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December 10, 2016 / 10 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Yaakov’

In Memory Of My Abba, Dr. Ivan Mauer

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

Recently I went to a shiur on Yitzchak Avinu and found that it applied in many ways to my own father whose name was Yitzchak.

Yitzchak, the most ambiguous of the forefathers, is hard to describe. Avraham is closely associated with hachnasat orchim and chesed, and Yaakov is the father of our nation, B’nei Yisrael. Yitzchak is often described as serious, exacting, din, and yet his name is Yitzchak, to laugh, which seems to be a contradiction in terms.

How do we resolve this dichotomy?

Yitzchak was the paradigm of one who sees his existence as miraculous, as something that shouldn’t have been, someone who came into this world against all odds. Besides his parents having been too old to have a child, midrashim state that Sara didn’t have a womb. The laughter comes from the unexpected fact that he even exists. This keen sense of existence is balanced with an ability to laugh at the pure intensity of life. Yitzchak teaches us to laugh at ourselves, not to take ourselves too seriously, since life is almost too serious to comprehend. Yitzchak achieved the balance of knowing that the world was created for him yet we are all but dust of the earth.

Yitzchak came to teach us how to temper Avraham’s unlimited kindness, chesed. He introduced gemilut chasadim – limiting kindness. He was the first one in Tanach to be weaned, gemila, which teaches us in many aspects of our lives (relationship with our spouse, parenting, etc.) how we can wean ourselves from too much. Too much kindness, and too much giving which in many cases leads to being overwhelmed, frustrated and burnout.

And lastly, Yitzchak shows us the true meaning of laughter, a confident, mature laughter that comes from knowing that what you’re doing is right and that you’re on the right path. If someone chides you, be it on an individual level or on a national level, it is just that, a lighthearted, ignorant laughter.

As I focused on the healing powers of Yitzchak, I thought of my own Abba, Yitzchak ben Tzvi and Leah.

As a doctor, he was well aware of the fragility of life and yet cherished every moment and was able to “laugh” at the absolute miracle of living in this precarious world.

He taught me to enjoy each moment that is given to me and taught me through his example to persevere no matter what, since it’s G-d who gives life. And my father knew what was right even if it wasn’t popular or wasn’t the thing to do, like moving to a settlement in Israel. How proud he was of that. He would say don’t worry what other people say, “You’re doing the right thing.” Let them laugh. It’s not true laughter.

And like Yitzchak our forefather you were always filled with hakarat hatov.

I miss you terribly, every day. But like Yitzchak Avinu, your legacy lives on in your children and grandchildren who love you and continue to draw strength and laughter from you.

Michal Mauer Silverstein

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

Letter to Our Son After Shabbat

Sunday, November 18th, 2012

Dear Son,

I hope you had a Torah scroll with your platoon for Shabbat, and that you heard the Torah reading. The Parsha of Toldot begins, “These are the generations of Yitzhak, Avraham gave birth to Yitzhak.” Now this is very strange. When the Torah says, “These are the generations of Yitzhak,” we are ready to hear about the offspring of Yitzhak – Yaakov and Esav – yet the verse continues, “Avraham gave birth to Yitzhak.” Why talk about Avraham? He’s the father not a son! From this, we learn that the father is in the son. The father is passed down to his son and grandchildren from generation to generation. That’s how I feel, right now, as if I am with you on the outskirts of Gaza, waiting for the orders to wipe out Hamas and the other hornets’ nests of terror based in schools, mosques, hospitals, homes, and underground tunnels under the city, where they are hiding like cockroaches in the dark.

Over Shabbat, I remembered back to the Gulf War. Just before the missiles started falling on Tel Aviv, I had been called to milluim and was doing reserve military duty in the all Arab city of Tulkarim. You were maybe nine months old at the time. When the first missiles were launched, soldiers with beards received an order to shave, so that gas masks would fit better in case the missiles were armed with chemical heads. So I shaved. I didn’t tell your mother, thinking I would surprise her when I came home on leave, and sure enough, when I knocked on the front door several days later, the second she saw me, she gasped and retreated back into the living room, startled, as if some strange frightening caller was standing at the door. But the minute you saw me, you called out, “Ba!” and came crawling like a rocket, recognizing me immediately, even though I didn’t have a beard. When I picked you up, you were as happy as could be. “These are the generations of Yitzhak, Avraham gave birth to Yitzhak.” Father and son. Son and father. We’re the same.

