Parshas Beshalach – Anyone got a ship to rent?

This week we read of the Jews crossing the sea of reeds. The Egyptians charged into the seas after the Jews and were swept off to their deaths. On seeing their tormentors lying dead on the banks of the sea, the Jews burst forth in praise to Hashem. Hashem then decided this would be a great time to bestow upon us the gift of keeping shabbos.

On the 15th of Iyar the Jews finished the food they brought out with them and begged Moshe to ask Hashem for some food. They did this by reasoning with Hashem that if they were going to die of hunger they might as well have died in Egypt on a full stomach. Hashem agreed and send them Manna from heaven.

Why did Hashem not give them food before they asked for it? He knew they needed it.
This teaches us that Hashem wants us to reach out to him and make the first move. Even though He knows we need basic essentials he wants us to ask for it. It is not to dissimilar to a parent waiting for a child to ask nicely before he gives the child his food. May we all merit to see our prayers answered immediately.

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My radio appearance talking about elderly parents

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Parshas Bo – Hurry, Hurry get out!!!!

This week we are informed of the first 20 of the 613 commandments. There are 9 positive and 11 negative commandments. They include,
Eating Matzah and Marror on the night of Pesach,
Discussing the exodus from Egypt on the night of Passover,
Eradicating chometz (leaven) for the 7 days of Pesach and
Adorning ourselves with Tefillin on weekdays.

We also read of the last 3 plagues that Hashem brought against the Egyptians. After the killing of the firstborns, Pharoh had enough and kicked the Jews out of his land. However, the Jews did not leave until the next afternoon to show everyone that Hashem runs the world and will do things on his terms.

I think we can take an important lesson away from this week’s Sedra. The Jews were instructed to stay indoors eating Matzah while all the craziness of the firstborns dying went on around them. This could be seen as the Jews putting their feet up while Hashem worked his magic on their behalf. We should internalize this message and realize that everything comes from Hashem. We don’t need to do anything. It all comes directly from him. Even though sometimes we need to do our bit, we still need to understand it is really the work of Hashem. In the merit of this realization may we see the ending of our exile speedily in our days.

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Paershas Va’erah – Croak croak!!!

This week we read about 7 of the 10 plagues Hashem deployed against the Egyptians.
They were;
The waters of the Nile and all other water in Egypt turned to blood;
swarms of frogs invaded everyone’s homes entering their food;
lice infested all men and beasts,
hordes of wild animals invaded the cities;
pestilence killed all the domestic animals;
boils afflicted the Egyptians.
For the seventh plague, fire and ice combined to descend from the skies as a devastating hail. The Jews were not affected by the plagues. Even after all the plagues, “the heart of Pharaoh was hardened and he would not let the children of Israel go, as G-d had said to Moses.” How stupid must he have looked to all his people. The truth is we do the same sometimes as well. We refuse to see the hand of G-d in everything.

Which plague do you think was the most devastating? Please leave your answers in the comments section of the website.

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Parshas Shemos, – Get back to work!!

Pharaoh enslaved the Jews, but what can we learn from this lesson of slavery? Yes actually, we can learn a lot. Something I struggle with everyday is remaining present in all that I do. We don’t even realize how distracted we are with the minutia of our lives that we forget to remember G-d. Turns out the Jews in Egypt had the same problem too. They literally were slaves. Today we are slaves too: to all that distracts us from our true purpose and ability to serve G-d. The difference is that we make ourselves slaves. We CHOOSE this path. We choose to live connected to our phones, internet, TV, gossip, addictions, over indulging. Pretty crazy when you think about, isn’t it?

It is interesting then that Hashem chose a strange site to alert Moshe to Him. He chose a not so burning bush. The verse says (3:3) “And Moshe says, I will turn away and see this great awesome sight”. In the next verse it says “and Hashem saw he turned away to look….” I think Hashem wanted to see if he could distance himself from his daily routine and tune in to Hashem. Also he wanted to see if he could notice his surroundings. As a leader you need to notice and evaluate what is going on around you. You cannot have your head up in the clouds. Moshe certainly passed the test.

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Parshas Vayechi – I am feeling a little under the weather.

This week we read of the passing of Yaakov. He blesses all his children and both of Yosef’s sons. Please watch the video and feel free to make comments.

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Parshas Vayigash – Ohh it’s me!!

