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Hanna's Dvar Torah

A noticeable absence - Vayetse

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What can you tell an employee who feels that no one will notice if he is absent for a couple of days? Or a child who feels that his absence will not be felt if he misses a few days of school? It is a very difficult feeling…

In this week’s Parasha Vayetse, Jacob leaves from Beer Sheva to go to Charan, to his relatives. He hopes to find a wife there. He also wants to escape from his brother Esau, who was furious that Jacob took the blessings of their father and wants to kill him. Why does the Torah mention that Jacob left from Beer Sheva? Telling us that he left for Charan, was enough for us to understand that he left his previous city to go to the other one.

Our Sages explain that the reason the Torah mentions it, is to tell us that the departure of Jacob was felt in the city. All the inhabitants of Beer Sheva felt that Jacob was no longer amongst them. Indeed, Isaac and Rebecca were still there but they were elderly and did not interact that much with the rest of the population. Their presence was important in the city, but not as much as the presence of Jacob. Jacob was active in the city. He did not care only about his spiritual growth, but he spread light and knowledge in the whole town.

Let us follow Jacob’s example, so we can know that if we leave, our absence will be felt. Our good actions and our positive influence will be missed by our surrounding. Let us think which lives we can influence by showing our care, for example with a phone call. And let us share our knowledge with our friends and family.

The way to be noticed in a positive sense is to take initiative and be active.

Shabbat Shalom,

Hanna

Why did Jacob dress up as Esau? - Toldot

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In this week’s Parasha Toldot, Isaac and Rebeca give birth to twins: Esau and Jacob. Even though they were twins, they did not look alike at all. Esau was a hunter, a thief and a murderer while Jacob was a Torah scholar, honest and righteous.  

When Isaac got to the age of 123, he decided to bless his firstborn, Esau. Rebeca, who knew her children’s characterwell, called Jacob, dressed him in Esau’s clothes and sent him to his father, so that he should get the blessings. And this exactly what happened.

This is a strange story which raises many questions, to which our Sages bring various interesting explanations [some of which are being explored in the current JLI seminar “Secrets of the Bible”].

We will mention here one of the explanations to the basic question: why did Jacob have to receive the blessings dressed as and pretending to be Esau?

If Jacob had received the blessings as himself, a righteous and honest Torah scholar, we could think that these blessings concern only his descendants who resemble him. In other words, the Jews who dress and act like Jews. Yet, there are Jews who do not resemble Jacob, who have changed their dress and their behaviour… Are these also included in the blessings?

This is the reason why Jacob received the blessings dressed us as Esau, to include in the blessings all the Jews, regardless of their current situation. Because each Jew has inside him or her a G-dly soul that is always connected to G-d. Even if a Jew looks more like Esau than Jacob, he is still part of the Jewish people.

When we consider this, we fill up with gratitude and love towards G-d, Who wants us close to Him and blesses all of us.

Let us do an action to reciprocate this love. A prayer, some Torah study, providing help to someone we were not planning to. Thus, we will hasten the coming of Mashiach, which all we await.

Shabbat Shalom,

Hanna

The secret of a good life - Chaye Sara

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Do you think there is someone who can say that all the years of his or her life were equally good?

In this week’s Parasha Chaye Sara, we read about the passing of Sara, who lived “one hundred years, twenty years and seven years”. According to our Sages, this circumvoluted way of describing Sara’s age, repeating the word “years”, teaches us that all the years of her life were equally good.

If we look at Sara’s life, we will be very surprised. Sara lived through many challenges and her life was far from easy. Because of the famine in the Land of Israel, she fled to Egypt with her husband Abraham. There, because of her exceptional beauty, she was taken to Pharaoh’s palace and only a miracle made it impossible for him to touch her, and she was thus freed. Likewise, she waited many years until she gave birth to a son, at the age of 90. How can we compare the years of sterility and the years of maternity, the moments with Abraham and the moments with Pharaoh and say that they were equally good?

Let us imagine a businessperson, who has various businesses. If one day, he wins thousands of euros with one business, while losing 50 cents with another, he will be very happy. If he is asked why is he not distressed about the loss of the 50 cents, he will not understand the question, since he earned thousands of euros!

This is the case of someone who lives a meaningful life. He or she has a significant goal in life, beyond survival and material pleasures. Thus, when difficulties arise, these do not overthrow him or her. The center of his or her life is not material issues. Like the businessperson who focuses and busies himself with the thousand euros and does not let the 50 cents affect him.

It is the same for Sara: She lived a meaningful life, with the significant goal of spreading the faith in the One and only G-d. The various difficulties did not bring her down.

We are living a complicated period. But if our lives are meaningful and focused on significant goals, the difficulties will affect us less.

Let us dedicate a few moments each day to reflect: What is the purpose of my life? What fills it up with meaning? As a result, we will be able to see what we accomplish, what influence we have on our surroundings. This will give us strength and courage, especially in difficult times, and motivate us to do even more.

Thus, like Sara, we will be able to say that all our years were significant and good.

Shabbat Shalom

Hanna

No inspiration: what should I do? - Vayera

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Sometimes, we feel completely devoid of inspiration. Is there a point in continuing to perform various good deeds like a robot, without feelings?

In this week’s Haftara, we are told an interesting story. A widow came to the prophet Elisha. Because of her debts, the creditors wanted to take her children as slaves. She went to the Prophet to ask for his blessing and help. He asked her if she had anything left in her home and she answered that she only had a small jug of oil. Elisha told her to bring all the empty containers she had, and to borrow from her neighbors as well. When she did it, he told her to fill the containers with little oil she had. And a miracle happened, she filled up all the empty containers with oil, enabling her to pay her creditors and keep her children.

The Torah’s stories, besides their literal meaning, also have a metaphorical teaching for us. Allegorically, the widow represents the soul who has lost her fire and her inspiration (in Hebrew the words ish – man, esh – fire, are very similar). The evil forces want to take away her children, that is her feelings, and sway them to serve and get busy with negative topics.

 

When she is asked what characteristic of hers is left, that is faithful and full of feelings for G-d, the soul answers that almost nothing is left. Only the inner strength, the faith that is found deep in the soul, remains. It is something so deep that it usually does not express itself in our everyday lives, only on special occasions such as Yom Kippur or when faced with a threat or danger. The guidance comes soon enough: Fill up your house with empty containers, do as many Mitzvot as you can, even if they are empty of feeling and inspiration. Beginning from this deep faith that always exists in a Jews’ heart, the empty deeds will fill up. The feelings will come.

Let us not allow the “empty” periods without inspiration stop us. The Mitzvot have value even when we do them without feeling. Through the action, the inspiration will come.

Shabbat Shalom,

Hanna

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