Rabbi David Walk, Education Director

Congregation Agudath Sholom | 301 Strawberry Hill Ave | Stamford, CT 06902 (203)-358-2200 www.agudathsholom.org

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Chicken Chick's Guide to Backyard Chickens: Simple Steps for Healthy, Ha E-book Download

English | October 1st, 2017 | ASIN: B075F6KKB6, ISBN: 0760352429 | 301 Pages | EPUB | 22.86 MB Internationally known as The Chicken Chick, Kathy Shea Mormino brings an informative style and fresh perspective on raising backyard ch...

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Category: Animals related | Release Date: 20 Oct 2017

An Activist Life E-book Download

English | November 8th, 2017 | ASIN: B076CVJFJZ, ISBN: 0702259810 | 300 Pages | EPUB | 7.59 MB An Activist Life is the story of an apparently ordinary woman - a high-school English teacher from northwest Tasmania - who became a fi...

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Category: Biographies | Release Date: 09 Nov 2017

Lonely Planet India - December 2017 E-book Download

English | 134 pages | True PDF | 63.3 MB Download http://longfiles.com/722o5ixujk58/Lonely_Planet_India-December_2017.pdf.html...

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Category: Hobbies & Leisure time | Release Date: 01 Dec 2017

Thursday, December 7, 2017

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Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Walk Artile

THE OUTRAGE

Vayeshev-5778

Rabbi David Walk

 

            There was a 1964 movie called The Outrage (whence I pilfered this week's title), which presents a revealing approach to human nature.  This western, based on Rashomon a classic Japanese movie from 1950, presents four differing accounts of the same event, a rape and murder.  The amazing thing, of course, is that from these witnesses it seems that four different happenings are being portrayed.  I sort of experienced that when I was younger.  I would go to an event or a rally and then read the newspaper account, and scratch my head.  Were these reporters at the same event?  I firmly believe that this isn't about lying, disinformation or 'fake news'.  It's about how our brains process things.  We do it with a bias.  There is an underlying reality, but few of us can uncover it.  We see what we want to see.  This week's Torah reading presents such possibilities.  We are continually seeing events from constantly changing vantage points, and this process eventually brings us to a remarkable realization.

            The parsha begins by telling us that, 'These are the generations of Ya'akov, Yosef was seventeen years old… And Israel loved Yosef more than all his sons, because he was son of his old age; and he made him a fine coat of colored stripes (Genesis 37:2-3).  That is the situation at the outset of our parsha from the point of view of Ya'akov.  Embedded in that description is this note, 'Yosef shepherded his brothers together with the flocks, and he believed himself an innocent lad, and sided with the sons of Bilhah and of Zilpah, his father's wives; and Yoef brought tales about the brother's evil to their father (also in verse 2).  This little script is from the viewpoint of Yosef, who felt that he must protect the sons of the former maids against the behavior of Leah's sons.  He, perhaps, also suffered from their 'attitude'.  This style continues for most of the parsha.  Next, we hear the brothers' feelings towards Yosef, 'His brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, so they hated him, and they could not speak with him peacefully (verse 4).'  Then we go back to Yosef, who 'dreamed a dream and told his brothers'.  Now the brothers again, 'and they continued to hate him.'  After the dreams are presented, we hear from Ya'akov, 'his father rebuked him and said to him, 'What is this dream that you have dreamed? Will we come I, your mother, and your brothers to prostrate ourselves to you to the ground'… and his father pondered the matter.'   Even that short piece is interrupted with how the brothers were feeling (Hint:  Not good!).

            The next incident, again, follows the story through the eyes of different participants, Ya'akov sends Yosef to check on his brother up north near Shechem (according to Google maps that's 24 hours of walking from Chevron, and five more to Dotan), we get Yosef's mind set from his response, 'Hineni.'  We know that response from Avraham Avinu.  It means that he's willing to go even though he recognizes the danger.   For the continuation of the story we get viewpoints of the brothers.  When Yosef approaches, his brothers display their disdain, 'Here comes the dreamer (according to Targum Yonatan, the initial plotters were Shimon and Levi, verse 19).'  Now we get the thoughts of Reuvain, who intends to save Yosef, and then the 'practical' view of Yehuda, 'What's the profit in letting him die in a pit?'  That segment of the Yosef saga ends the way it began with the mind set of Ya'akov, 'he refused to be consoled, for he said, 'I will descend as a mourner for my son to the grave'; and he wept for him as only a father could (verse 35).'