This week we read of the reunion between Yaakov and his long lost son Yoseph. This was a very emotional meeting prompting Yaakov to recite the morning ‘Shema’ to thank Hashem for bringing them back together. Yaakov and his sons settle in Egypt. They shun the pyramid trade and become shepherds in district of ‘Goshen’.

It is interesting that there is no documentation of Yaakov asking Yoseph what had happened or chastising the brothers for appearing to imply he was dead 22 years earlier. I think we can learn from here that we must always be focused on the future. When Hashem does wonders for us we must be happy and grateful for his blessings and not look back at what has gone on previously. We need to put things behind us and move on. I know people like to make sense of things, but we just have to accept the will of Hashem.

I also saw written in ‘the book of minhagim’ that Adam celebrated on the 25th of December and offered sacrifices to Hashem. This was because he saw the days getting shorter and thought the world was plunging into darkness on account of his sin by eating from the tree of knowledge. When he saw the winter solstice and the days became lighter he realized it was the natural way of the world and thanked Hashem for it. This later became a pagan festival.

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Chanukah – Let the lights shine bright

We are celebrating Chanukah, festival of lights, which not only commemorates the miracle of the Menorah burning for 8 days, but our victory over Hellenism. The Greeks’ main goal was not against the Jews as a people. After all, they allowed us to live in their empire. Instead, they forbade us from living and studying our holy Torah. They knew that if we stopped keeping the Torah, eventually we would cease being Jewish. This was a very clever trap. Ultimately, our demise would have been a product of our own, seemingly voluntary, assimilation.

This is why I believe Hashem expressed the miracle through an extension in time. King Solomon analogizes the light of the Menorah to Torah (Proverbs 6:23). Therefore, by causing the miracle of the prolonged Menorah light, Hashem was telling us that we need to prolong the light of Torah. This is why it’s such a jolly time of year. We must realize the gem that we have been given and its ability to make us happy. We need to try and keep more Torah and let its light shine brightly before us, illuminating the correct and holy path through the dark and confusing maze of life.

The entire Hallel (psalms of praise) is recited on all 8 days of Chanukah. However, there is no Mussaph prayer. Al Hanissim is recited in all the Amidot in the brecho of Modim. The Menorah should be lit after nightfall. One should preferably light with oil, as that is what was used in the Temple. May you and your loved ones have a happy Chanukah filled with joy and light.

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Parshas Vayeshev – Get rid of him!!!

This week’s sedra contains one of the most misunderstood episodes in the Torah. It would appear on face value that 10 of the sons of Yaakov despised their own brother Yosef. They tried to kill him by throwing him into a pit. Eventually, they sold him to a group of merchants travelling to Egypt.

There are numerous questions to be asked on this:

1) How could Jacob show favoritism to one son by giving Yosef a multicolored coat (37:3)? He, having experienced the hatred of his brother, Esov, should have known better.
2) Why was Yosef “fooling around with the children of Bilha and Zilpah” (37:2)?
3) Why did Yosef report all the brothers’ evil plans and actions to Yaakov (ibid)?
4) How could future leaders of the tribes of Israel commit such an act?

The answer I would like to give is based on the sefer “Vayeifk Yossef” written by
Reb Leib Friedman which goes through all the Midrashim and Talmudical sources to deduce the following explanation.

Yosef was a very pious man. We know this from how he managed to spurn the advances of Potifar’s wife when he was a servant at her house in Egypt. . He was able to knock her back even when she clung on to him. Yosef steadfastly kept his Yidiskeit even in lowly Egypt, which was perhaps the most spiritually deprived country at the time steeped in witchcraft and magic. When the Jewish people eventually left on seder night, our Rabbis tell us they were at the 49th and penultimate level of tumah, spiritual impurity.

Yosef is known as “Yosef Hatzadik” Yosef the righteous man. However, he was very humble and tried to hide his good deeds. He did this by goofing around with his brothers and by spending time in the mirror apparently beautifying himself and playing with his hair which gave of the impression he was not spending his time studying Torah. In fact he was studying even as he carried out mundane activities.
However, he was so good at hiding his greatness that even his own family were fooled. They thought he was the”black sheep” of the family. Yaakov thought that just like his father and grandfather had wicked sons, so did he with Yosef. Yosef’s brothers were also concerned with this.

Therefore, they formed a plan. There are two main ways to help children who go off the path and need extra help.
1- Show them extra love, attention and hope this will help turn the child back to the right path.
2- Distance oneself from them, which will shock them into behaving.

