Category Archives: Scripture

You Say It – G-d May Make It Happen

“With whom you will find your gods, he will not be.” (Bereshis/Genesis 31:32). Incensed at being accused of theft, Jacob renders a death sentence on the culprit, if indeed there is one. Could he even imagine the result?

You Say It – G-d May Make It Happen

The parsha for this Sabbath is Vayeitzei. In it, Jacob flees to Laban’s house and has an encounter with G-d on his way. Then Jacob meets Rachel, agrees to work seven years so he can marry her, unwittingly ends up marrying Leah, and agrees to work another seven years so he can marry Rachel.

Next, Jacob and his wives have eleven sons, the progenitors of the most of the Tribes of Israel, and one daughter. Jacob and Laban make a new work contract, but eventually the discord between them becomes so great Jacob flees with his household. The parsha ends with the curious incident of Laban’s gods.

My first question is for all of the husbands: How many of you would work 14 years to earn the right to marry your wife? I’m taking names of the ones of you who say no!

Vayeitzei reinforces the lesson that words have power. In Bereshis we learn that G-d brought the world into existence with words. Later G-d parades the animals in front of Adam who names each one.  Through the conferring of a name, a word, Adam identifies the essence of each animal. In these two examples, we see the creative power of words.

Like what you're reading? Sign up for my blog updates and never miss a post. I'll send you a FREE gift as a thank you. Click here to subscribe.

Laban chased down Jacob and accuses him of stealing his gods, idols that Laban and the members of his household worshiped. Not knowing that his beloved Rachel was hiding them in her belongings in the hope that her father would give them up, Jacob declared: “Eem asher teemtzah es-elohecha lo yeeyeh,” which means, “with whom you will find your gods, he will not be.” A harsh sentence but one that shows how certain Jacob was that no one in his house had taken them, how incensed he was to be accused, and how deeply he abhorred theft.

Unfortunately, though with good intentions, Rachel is guilty. We learn in Parshas Vayishlach that Rachel dies after giving birth to Benjamin in fulfillment of Jacob’s condemnation.

Just as your words have the power to create, they have the power to destroy.

Question – How do you guard what you say?

You can leave a comment on this question or ask another question below ↓

 

Every year beginning on Simchas Torah, the cycle of reading the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, ends and begins again. Each Sabbath a portion known as a sedra or parsha is read. It is named after the first significant word or two with which this weekly reading begins.

How to Defeat Your Worst Enemy

“The first one emerged red, all of him was like a hairy mantle.” (Bereshis/Genesis 25:24). Rebecca bears Esau and Jacob, the latter grasping at the heel of his brother. Can you hear the theme song to Jaws portending a grim outcome?

How to Defeat Your Worst Enemy

The parsha for this Sabbath is Toldos. Jacob and Esau are born. Then Esau sells his birthright to Jacob for a pot of lentil stew and a famine forces Isaac to move to Gerar where he disputes with the Philistines and makes a treaty with Abimelech. Esau marries two wives. Next as Isaac lays dying he blesses his sons precipitating Esau’s hatred for his brother that causes Jacob to flee to Bethuel’s house. Jacob is admonished not marry a Canaanite and Esau marries a third wife. Who needs Dynasty?

Jacob and Esau provide the arch-type of the battle between good and evil.

Contrary to the popular belief that children are born good, the Jewish view is that each person is born with a yetzer hatov, the urge to do good, and a yetzer hara, the urge to do evil. Undoubtedly you have felt pulled in two directions when faced with a moral dilemma. This is the struggle between your yetzer hatov and yetzer hara and you must decide which you are going to follow, the essence of free will.

Both Jacob and Esau faced this same struggle and represent the two sides. Although they were twins each followed a very different path.

Like what you're reading? Sign up for my blog updates and never miss a post. I'll send you a FREE gift as a thank you. Click here to subscribe.

The Torah notes that Esau was born with a mantel of red hair. Although Rashi remarks that this was a sign that he would become a murderer, such was not inevitable.

King David was described as ruddy. The prophet Samuel was concerned that he would be a murderer like Esau. But G-d assured Samuel that David would only take a life at the behest of the Sanhedrin. G-d did not prevent David from killing wantonly, rather David learned to restrain his yetzer hara and turned it to productive purposes. Esau did not.

