Friday, December 28, 2007


by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

There are two kinds of surrendering. There is the surrendering out of love and there is the surrendering out of fear. This mirrors the two ways to serve G*d - out of love or out of fear/awe. There is the surrender to totalitarianism (political or religious) which stems from fear and compulsion. Then there is the surrender to our children which is born of a compulsion not out of fear, but out of love. The surrender to totalitarianism is the ultimate of oppression- serving the finite. But the surrendering to love is a taste of the infinite. The latter is giving it up. The former is "just" giving up.

The Torah chronicles man's struggle with freedom of the individual versus the crushing grip of totalitarian dictatorships. It is a proponent of mankind's freedom and liberty against the tyranny of systems of oppression. Again and again we see the urges of governments to dominate (using the standard MIStranslation):

"Come, let us deal wisely with it (am yisrael)..." (EX 1:10) "HAVA nitchachma lo..." (Egypt)

"... Come, let us make bricks and burn them in fire..." (GEN 11:3) "...HAVA nilb'nah l'vainim ve'nisrefa le'sereifa..." (Babel)

"...Come, let us build us a city..." (Gen 1:4) "...HAVA nivneh lanu ir..." (Babel)

A basic familiarity with Hebrew roots will dispel any notion that HAVA means "come."
The word HAVA in Hebrew unfortunately is not spelled Hey Vet Alef, whereit could be properly translated as "come." Instead, it is spelled Hey Vet Hey, which is derived from HAV, meaning "to give."

This is the basis for the word "aHAVah," meaning "love." Mature love means a "giving" kind of love, as opposed to a "taking" kind of love. HAV is also related to LaHAV, or flame, in the sense that HAVU means render (on the altar) as in (Psalm29): "HAVU LaShem b'nei eilim, HAVU LaShem kavod va'oz. HAVU LaShem kevod shemo, ..." A flame is the active agent of the korban, the sacrificial offering. Meaning to draw near (KaRoV), like a flame it reaches up to its source.

It's meaning could be understood as either RENDER (as in "give", or "burn up"), or as SURRENDER (as in "give it up"). So in Genesis and in Exodus we "have" the idea of HAVA preceding a notion of a reordering of the social order. This is accomplished through the people giving up their individual rights in the name of some totalitarian ideal.

With this new understanding, we see the Pharaoh now saying: " Hava - Surrender to my will. Let us deal wisely with it (Israel)." Or the leader of Babel now saying: " Hava -Surrender to my will. Let us build a city..."

In the Genesis Babel narrative this urge is to unify the people of the world, to mitigate against the natural tendency of nature and people towards a state of entropy. It is to prevent their spreading out. Their greatest fear was thus realized as a self-fulfilling prophecy. It can be read as a narrative explaining the diffuse state of human habitation against a background of a once greater concentration. Or it can be understood as an examination of the wrestling within man
of the warring urges doing battle within as to whether to forego personal responsibility and take refuge in the psychology of the masses (totalitarian temptation) or to accept personal responsibility and the accompanying fear (freedom impulse). Or both.

In the Exodus narrative of our parsha Shemot, it is to unify the Egyptian nation/state and to consolidate Pharaoh's power in the event of a rebellious fifth column. Their greatest fear came to pass as well. The problem with each of those societies was that "the people" were being asked to give up their rights for ignoble ends. Whether for the self-glorification of man or for the self-preservation of Pharaoh, the god/king, in both cases their respective projects were doomed to failure because G*d was not the centerpiece of their devotions and drives.

Shifra and Puah, the two midwives who defied Pharaoh's decree (EX 1:17), earned G*d's favor by standing up to injustice. G*d is served through the struggle for justice. Their act of civil disobedience set into motion the cascade of events leading to the birth of baby Moses and the redemption of Israel, marking the Jewish mission essentially as one of a vision of social justice.

Each of these totalitarian enterprises were based on the vain hopes of construction projects which would bear mute testimony to the false greatness of their respective societies. Each entailed vast construction projects based on mortar and bricks (chomer and levainim). Chomer represents materialism, the vain strivings of an empty heart.

