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Rabbi's Corner

The Kabbalah of Marriage

Three of the greatest men of the Jewish faith encountered their future wives at wells of water. Their names were Isaac, Jacob and Moses. And this week’s Torah relates the story of one of them – Isaac.

We can understand the site of a stream or a river as being conducive for romance. Many a proposal has been made near water. The sight of water evokes charming and enchanting emotions in human hearts and it represents the quality of bonding, since it serves to join distinctly different objects to each other. 

But what was it about underground and small wells that were not even exposed (a big rock covered them most of the time) that brought about the union of the progenitors of the Jewish nation?

The following is a short kabalistic explanation: A well, unlike other pools of water, contain opposite components. On one hand, the well is of no value without human effort and toil. Unlike the readily exposed rain or ocean water, man must dig hard, and sometimes deep, to uncover the spring of water hidden below the crust of the earth.

On the other hand, we human beings do not create, generate or even enhance the flow of water of the well; our efforts merely expose that which already exists fully, prior to our labor. 

This is the Torah approach to marriage as well. We do not create our personal wellspring of love. Through our efforts we merely expose a relationship that has already been welded by G‑d prior to our birth, in the words of the Holy Zohar (the mystical ‘book of light’), "A wife and her husband are two halves of the same soul."


The connection is there beforehand; the flow of love (symbolized by water) from your soul to your spouse’s soul is already in existence. It may however be completely concealed and the human job is to search, dig and expose that inner connection. And this is why the biblical paradigm for marriage is set at the well.

Wishing you and your family a Shabbat Shalom!

Giving mean Gaining

This week we read about the meticulous order of the meal that Abraham offered his guests. First, he gave them cheese and milk, and only afterward did he present them with calf’s meat, (consistent with Jewish dietary laws that deli products may be eaten after dairy products, but not vice versa).

Every detail recorded in the Torah contains a timeless lesson for us all. What then can be learned from Abraham choosing to serve his guests these particular items – milk, cheese and meat – to begin with? The choice of meat is clear, as he wished to serve his visitors a satisfactory meal. But why, from among the many possible appetizers, did Abraham decide to give them milk and cheese as a prelude to meat?

The rule of thumb in our world is that sharing something with somebody else constitutes a loss for the giver. If I have it, and give it to you, I lose it; if you have it, and give it to me, you lose it. If I write a check for charity, my checking account naturally shrinks.

An exception to this rule is the milk the mother feeds her suckling. As long as a mother continues sharing her nourishing liquid with the child, her mammary glands will keep on refilling with more milk. In fact, the quantity of the milk is usually dependent on her sharing it. The more a mother nurses, the greater the flow of her milk her body produces. When she ceases to breast-feed, her inner production of milk ceases.

This is one of the Kabbalistic explanations behind the unique phenomenon of breast-feeding. Through this natural process of infant nourishment, a mother is given the extraordinary opportunity to ingrain within her child’s tender consciousness the truth about sharing. The more you give, the more you will receive, just like the milk that you are now swallowing.

Very often guests – particularly if they are strangers – feel uncomfortable staying in somebody else’s home and eating another person’s food. Abraham, sensitive to the feelings of his guests, addressed this awkwardness by offering them milk at that start of the meal.

This reflected the revolutionary Jewish approach toward giving. The greatest gift we can give ourselves is a life filled with love and caring toward other human beings.

Shabbat Shalom

Go, But Where To . . .

 

When learning to structure a paragraph or essay one is taught that the opening sentence should contain the general theme or message the author wishes to convey. This premise is not limited to writing. Any opening, beginning, or first, sets the tone for what is to follow. Whether it is a first step of a journey, the first bar of a symphony, or the mission statement of a business venturer, every beginning attempts to prepare for the entirety of what is soon to follow.

With this in mind, let us look at this week’s Torah portion, in which the story of the Jewish People ‘opens’. Let us look at the opening sentence of the Jewish People and try to gain insight into the essence and purpose of our nation.

The Torah opens: “And G‑d said to Abram, ‘Go away from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father's house, to the land that I will show you.” Interestingly, G‑d doesn’t give Abraham a destination to be reached or a purpose for leaving. G‑d merely says go away from where you are and follow Me – destination unknown.

Thus begins the story of the first Jew. And herein lies the eternal “mission statement” for the Jewish People: “Go! – The Sky is the Limit”

As Jews, we are never to be satisfied with our status quo and never to be content with yesterday’s accomplishments. We have been empowered by G‑d (and therefore carry the responsibility) to journey on an infinite mission of goodness. Our “Jewish conscience” never allows us to settle into a comfort zone. We seem to have this constant inexpiable drive and urge to pursue, to progress, and to refine life – be it our own, our family’s,  or the lives of our community and those around us.

May G‑d give each and everyone of us the ability to fulfill our G‑d given missions. By each of us adding one more act of goodness and kindness, we can – and surely will - bring the world to a state of perfection with the coming of Moshiach!

Shabbat Shalom,

 

To Be a Survivor

The story of Noah and the flood is well known to all of us. Each and every year we read this portion of the Torah. And each and every year we unearth new meaning in this narrative.

Noah was saved from the deluge of destruction that engulfed his world and his greatest contribution is that he set out to rebuild that world. We don't read about him sitting down and crying or wringing his hands in despair, although I'm sure he had his moments. The critical thing the Torah records is that after Noah emerged from his floating bunker he began the task of rebuilding a shattered world from scratch. He got busy and picked up the pieces and, slowly but surely, society was regenerated.

Only one generation ago a great flood swept over our world: The Nazi plan was for a Final Solution. Every Jew on earth was earmarked for destruction and the Nazis were already planning their Museum of the Extinct Jewish Race. Not one Jew was meant to survive. So even those of us born after the war are also survivors. Even a Jewish child born this morning is a survivor because according to Hitler's plan, which tragically nearly succeeded, he or she was not meant to live.

This means that each of us, like Noah, has a moral duty to rebuild the Jewish world. 25 years ago, if you walked into a synagogue for a weekday morning service, every other man at the morning minyan (prayer quorum) bore a holy number on his arm. They were concentration camp inmates and the Germans tattooed those numbers onto their arms.

Sadly, today, the ranks of those individuals have been greatly diminished. Every time one of them would roll up his shirt sleeve to put on tefillin, the number was revealed. They seemed to hardly notice it, as if it was nothing special, but in truth they were heroes. Not only for surviving the hells of Auschwitz or Dachau but for keeping their faith intact, for still coming to shul, praying to G‑d, wearing His tefillin.

These individuals, like Noach, were able to live Jewish lives again, to marry or remarry, to bring children into this world, to carry on life, and to perpetuate our Jewish heritage. And thank G‑d our world is, to a large degree, being rebuilt. But it is now our turn. We share that same responsibility because we are all survivors. Every one of us needs to participate. We are all Noahs and the burden of responsibility rests on our shoulders.

Let us rebuild the Jewish world, brick by brick, by doing one more mitzvah today!

Shabbat Shalom,

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