Your task is clear. Pursue Jacob’s path and avoid that of Esau. Examine your character traits and figure out how each of them can be used to support your yetzer hatov and defeat your worst enemy, your yetzer hara.

Question – What steps have you taken to habituate your yetzer hara to positive pursuits?

You can leave a comment on this question or ask another question below ↓

 

Every year beginning on Simchas Torah, the cycle of reading the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, ends and begins again. Each Sabbath a portion known as a sedra or parsha is read. It is named after the first significant word or two with which this weekly reading begins.

How to Act in Haste Without Regret

“ . . . and she hurried, and lowered her jug to her hand and gave him to drink.” (Bereshis/Genesis 24:18). Rebecca is carrying a jug of water on her shoulder when Eliezer approaches her and asks for a drink. Rather than telling him to get water from the well himself, unhesitatingly she serves him. Didn’t her mother teach her not to talk to strangers, let alone wait on them?

How to Act in Haste Without Regret

The parsha for this Sabbath is Chayei Sarah. Sarah dies and devotedly Abraham mourns her. Then he purchases a burial site for her and his family and orders his servant to search for a wife for Isaac. Next, Abraham marries again. The narrative concludes with his death and the death of Ishmael.

Abraham sends his servant, Eliezer, to find Isaac a wife. The Torah relates that Eliezer prays to G-d to identify the right woman by her giving him water when he asks for a drink and then offering to water his camels without being asked. Enters Rebecca, who quickly lowers her jug so he can drink. Then only after he is done does she hurry and empty her jug into the trough for his camels to drink and keeps running until they are finished. A huge task for a young girl, especially for camels that crossed a desert!

Like what you're reading? Sign up for my blog updates and never miss a post. I'll send you a FREE gift as a thank you. Click here to subscribe.

Note two things about her actions. First, when she had an opportunity to a chesed she did so quickly. This is the sign of a tadekes or righteous woman. In Midrash Bamidbar Rabah 10:7 it says,

“All of the deeds of the righteous are done quickly.”

By being eager to perform a deed, a righteous person elevates that deed from an everyday action to a mitzvah, thereby improving her relationship with G-d.

But note that in her haste she did not stand tapping her foot while Eliezer drank his fill. Rather she patiently waited for him to finish then hurried to water his camels and again patiently did so until their thirst was quenched. By subsuming her pace to that of the person or animal she was helping, Rebecca demonstrates for us the very essence of chesed:

Kindness is determined by the receiver of the action

So the challenge of being a kind person is to be sensitive and empathetic enough to perceive how a person really needs assistance. Our foremother Rebecca gives you a clue – be the kind of person that people will ask for favors and be sensitive to the plight of all of the Almighty’s creatures. Then, when you identify a need, take care of it yourself, quickly.

Question – How do you determine how a person actually wants to be helped?

You can leave a comment on this question or ask another question below

 

Every year beginning on Simchas Torah, the cycle of reading the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, ends and begins again. Each Sabbath a portion known as a sedra or parsha is read. It is named after the first significant word or two with which this weekly reading begins.

The Secret to Facing Up to Adversity

“And Noah built an altar to G-d and he took from every tahor animal and every tahor bird and he brought up burnt offerings on the altar.” (Bereshis/Genesis 8:20). Noah and his family leave the ark at G-d’s command and the first thing he does is bring offerings. Surely the Creator does not expect us to do such a thing. So what does He expect?

The Secret to Facing Up to Adversity

The parsha for this Sabbath is Noach. In it, we read about G-d choosing Noah to save humans, animals, birds, and creeping things from total destruction in the flood He is bringing on account of the tremendous corruption among people. Rain falls for 40 days and nights and the waters churn for another 150 days. After they recede he brings an offering to G-d.

But then Noah defiles himself when he plants a vineyard and gets drunk on wine. One of his sons, Ham, reveals his base character when he sees his father naked and inebriated in his tent then goes and tells his other brothers who handle the incident properly and are blessed for it. The parsha concludes with a listing of the descendants from Noah that formed the 70 nations, the story of the tower of Babel and dispersions of the nations, and finally the ten generations from Noah to Abraham.

Whenever I think about the story of Noah I am reminded of Bill Cosby’s routine. If you have not heard it I highly recommend it. Much of Cosby’s interpretation of how Noah behaved rings true with our commentators. For example, after G-d gives Noah instructions for building the ark Cosby’s Noah replies, “Right . . . what’s a cubit?” Would we have been any less bemused if we were in Noah’s place?

