Long ago, our rabbis realized that the Torah is very much like a beautiful orchard. From a distance, you may see only a grouping of trees. As you approach, you notice the leaves, the blossoms, and the fruit on the individual trees. When you come even closer, you may see the skin that covers the fruit. If you are persistent and peel back the skin, your reward is a delicious treat. Just like the orchard which at a distance is only a field of trees, concealed there are layers upon layers of wonderful things.
Categories: Shabbat Table Talk
"Let me go over, I pray, and see the good land…" (Deut 3:25).
Moses is asking God to let him go into the Promised Land. Is it not obvious that if he will go over into the land, he will be able to see it?
But a man must pray at all times that God may cause him to see the good in everything. Therefore Moses prayed: "Let me go over…and see the good land…cause me to see only the good side of the Promised Land."
What an important message for us. When we are about to do something for the first time, when we are confronted with something that will take us out of our comfort zone, we tend to be critical first!
Let us take a lesson from this teaching to first find the good in a presentation, an opportunity, and an uncomfortable situation.
1. When an employee, a student, a child has presented you with a completed work, why is the first reaction to find something wrong with it?
2. What would happen if you said, "This has so many elements that work and satisfy the requirements.... Would you like some feedback? Have you thought about how changing this element of the project might....?
Categories: Shabbat Table Talk, Rabbi
Saturday, May 31, 2014
35th Torah portion, 2nd in Numbers
Naso 4:21-7:89 (176 verses)
Jewish Guilt: More than a Punch Line
The duties in the Mishkan of the Gershonites, Merarites, and Koathites are detailed. God speaks to Moses about ritually unclean people, repentant individuals, and possible cases of adultery. The obligations of a Nazirite vow are explained. God tells Moses how to teach Aaron and his sons the Priestly Blessing. Moses consecrates the Sanctuary, and the tribal chieftains bring offerings.
“Then he shall confess the wrong that he has done. He shall make restitution in the principal amount and add one-fifth to it, giving it to him whom he has wronged” (5:7).
This law concerns an individual who had stolen something by violence and then lied to cover up the crime. Although we are aware of this legislation from Leviticus (5:20-26), two additional provisions are introduced here: (1) a confession must precede the act of restitution and the bringing of an asham, “a guilt-offering;” and (2) an additional payment of twenty percent is made to the victim. According to Rashi (1040-1104), a robber is not liable to neither make the guilt-offering at the sanctuary nor make this additional payment to the victim if he was found guilty solely by the testimony of witnesses. What is peculiar is that only when the robber confesses his crime is these two punitive measures enforced. Apparently crime does not pay and neither does honesty.
Therefore, payment of an additional amount to the victim and the expensive payment for a guilt-offering must not be seen as a punishment. Rather, they are—according to Rabbi Reuven Bulka in his Torah Therapy—"rehabilitative adjustments legislated by the Torah to take full advantage of the conceived new sensitivity exhibited by the previously insensitive thief." Fascinating is the fact that even for a trifling sum a thief is called a sinner and must become contrite, confess and bring a costly asham (guilt-offering) and make restitution. Why is that? One rabbinic source suggests that in committing the crime it is as if he has taken a life. Whose life? One opinion suggests that of the victim. Another suggests his own life!
Our Torah teaches the importance of shleimut, "wholeness" for perpetrator and victim alike. The victim is made whole by the return of the principal plus twenty percent of its value, and the perpetrator has the opportunity through confession and restitution to return to his community. These acts serve as a harbinger of a new life. We know how ridiculous it is to force someone to make amends and to apologize. This can appear as nothing but a rote exercise. But for the individual who so desires, the Torah provides the means for teshuvah l’shlemut (“a return to wholeness”).
Confess to a friend and make a twenty percent return to that person in some way (not necessarily monetary).
Fate and Choice7th Torah Portion for the Shabbat on November 9, 2013Vayetze Genesis 28:10-32:3 (148 verses)
Synopsis:On the road to Haran Jacob has a dream of angels going up and down a ladder. Jacob awakens, realizing that God is in this place. God renews the covenant established with Abraham. Jacob sees Rachel, Laban's daughter, tending to sheep and wishes to marry her. Laban tricks Jacob into marrying his eldest daughter, Leah, after seven years of labor. In exchange for another seven years of work, Jacob is allowed to marry Rachel. Jacob has many sons with Leah, but Rachel is unable to conceive. Finally, God blesses Rachel, and she has a son, whom she names Joseph.
Commentary:For most people, this week's Torah portion focuses not only on Jacob's dream, but also on Jacob's love for Rachel. There is another daughter. She stands alone. Laban's eldest daughter, Leah is unable to attract a mate. Poor Leah, her father and sister have to join forces to trick Jacob into marrying her!
At first glance Leah is not a role model for us and yet, if we are willing to look deep enough, we find an important value.
The Kabbalah teaches that Leah represents fate and Rachel represents choice. Fate is the thing that will happen to a person or thing: the future that someone or something will have. Choice or free will is the facility granted by God to all souls, to think, desire and decide as they please. If you believe this is a world of choice, you regard your life as a product of your decisions. Unforeseen circumstances may impose themselves upon you from time to time. Feeling defeated by those circumstances is a choice you make for yourself.