            It's a truly remarkable narrative style, jumping from mind to mind.  We are expected to really care what each of our ancestors was thinking, but do they see or care what their kinsmen are thinking?  We see this pattern again later in the parsha, as we peek into the thoughts of Potifar, his wife, the jailor, the baker, the butler, and next week, Pharaoh, King of Egypt.  But my thoughts are on none of the above.  I'm interested in what went through the minds of Tamar and Yehuda.

            Chapter 38 is about Yehuda's struggle to ensure his line's continuity.  Tamar, which means date palm and hints at righteousness (Psalms 92:13), is designated to marry first Er, then Onan, both of whom die.  Yehuda knows that traditionally the surviving brother should marry her, but we are given a glimpse into his thoughts, he resists giving her to Shelah the surviving son, because he thought, 'lest he die too (38:11).'  The now widowed Yehuda becomes fair game in the eyes of Tamar.  She tricks the mourning Yehuda by clothing herself as a harlot.  He succumbs.  She's impregnated.  Three months later, everyone assumes the baby bump means she's had relations outside the family.  Punishment for adultery is swift and harsh.  As she is being ushered out to her place of execution, the silent Tamar presents Yehuda with simanin, evidence of his paternity, his seal and staff left with the supposed harlot.

            Now we have the most important revelation of a character's thinking in our parsha, and, just maybe, in human history.  Yehuda declares, 'Tzadka mimeni.'  She is more righteous than I.  Her behavior is more pure than mine; this child will be my heir.

            Chapters 37-49 present the story of the competition for supremacy in the family of Ya'akov/Yisrael between Yosef and Yehuda.  We tell their parallel stories, and assume that Yosef, father's favorite, prophet and advisor to kings will win.  But on his death bed, Ya'akov reveals that, against all expectations Yehuda will rule forever.  Why?  Usually, we say it's because he did teshuva.  But this week, a careful reading of the narrative teaches us that he's the only personality to truly care what someone else is thinking.  Melech Ha'Mashiach must have empathy.     


Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Walk Article

LIVING WITH THE ENEMY

Vayshlach-5778

Rabbi David Walk

 

Ya'akov Avinu spent big chunks of his life outside of Israel.  His last 17 years were, of course, spent in Egypt, and he stayed in Padan Aram for a number of decades.  The exact number of decades (2 or 4) is a debate, depending upon your choice of commentary.  With that in mind, I feel less guilty about spending the last 16 years in the Diaspora.  The minor difference is that God gave Ya'akov assurances about his sojourns in the outside world while I did it to myself.  It's of interest, at least to me, how God was so caring before each journey.  On his way to Padan Aram, God, speaking from atop the Ladder said, 'Notice I will protect wherever you go, and return you to this land (Genesis 32:15)', and before the descent to Egypt, 'Do not be afraid of going down to Egypt...I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up (46:3-4).'  On the other hand, when it was time to return, God just said, 'Now, arise, go forth from this land and return to the land of your birth (31:13).'  How come no guarantees?  Well, that's this week's assignment.

Our parsha begins with a famous scene, Ya'akov sends emissaries to Esav with the following instructions:  So shall you say to my master to Esav, 'Thus said your servant Ya'akov:  I have sojourned with Lavan, and I have tarried until now…' (32:5).  There's a lot to unpack in that little speech.  Let's begin at the end.  What's this business about 'tarried' (Hebrew:  icher)?  Let's go for simple.  He stayed until God told him to return.  But God could have told him to return home either because it was no longer good for him in Padan Aram with his nasty father-in-law or, perhaps, the coast was clear back in Canaan, Esav had calmed down after 20 or 40 years.  I like the second approach, for it begins to answer our question about why no promises of safety with the instructions to go back home.

