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Rabbi's Corner

Pressure Makes us Stronger

Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all lived in Israel, a land that exuded holiness. And in this week’s Torah portion we read about the first time one of our Patriarchs – Jacob – will move outside of Israel for a period of 22 years.

And it is outside of Israel, in Charan - a land of corruption, that Jacob will get married and build a family - the foundation of the Jewish People.

The Rebbe poses the following question: Would not Israel have made a better place for Jacob to have raised his children? Would not Israel have been the ideal hot house for the future Jewish people to be conceived and nurtured? Why of all places, Charan?

Says the Rebbe, the olive yields its best oil when pulverized. To produce gold we need a fiery furnace where the intense heat on the raw metal leaves it purified and precious. Jacob did not have an easy life, but it made him a better man and it made his children better children.

There was once a young man who had just come out of military service in the army. Upon his return, his Rabbi greeted him with the platitude, "So, Joe, did the army make you a man?" Joe responded, "No Rabbi, the army made me a Jew!" Apparently he had encountered more than a fair share of anti-Semitism in the military and it actually strengthened his resolve to live a Jewish life. Today he is the proud father and grandfather of a lovely, committed Jewish family.

Life isn't always smooth sailing. But it appears that the Creator in his vast eternal plan intended for us to experience difficulties in life. Evidently, we grow from our discomfort and challenges to emerge better, stronger, wiser and more productive people. There is always a purpose to pain. As our physiotherapists tell us: “No pain, no gain”. It would seem that, like the olive, we too yield our very best when we are under pressure.

One of the reasons we use a hard boiled egg on the Seder Plate on Passover is to remind us of the festival offering brought in the Holy Temple. But, the truth is that any cooked food would do, so why an egg? 

One of my favorite answers is that Jews are like eggs. The more they boil us, the harder we get. We have been punished and persecuted through the centuries but it has only strengthened us, given us courage, faith and hope. At every point in our history we have always emerged from the tzorres of the time stronger, more tenacious and more determined than ever.

Jacob raised a beautiful family in less than ideal conditions. Please G‑d, we should emulate his example. Wherever we may be living and in whatever circumstances, may we rise to the challenge and live successful lives and raise happy, healthy Jewish children who will build the future tribes of Israel.

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom 

Thanksgiving Thoughts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As Jews, we certainly have a lot to be thankful for on Thanksgiving. The United States of America has provided, and continues to provide, freedom and liberty enabling us to practice Judaism, celebrate our faith, and express out religious identity. 
  
It is in this spirit that this Thanksgiving we should ask ourselves: “Am I fully ‘taking advantage’ of this freedom? Under religious persecution my ancestors tried their utmost to preserve our traditions and rituals – am I?” 
  
As Senator Joseph Lieberman wrote in Chabad’s Farbrengen Magazine: “Our forefathers promised freedom of religion, not freedom from religion”. 
  
Over this coming week - Let us not only SAY thank you to G‑d. Let be ACT thankfully. 
  
How? 
  
By committing ourselves to fulfilling one more mitzvah we, in effect, are saying ‘thank you’ and giving thanks for the precious gift of freedom that we cherish daily. 
  
Shabbat Shalom,

 

 

 

 

 

The Life Of Sarah

As 80-year-old Benny lies on his deathbed, the aroma of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies wafts up the stairs. He gathers his remaining strength, lifts himself from his bed, and slowly inches his way along the wall towards the door. With great effort he makes his way downstairs, holding tightly to the rail, propelled by thoughts of his favorite cookie.

Finally, breathing hard, he leans against the kitchen door frame and stares inside. "I’m already in heaven," he thinks, as there, spread out before, are hundreds of his favorite chocolate chip cookies.

"Am I really in heaven?" he asks himself, "Or is it an act of devotion from my darling Rebecca to ensure that I exit from this world a happy man?"

He reaches out a shaky hand, all senses focused on the wondrous taste he will soon experience...

Without warning, Rebecca smacks his hand with her wooden spoon. "Don't touch them!" she says, "They're for the shiva!"


This week's Torah portion is named "Chayei Sarah" - "The Life of Sarah" - in honor of our matriarch Sarah, and yet it does not actually discuss her life, just her death.

Death is, in fact, an extension of life: the manner in which we choose to live our lives will determine the legacy we leave here in this world after our passing.

Our sages say that a righteous person is even more “alive” posthumously than they were while alive. What does this mean? How is it possible?

Clearly, they were not referring to the soul which returns to heaven, or the body which returns to the earth. What they were referring to is the influence and legacy which remains behind, on earth, with the living. This influence becomes magnified and far greater than it was previously.

Sarah, a truly righteous prophetess and matriarch, left a legacy of faith, generosity, and unwavering commitment to her husband, Abraham and to her son, Isaac. She has become an inspiration to women of every subsequent generation. Long after her passing, it was still clearly "Chayei Sarah" – "the life of Sarah."

Let's learn from Sarah and internalize the message of this week’s portion to create a living legacy for future generations.

Shabbat Shalom 

Giving Means 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

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