So know that I am with you. So is your mother. The whole Shabbat, she waited for the moment she could turn on the radio to learn what was happening. Of course, when the warning siren suddenly sounded in Yerushalayim on Shabbat evening, and a distant boom shattered the tranquility, that brought the war even closer for your mother. More reservists were called up during Shabbat, and we heard rumors that troops would be sent to the north as well, but wherever you are, and whatever you end up doing, know that ever role is vital, whether it be that of a pilot, or the soldier that loads the bomb on the plane, the controller in the computer room, or the “jobnik” who folds the emergency parachute. King David made sure that everyone in the army of Israel received the same share of the booty, the soldiers that fought in the front, and those who stayed behind to guard over the camp.  “All for one, and one for all.”

Because I am in you, like Avraham was in Yitzhak, I know many of the things you are feeling. Even though you have received the finest training, going into battle is not an easy thing. You have a sensitive and caring soul, and even though you are as big and strong as Samson, in civilian life you wouldn’t hurt a fly. But as we learn in this week’s Torah portion, sometimes Yaakov has to dress in the clothes of Esav to bring blessing to the world. At his mother’s urging, to receive his father’s blessing, Yaakov puts goat skins on his arms, so that when his blind father embraces him, he will think it is indeed his eldest son, the hairy hunter Esav.

Rabbi Kook explains the story represents the victory of the forces of good over the forces of evil. Yet to triumph over the wicked Esav, the holy and righteous Yaakov is forced to resort to cruelty and deception.  Though it goes against his inner nature, Yaakov takes up the characteristics of Esav, the hunter, murderer, schemer, and warrior, to insure that the blessing of Avraham comes to the world through its proper channel.  Like today, when the Nation of Israel is forced to adopt Esav weapons of killing and war, it goes into battle not for the sake of destruction, but to bring an end to all killing and wars. Not out of a beastly passion for killing and war, like that of our enemies in Gaza, but out of the knowledge that this is the only way to make the world a better place. The arms and armies are like the arms and armies of Esav, but the voice is the voice of Yaakov. We fight when we have to, not for the sake of killing, but to put an end to all killing and bloodshed.

When we have to, we take up the rifles of Esav, but we are still Yaakov inside, guided by the light of the Torah. We have no other choice. In a world that lives by the sword, we have to take up the sword too. We cannot merely sit and pray for miracles. One of the commandments of the Torah is “Milchemet Mitzvah,” the mitzvah to go to war to defend Jewish life and to conquer the Land of Israel and keep it under out own Jewish sovereignty. You, my dear son, are engaged in a “Milchemet Mitzvah” twice over – defending the lives of the million Jew under rocket fire, and fighting enemies whose goal is to conquer our Land.

Not only am I and you mother with you. Our whole nation is with you. The Torah is with you. Avraham and Yitzhak and Yaakov are with you. The G-d of Israel is with you. Uproot the evil, my son. Go with a clean heart and a clear conscience. For G-d’s honor. For the honor of Israel. For the sake of the world.

Hazak V’Amatz,

Abba

Tzvi Fishman

The Power Of Prayer

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

Once again I must postpone the continuation of my Oct. 5 column, “Technology, Yom Kippur, Ahmadinejad,” this time due to the heavy reader response to last week’s column.

As you recall, I shared my latest journey. It all started on Pesach in San Diego where I suffered four hip fractures and underwent major surgery, and now I was once again scheduled for yet another procedure on the day after Simchas Torah, Oct. 10.

I underwent my pre-op tests and was ready to go. But with every fiber of my being I believe in the miraculous power of prayer, especially when that prayer emanates from the heart of Am Yisrael , so I asked for one more Cat Scan, knowing full well that the odds of the results being different from the previous one were slim if not nil.

My surgeon studied the Cat Scan. “Rebbetzin,” he said, “the healing process has commenced. You don’t have to come for surgery next week.”

To be sure, my journey is not yet over. In a month I will have to be re-evaluated, but my heart overflows with profound gratitude. I am trying to keep the commitment I made to Hashem that if I would have the merit of healing without human intervention (surgery), I would publicly declare that through the power of prayer, the heavenly gates of healing can be opened and lives changed.

