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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Parshas Toldos- Quick he’s coming!!!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=

This week we read of the birth of Yaakov and Esav. Yaakov studied the Torah while Esav was a hunter and never really studied. I think we can take a message away from here how important education is. With the right Jewish education we can become like Yaakov and without it we could end up like Esav.

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Parshas Chayei Sarah- mazel tov!!!

This week we say goodbye to Sara. She was 127 years old. We then read about Yitzchock’s(issac)nuptials.
We learn that Abraham wanted a girl with good character even if she was from an idolatrous home. I thinkl we should take a lesson from here to judge each person on his own merits. Don’t take into account family standings. Everyone is an individual and should be judged on his own merits.

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Parshas Vayeirah- Phew that was close!

This week we continue reading about Abraham’s trials. These include,
His wife being captured again,
Sending Yishmael away from Yitzchock and into the dessert,
Binding his son on an alter and readying himself to offer him to G-d.

How could Abraham, a man of peace and love, have such a murderous son, Yishmael? Surely Abraham would have made an excellent parent.
We can see from here that raising our children is a difficult task. Nobody can be assured of success. We need to ask Hashem for his assistance and pray constantly on behalf of our children. Hopefully we will all merit to raise our children in the correct way.

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Parshas Lech Lcha- Move, get on with it!

This week we read of some of the trials G-d set before Abraham.These include;-
Leaving his city and travelling to Israel at the age of 75,
leaving Israel because of famine,
Seeing his wife captured,
The war of the 4 kings against the 5 kings,
Circumcising himself at the age of 99.

If G-d knew he was going to pass the test, why did G-d bother testing him?
The answer is that going through a trial makes you stronger. People find strength when faced with adversity that is unbelievable. The skills and knowledge you attain stay with you for life. In fact, they are even passed on in your genes to the next generation. So, the trials were really for Abraham’s benefit not just to test him.

This should be how we view trials in our own life. We should see it as an opportunity to acquire skills and resolve to help us in our lives.

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Parshas Noach- A wet-suit anyone ?

This week we read of how Hashem instructed Noach to build a box or an ark to withstand the flood he was going to bring to destroy the world. He survived along with his wife, three sons and their wives. In addition two of each Non Kosher animal species and seven sets of Kosher animals were also saved. Of the seven Kosher animals, five sets were offered as an offering to Hashem after Noach’s safe exit on to dry land. Noach was in the ark for 365 days.
I think we can take a lesson from the story of the flood. In order to withstand the gushing waters of temptation that surround us, we need to retreat into our own four walls of Torah to survive. Whilst of course we need to live among the nations, we also need to have some privacy as-well.
I would like to wish all the people who are participating in ”Shabbat International” or ”Shabbat UK” the very best of luck. May you all see the sweetness that Shabbat can bring and try and dedicate yourself to it.

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Yom Kippur – The happiest day of the year.

What is Yom Kippur?

The 10th of Tishrei in the year 2449 was the day G-d finally forgave the Jews for serving the Golden Calf. G-d therefore chose this day to annually forgive the Jews from their sins as long as they repented. This means that we can break up our lives into small sections called years. If there was no Yom Kippur we would go on sinning with no natural break. Our lives would be one long block of sins. We are fortunate however, that G-d has given us the opportunity to examine our deeds and repent for our sins.

