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April 17, 2014 / 17 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Yitzchak Avinu’

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.

Pride, Prejudice And Potatoes

Wednesday, November 5th, 2003

There is a wise Yiddish saying that translates into this observation: “Yichus (illustrious ancestors) is like a potato - they are both under the ground.” My understanding of this statement is that while one should be proud of one’s outstanding forefathers - one should not base his/her self-evaluation on ancestral achievements. In other words, don’t walk around like you’re a superior being just because your great-grandparents were special. Their menschlichkeit, their knowledge, their midos are not transferable. You must earn these accolades through your own efforts.

Unfortunately, many people have the mistaken belief that since an individual comes from yichus, that he/she embodies the virtues and capabilities of his/her ancestors. They buy into the premise that the sterling qualities that made the family yichusdik is automatically passed down to the heirs. Hence they are thrilled when a shidduch is rett (suggested) for one of their children to go out with “so-and so” who is “so and so’s” einekel (descendant).

While in many cases, the members of the generations that follow do emulate the achievements and qualities of their memorable alte zaydehs, it is not necessary the case. Sometimes, a member of the clan is nowhere intellectually or morally near the level of his forbearers. Case in point: Esav was the son of Yitzchak Avinu and grandson of Avraham Avinu. He had the best yichus possible – but all he really inherited was their DNA.

The reality that the character of a son or daughter is not on par with their yichus is tragically overlooked by shadchanim. Often the parents on the other side are eager to believe the misrepresentations, even though there are indications to the contrary. The hapless young person ends up fahling ahrein - an expression that in English can be explained as falling into a bad situation, one that is very hard to extradite oneself from - like quicksand, or a deep pit.

Many people have written to The Jewish Press sharing how they were the envy of their friends for getting “such a catch,” and they bitterly realized how deluded they were to think that Mr./Miss Great Family Pedigree made great marriage material. Sadly, marrying a scion of a household with a distinguished family tree does not guarantee “happily ever after.”

The lesson to take to heart is that each potential marital partner should be evaluated on his/her own merit. This holds true whether they come from very respectable families, or if they come from less stellar backgrounds. After all, just as Esav was who he was despite his illustrious background, the virtuous Rifka was the daughter of Bethuel, and the righteous Leah and Rochel were the daughters of Lavan! Ironically, under today’s rules, no self-respecting family would have touched those girls despite their incredible midos.

The jaundiced view regarding young people who are not quite “mainstream” i.e. from a divorced home, baalei teshuva, immigrant family, etc., is often inaccurate and unjustified. So is the misguided perception that kids from “wonderful” homes are themselves wonderful.

People assume that children of divorce are messed up or have emotional problems, and will not let their children date those from broken homes. They don’t realize that any household where there are married parents but no sholom bayit is also a broken home. Children growing in two parent homes where the parents constantly fight and yell in front of their them, where the adults are demeaning, critical and verbally abusive - are at more risk for being dysfunctional than children in single parent homes that are tranquil.

In the same vein, young people who go to yeshivas/girls’ schools that are not considered as being top level schools are often ostracized when in comes to shidduchim. The irony is that many of these students are more sincere and hardworking in their davening and learning, and have more developed midos and ahavas Yisrael than some whose entry into a “good” yeshiva was smoothed by their father’s or grandfather’s hefty annual donations.

To prejudge a person, either favorably or unfavorably because of superficial yardsticks, is unfair and self-defeating. A parent might pass up a wonderful person and end up with a son or daughter-in-law who will bring discord, turmoil and heartache to the family.

The old saying, “don’t judge a book by its cover” has much merit to it.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/pride-prejudice-and-potatoes/2003/11/05/

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