Parashat & Current Events

Vayaishev 5778

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Vayaishev 5778

An Israeli family was spending a year in the US teaching. They rented a house in a gentile neighborhood. At Christmas time all the houses on the street were lit up with decorations, inside and out, flashing lights and colorful figures; while our Jewish family had a small chanukiah in their front window. Their young son asked his parents why they couldn’t have some impressive flashing electric lights, to which they answered that whenever possible the halacha requires only an oil candle, be it ever so modest!

The following night there was an electric outage in the entire neighborhood, and the only home that had any light was the Jewish one with the chanukiah in the window.

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Vayishlach 5778

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Vayishlach 5778

Our Deputy Foreign Minister Mrs. Tzipi Hotovely said in a television interview in the States, that American Jews “have quite convenient lives compared to those of Israelis”, so they do not understand the realities that Israelis face because most of them (American Jews) do not serve in the military.

Mrs. Hotovely also stated her understanding that the conflict over pluralistic prayer at the Kotel was fermented not for spiritual interests, but in order for the Reform leaders to gain recognition equal to Orthodox rabbis.

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Vayaitzai 5778

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Vayaitzai 5778

Ya’akov sets out for Lavan’s home to find a wife. Yet unlike Avraham’s servant Eliezer, who dozens of years before had arrived at that same well, with a caravan laden with wealth, Ya’akov arrives empty-handed.

Rashi (Bereishiet 29:11) explains that Ya’akov left home with great wealth. When it became known to Esav, he dispatched his son Eliphaz (Amalek’s father) to murder him. Eliphaz caught up with Ya’akov and was about to fulfill his father’s demand when Ya’akov suggested that instead, he take all of Ya’akov’s possessions. Then, in accordance with the principle that “a destitute person is considered as dead,” Eliphaz would be credited with murdering Ya’akov. Eliphaz accepted Ya’akov’s offer.

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Toldot 5778

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Toldot 5778

Rivka suffered with her pregnancy and went to obtain advice at the yeshiva of Shem and Ever. There she was told that in her womb were twins who would become the forefathers of two nations who would change the course of history, and that the younger would surpass the older.

Why did Rivka go to the yeshiva of Shem and Ever, which according to some was situated in the northern city of Tzfat, while Rivka was living in Hevron; she could have taken advice from the greatest spiritual figure of her generation, her husband Yitzchak?

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Chayai Sarah 5778

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Chayai Sarah 5778

Avraham Avinu sends his servant, Eliezer of Damascus, on a vital mission to find a suitable wife for Avraham’s son Yitzchak; thus entrusting Eliezer with the future of Klal Yisrael.

Towards evening, Eliezer arrives in record time at Avraham’s birthplace, Ur Kasdim, setting his caravan to rest by the town well. He then turns to the God of his master with a request that He “…show kindness to my master Avraham” (Bereishiet 24: 15-20.) Verse 15 begins:

“And it came to pass, that before He (Eliezer) had finished speaking, Rivka approached…”

The Torah points out that before Eliezer concluded his prayer to God, the selection had already been made.

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Vayaira 5778

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Vayaira 5778

Why did these two people merit such impressive funerals and eulogies, which serve as the model for future eulogies of two great men in Yerushalayim?

The problem is especially acute with regard to Achav, who is mentioned in the Mishna (Sanhedrin 90a) as one of the three kings who lost their place in Olam Haba, (paradise)! (The other two being Yeravam ben Navat and Menashe ben Chizkiyahu.)

It would be an understatement to say that Achav did not follow the Torah. He and his Gentile (Phoenician) wife, E’zevel (Jezebel) murdered all of the religious leaders of the northern tribes, except for 100 who were hidden in caves by the righteous Ovadia (Melachim I 18:4). Achav introduced idolatry into every Jewish home by the sword, but when he died he was interred with an astonishingly large, emotional funeral, and with loving eulogies.

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