The truth is that when you get married, you think you are marrying Rachel. This is the person you fall in love with; the person to whom you begin to know heart-to-heart. As your relationship blossoms and grows over the years there is bound to be an element of surprise. Later you discover you have also married Leah, who is the side of your spouse you never knew you were getting. The Zohar calls Jacob a man of completeness because he is able to unite the world of Rachel and the world of Leah. Leah was not Jacob's bride of choice; but she was a source of great blessing.
Story:A man tells his rabbi that he is considering divorcing his wife. "Why?" asked his rabbi. "When I married her," the man said, "I thought she was a Cadillac. I have discovered that she is a Toyota." "Your problem," the rabbi responded, "is that when you got married, you thought your were marrying a car!"
Languages of Love
By Rabbi Thomas Louchheim
Saturday, November 2, 2013
6th Torah Portion, 6th in Genesis – Toledot
25:19-28:9 (106 verses)
After a difficult labor, Rebecca has twins, Esau and Jacob. They grow up to be very different men. Isaac’s favorite, Esau is a hunter and man of the fields. Jacob, Rebecca’s favorite, is bookish and quiet (according to Rabbinic tradition). Esau sells his brother his birthright in exchange for some lentil stew. King Avimelech is led to think that Rebecca is Isaac’s wife (a replay of the incident with Abraham and Sarah earlier). Later, Isaac, now elderly and nearly blind – plans to bless Esau, his firstborn. Rebecca and Jacob deceive Isaac so that Jacob receives the blessing. Esau threatens to kill Jacob, who then flees to Haran.
“Isaac loved Esau for he fed him game; but Rebecca loved Jacob (25:28)
We are told that Isaac loved his son, Esau, because he hunted and prepared food for him. Isaac enjoyed eating the meat his son brought home – a purely sensual and material reason for loving his son. Rebecca, on the other hand, loves Jacob. He was smoothed-skinned, gentle, and domestic. He preferred to stay in tents (the abode of women), cooking and studying Torah. Isn’t it interesting that Esau sold his birthright for some lentil soup? He wanted to satisfy his physical appetite. He was a person satisfied by immediate gratification. Jacob is perceived by Rashi as a person whose “heart was like his mouth [i.e., his thoughts and words matched]. He was not one who survived on deception. He is known as an ish tam, a “simple, honest, and gentle man”. The Zohar says that he was gentle with those who deserved gentleness; but “where cunning and severity were necessary, he could us these also” (I:139b). Jacob, in fact objected to his mother’s plan of deception to which she responded, “Let any curse be on me” (Gen. 27:13).
What we have here are two different languages of love. Isaac and Esau spoke in the language of giving and receiving material gifts while Rebecca and Jacob spoke in the language of quality of time. In the Talmudic tractate, Pirke Avot (“Ethics of the Fathers”) we learn, “Love which is dependent on anything disappears when the thing (on which it is dependent) is gone.” Such love as expressed by Isaac and Esau is transitory, and can easily be a thing of the past. Rebecca’s love for Jacob was togetherness of quality time. This kind of love endures. Quality time, according to Gary Chapman (The Five Love Languages), “does not mean that we have to spend our together moments gazing into each other’s eyes. It means that we are doing something together and that we are giving our full attention to the other person.”
If we wish to analyze the character of our love, I suppose we can ask ourselves, “How much are we willing to sacrifice for those we profess to love?” What would happen if circumstances were such that the sacrifices we had to make for the loved one’s welfare far outweighed any possible gratification from the relationship? This kind of love is expressed not only by being a sympathetic listener and being attentive to expressions of feelings, but also self-revelation. If your loved one’s love language is quality conversation and quality time, then – in the words of Chapman – “her emotional love tank will never be filled until he tells her his thoughts and feelings.” This love language was expressed between mother and son in our Torah portion.
Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages and The Five Love Languages: Jewish Marriage Initiative, teaches us that it is not enough to determine one’s own “Love Language” (Words of affirmation, Quality time, Receiving gifts, Acts of service, and Physical touch), we must choose to speak in the other person’s “language.” One might say, “Well that does not come naturally to do that!” Well then, isn’t that a greater expression of your love for the other person?
Focus on an opportunity to share history together (from The Five Love Languages):
Introduction to Shabbat Table Talk
Pharaoh and Moses
Apologies to Rabbi Lookstein
Ki Yachol Lah - כי יכול לה
Small Role; Big Impact
In Response to the Orlando Shooting
When Tragedy Strikes
HUC-JIR L'DOR VADOR Gala
The Baal Shem Tov and His Sage
Share Your Stories
Appreciating Everyone's Gifts
Women Named and Unnamed, Beginning a New Year
The Journey that Changed Our World
Give Bigotry and Racism No Quarter
Loving the Stranger and the Estranged
Seeing the Good Land
Pinchas Is Not Our Religious Model
The Jewish View on Marriage Equality: The Jewish Response to the Supreme Court Decision
Adaption from Rabbi Karyn Kedar's, Omer: A Counting.
Hod of Malchut, "Humility in Nobility."
Netzach of Malchut, "Endurance in Nobility"
Compassion in Nobility
Behar– The Tender Tongue
Endurance in Bonding
Let Me Be What I Can Be
Rabbi Leonard Beerman - My Rabbi
Shmitah: A Sabbath for A Year Making a Difference for Your Lives
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