Leveinim, bricks, are a cognate composite of lev (heart) and banim (children). A true and lasting legacy is a spiritual legacy, where the values and feelings of one's heart are passed down to one's children for all eternity. This is a true tower. Not a tower of bricks and mortar, but a tower of transmitting a spiritual moral legacy through the values which one passes on to one's children.

Ironically, chomer, or crass materialism, is a stumbling block for the transmission of lasting spiritual values. The tower of Babel was doomed for its crass materialism and warped sense of values. It is taught in the midrash that when workers fell to their deaths there were no tears. Only shattered fallen bricks warranted tears. To what extent are our values those of Babel?

What we need are new spiritual towers of chesed (kindness) in place of the corrupt physical towers of Egypt and Babel. Israel's towers are spiritual towers. The towers of the Torah's teachings are the values of kindness, love and compassion.

This tower has no place for surrendering freedoms as an act of obeisance to a new Pharaoh, "who knew not Joseph."Rather, it is built on an absence of coercion and a simple love of one's neighbor. Whether we become unified as Israel or dispersed as in Babel depends on making kindness and justice, Shifra and Puah's eternal legacy, the underpinnings of our new social order.
True freedom is attained through surrendering our egos and our drives in order to serve G*d, to making G*d, our Creator, the true centerpiece of our hopes and dreams. Not to serve G*d through conquering and dominating others, as taught by deeply misguided religious fanatics, but by conquering one's self, one's own drives and desires. This surrendering to G*d means experiencing the deepest liberation, whereas surrendering to religio-political authoritarian rule means to conversely experience the deepest oppression.

As man is created in G*d's image, so too will our tower of chesed (kindness) be reflected in the supernal realm and cause a true salvation to give succor and uplift to humanity. And on that day will David's words be realized by his messianic descendant, (SHmuel Bet 22:51) Migdol yeshuot malko ve'oseh chesed l'meshicho, leDavid ulizaro ad olam..." A tower of salvation is He to His king; and showing mercy to His annointed, to David and to his seed, forevermore."

Shabbat Shalom

© 2000 - 2007 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

These words of Torah are written in the merit of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Ya'aqov Hakohen Melman, z"l

Chabibi stands for CHidushei Baruch Binyamin ben Yisrael Yehoshua
(a chidush, from the word chadash, means a new, original or fresh perspective)
Dedications are available.

My band, Niggun, is available for all simchas.
Contact me privately at

Friday, December 21, 2007


by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

Our parsha, Vayechi, deals with the life and end-times of Jacob. His passing evokes thought on what it means to put one's affairs in order, to have one's body returned to the Land of Israel for burial, the nature of dying itself, and the connection between this world and the world to come. As Jacob initially embarks on his first exile, crossing the borders of the Holy Land to find sanctuary among his uncle Laban, he has a dream in a place which he calls Beit El, the House of G*d, formerly known as Luz.

Jacob, upon his passing, becomes the first Hebrew to seek repatriation of his body to the Holy Land for burial. When, in the End of Days, according to tradition, the body rebuilds itself and tunnels underthe earth to Eretz Yisrael where it becomes newly resouled, the foundation bone (of the neck) which serves as the latticework for this rebuilding is also called the "luz." What is the connection?

At Beit El, Jacob encounters the dimension of the infinite realm, a revelation of a heavenly ladder (sulam), a kind of latticework upon which angels ascend and descend. This ladder represents all the spiritual levels. As he about to start a family he need be cognizant of how much his children's spiritual growth would depend on his own instruction. We see that crossing the Jordan becomes a metaphor for death itself, a transformative passageway between the foundation experience (Luz/Canaan) of his life growing up, and the full blossoming of his manhood as a mature adult (Beit El, G*d's Holy Abode, Olam HaBa).

The seeds of deception which he planted in his earlier life (his name Yaakov/Jacob means "trickster," or "heel") came to fruition to teach him his life's lessons and meaning in his later life. By the end of his third stage, his life in Egypt of this week's parsha, he finally witnessed the rectification of his earlier mistakes in the peace and harmony of his children and grandchildren. Now in Egypt, his second exile, he blesses his children for the last time, and takes stock of their spiritual growth and progress. He knows that he himself, as the Last of the Patriarchs, must be buried in Machpela Cave, in Hebron. His body, the last to be placed in the holy tomb, is the final missing piece necessary to complete its spiritual function. Only then, with his body, the missing piece now in place, can this spiritual rejuvenation process finally be triggered.