In the Neilah prayers we take this a stage further and thank G-d for giving us this day: “In order stop our treachery.” We can understand this quite simply. People get frightened when the High Holy Days approach. People might be scared about what may be written down for them for the coming year. This brings about repentance. Even if people return to their sinful ways after the High Holy Days at least they have broken the cycle and achieved something. A good example of this can be found when health inspectors come visiting butchers. During the time they are there, everyone is on their best behavior. All the laws and rules are strictly adhered to. The inspector goes away thinking that these high standards are adhered to all year around. This is the gift G-d has given the Jews. Even though G-d knows everything at all times He only judges us by our behavior over the High Holy Day period. Therefore, if we are good during the High Holy Day period we can still achieve forgiveness and be inscribed for a good year. This can be seen by the verse in Genesis (chapter 21 verse 17) where G-d saved Yishmael because, “He was good now (i.e. merited saving)”, even though he and his descendants would go on to cause problems for the Jewish people further down the line. Even if it takes until the very end of Yom Kippur for people to repent as it says in Ezekiel (chapter 18 verse 23)
“G-d does not desire the death of the wicked; rather they repent and are saved.” We can hopefully take the inspiration from this clean slate we have been given to improve ourselves for the entire year. This is the reason why the High Holy Day period comes at the beginning of the year so we may start as we mean to continue.

There is another aspect to Yom Kippur. The Mishna in Taanit (4:8) says Yom Kippur is the happiest day in the Jewish calendar. Note, it does not say the evening after Yom Kippur when we have received atonement for our sins, rather Yom Kippur day itself. This is because Hashem’s ‘Shechina’ [lit. G-d’s presence- explanation of which is beyond the scope of my knowledge] descends to earth, and G-d is closer to us than he is on any other day of the year. We spend our whole day in complete service of him. It is a day where we have no earthly pursuits at all. We don’t eat or drink, wash, anoint ourselves or indulge in sexual relations. We can use every second of the waking day in service of Hashem. It is a day when we are comparable to the angels which is why males wear the kittel (white robe). G-d bestows tremendous mercy and good feeling on the Jews. It is a day where we can pray for anything we wish for and hope to get answers (further terms and conditions may apply!) We should all feel elated and happy on this day that we are able to get close to G-d. If we have the mindset that we want to feel the spiritual happiness of the day and crave G-d’s gifts then hopefully G-d will allow us a small snippet of that happiness. (If that doesn’t work, just pretend!)

In Ethics of the Fathers (chapter 4 Mishnah 22) it says ‘one minute of doing teshuva (repentance) in this world is better than all the bliss and happiness of the next world’. On Yom Kippur we have over 700 minutes (approx. 12 hours of davening time) of doing teshuva. Imagine how great that must feel. It also goes to show how great ‘teshuva’ is to be better than all the bliss of the next world!!!!!

What is ‘Teshuvah’?

Teshuvah (repentance) is made up of three parts: -

1) Acknowledge that a particular action was sinful.

2) Regret the sinful action and wish one had never done it.

3) Resolve that if one remained on this current lofty level achieved on Yom Kippur, you will not repeat this sin.

Our Rabbis tell us that when a person passes away all his actions and thoughts will be viewed by G-d and the heavenly angels. The embarrassment caused is how our rabbis explain the idea of ‘the fire of hell’. However, if one does proper teshuvah then those sinful actions will be erased from the video and no embarrassment will be caused. This should hopefully prompt us to make use of this wonderful gift that G-d has given us, and truthfully repent from our sins. Our Rabbis explain that the reason we repent 10 times over Yom Kippur is that hopefully one of those times will be sincere. In temple times the focal point of Yom Kippur was the service of the High Priest in the temple where he entered the Holy of Holies four times. As the temple no longer exists we recount the service word for word in the chazzan’s repetition of Mussaf. One should therefore make sure one is versed and alert when it comes to reading this in the synagogue.

The 5 special services on Yom Kippur

Kol Nidrei

This famous declaration of annulment of our vows is the way our rabbis chose to begin the Yom Kippur service. It is a way of showing how regret can make things better. After the Maariv davening we start Selichot. This is a series of prayers begging G-d for forgiveness. We also chant some wonderful, inspiring songs in which we declare our total inability to achieve anything without G-d’s help.

Shacharit

The theme of shacharit is G-d’s power in the world and his sovereignty. The extra prayers focus on the angelic praises of G-d.