It's the first phrase of the message which gets all the famous attention.  What does it mean 'I sojourned with Lavan'? Rashi gives two answers.  The first is:  I sojourned means that I remained a nobody, so that blessing from Dad which bothered you so much never came true.  Okay.  The second is based on a well-known gematria.  The numerical value of the Hebrew word garti (meaning: I sojourned) is 613.  Clearly, this is a reference to pomegranates.  No, it's not.  That's the number of mitzvot in the Torah.  Which means that Ya'akov is telling Esav that he can't harm him because he has remained faithful to Torah and mitzvot throughout his stay with Lavan.  I mean, we all know that righteous Jews have been immune from persecution and danger throughout history.  Hmm.  In this particular circumstance, there is another dynamic at work.  Ya'akov may be thinking that God didn't give him promises of safety, because he had acquired his own shield through his faithfulness to their tradition.

There's one more text which unnerves the commentaries.  After being told that Esav was, indeed, on the way to a reunion, but he was coming with an army of 400.  Ya'akov didn't assume that this was an honor guard.  Then the verse records:  Ya'akov became very frightened and was distressed (verse 8).  Why this excessive concern?  Ya'akov has had assurances of safety from God, but he still might be afraid of an army of this size, perhaps he has committed a sin and has lost some of his merit.  Rashi records the most famous approach to the problem:  He's afraid that he might be killed; he was 'distressed' that he might have to kill others.  This sounds like the statement of Golda Meir OB"M, 'We can forgive the Egyptians for killing our children, but we can never forgive them making our children killers.'  An admirable and, I believe, Jewish reaction.

But, perhaps, we can answer this question and provide a possible solution to our original problem.  Why didn't God give Ya'akov as strong a promise of protection when coming back to Israel as he got when leaving Israel, both for Padan Aram and Egypt?  Simple, God is telling Ya'akov that, in general, Jews don't need as much Divine protection and intervention in Israel, because this is our natural habitat.  If we bring penguins (don't you just love penguins) to a zoo in a hot climate we must carefully arrange for their safety.  Israel is the natural habitat for Jewish souls, therefore, generally, we don't need special protection.  Sadly, that doesn't mean that we can't injure our innate ability to live in the Holy Land, through egregious misbehavior.  Many prophets have told us that when we behave like Sodom, we lose our normal affinity to the Promised Land.

Now, please, allow me to me to give my interpretation for this dilemma.  Ya'akov was afraid because Esav was approaching with 400 men.  That's reasonable.  Even in Israel we're not supposed to depend on miracles.  We still must do everything in our power to act responsibly and wisely.  But he was distressed and felt in tzarot, because this was Israel, the land promised to him through his allegiance to his father's and grandfather's belief system. This stuff wasn't supposed to happen here.  God gives him iron clad promises when he leaves Israel, because that's where he feels like a fish out of water, but not here.

In Israel, we feel a connection to the Land, which engenders a different mind-set.  There's more confidence and poise.  We feel at home.  In the play Camelot, King Arthur describes his kingdom as the best place for 'happy ever aftering'.  L'havdil, I think that's what our prophets meant when they've promised us time and time again, in many different ways, that 'a time will come when the great shofar will be blown and all those who were lost and expelled will return to worship God here.'  It's good to be home. 

 

 

 

 

 


Monday, November 27, 2017

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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Walk Article

WELL, WELL, WELL

Vayeitze-5778

Rabbi David Walk

 

When I first made aliya in the 80's, it was safe and relatively common to hike through Arab areas and even villages.  In those days before Intifada I & II, the Arabs in the smaller villages were very friendly and even helpful.  On one hike near Herodian in 1985, a villager saw us drinking from our canteens and brought cold water from his refrigerator.  Such hospitality wasn't uncommon, but my point isn't just to reminisce about the 'good old days' before those bright red signs were installed warning us of imminent death if we follow the roads into Palestinian controlled areas.  No, indeed, my point is that most of the villages in the Judean Hills had a spring or fountain on the outskirts of town, where young women would gather morning and evening to do domestic chores, like laundry, or draw water for the household.  Often, on surrounding wooded hills were young men, and commonly marriages were arranged based on the scouting reports from the village water hole.  But this article is not about anthropology.  It's about the similarity with a few incidents in Chumash.

