, others blasted the rabbis for ruining the Jewish future. As I am female, I will not be able to attend the asifah (bummer, no inspiration for me), a male friend kindly offered to take his time and attend on my behalf, so hopefully, there will be more to discuss after May 20th. Tania, Thinking Jew Girl

Lubavitch not invited to “Internet” asifa. I’m sorry for doing this, for airing our “dirty laundry” here in public, and in English yet! but this charade has to stop. This week’s meeting with the Satmar Rebbe is only one example of the exclusionary tactics being used by the organizers of the Internet event. You can choose not to believe what I write here, if it makes you feel good, but I know it to be 1000% true. Many efforts were made to get the organizers to include Lubavitch in this asifa. They were all rejected. For all kinds of supposed reasons. All people involved got the run-around, and the end result was that we got the message. Even the Skulener Rebbe said it has nothing to do with him. Hirschel Zig’s Blog Mistaken Report Says Asifa at CitiField to Be Held on May 28. Matzav.com has confirmed that despite a report in the chareidi media this week indicating a change of date, the upcoming Ichud Hakehillos L’Tohar Hamachane gathering, otherwise known as the “Internet Asifa,” will be talking place on Sunday, May 20, at CitiField in Queens, as originally scheduled.

A report on the front page of the Brooklyn-based Hamodia newspaper on Monday stated that the event would be taking place on May 28. Organizers, though, tell Matzav.com that this is mistaken and that the original date, May 20, was never changed. Noam Amdurski-Matzav.com Newscenter

Life Beyond Internet. On Monday, Paul Miller, a Senior Editor at a “technology-focused news publication” called The Verge, announced that he was quitting the Internet for a year. He’s switched to a “dumb” phone, and has pledged to neither use the Internet nor ask others to use it for him, if he can.

His reasons for this drastic move are informative. He hopes that “leaving the internet will make me better with my time, vastly more creative, a better friend, a better son and brother… a better Paul.” He said that he was spending an average of over twelve hours each day using some sort of device with an Internet connection, not even including his smartphone. Yaakov Menken, Cross Currents

Internet Asifa. While I often think that a stance may be valid even if I don’t agree with it, when it comes to the internet, I don’t even think the chareidi view is valid. I mean, let’s look at what happened. The internet comes out, and chareidi Rabbis decide it’s like TV. They assur it completely. Then, they see that some people need it in order to make money. Then they decide it’s still forbidden, but there are loopholes. You can show proof that you need it for work, and then you can have it – but only if the woman of the house has the password, and her husband is dependent on her to open it up. You also need a filter that meets chareidi standards. Proud MO, OrthoWatch



Jewish leadership fails us again. The Netanyahu government keeps praising Obama and publicly smiling even though Obama keeps sticking the knife in. As a result American Jews maintain their support of Obama. Because Netanyahu doesn’t defend our right to build, they and even Israeli Jews, lose confidence in our rights. Many become ashamed of the “occupation” because our government gives the impression that criticism of us in this regard is well founded. Under these conditions we cannot win the PR battle. Ted Belman, Doc’s Talk

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Tibbi Singer

Did Avraham Own The Land Yet?

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

In this weeks parshah we read about Avraham’s purchase of Me’aras HaMachpelah. Prior to any negotiations Avraham said to the bnei Cheis, “Ger v’soshav anochi…” – I am a stranger and a resident… (Bereishis 23:4). Rashi quotes a medrash that explains the apparent paradox in Avraham’s words as follows: Avraham was telling the bnei Cheis to treat him like a stranger and sell the property to him, and, if not, he will be forced to act as a resident and take what is rightfully his – for Hashem has already said to Avraham that this land will belong to his children.