This past Shabbos I gave my usual shiur and taught Torah in the shul where I daven – the Agudah of Lawrence-Far Rockaway. It was Shabbos Bereishis, when once again we began the cycle of Torah readings from the very beginning. In that very first parshah the Torah describes the creation of the world and the creation of man, the very crown of creation. We learn that though the seeds of all vegetation were in place, it was only after man prayed for rain that the seeds blossomed and bloomed.

This prerequisite of prayer is evident throughout our Torah and history. My grandson spoke about it at our Shabbos seudah in his d’var Torah. Our mothers – Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel, Leah, Chana and many others – were granted the berachah of children only after they prayed with all their hearts and souls.

This prerequisite of prayer holds true not only with regard to children but in every aspect of our lives. It was only after Moshe Rabbeinu, the greatest man ever to walk the face of the earth, turned to Hashem with intense, genuine prayer that Hashem forgave the nation of Israel.

G-d’s response was comprised of just two words, but those two words had and continue to have more power than the most deadly weapons mankind can devise. We are all familiar with those two little words. They are engraved on our hearts and souls; they are the pillars of Yom Kippur: “selachti kidvarecha” – “I [G-d] have forgiven even as you requested.”

Yes, prayer is the foundation, the ultimate defense weapon of our people. Our father Yaakov was endowed with this gift by his own father, Yitzchak, who proclaimed those words that identified us for all time: “Hakol kol Yaakov” – “The voice is the voice of Yaakov.” That voice is the voice of prayer. It is so powerful that it can pierce the bolted heavenly gates and ascend to the very Throne of G-d.

Throughout the long centuries of our persecution, torture, and slaughter, this voice of Jacob has enabled us to triumph. It was prayer that enabled us to survive Hitler’s hell. I know – I was there. I heard it.

In our “enlightened” world, however, this voice has become muted; prayer has come to be regarded as something only a naïve, unschooled person can take seriously. We, the citizens of the 21st century, know the age of miracles has long passed.

And there are still other factors that impede prayer. Ours is a culture that has an

addiction to “instant gratification.” From computers to iPhones, fast food to microwaves, it must all be fast, fast, fast! So if our prayers are not immediately granted, we cut the line and lose connection with our G-d; we stop praying, sit in solitude, and our loneliness consumes us.

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

OU To Host Annual Marriage Enrichment Retreat

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

The Orthodox Union will hold its seventh Marriage Enrichment Retreat from Friday, July 13through Sunday, July 15 at the Hudson Valley Resort and Spa in Kerhonkson, New York.

The adults-only weekend is geared toward happily married couples who wish to learn to communicate and relate on a deeper emotional level. Free from their daily distractions and routines, couples will be able to concentrate on one another and strengthen their marriage commitment.

“In the medical, accounting, and legal professions, people need continuing education credits to [complement] their credentials,” OU National Director of Community Services and Special Projects Frank Buchweitz told The Jewish Press.

“Many people think they are supposed to go into marriage knowing how to navigate it successfully. The retreat provides continuing credits for people to strengthen their relationships.”

Rachel Pill, LCSW, a popular presenter back for her fourth retreat, told The Jewish Press that “so often we are bombarded with what is wrong in our community, and this retreat is focused on the positive. It gives couples an opportunity to really focus on each other and to learn new things, gain some tips and spend the whole weekend listening to great speakers.”

Workshops such as “Make Your Good Marriage a GREAT Marriage,” “Enrich Your Relationship,” and “Enhance Your Communication Skills” will provide building blocks for lasting relationships, as will special presentations from OU Executive Vice President Rabbi Steven Weil and his wife, Yael. Buffet-style meals provide opportunities to create new relationships with people from across the country representing a wide cross-section of Orthodoxy.

Judy and Dovid Landman wrote of their experience at the retreat: “Our fears of hashkafic discordance went unfounded as we saw and heard the high caliber of the speakers and were treated to some beautiful divrei Torah. We came away relaxed and rejuvenated both physically and spiritually and were ready to synchronize all that we had learned.”

The Landmans were particularly inspired by “the array of people who attended the retreat. There was every color of the Jewish rainbow present – truly a sense of mah tovu ohalecha Yaakov. After all, we were all here for the same purpose, no matter what hue you represented in that rainbow.”

Editor’s Note: Cost includes hotel, meals, workshops, and tips for waitstaff. Spots are almost sold out, so call Hannah Farkas at 212-613- 8351 for more information and to register.