This phenomenon often reminded me of the Midrash:  Three people found their spouses at a well: Yitzchak, Yaakov and Moshe. Concerning Yitzchak, it is written (Genesis 24:62), 'And Yitzchak came from the way of the well of Lechai-Roi.' Furthermore, Rivka had met Eliezer at a well. Concerning Yaakov: 'And he saw, behold, a well in the field.' Concerning Moshe: 'And he sat at the well (Shmot Raba.1:32).'  This Midrash is elucidating the verse:  Now the chief of Midian had seven daughters, and they came and drew water, and they filled the troughs to water their father's flocks. But the shepherds came and drove them away; Moses arose and rescued them and watered their flocks (Exodus 2:16-17).  We could easily assume that the Torah is reporting on events which are logical in a sociological and historical perspective.  Perhaps, in our minds we should recast these stories with modern equivalents, like the water cooler or espresso machine.  However, that kind of thinking would put rabbis out of work.  The Torah is teaching us eternal verities, and our job is to discover the underlying principle.

To help understand the symbolism of the well in our stories, we must remember that in the Bible, there is a clear delineation between a bor, a hewn cistern or pit for storing water and a be'er, a well or source of water.  In Isaiah (4:15) the bor is compared to sheol, probably Hell.  In Jeremiah (2:13), the non-productive bor is compared to the gods of idolatry.  In rabbinic literature, the bor is generally the unlettered person.  On the other hand, the be'er, or well is the place of Divine revelation like the Be'er L'chai Ro'I for Yishmael which is also visited by Yitchak.  In Numbers (21:17), the Jews sing a joyous song over the well, comparing its contributions to the splitting of the Sea.  Covenants are agreed upon at wells.  If water is compared to life, wells are idealized as the source of life, spirituality and knowledge.

In our parsha, the well in Padan Aram is a powerful symbol of Ya'akov's new found strength after the nocturnal encounter with the ladder at Beit El.  It's significant that normally many people were required to uncover the treasures of the well, but the new Ya'akov can do it on his own.  But what are these treasures or contributions to the world?  The Sfat Emet (Reb Aryeh Yehuda leib Alter, Second Gerer Rebbe, 1836-1905) explains (BTW an explanation is a biur, same word) Ya'akov's first impression of the Be'er.  The Rebbe notices that in the verse the same term hinei (usually translated as 'behold', but the connotation is 'notice'), is used for both the well and the three flocks surrounding it, therefore there must be three aspects to the significance of the well as a source for sanctity.  Even though the Sfat Emet admits that there are many possible explanations, he avers that the most probable (mistama) symbolic threesome should cover the realms of place (olam), time (shana) and humanity (nefesh).

As a source for holiness in the world what place is the most logical candidate?  The Rebbe opines that just as the well represents the aperture for accessing the life-giving water, the Beit Hamikdash is the interface for Divine access.  It's not just our belief that prayers are delivered Heavenward through the auspices of the Holy Temple site, we also trust that God uses that space to provide Divine bounty for our realm.

What time frame provides spiritual nourishment to this world?  According to the Rebbe, that is Shabbat.  This is no surprise.  The Rebbe often includes ideas about Shabbat in his Torah's.  Shabbat for many Jews in the nineteenth century was the respite from a mostly miserable weekday existence.  When the Eastern European Jew couldn't wait for Shabbat to begin and clung to it dearly every Saturday night, it was the clear candidate for temporal provider of holiness.

What is the fountain for spirituality to be found among living beings?  The Rebbe declares that this well spring is the heart of every Jew.  From that fountain flows Torah and ruchniyut, which emerges from the mouths of the Holy People.  Just as the well has a mouth drawing from a rich reservoir within, so, too, the Jew can fulfill that role.  But like the other sources in space and time, the Jewish heart must be uncovered to provide this rich bounty.  Just as Ya'akov Avinu exerted almost super human strength to open the well mouth, our hearts require all our might to reveal the amazing treasures within.

Week after week during the reading of Breishit, we reacquaint ourselves with familiar and cherished stories of our beloved ancestors.  We all have favorites and we all draw great delight in the retelling.  But the true power of these tales, the true significance of these memorable accounts is that they really describe us and our lives.  We must discover these ancestors in ourselves.