The meforshim are bothered by this interpretation and ask the following question: In parshas Lech Lecha we learned about the dispute between Avraham’s and Lot’s shepherds. The pasuk does not inform us regarding the details of the dispute – but Rashi does. Rashi says that Lot’s shepherds were resha’im, and would allow their animals to graze in private property. Avraham’s shepherds chastised them for this, as these were acts of stealing. In defense Lot’s shepherds responded that what they were doing was not stealing, since Hashem gave this land to Avraham and Lot was his only inheritor (at the time). Rashi concludes by quoting the end of that pasuk, …veha’Canna’ani veHa’prizi az yoshev ba’aretz – and the Canna’ani and the Prizi were still occupying the land), indicating that Avraham had not yet acquired the land and therefore allowing the animals to graze in private property was indeed stealing.

The two explanations from Rashi seem to contradict one another. In this week’s parshah he says that Avraham could take the land as its rightful owner, and in parshas Lech Lecha he said that Avraham had not yet acquired the land.

The Chizkuni and the Sifsei Chachamim both suggest the following answer: Hashem promised Avraham that his children would inherit the land of Eretz Yisrael. In parshas Lech Lecha, Avraham had not yet had any offspring; therefore Hashem’s promise did not come into effect. In parshas Chayei Sarah, Yitzchak had already been born. Thus Hashem’s promise was applicable, and Avraham could demand the land as its rightful owner.

My rebbe, Reb Shmuel Birembaum, zt”l, suggested another answer to this question, based on an explanation from the Malbim on a different point in this episode. The Malbim explains that Avraham Avinu intended to accomplish more than merely acquiring a piece of land; he wanted to teach the public that there was an afterlife. The general consensus of that time was that there was nothing after one dies, and Avraham wanted to use this opportunity to teach the people otherwise. With this the Malbim explains why Avraham informed them of his intentions with the field in the first place, and continuously stressed and reiterated several times that he is acquiring the land for a burial. Avraham attempted to instill in the bnei Cheis the belief that there is an afterlife.

Reb Shmuel proved from a Gemara (Gittin 47a) that there are two separate levels of acquisition: the monetary aspect and the level of acquisition that affects issurim and mitzvos. For example, if a non- Jew acquires land in Eretz Yisrael, he completely owns the land as far as monetary issues are concerned. This enables him to do whatever he pleases to the land. However, regarding terumah and ma’aser and other mitzvos, the land is not considered owned by a non-Jew, which would exempt him from those mitzvos. Rather the non-Jew is obligated in these mitzvos, since he cannot acquire the land on the level that affects mitzvos.

Now we can understand the seemingly contradictory explanations from Rashi. Regarding monetary issues, Avraham had not yet acquired the land. However, regarding mitzvos, Avraham had already acquired Eretz Yisrael. In parshas Lech Lecha, Rashi was addressing a monetary issue (i.e. whether one may allow his cattle to graze in someone else’s field. In that regard Rashi explained that the land belonged to the current residents of the land, as Avraham had not yet acquired the land.

