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October 29, 2016 / 27 Tishri, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Yaakov’

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,


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

Hashgachah Pratis – Guidance From Above

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

Lashon hakodesh, the holy tongue, is different from all other languages. Every word is definitive.

For example, when you say in English “it happened,” the connotation is a random happening, but the same word in lashon hakodesh, “mikreh,” places a totally different twist on the concept. The deeper meaning behind the word mikreh is “kara mei Hashem,” it happened from G-d,” meaning the world is not run by random forces but that G-d’s guiding Hand is constantly with us. This is not only detected in world events but in our own personal lives as well.

Even if we do not see Hashem’s Hand, it is there. Every morning when we thank the Almighty for His many bounties, we recite the berachah “We thank the Almighty who firms men’s footsteps…” We need only allow ourselves to see and hear G-d’s messages.

Most people have difficulty discerning His call since His messages are usually hidden behind many veils. On occasion however, hashgachah pratis – Divine providence – is so clear and obvious that even a blind man has to see it, a deaf man has to hear it.

I’ll share with you a spectacular story that illustrates hashgachah pratis.

Meet 8-year-old Yedidya, a bright, sweet yeshiva boy. He carries his name proudly – Yedid-Ya, which literally translated means “friend of the Almighty.” From the day of his birth his parents imbued him with the awesome responsibility of that title, but in certain situations he prefers that his English name, Jed, be used, and such was the case when he made his first visit to the orthodontist. He was with his beautiful mom, Shannon, and, as in all doctors’ offices, a form had to be filled out.

As Shannon started to write, Yedidya whispered, “Mommy, write down my English name, Jed.” When Shannon questioned him, he explained that he wanted to avoid all the fuss his Jewish name evoked. Following the session with the orthodontist, Shannon hailed a cab for their return home. As they settled in the taxi, Shannon looked at the little box that indicated the driver’s name. What she saw there left her nonplussed.

She looked again; perhaps she read it wrong. Was she making a mistake? No – amazingly, there it was in big, bold letters: Yedidya.

“How did you get the name Yedidya?” she asked the driver.

“My parents gave it to me,” he explained. “I always loved it and I was always so proud of it, but in Russia we were not permitted to use our Jewish names, so when I came to America, I made myself a promise that in this country, where everyone can live by his faith, I would proudly proclaim that my name is Yedidya and that I am a Jew.”

Shannon couldn’t believe her ears. What were the chances of finding a Jewish taxi driver in Manhattan named Yedidya? Shannon was awed as she absorbed this enormous hashgachah pratis. More importantly, her son, who just an hour before had been uncomfortable with the name Yedidya, was given a lesson that no school, parent or rabbi could have given. From that moment on, he never again wanted to be called Jed.

Some might attribute this encounter to random events that no intelligent person could seriously consider as being foreordained. I invite such skeptics to read chapter two of the story.

Yedidya has a twin brother, Yaakov, and the day after the story with Yedidya unfolded, Shannon once again found herself hailing a taxi. Even as she did so, the story with Yedidya kept replaying in her mind. As she settled into the cab, she once again looked at the little box identifying the cabby, never expecting any message, any new wisdom from Heaven. Incidents like this cannot be repeated, but lo and behold the little box identifying the taxi driver once again blew her away. There it was in bold letters – the name of the driver was Yaakov – not Jacob but Yaakov – the name of Yedidya’s twin brother!

These incidents of hashgachah pratis, occurring twice, one right after the other, cannot simply be dismissed, even by the most cynical.

I now invite you to read chapter three.

Should you wonder how Shannon and her amazing husband, Andrew, were zocheh to merit such an awesome experience, it goes back to another taxi ride, one that happened some years ago in Prague, Czechoslovakia.

The story starts with Shannon who, when she came to Hineni for the very first time, discovered the majestic world of Torah and asked to study more. Her thirst for Torah was unquenchable, so I put her in touch with my children who are the Hineni rabbis and rebbetzins – Torah teachers.

Then one day Andrew, a young man with a winning smile and keen bright mind, came along for his first Hineni experience. Something told me Andrew and Shannon would make a perfect shidduch so I suggested they date. On their dates Shannon inspired Andrew to join her in Torah study with our family.