Saturday, November 18, 2017

Gelinlik Modelleri Kollari Kapali

>> Gelinlik Modelleri <<

gelinlik modelleri akılda bütçeleri her türlü yapılır ve bir kez seninki biliyorum bu mükemmel elbise bulma çok daha kolay hale gelecektir. Siyah ve kırmızı oldukça koyu renk kombinasyonudur bu nedenle her düğüne uymaz. Flört eden kuş kafesi ve süslü mantolardan kraliyet katedrali boy stillerine kadar hiçbir seçenek sıkıntısı yok. Mükemmel gelinlik modelleri Seçmek İçin En İpuçları Bakmak zorunda olduğunuz çok düğün ayrıntıları var ancak sizin için mükemmel bir gelinlik modelleri bulmak için zaman ayırmanız da aynı derecede önemlidir. Kat uzunluğu tasarımcısı gelinlikte çamur dal yaprak veya kum almak istemiyorsun değil mi? İpucu 5: Elbisenize uygun ve en gülünç kılıf uzunluğunu ve stilini seçin. En azından söylemek için annesi ve onur hizmetçisinden oluşan gelin ve çevresindeki dükkan gelin ihtiyaçları olan düğün tasarımı hakkında konuşmak için gelinlik modelleri yapıcı olabilecek gelinlik modelleri mağazasının sahibiyle konuşurken bir öğleden sonra geçirebilir . Kadınlar benimle hemfikir olsun ya da olmasın bir düğünün planlanması bir gelinin beklediği bir şeydir. Bununla birlikte açık fikirli olursanız saf bir beyaz elbiseden çok cildinize daha gülünç bir gelinlik modelleri ile kendinizi bulabilirsiniz. Bazı salonlar belirli bir miktarda değişiklik yaparken bazıları sabit bir ücret talep etmektedir. Kollarınızı güzel omuzlarınızı ve telaffuz edilmiş yaka kemiklerinizi sergilemeyi planlıyorsanız ve romantik gelinlik modelleri için kulak asmak birinden daha kolaydır.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Walk Article

WHITE LIES

Toldot-5778

Rabbi David Walk

 

            This week our Torah reading is built upon a lie, but we're told in parshat Mishpatim:  mi'dvar sheker tirchak, keep far from any false matter (Exodus 22:7).  Please, don't let that stop you from reading on!  It appears that we're never allowed to lie.  However, that context is about court proceedings, so one could conclude that we're discussing perjury or forged facts, which might be described as 'fake news', but not by me. The next verse over there in Exodus prohibits bribery, because it blinds even the most righteous.  Even though parshat Mishpatim does seem to jump from legal issue to moral matter to ritual topic, the framework here strongly implies a judicial setting.  However, that has not stopped our Sages from generalizing our pithy passage into a blanket condemnation of lying.  But that's only the more midrashic rabbis, the more halachic commentaries (like Maimonides) don't count 'thou shalt not lie' as one of our 613 mitzvot.  With this short intro, let's dive into Ya'akov's world as presented in this week's Torah reading.

            I feel like chanting 'Ya'akov is a liar, Ya'akov is a…', but our Sages have labeled him ish ha'emet, the man of truth.  This brings us to the dramatic confrontation between Ya'akov and Yitzchak in chapter 27 of Genesis.  After Yitzchak has commanded Esav to hunt for the game which he favors as a prelude to receiving the family blessings (not the birthright), Rivka connives with Ya'akov to preempt the blessing ceremony.  When Yitzchak pointedly asks who has brought these delicacies, the now cornered Ya'akov declares, 'I am Esau your firstborn. I have done as you have spoken to me. Please rise, sit down and eat of my game, so that your soul will bless me (verse 19).'  Certainly, sounds like a fib.  I believe that the Washington Post gave it 4 Pinnochio's, and Politifact rated it Pants on Fire. 