Jewish Press Staff

Majzner’s Illuminated Torah

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

Painting the Torah by Victor Majzner

Design by Michael Battista and Paper Stone Scissors

Melbourne, Austrilia, 2008
For the Jewish artist the desire to illuminate a Torah is an irresistible act of devotion, an offering to Hashem as precious as any sacrifice imaginable.  Each parsha is etched into the Jewish consciousness as a calendar for the year, changing weekly, subject, tone and atmosphere.  From the primal drama of Lech Lecha to the national transformation of Yisro, and beyond to Moshe’s tragic death on the eve of our long sought homecoming, the weekly portion celebrates and delineates God’s complex relationship to His beloved.  Illuminating the Torah parsha by parsha is the artist’s ultimate amidah.
Victor Majzner has created a contemporary illuminated Torah called “Painting the Torah,” that distills each parsha into one complex image.  Majzner is a widely exhibited Australian artist and former professor of Painting at the Victoria College of the Arts who has in recent years turned his attention to Jewish themes including the Land of Israel (the Negev), the dybbuk, the Wandering Jew, creation of “The Australian Hagaddah” (with his son Andrew Majzner (1993), “Images of Tanya,” and various projects which are connected with the Institute for Judaism and Civilization in Melbourne, Australia.
In the book’s introduction Kabbalah scholar Rabbi Dovid Tsap admits the dangers inherent in visual representations.  Aside from the seemingly clear ban found in the Second Commandment, according to the midrash the vision afforded the Children of Israel at Matan Torah opened the way for the creation and worship of the Golden Calf. However the Ramban “explains that the Biblical injunction refers to specific symbols only, e.g. angels, celestial constellations or demonic deities, and even then only if the intention is to worship them.”  In an apparent contradiction, in Avodah Zarah (43 A-B) the verse in Exodus “You shall not make [images of] what is with Me (itti) enjoins even the creation of purely decorative images.  Nonetheless, the contemporary posek, Rabbi Shmuel Halevi Wosner has ruled that for the purposes of teaching Torah, even celestial imagery is permitted.    What is clear is that the Torah inherently recognizes the power and danger of the visual imagination while the rabbis seem to be divided on the permissibility of visual images in practice.  The long visual record of Jewish art clearly opts for its permissibility and dynamism as a cultural force.
The earliest illuminated Biblical manuscript are Christian works: the Latin Quedlinburg Itala fragment (from the book of Kings) dating around 398 CE and the Ashburnham Pentateuch, a much better preserved Latin 6th century work that features some 60 miniatures and probably reflects Jewish midrashic influence in the illustrations. The famed Greek Cotton Genesis (almost completely destroyed in a 1731 fire) was possibly produced in Alexandria, Egypt around 500 CE and was thought to have as many as 340 miniature framed paintings in the text of the book of Genesis.  It may have been the original model for the extensive 13th century mosaics in San Marco, Venice.  The contemporaneous Vienna Genesis with 48 surviving pages is thought to originally have 192 illustrations, many images of which show influence by various Jewish midrashic sources. 
The oldest complete bible (Tanach) is the Leningrad Codex, probably written in Cairo around 930 CE.  This Masoretic text following the grammatical and vocalization notation of Ben Asher contains an illuminated carpet page depicting the Tabernacle and its utensils. There are Hebrew Biblical manuscripts with carpet pages (abstract or purely decorative pages of overall illumination) from 13th century Christian Spain as well as the richly decorated 14th century Farhi Bible that sports 29 Islamic inspired carpet pages introducing the Hebrew text.  Frequently the Temple implements are the favored subjects of such depictions.  The medieval illuminated bibles proved irresistible to Jews and Jewish artists, created in such diverse communities as Sana’a, Yemen, Burgos, Toledo, Saragossa, Cervera, Spain, Perpignan, Aragon, and Southern Germany. 
            Contemporary Jewish biblical illuminations include extensive works by Marc Chagall (1935-56), Abel Pann (1930), Archie Rand’s Parsha Paintings (1989) and Yonah Weinrib (2009). That said only Rand’s Parsha Paintings attempt to do what Majzner has accomplished, i.e. an image that sums up each and every section of the Torah.
             Majzner’s images can be understood on a number of different levels.  The aforementioned author of the introduction, Rabbi Tsap, sees the works as visual meditations on the Kabbalistic meanings hidden in the text.  Working with the notion that the Torah operates on two primary levels; revealed narrative and concealed mysticism, he reads the meanings of the images in terms of kabbalistic color correspondences with the sefirot and refractions of emotions again emanating from the sefirot.  This interpretation relies on the highly symbolic nature of many elements in Majzner’s illuminations.
              In his preface Majzner sees the works he created here as a means of learning Torah, developed from six years of intensive learning and painting (preceded by some 20 years of ongoing Torah study), parsha by parsha, contemplating a wide variety of commentators, kabbalah, teachers and literature to help focus and shape his vision of the weekly portions.  “Slowly the images began to reveal themselves to me. Gradually I started seeing the Torah as a visual feast.”  It is deeply refreshing see an artist express this kind of humility about making art.  As an expression of piety and practicality about learning Torah and creating art it is certainly a very good guide as to how the viewer should approach this work as a learning experience.
               Each of the 54 parshas presents one page of highly condensed English and Hebrew text facing one image annotated with a Rashi, Rambam, Gemara or eclectic commentator.  At the end of the book there is a chapter-by-chapter short explanation of the images. Taken as a collectivity they are deeply impressive as a learned intellectual and visual meditation on the Torah experience. 