Yaakov, being the father, decided to adopt the first approach and show Yosef extra love and attention. He made for him a beautiful multicolored coat made from the finest delicate wool. He gave him extra tuition and taught him all the special parts of Torah he had learned in the Yeshiva of Shem and Ever when he studied there for fourteen years prior to his meeting with Lavan. He hoped he could nurture him into becoming a true tzaddik. This approach works on the premise that one shows how much they care about the other person including his spiritual wellbeing. We show them that we believe the best way of having a good and meaningful life in this world, as well as in the world to come, are by keeping the Torah and being a good Jew. We show them we want them to share in the happiness and reward that awaits us all.

“And the brothers saw that their father loved them more than all his brothers so they hated him and weren’t able to speak nicely to him” (37:4).
Having seen Yaakov adopt the first method and seemingly fail, the brothers adopted the second method of pushing Yosef away. They hoped that by showing him they wanted nothing to do with him, he would change his ways. Perhaps he would be shocked into changing his ways and behaving like a leader of one of the twelve tribes of Israel should.
“And Yosef dreamed a dream and told his brothers” (37: 5). This was like a dagger into the hearts of the brothers. After all Yaakov’s efforts to show Yosef extra love and affection and the brothers efforts to shun and spurn him, Yosef still had visions of grandeur. Their attempts to mould him into a righteous man fitting to be a leader of Israel had seemingly failed.

Therefore, it was time for “plan B”. The brothers now thought that Yosef would turn out like his uncle Esov and great uncle Yishmael both of whom were wicked men until they repented just prior to death. Taking a lead from their grandfather Avrohom who banished Yishmael from his house, the brothers formed a plan to eradicate Yosef.

They voted him liable for the death penalty on account of the licentious gossip he constantly relayed to Yaakov. They reasoned he could cause Yaakov to curse them and ruin their chances of being leaders of Israel. Yosef was therefore a danger to them, and one is allowed to cause harm to another on grounds of self defence.

The Midrash tells us they first tried firing arrows at him from a distance not wanting to harm him with their own hands. When Hashem spared him from the arrows, they set vicious dogs upon him. Finally they elected to kill him with their own bare hands.

Reuven spoke up and saved Yosef’s life by suggesting they give him more time. Maybe a little “alone” time in a pit would do the trick. Hopefully Yosef would be spooked into realizing that he had to wake up and change his ways. This was to be his last warning.

In the end, the brothers sold him to merchants and got rid of him. If he was not going to conform then he had to be driven away as their great-uncle Yishmael was.

The brothers were still fearful of their father, Yaakov, so they made up a story of Yosef being savaged by a beast.

Hopefully, we can now see the brothers in a better light. After all, they all went on to be inscribed on the breast plate worn by the Cohen Gadol.
It also has to be stated that this episode was all the will of Hashem as we see by how the events unfolded. Yosef was to become viceroy of Egypt which would facilitate the Jewish nation ending up in Egypt and their subsequent redemption.

In relation to us here in 5774, there is an important lesson. We must not act hastily when it comes to major chinuch decisions. We have to evaluate each child and see what path works best for him. There is a proverb in Mishlei (22:6) “Educate a child according to HIS own path” No two children are the same. “Just like everyone’s face is different, so are their intellects and character “(Talmud). Sometimes a child needs extra love and affection, but not at the expense of other children.
Children can be scarred for life by their early experiences. Everyone wants to feel loved and appreciated. Every child wants to feel like the most important person in their parents eyes. Let us take the message of this week’s sedra and may Hashem grant us heavenly help in raising and educating our children to be good Jews and upstanding people.

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Partshas Vayeitse -Get me a wedding planner

This week we read of Yaakov marrying 4 wives. He only intended to marry Rachel but was deceived by his father in law into marrying Leah. He also married their 2 maidservants, Billhah and Zilpah. We also read of the birth of 11 of the tribes and Dinah. Yaakov spent 20 years working for Lavan. Eventually, Yaakov escapes and returns to his father. Lavan chases him and tries to kill him but Hashem warns him not to harm Yaakov.

I think we can take a big lesson away from this week’s sedra. When Yaakov awoke and found he had married the wrong woman, he could have gone mental. Screaming and shouting and all the other metaphors could have been used. However, he remained calm and realized that this was the will of Hashem. He of course confronted Lavan, but in a calm relaxed way and ended up working another 7 years. We should all take this message to heart and try not to get angry and aggressive when things don’t go our way.

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