The more halachic commentaries aren't really phased, because they don't consider lying as prohibited per se. They feel comforted by this verse from Jeremiah, 'Everyone deceives his neighbor, and no one speaks the truth; they have taught their tongue to speak lies (Jeremiah 9:5).'  This concept is tied to Midrashim concerning Aharon, who apparently told white lies for greater peace, and the Talmud establishes it as a principle, 'It is permitted for a person to amend the truth for the sake of peace (Yevamot 65b).'  Think of your wife or mother asking what you think of their new dress.  If you don't see the advantages of lying at that moment, please send me an email, we need to talk.   We see that the need for peace outweighs the importance of honesty.  Yes, President Kim, I love your haircut, where can I get one just like it?

What about those who feel strongly that lying is so wrong that they can't bring themselves to call Ya'akov a liar?  Well, here come the contortions.  Rashi quotes the Midrash Tanchuma which splits Ya'akov's statement into two parts, 'He meant: I am the one who is bringing you food, while Esav is your first born.'  Mission accomplished, sort of.

But here's the new twist, which I find enlightening.  I was learning on Skype with some former neighbors from Connecticut, and we came across a verse in Psalms:  Deliver me, Lord, from lying lips, from a deceitful tongue (Psalms 120:2).  The straight forward explanation for the verse is that the poet (presumably King David, but this poem isn't signed) wants to be saved from tale bearers and slanderers in the community.  We all know what damage lashon hara can wreak.   I then saw a cool approach to the verse in the Sfat Emet.  The Gerrer Rebbe explained that this verse is really talking about Ya'akov's situation in our story back in Genesis.  We want to be saved from our own lips which on occasion can let slip a lie or gossip.  BTW, studies show that the average person lies seven times a day (This was not one of them.).

Here's how it works:  He had to lie to his father in the situation with the blessings going to Esav, because his mother had told him so.  We saw in his conversation with Rivka how uncomfortable he was with this strategy, but he acceded to her superior wisdom on family affairs.  He understood the power of speech because God had created the world with ten statements.  However, this is an olam d'shikra, a world of sheker.  So, occasionally even the Zadik must lie for the sake of tikun, repairing the fabric of reality.  But here's the rub, the Zadik doesn't want to become connected to the realm of sheker.  One needs Divine support to escape from that enveloping trap.  In conclusion, this is how the Rebbe translates the verse:  God, only You can save me from my own necessary lie, because the act of lying could ensnare me in the world of deceit.  So often one lie leads to many more, and unwittingly one becomes comfortable with the behavior.

Get over it, Ya'akov lied because it was necessary.  The possibility of Esav possessing the blessings of wealth and power which Yitzchak was preparing to bestow, would eternally hamper the development of the Jewish people.  Yitzchak didn't comprehend what Rivka clearly saw:  Esav was corrupt.  The irony is that Ya'akov's one lie undid many years of Esav's deceitful behavior.  The man of truth won the day through a lie.

A person doesn't become a liar through one act.  It's happens subtly over years of accepting that lies are normative, because 'everybody does it' or 'there's no other way to succeed'.  We must look at every 'white lie' as an anomaly to who I am and how I behave.  That's what kept Ya'akov safe.  But even that level of care may not be enough.  Everyday we quote the verse, 'Bestow truth on Ya'akov; kindness on Avraham (Micha 7:2),' because even they require God's help to maintain their truth and kindness.  The Sfat Emet is teaching us that even necessary evil can impair us, if we're not vigilant.   


Tuesday, November 7, 2017

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Walk Article

CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?

Chaye Sarah-5778

Rabbi David Walk

 

            When I went to a counselor many years ago, she suggested a strategy for serious conversations called it 'reflective listening'.  This technique has two requirements.  First, the listener has to focus on what the speaker has said and try to understand their point of view.  Then the listener must repeat the idea expressed by the speaker.  It's a very effective tool in conflict resolution, and encourages empathy with the other.  Often, we just don't just really listen, either because we're preoccupied or we're not empathetic.  As Peter Griffin famously said, 'It's not that I don't understand, it's that I don't care.'    But if we really want to get along better with others this technique really helps.  The alternative is continued, and often escalating, conflict.  We have a great example in this week's Torah reading.