Why was it so urgent for Jacob to be buried whole in the cave, rather than to just have his future remains brought out of Egypt at the time of the Exodus, as would be the case with Joseph? Ironically, the holy couples that were buried there were buried whole, and yet their function spiritually was to serve symbolically as a collective bare luz bone, upon whose foundation all Israel in the future would attach themselves.

As the Last Patriarch, Jacob was blessed with a keen vision to glimpse what will be in the End of Days (Acharit HaYamim- Gen 49:1). This vision was an echo of the Vision of the Ladder. His last act before his final blessing was to instate his grandchildren, Ephraim and Menashe as co-equal in status to his own children to merit becoming tribal heads. What made them worthy of their co-equal status was their fraternal harmony. Jacob could cross his arms and bless the one instead of the other and none would bat an eyelash.

Contrast the bitter enmity and struggle between Jacob and Esau. Now, at last, it seemed that the children of Israel had learned the secret of their future success.We must be so very conscious at every moment to teach our children the value of loving each other. And not just biological brothers, but all Jews should see themselves as brothers, and ultimately all humanity as well. We are all brothers with one heavenly father.

The whole painful saga of Jacob and his brother, and of Joseph and his brothers was to learn the value of empathy and brotherly love. Only with that painful lesson learned could Israel emerge from its pupa-like "family" stage and become a mature nation with a vision of brotherhood and peace to share with the world.

Jacob confesses to Pharaoh that his years were bitter ones, and few, compared to his father and grandfather. But that bitterness was really the toxic bile of fraternal strife and enmity being released. All the years, nay, generations of brotherly conflict, going back to Cain and Abel of the first generation, had been so very toxic that humanity could not grow and move forward without Jacob's release of the negativity of the bitter bile of multi-generational toxic sludge.

Just as the ladder, the sulam, in Jacob's dream was a vertical lattice work of the angelic realm, the bodies arranged horizontally in the Cave of Machpela would serve as the lattice work foundation of the human/earthly realm. The dream took place in Luz. The cave would come to be the workshop where the dreams of Jacob/Israel would become reality. The foundation couples of the Jewish nation, like the foundation bone (the luz), would come to serve as the attachment point for the rebuilding of not necessarily a physical body per se, but rather of a vision for a rebuilt Israel living in harmony as a role model for world harmony and peace. This is Israel's mission. Indeed, this is Israel's dream.

Shabbat Shalom.

© 2000 - 2007 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

These words of Torah are written in the merit of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Ya'aqov Hakohen Melman, z"l

This week's writing is dedicated to my daughter Yisraela y"n, (amush) on the occasion of her birthday on Taz Tevet. She was named for my father, and born just prior to Shabbat Vayechi Yaaqov, the same Shabbat on which my grandfather, Yaaqov, ascended the sulam/ladder up to heaven.

Chabibi stands for CHidushei Baruch Binyamin ben Yisrael Yehoshua
(a chidush, from the word chadash, means a new, original or fresh perspective)
Dedications are available.
My band, Niggun, is available for all simchas.
Contact me privately at

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

Editor's note: I have a friend who, while Jewish, did not grow up in the bosom of the faith. Lately he has come to me with questions about the religion, and I hereby present excerpts from our on-line dialogue. Of course, he has consented to the publication of our correspondence, and as he has chosen to remain anonymous and unsung, his wishes are hereby granted.

Friend: In economics and in other fields, emphasis is often placed on the idea of "systems." In other words, above and beyond what individuals do or don't do, they often seem powerless in the face of these larger forces. So having said that, do you see any merit in Judaism's placing a large responsibility on individual morality?

