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Hanna's Dvar Torah

The book or the sword - Toldot

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Adapted from Rabbi Goldman

Who are we? Who were we? Who will we become?

We are called the people of Israel and this comes from the second name of our forefather Jacob.

In this week’s Parsha Toldot, we read about the great blessings that Isaak wanted to give to his children. Isaac was blind and did not know that Esav, the oldest of his twin boys, did not behave properly and therefore, he wanted to give him the blessings.

His wife Rebbeka though, who could see and knew the truth, intervened. She sent Jacob, dressed up as Esav, to be blessed by Isaac. Thus, Isaac said in bewilderment: “The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esav!”.

This sentence summarizes the characteristics of our people.

The voice of Jacob symbolizes the voice of Torah study, prayer, and generally, the people pf the Book. On the other hand, the hands of Esav symbolize the fist, the hand holding a sword and generally, the violence, the war and the strength of the body.

The question is where do we belong and where do we want to belong. In which world do we grow our children? Have we forgotten who we are and what is the true culture of our people?

Our modern world is the world of Esav. There is endless violence on television, in movies, in the various video games. How many murders will an average child see before his becomes Bar Mitsvah? 7-year-old children kill entire armies in front of their screen.

But violence does not concern only children. What about boxing? Whoever beats the other up gets the big prize. There is a paradox here: If someone takes your parking space and you beat him up, you go to jail. But if you beat him up in front of 25,000 spectators, you become rich and famous.

Naturally, this excludes cases where we use violence as self-defense. That is, either personal self-defense or military defense of the country.

But the point is, what do we admire and respect? Who are our heroes and our ideals?

All this violence around us destroys our sensitivity and transforms us into an Esav generation.

The Talmud tells us that when there are books, there are no swords and when there are swords, there are no books. We cannot be at the same time the people of the Book and play with swords. A Jew should want his children to hold the book and not the sword.

And the best? Our Sages tell us that when the voice we follow is the voice of Jacob, then no hand of Esav can harm us.

Shabbat Shalom,

Hanna

Whom to marry? - Chaye Sara

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Based on an article from Rabbi Tauber

The most difficult question to answer is often the one with a very simple answer. Because a simple answer seems to insult our intelligence and is difficult to answer. But many times, the solution to complicated problems is very simple.

Whom to marry?

What does the Torah say about this crucial choice?

The first couple in the world was Adam and Eve. The bride was "made to order" for Adam. When he said to Eve, "You are the only woman in the world for me," she knew he was telling the truth. There is a lot to learn from Adam and Eve about married life but not about how to choose a spouse.

The next marriage described in the Torah is the one of Isaac and Rebbeca. Abraham by then had many possibilities for his son. How did he choose?

He sent his servant Eliezer to Charan with ten camels loaded with gifts. There, where Abraham’s family lived, he hoped to find a suitable bride.

Eliezer arrived at the well in Charan, prayed and designed a plot. Ask the young ladies there to give him some water. If the young woman would answer him to get himself water, she was not suitable. If she gave him water, it was good but not enough. If the young lady, not only offered him water, but offered to give water to the camels, she would be ideal to become Isaac’s bride.

There is a lot to learn from this story. But the most important is that our spouse does not need to be beautiful or wealthy, to like the same music or make us laugh. The most important is to marry someone with a good heart.

Shabbat Shalom,

Hanna

An unusual discussion about Abraham - Vayera

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 L'étude Painting by Serge KRIEF

Three students of the great Magid of Mezeritch, Rabbi Dov Ber, were discussing late at night.

 “What was so great about Akedat Yitschak (the Binding of Isaac)? If G-d has asked me personally to sacrifice my son, of course I would have done it!” said the first one, and he answered his own question: “But I would have waited a few days before fulfilling the command, to enjoy my son a little more. Abraham though, left early next morning, without delay. This is what made the story so unique.”  

The second student said: “I would also have left early in the morning without wasting time in order to do what G-d had commanded me. But I would have done it with a heavy heart, while Abraham went happy that he was able to fulfill G-d’s command. This is what was special about Abraham.”

The third one said that if G-d had asked him to, he would have obeyed without delay and joyfully. But what was special about Abraham was his reaction when G-d told him that it was only a test to prove his faith.  His biggest joy was not that his son was saved but that he was able to fulfill another command of G-d, to sacrifice the animal (instead of Isaac).

This story was told by the first Rebbe of Chabad, Rabbi Shneor Zalman of Liadi, who was also a student of the Magid of Mezeritch. And he added: “This whole discussion was not theoretical for them. Each one of them had attained the level of self-sacrifice he described”.

Let’s think about it a little. Akedat Yitschak is a very central theme in Judaism. We mention it many times in our prayers and ask G-d to help us in its merit. In which merit? In merit of the joy! More important that the action itself was the way Abraham did it. With zeal and joy.

It is not enough to do good actions. Let’s do them in a good manner as well. Let’s be like Abraham and in the merit of our good actions which we will accomplish without delay and with true joy, we will bring Mashiach now!

Shabbat Shalom,

Hanna

Going down or up? - Lech Lecha

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Today, I gave a class to the second grade in elementary school, while my teacher and friends watched on. On Tuesday in Israel, we started to pray for the rain, so that was the topic on my lesson. During the class, the pupils made sort of a rain orchestra, by holding a paper in one hand and hitting it with the other hand, first with one finger, then with 2 fingers etc. Try it at home, it really sounds like rain! The girls had a great time, and I think that, thank G-d, they understood what I taught them.

My teacher and friends had good comments. But, as expected and natural, my teacher had some remarks to give. There are certain things you can learn only through experience. I could already notice some of these things that need improving while giving my class, and I did not like it at all. I like to do things perfectly from the beginning. Why do I have to go through the whole process of learning and becoming better? Of course, I know that this is life but the way from the mind to the heart is very long… to manage to do this journey is one of the most important accomplishments in life.

The name of this week’s Parasha, Lech Lecha, means walking, advancing. Generally, all the topics of the Parasha fit with its title. Yet the Parasha tells us various things which were not positive for Abraham, its main character. There was hunger in the land of Canaan and he was forced to go to Egypt. In Egypt, his wife Sara’s beauty was noticed, and she was taken to the palace of Pharaoh. How do these two stories match the title of the Parasha: “advance”?

Each step down is part of the general journey upwards. Thanks to it, we can reach an even higher level. This can be compared to taking a step back in order to do a giant jump. We should not be sorry when a setback happens but use it as a push to become better. The setback IS part of the improvement.

I will try to remember that imperfect classes are part of the process of becoming a good teacher, and you should think of your own examples of imperfections that are part of the improvement process. In this way, we will be happy even with our setbacks, we will continue to advance and improve and bring Mashiach now!

Shabbat Shalom!

Hanna

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