            Avraham has returned to Chevron upon hearing of the death of his beloved wife, Sarah.   He eulogizes and mourns for his wife.  Now, he must arrange for burial.  This is a sensitive situation for reasons which are unclear to us.  Either the locals really want Sarah buried in their midst because of their reverence for her and Avraham, or they just wanted to get the most for the property.  We don't know.  The rabbinic attempts to explain that situation, I believe, generally describe the Jewish-Gentile relations in the experience of the author, not the time of Avraham. In any case, Avraham felt uncomfortable and he describes his discomfort in a memorable phrase: ger v'toshav anochi (I am a stranger and a resident, perhaps a resident alien).  Although many commentaries explain this to mean that I no longer live amongst you, because I've transferred my permanent home to Beer Sheva.  I disagree.  I think that Avraham was a semi nomad and he lived in the Chevron area in the summer and in the Beer Sheva district in the winter.  This was a lesson for future generations of Jews who would winter in Florida.  Avraham came up with a great description of his status for a populace nervous about refugees from Iraq (Ur Chasdim) and Syria (Charan).  Plus ça changeplus c'est la même chose.

            Now for the actual negotiationThe locals are very respectful of Avraham.  They call him a nasi elokim, literally a prince of God in place of his self-description as a resident alien.  Apparently, they viewed him as a great man on the both the temporal and spiritual levels.  They opened by saying, 'Listen to us, my lord (Genesis 23:6).'  Then they graciously offer him to choose any burial place, seemingly without cost.  Avraham responds, 'If you really want to help me bury my dead, then listen to me, and present my case before Ephron the Hittite (verse 8).'  Now, Ephron enters the discussion, and says, 'No, my lord, listen to me, the field is already transferred to you publicly, just take it and bury your dead (verse 11).'  Then Avraham addresses Ephron, 'But listen to me, I want to pay for the land (verse 13).'  Now it's Ephron's turn, 'My lord, listen to me, what's four hundred shekels to men such as us.  Go bury your dead (verse 15).'  This could have gone on forever, because everyone asking the other 'to listen', but not once does it say that the other side listened, until verse 16, 'And Avraham listened.'

            It's seems that political dialogue today has been replaced by simultaneous monologues.  That's what was happening in our negotiation.  Everyone was stating their own positions.  No one was trying to fathom what the other was saying.  Until Avraham got it.  He understood that all the posturing was for show.  Ephron wanted a big pay day.  I wish we had visuals of the speakers in this scenario.   I believe with that added data we would understand what Avraham understood.  This explains why the next verse is so definitive that field 'arose and became Avraham's'.  it was universally recognized because everyone present saw that this was the true position of all those involved.  Now the Midrash informs us that there are three places in the world where no other nations can question our rightful ownership, because the Torah testifies to our lawful acquisition:  Ma'arat Hamachpela, the Temple Mount and the burial site of Yosef in Shechem (Breishit Raba 79:7).  Right!

            Obviously, we all recognize that those are amongst the most contentious sites on the face of our planet.  Did the rabbis get it so wrong?  No!  I believe that they meant that if we could present our case before an audience which was willing to listen we could convince any reasonable listener of our legitimate rights.  However, that's not the case.  We don't have a fair hearing, because the other side has an interest, which blocks the counter arguments.  We're all the same.  We don't want to hear our kids, siblings, spouses, because we have an interest which is often challenged by the other side.

            I think that we can only understand the Midrash in light of the lack of communication in our story which was the first of the three instances of Jewish purchase.  No one can hear the counter argument.  The world doesn't have a hearing problem.  The world has an empathy problem, which leads to a listening problem.  The Palestinians can't hear the Israelis from the outset, because they believe it wouldn't be in their best interest, and so there is no dialogue.  And we're guilty, too.  The Democrats can't hear the Republicans, the Likud can't hear Labor, the old can't hear the young.  It all comes down to one word:  Fear!

            We all must emulate Avraham, and let down the barriers.  We must let go of the fear, because we will all benefit in the long run, if we just listen honestly to the other.  Jerry Seinfeld was on Stephen Colbert's show, and admitted that Colbert was right about a point of contention.  Then he said the saddest line, perhaps, in the history of broadcasting:  How come no one is ever convinced by the arguments of another?  Yeah, how come?


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