Karen Greenberg

Pesach Video: Baking Passover Matzah in Israel’s Heartland

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

Yishai Fleisher takes us to Beit El in Israel’s heartland, the location of Yaakov’s (Jacob’s) ladder, to bake matzot (unleavened bread) the old fashioned way by hand.  A crew of friends and neighbors carefully follow the detailed processes laid out in Jewish Law (Torah) for preparing and baking the matzah in less than 18 minutes total from start to finish.

Yishai Fleisher

Hashgachah Pratis: Readers Respond

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

In last week’s column I shared the remarkable story of hashgachah pratis that two terrific young yeshiva boys, Yedidya and Yaakov, experienced. Their story evoked an enthusiastic response. Many were motivated to reassess their own lives and discover their own hashgachah pratis.

To be sure, there is no end to this introspection. Who does not enjoy hashgachah pratis – guidance from the Almighty? It is written that a person does not even prick his finger without it being orchestrated from above. But it is one thing to recognize that concept intellectually and something else to internalize it and thank Hashem for His many kindnesses. All of us are constantly under this hashgachah pratis but sometimes, as in the case of Yedidya and Yaakov, it becomes so clear that even a blind man cannot fail to see it and a deaf man cannot fail to hear it.

I would like to share some of the letters generated by the hashgachah pratis story of Yaakov and Yedidya.

Letter 1

I just read the story of Yedidya and Yaakov. I began studying Torah six years ago, after a chain of events for which there is no explanation other than the hand of Hashem. My younger daughter was fourteen and away at summer camp in Maine. She got sick with what looked like mumps but it could not have been because she had had the vaccine. She was checked out and they could find no reason for her symptoms.

The camp was six hours from us but my husband and I decided to go up to see her even though she had recovered. We took her out of camp to spend the day with us. It got too late to take her back, so we decided to find a hotel for that night. The hotels were full and could not accommodate us but finally we found a quaint, charming place that had a room – but the place catered exclusively to “honeymoon couples.” We pleaded with the owner to let us have that room, and she finally agreed. I was washing up and chatting with my daughter who was standing behind me. Suddenly, she called out to me, “Mom, what is this mark here on your shoulder?”

“Where?” I asked.

She showed me. I turned to look and I was terrified. It looked just like a melanoma – a skin cancer that kills. Since she was fair-skinned, we had always instructed her to use sun block because of the risk of melanoma, so she was aware of the hazards inherent in such symptoms. We took her back to camp the next day, and on Monday morning I saw the dermatologist. She did a biopsy, and it was in fact a large melanoma.

I had a huge area of skin removed. Before my daughter had seen it, I had no idea it was there. It was just at the point of breaking through and getting into the bloodstream. The dermatologist told me my daughter had saved my life. It must have been a one in a billion chance that this occurred. I guess I could have written my own “dayenu” story. If my daughter had not fallen ill, we would never have gone to see her at that time and if we had not taken the room in the hotel she would not have seen this lesion, and if she had not had the knowledge instilled in her regarding sun-block and melanoma, she would never have recognized he danger signs…. The hashgachah pratis in all this left me breathless.

The surgeon told me he hoped it would not come back, but if it did, I would probably die. Baruch Hashem, they got it all out just in time. Why did this chain of events occur? There is no other explanation for this other than the intervention of Hashem.

The message from Hashem was clear. He granted me life so that I might accomplish something. I had written a book about women’s mental health that has been translated into ten languages and is still helping women even though it came out ten years ago. But I never would have lived to see my daughter grow up. I never would have lived to see her married and become a successful woman.

Ever since then there has been no doubt in my mind of the presence of Hashem in my life every day and every minute. And this brought me to serious study of Torah and commitment to a life of Torah – the best gift from Hashem I could ever have received. The whole thing made no sense other than that it was a miracle. It was my wakeup call. And what a call – the gift of a Torah life!

Letter 2

Five years ago, our family went through a very painful experience. My beautiful 22-year-old daughter became engaged to a young man everyone considered a “dream shidduch” – smart, good looking, from a respected, established family. It was an ideal match. We set the date for the wedding, reserved a beautiful hall and engaged an excellent caterer. We paid our deposits and happily went on to the next step.

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/rebbetzins-viewpointrebbetzin-jungreis/hashgachah-pratis-readers-respond/2012/03/28/

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