Noah is one of the best-known personalities in the Tanach. Yet rarely is he discussed in the context of his greatest contribution. Many commentators have written extensively about the backhanded compliment given to Noah at the beginning of the parsha, that he was a righteous man, in his times. His memory has been preserved in religious as well as popular lore for building the ark. One commentary I read called him the first conservationist because he saw to it that all of the species of animals survived the flood. At this point, his list of accomplishments ends.

Like what you're reading? Sign up for my blog updates and never miss a post. I'll send you a FREE gift as a thank you. Click here to subscribe.

But his most significant service to the world did not begin until after the flood was over. G-d orders Noah out of the ark. And Noah begins rebuilding the world. Imagine what kind of perseverance it took to do this after having lived in a world so depraved G-d destroyed it, then through years of insults while he built the ark, and then months in the ark mucking out stalls. He gets out of the ark to a decimated world and has to start all over again. Noah was a survivor.

Have you had to muster such indefatigability? Will you be able to when you need it? No matter how exhausted you are by adversity and no matter how hopeless rebuilding your decimated life and the world may seem, the message of Noah is that to be one of G-d’s children you must pick up that first brick and start all over again.

But before you heft it, you would be wise to remember the first thing Noah did when he set foot on dry land. He built an altar and brought offerings thanking G-d. When faced with destruction and despair, remember Noah and his legacy, choose that moment to thank the Almighty for saving you, and for giving you the chance to keep going.

Question – How do you find the strength to be thankful amidst anguish?

Please comment on this question or ask another question below.

Why Praying for Comfort Makes You Unhappy

The serious but joyous work of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are done.  Hopefully you emerged from it having repaired your relationship with G-d and with a commitment to live a life true to your ideal self.

Succos begins today.  Time to give up what seems like comfort to explore your relationships with G-d. The essence of this festival can be gleaned from the following story about the sage, Rabbi Pinchas of Koretz who lived during the 18th century.

Why Praying for Comfort Makes You Unhappy

During the early years of his life Rabbi Pinchas’s spiritual greatness was unknown, but after a time people came to see that his devotion to studying Torah, prayer, and meditation truly elevated him to extraordinary heights. Soon, he was inundated with people who wanted his advice, his blessings, and his prayers. These requests got to the point that Rabbi Pinchas feared he was no longer serving G-d as he ought.

After much soul searching he decided he would pray that the constant interruptions would stop. As a tzaddik prays, so G-d does, making Rabbi Pinchas despicable to others. When he walked down the street people would avoid him. But he was happy. His time was his own again.

The time for Succos approached. Unlike in previous years, no one offered to help Rabbi Pinchas build his sukkah. Not having any ability in such matters, he began to worry that he would not have one for the Chag. He tried everything but if he found someone to build a sukkah the person had no tools. Finally his wife intervened and they were able to complete a flimsy sukkah just moments before candle lighting and the start of the holiday.

Unlike most times, on festivals Rabbi Pinchas went to shul to pray so he could find a guest and fulfill the mitzvah of hospitality. But having becoming so disliked, no one wanted to share his sukkah. Discouraged, Rabbi Pinchas went home alone.

Like what you're reading? Sign up for my blog updates and never miss a post. I'll send you a FREE gift as a thank you. Click here to subscribe.

In his sukkah that night he started to pray the Ushpizin, welcoming the seven heavenly guests who spiritually visit every sukkah. G-d decided that Rabbi Pinchas should be privileged to have our forefather Abraham as his guest. When Rabbi Pinchas looked up from his prayer, there stood the great man outside the sukkah. Rabbi Pinchas beckoned him to enter, but Abraham replied, “My greatest trait was chesed expressed through hospitality. I will not enter a sukkah until another guest is there.” At that moment Rabbi Pinchas realized his error, and he prayed that everything would return to the way it was before.

May you use your time dwelling in your sukkah to reflect on how you will use the year just granted you.

Question – What have you prayed for in the past that you will change for the future? 

Please comment on this question or ask another question below.

Get More Ideas Like These for Firing Up Your Life and a FREE Bonus!

Use:

  • The wisdom of Scripture
  • Battle-tested ideas from the military
  • Profitable business concepts

to design a better life for you and your family!

Plus, you'll get a FREE bonus, my 49 Day Challenge to Refine Your Character!