Reading of the Law

The leining in the morning comes from where G-d tells Moses how and what service to perform on Yom Kippur in the temple. The Haftorah comes from Isiah who is telling the people that fasting is pointless if we continue in our evil ways, oppressing the poor and not generally caring about one another. We also read this in the Haforah for Shabbat Shuva ‘Tear your hearts not your clothes and return unto Hashem.’ (Joel chapter 2 verse 13)

Mussaf

In temple times the focal point of Yom Kippur was the service of the High Priest in the temple where he entered the Holy of Holies four times. As the temple no longer exists we recount the service word for word in the chazzan’s repetition of Mussaf. One should therefore make sure one is versed and alert when it comes to reading this in the synagogue.

Mincha

We read the chapter of forbidden relationships in order to warn people when they are all sitting together of the most severe sins. This also serves as a reminder that even though we are spiritually uplifted on Yom Kippur, we must guard against such sins. We also read the book of Yonah which shows the power of repentance where the whole city of Nineveh was saved.

Neilah

THIS IS THE HOLIEST TIME OF THE WHOLE HIGH HOLY DAY SEASON. Our rabbis tell us that G-d forgives the Jews approximately 15 minutes before the end of Yom Kippur. This corresponds to the time when the ‘He Goat’ containing all the Jews’ sins was pushed down the mountain in the temple times. (Please see further explanations of the ‘Yom Kippur Avodah’). After forgiveness has been issued one has a few minutes to pray for all one’s needs, which is why ‘Aveinu Malkeinu’ is recited even on Shabbos (we omit it at Kol nidrie and Shacharit ). We also declare our belief in G-d and his sovereignty in a holy, sin -free state. This has such a powerful effect in the lofty spheres. The time during Neilah is the most merciful time of the year. Both G-d and the Jews are emotional at the prospect of losing the close bond for another year. G-d also wants to bestow leaving presents to his dearest children. Even if one has been in a state of religious slumber and has not heeded any of the calls of the High Holy Days one can achieve forgiveness during Neilah.
A good example of this is the European soccer Cup Final of 1999 between Manchester United and Bayern Munich. Entering injury time Bayern Munich were joyously celebrating their victory. Despite the impending doom United reinvigorated themselves and in a mere 99 seconds had snatched victory from the tonsils of defeat. This is how we can view Yom Kippur Neilah. Hope is never lost. Nothing is signed and sealed until the fat man blows the shofar!

At the end of the Bible Moses tells the Jews of the forthcoming exiles that the Jews will endure. The exile will only end when the Jews make one final repentance. Let us hope that we can motivate ourselves, cast off the shackles of materialism and yearn for G- d’s salvation by doing a proper teshuvah. We wouldn’t want to be the ones that stopped the salvation from happening this year, would we!!

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I am still available to lead your Rosh Hashanah services

I am still available and waiting to be snapped up for Rosh Hashanah. I don’t mind who snaps me up as long as it isn’t a crocodile while i’m doing Tashlich in the Everglades!!!

contact
zevisaunders@gmail.com

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Nitzavim Vayelech -Let’s live!

This week is the last Shaboss of the year so we finish with a bang with two Sedras. We read Nitzavim and Vayelech but don’t worry they have a combined total of 70 Verses. Look out for the verses from Selichot which we will be starting on Sunday.

The beginning of Nitzavim marks the start of Moshe’s last day on earth. He makes the most of it by cramming a lot in. He wrote 12 Torah scrolls, and gave the Jews and Yehosha a final departing pep talk.
He told them that they should always stay true to Hashem and the Torah and then they will be ok. He then predicts that they will stray from the correct path and suffer the consequences. A brief look at Jewish history confirms the validity of Moshe’s final lecture.
We have the final 2 Mitzvot of the Torah this week. They are,
To come every 7 years on Succot to hear a reading from the King of the fifth book of the Torah,
and to write Torah scrolls for themselves.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a happy, healthy, fulfilling and spiritually uplifting new year. We should aim to add a few minutes a week on to our Torah study and go that extra mile to help others around us. If that is too much,please pass my weekly Sedra blog onto 5 other people!!!!!!

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