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

The Wedding of the Maharal of Prague and His Wife Pearl

Friday, February 17th, 2012

Rabi Yehuda ben Bezalel Lowe, known as the Maharal of Prague, was born in 1525, in Posen, and died in 1609 in Prague. These were troubled times for the Jews in Austria, Poland, and the surrounding countries. Both Catholics and Protestants joined forces to persecute the Jews, and not a day passed that a new atrocity wasn’t inflicted upon them. Into this difficult environment came the Maharal.

Rabi Yehuda’s name evokes the thought of legend. But today let me share with you a miraculous story, of how a soldier was responsible for his marriage to Pearl, the only daughter of the wealthy and prominent Reb Shmuel ben Reb Yaakov.

Esav Needs Yaakov

In his youth the Maharal was already known as a genius. One day, at the age of five, he was studying the story of how Esav and Yaakov were born.

“And the children struggled with her (Rivka),” (Genesis 25:22), the rebbe intoned. Then, pointing to Rashi, he taught the children Vayisrotzitzu, struggling, which also denotes running. Chazal explained that when Rivka would pass the Beis Medrash of Shem and Ever, Yaakov struggled to come forth and when she passed the door of idol worship, Esav struggled to come forth.

Little Yehuda raised his hand and asked, “I can understand why Yaakov could not come forth because Esau blocked his way, as he was the first to be born. But why wasn’t Esav able to go forth, seeing that there was no one to block his way out?”

The teacher pondered for a moment and the asked, “What is your answer to this question, Yehuda? I know that you are an exceptionally bright boy.”

The boy thought for a moment and then replied: “As far as I can see, Esav didn’t want to leave without Yaakov. For who would he hit? Whose life would he make miserable if not Yaakov’s? Who would he persecute and murder and upon whom would he take his revenge for studying the Torah, if not Yaakov? Therefore, Esav didn’t want to leave.”

Even at that young age the children were aware of the miserable lot of the Jews of that era.

The Rich Man’s Daughter

At the age of nine, Yehuda was well known throughout the country as a genius and many offers of matrimony were made. Eventually, he was chosen by the prominent Reb Shmuel ben Reb Yaakov who had a five-year-old daughter, his only child whose name was Pearl. The tenayim was signed and the bride’s father agreed to send Yehuda to study in a yeshiva until he became bar mitzvah and then the wedding would take place.

In the meantime, tragic days befell Jewry. War broke out between Turkey and Austria and both sides vented their wrath upon the Jews who were caught in between. Unfortunately, Reb Yaakov, Yehuda’s future father-in-law, was robbed of all his possessions. The advancing soldiers confiscated his stores and warehouses and he was soon reduced to a pauper. That day a sad Reb Yaakov wrote to Yehuda telling him of his misfortune and advising him that he could not fulfill his part of the contract. Therefore, he would free him of his obligation to marry his daughter.

But Yehuda replied that a word given is a word that must be kept regardless of the ensuing circumstances. If G-d saw fit to make them poor, then he would also see fit at a future date to restore their fortunes. In the meantime he would study in the yeshiva, doing odd jobs on the side to support himself and he would wait until G-d showed His mercy again.

Reb Yaakov was profuse in his thanks as he blessed young Yehuda. The years rolled by and Reb Yaakov’s circumstances became worse. In the meantime, Yehuda continued to study in the yeshiva and his name as a gaon became known throughout the country. Many offers of marriage came to him but he brushed them all aside. His future wife had to open a small bakery to support her aging parents who were heartbroken at the turn of events. Over 20 years passed. Yehuda was now 32 years old and Pearl was 28 and still no sign of marriage.

The Visiting Soldier

One day an army captain entered the town. He passed Pearl’s bakery and seeing so many luscious challahs and cake, he took his spear, picked up a few of them and began to eat them ravenously. The young and beautiful Pearl rushed out of the store and began to plead with the soldier to stop, for this was her only means of support for herself had her parents.

The soldier took pity on the beautiful girl and he replied: “I hope you will excuse my behavior but this is the first food I’ve had in three days. I just came back from the warfront and I am famished. All I can offer you is this woolen bag which I took from an enemy soldier. I never even opened it to scan its contents, but you can have the bag.”

Rabbi Sholom Klass

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/kidz/midrash-stories/the-maharal/2012/02/17/

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