Vayishlach – illumination by Victor Majzner

Painting the Torah (2008), Melbourne, Australia


 Vayishlach depicts Jacob’s terrifying encounter with a supernal being: simultaneously Esau’s guardian, the angel of death and an apparition of the Divine.  The red winged creature lifts the helpless Jacob off the ground behind a vine-like scrim of foliage reminiscent of barbed wire.  It is as if the crippling encounter with the supernal presaged the Holocaust.


Bo – illumination by Victor Majzner

Painting the Torah (2008), Melbourne, Australia

Parsha Bo waxes deeply personal, as the entire image is effectively one matzah embedded with three squares of the final plagues.  The plague of locusts shows a peaceful landscape flooded with millions of insects destructively swarming in their famished quest.  Next the plague of darkness seems to drip down upon the Egyptian monuments with a lava-like inevitability.  Finally the plague of the Death of the First Born descends from the night sky passing over the blood stained Jewish portals, comets of red death heading to the damned Egyptian first born.


Kiddoshim – illumination by Victor Majzner

Painting the Torah (2008), Melbourne, Australia

Kedoshim focuses on the fateful words; “You must be holy, since I God your God am holy.”  A giant set of luchos emblazoned with the commandments forms the structure upon which the sefirot chart punctuated by blue flames effectively maps the body of the Divine.  Quoting from Yedid Nefesh “Please be revealed and spread upon me, my Beloved, the shelter of Your peace” Majzner is simultaneously pleading and showing us a symbolic representation of the Divine and the road through which we can become holy: Torah and mystical revelation.


Mattos – illumination by Victor Majzner

Painting the Torah (2008), Melbourne, Australia

The image for Mattos reflects a midrash that depicts the encounter of Pinchas with Bilam and the five levitating Midianite kings.  Pinchas overpowers them with the great holiness of the tzitz of the Kohen Gadol and the Midianite kings plunge to their deaths as B’nai Yisroel slaughter all the Midianites and burn their cities.  Majzner brilliantly connects this overwhelming horror with the purging of Midianite vessels bringing this violent history into our everyday koshering experience.


Shoftim – illumination by Victor Majzner

Painting the Torah (2008), Melbourne, Australia

The strange and puzzling mitzvah of egel arufah in Shoftim has the elders of the city declare, “Our hands have not shed this blood, and our eyes did not see.”  Over the outline of the slain man indeed the bloodied innocent calf lies, the washing hands hovering, attempting to assuage the nagging guilt that somehow, somebody was responsible for an unsolved murder.  Justice is demanded even from the ostensibly innocent because in the holiness of the Land of Israel we are all responsible for one another.
Majzner’s images boldly speak to us in the context of our Torah knowledge, his presentation of biblical text and commentary and a flurry of kabbalisticly-inspired symbols.  While much is inevitably lost in limiting his Torah commentary to only 54 visual interpretations, what is gained is the invaluable signifying of each parsha with a visual identity.  We all admit that the Torah is a vast palace; a textual universe that we visit each year and yet don’t necessarily know as well as we think we should.  Majzner’s illuminated Torah, “Painting the Torah,” if we follow him parsha by parsha, image by image, will help us get a little more personal and a take us a step closer to fully possessing our sacred heritage.

Richard McBee is a painter and writer on Jewish Art. Contact him at rmcbee@nyc.rr.com

Richard McBee

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/majzners-illuminated-torah-2/2010/01/27/

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