SEPTEMBER 9-10, 2011 11 ELUL 5771
"You shall not abhor an Edomite, he is your brother; you shall not abhor an Egyptian, for you were a stranger in his land."
Many of us have a scorecard-like approach to our interpersonal relationships. We consider how much we have done for the other fellow versus how much he has done for us. Then we factor in how much aggravation, if any, he has caused us, and after doing the math we decide on the sort of relationship we will have. Any favors we have received are often wiped out by the far greater acts of generosity on our part. Also, a negative experience can erase a long ago act of kindness. When it comes to family we are even more calculating.
This week's perashah teaches us to adopt the exact opposite approach. Every year we delve at length into the horrific way the Egyptians treated the nation of Israel. Yet the Torah says we should accept them as converts after three generations. "Do not abhor the Egyptians," our verse says, because they served as our hosts during the time of hunger and distress. Ya'akob Abinu and his sons were permitted to settle there.
Using a human "scorecard," one would say that any favors we received from the Egyptians have long been erased by the many years of abuse and torture.
But, it is clear from the Torah that gratitude is not something that one calculates, but rather it is an obligation independent of any other aspects of a relationship. No matter how badly the Egyptians treated us, we are obligated to be grateful to them for the favor they did.
The Torah tells us not to abhor the Edomite (Esav) "for he is your brother." Neither Esav not his descendants ever exhibited brotherly conduct towards us. On the contrary, at every opportunity they tried to kill us! But Esav is still "your brother!" The Rambam states that this comes to teach us that no matter how much harm a relative inflicts on us, we still have an obligation to treat him as a relative. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah
"When you will go out to war against your enemies" (Debarim 21:10)
The Torah tells us that when you go out to war G-d will give the enemy in your hands and you will take captives. Is that always the case that when we go to war we will win over our enemies?
The Rabbis tell us this refers to the constant wars we have with out arch-enemy, the yeser hara, the evil inclination. The Torah is teaching us an amazing lesson. If we only go to war with him, already we have won the battle because we know to be aware of his tricks and we are therefore committed to win him. Our problem with the evil inclination is that we let him take over our lives and don't put up any resistance. That's because we feel we don't stand a chance with him. But the truth is that if we attempt to fight him, we are more than halfway there and then Hashem will give him to us in our hands. As the Selihot season begins, we should know that by coming to Selihot and minyan or classes, we are going out to war with the yeser hara. Then Hashem will help us by giving him into our hands even in other areas so that we can truly better our lives. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"If a man marries a woman. it shall be that if she does not find favor in his eyes, for he found in her a matter of immorality, he shall write for her a bill of divorce." (Debarim 24:1)
The Torah intimates that the man is divorcing his wife because of a "matter of immorality." The Mishnah relates a dispute between Bet Shammai and Bet Hillel concerning grounds that justify a divorce. Bet Shammai are of the opinion that one may not divorce his wife unless he finds her involved in a matter of immorality, such as committing adultery. Bet Hillel, however, contends that even if she has burned his food, it is grounds for divorce. Bet Hillel, who is usually known for leniency, seems to be a bit demanding. Does something so trivial as burning one's dinner provide grounds for something so tragic as divorce? It is not as if she burned his dinner nightly. She did it once! Yet, it serves as a reason to break a marriage! How are we to understand this? This question was posed to Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld by his granddaughter.
Rav Yosef Chaim replied with an explanation that is brilliant in its simplicity. If the husband is such a contemptible person that, as soon as his wife burns his food, he entertains thoughts of divorcing her, then this woman is far better off away from him - and the sooner, the better!
Establishing a harmonious relationship takes two people working towards a common goal. In Shir HaShirim 6:3, Shlomo Hamelech says, "Ani l'dodi v'dodi li, I am to my beloved, and my beloved is to me." There are a number of implications in this pasuk. First, we become aware of two distinct personalities: My beloved and me. When I reach out to my beloved, my beloved responds to me - and vice versa. We also see that a relationship is a reflection. One of us must take the initiative, and then the other one responds. It is almost like a reflection. Commensurate with my initiative will be my beloved's response. The love I receive will coincide with the love that I give. Thus, one should be able to see a reflection of himself in the eyes of his beloved. It is almost like a mirror image. Love is proactive. If I want love, I must give love. (Peninim on the Torah)
Reuven and Benjamin were running very late. While Reuven looked for his keys, Benjamin grabbed some papers and samples he needed to take to the office. Then the two young men ran out to the driveway, jumped into the car, and sped off.
Of course, traffic was unusually heavy. The air conditioner wasn't working properly. And the car was shaking and making strange sounds.
"I think we have a flat," said Benjamin. He pulled over to the side of the road, stepped out of the car, and circled it slowly. The front right tire was indeed flat. Benjamin patiently headed for the trunk to find the jack.
Reuven was frantic. "How can you stay so calm at a moment like this?" he demanded.
"It depends on how you look at things," Benjamin patiently responded.
"All I know," Reuven shouted, "is that we are very late!"
"You, my brother, don't have the right perspective. The one who enabled the car to run is the One who also made it stop. I know that whatever He does is for the best. Sometimes you have to 'see' what you really can't see to understand what is really happening."
Some people are born with more patience than others. However, despite the amount of patience with which you begin life, you must work on increasing it at every turn.
One of the most helpful lessons in learning to control yourself is to always feel that Hashem is right there with you. Wherever you go, whatever you do, He is the One in charge. Once you accept that fact, it follows that you must also believe that He only does good.
When you have learned these two lessons, you must start to use them in all situations to keep calm. Say to yourself, "I know You are doing this. And I also know it is for my benefit." It may take a long time to incorporate this way of thinking, but once you do, it will add years to your new, calm life. (One Minute With Yourself - Rabbi Raymond Beyda)
A quick tip to boost the power of your prayer. Hazal tell us (Masechet Baba Kama Daf 92A) that Hashem loves the tefilot of one Jew for another so much that anyone who prays on behalf of a fellow Jew with similar needs will have his prayer answered first. A special service has now begun to provide people with names of others who find themselves in a similar predicament. You can call with complete anonymity and get the name of someone to pray for and give the name of someone that needs our prayers. The name of the service is Kol Hamitpalel. Categories include: Marriage; Income; Health; To have children etc.
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