Rabbi Yosil Rosenzweig
Before I begin my "Vort" for this week I wish to pass on a bit of information about my trip to Israel over the past few weeks. Two Shabbatot (Sabbaths) ago I spent a wonderful weekend in the holy city of Sefat in the Galilee. If any of you are planning a trip to Israel in the near future, please make a point of praying at the Kosover Shul in the old city of Sefat. You will be delighted by the Ruach (spirit) and the hospitality. Especially wonderful was their Friday night Kabbalat Shabbat service (that was composed in Sefat in the 15th century) Enjoy!
For more information about their activities and location, check out their web-site at: www/kosov.org.il/
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Over the past few months the news in America has been obsessed with the Clinton/Lewinsky controversy. One of the president's claim is he is being persecuted by the "Religious-right". In fact, having a moral and ethical value system based on Torah (Bible) values is considered by many as irrational fundamentalist bunk. But there is a legitimate question here, how does one make decisions based on inspired information, whether it was derived by study of the Torah or, by a message or a feeling that one believes is Divinely sent? In other words, if one was to receive a message from above that would effect one's life and the lives of others, how must one act? And possibly more importantly, may one impose his beliefs and values on others? Let us look at a scene in our Parsha this week, to find a parallel.
Chapter 31, verses 1 - 18 read:
"Then he [Ya'acov] heard the words of Lavan's sons, saying, Ya'acov has taken all that belonged to our father, and from that which belonged to our father he amassed all this wealth.': Ya'acov also noticed Lavan's disposition that, behold, it was not toward him as in earlier days: And Hashem said to Jacob, Return to the land of your fathers and to your native land, and I will be with you.':
"Ya'acov sent and summoned Rachel and Leyah to the field, to his flock: and said to them, I have noticed that your father's disposition is not toward me as in earlier days; but the L'rd of my father was with me: Now you have known that it was with all my might that I served your father: yet your father mocked me and changed my wage a hundred times; but Hashem did not permit him to harm me:' ... And an angel of Hashem said to me in the dream, Ya'acov!' And I said, Here I am.': And he said, ... I have seen all that Lavan is doing to you: I am the L'rd of Bethel where you anointed a pillar and where you made Me a vow. Now -- arise, leave this land and return to your native land.':
"Then Rachel and Layah replied and said to him, ...whatever Hashem has said to you, do.': Ya'acov arose and lifted his children and his wives onto the camels:
"He led away all his livestock and all the wealth which he had amassed -- his purchased property which he had amassed in Paddan-Aram -- to go to his father Yitzchak (Isaac), to the land of Canaan:"
Ya'acov worked for his father-in-law Lavan for 22 years. During that time, Lavan switched wives (replacing Rachel with Leyah) changed his pay scale and did what he could to make Ya'acov's life a misery. Yet, it was only by divine command that Ya'acov finally decided to leave the house of his father-in-law and return to Eretz Yisrael (the land of Israel).
I can only imagine that if I were receive a command from G-d to move my family lock, stock and barrel from one locale to another, I would not present my family with choices. We would have no alternatives, Hashem said move - and move we would. Yet when Ya'acov called his two wives, he began his argument with how he was mistreated by his father-in-law Lavan (for 22 years) and only afterward did he relate Hashem's command to him. It seems to me that Hashem's command should have been the compelling argument.
Many of our commentaries deal with this issue, but the Sh'lah Hakadosh (acronym for Shnei Luchot Habrit ["The Two Tablets Of The Covenant"] by Rabbi Yehoshua Horowitz of Poland, Frankfurt, Prague and Jerusalem, 1560-1630) brings up a very enlightening point. He states:
"When a person wishes something from the members of his household, even though he may have the authority, it is not proper that he should do so by imposing force and coercion. Rather, he should attempt to bring them to his view by discussion and reason, for this is far better than force and coercion. Observe, how Ya'acov went to lengths to persuade Rachel and Layah to willingly accept [the move], even though the Holy-Blessed-One had commanded him to return to his [ancestral] home."
Often times we see that when one feels compelled to act because religious authority is at play, one tends to impose their will upon others. The Torah teaches us that even when one is in a position of power, the power of persuasion is the proper method of influence.
Rabbi Yosil Rosenzweig
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