Melman: In Judaism, the path to G*d, the halakha, comes to the door of every individual. Though cloaked in community, the individual alone faces his maker for his accounting. Judaism allows for no human mediators. Every individual is responsible for his moral behavior. There is no passing the buck. Judaism posits that man has free choice. It demands taking a moral stand. If we don't take moral stands - simply, what is right and what is wrong - on the "picayune" realm of the personal day to day, how then do we ingrain a moral bias for taking stands on the larger social issues? In fact, what are the larger social issues, if not the sum total of all the individual issues? As in chaos theory, the proverbial flapping wings of the butterfly has an effect on the weather on the other side of the world. In that sense, we are all butterflies. But besides the individual's call to morality, we also have the individual's obligation to celebrate. On all the Jewish holy days - from the High Holy Days to the pilgrimage festivals to every Sabbath and to every single day, the Jew is commanded to reflect on life, and to celebrate life.
And just as morality to be global must expand to include community, so too, the idea of the celebration of life should expand to include community in order to be truly joyous through sharing with others.

Friend: What do you think about in your quieter moments?

Melman: In many a quiet moment I've given pause to ponder and to observe. I've watched with detached fascination the impulsive freneticisms of atomized man. I have felt loss at the self neglect in many who waste their lives - both present and potential. They wander through life aimlessly. There is no point, they think, in an endeavor which to them is ultimately absurd. But let them imagine that it wasn't absurd, that life did have meaning. People could at long last raze their castles of apathy and loneliness. In a vision of a world uniting to mend itself, despair and cynicism could finally find a haven to rest in places other than in men's souls. Imagine people "checking in" at regular intervals to take stock at the state of many things: their private goals, their relationships, their work, the cosmos. And in juxtaposition to their human shortcomings, imagine that they could simultaneously believe in an idea of a reachable condition of perfection. Imagine the resultant earnestness and comradeship that would naturally flow from this process.

Friend: What is your gut feeling about utopian ideologies? I mean, be on the level, okay?

Melman: Okay, so you have this utopian image with which man can align himself, an image which holds out a potential for harmony and of bliss for mankind. Frankly, I'm a little tired of talking about "humanity." What appeal can these notions have if they don't address me, a single human being? Nothing bears out this self-deceit more than the sorry spectacle of those humanity lovers who have nothing of value to show in their own lives, in their own spheres of relating.

Friend: How do you come to terms with the existential problem of drudgery?

Melman: There is a side to people that begs to transcend day to day repetitious mundanity. The Sabbath Day, imbued with a dimension of Divine holiness, is to some, a mechanism of release. In this I find meaning. But I do not regard my every day existence as a drudgery. In fact, I believe that the accent of the Jewish religion is one that actually emphasizes the day to day. How we function in the here and now - in "realty," is the yardstick by which we measure true religious success.

Friend: Tell me, do you imbue the Sabbath with any specifically metaphorical meaning?

Melman: The Sabbath, to me, is an eternal metaphor for human interaction, presenting a paradigm of relating on realms both Divine and human. Let us briefly look at the beginnings of the relationship between Israel and G*d, according to traditional and personal intuitions. First, there was a discovery by Abraham of G*d. Then came a period of reciprocal learning and awareness. G*d came to know the heights of Abraham's devotion, in the near sacrifice of his cherished son, Isaac. In turn, Abraham came to know the limits, and the degrees, of G*d's decrees. Justice and compassion were weighed. Abraham challenged G*d to define and to be faithful to His own standards of morality. Witness the intercession, however fruitless in the end in terms of immediate results, on behalf of Sodom and Gemorrah. Thus having come to know each other as each "operated" in reality, G*d finally initiated the formal bonding of their relationship, through both him and his seed. The naturalness of the developing relationship was reconfirmed at Sinai. How much and for how long could they mutually endure without defining the terms of their fealty, and celebrating the worth of their bond? That event, in Judaism, is eternally contemporaneous to every Jew.

Friend: What is the enduring testimony to that bond?

Melman: What is the enduring testimony to that bond? Israel's observance of the Sabbath: the Sabbath of "yetzirah" - of formation - that harkens back to a prepolitical celebration of G*d's unfolding creation. One is reminded, through observance of the Sabbath, that in living, one is called upon to interelate on terms of mutual benefit and growth. We remind ourselves of the command to come out of ourselves, for in unity and community there is strength. But for what purpose is this strength? To what end? We must always hold a vision before us of the perfect ideal world, the vaunted messianic state. The Jewish tradition asks us to always compare this vision to current reality. In this sense man is considered to be a co-partner in creation, in that his task is to finish creation. The Sabbath reminds us of our bond to the covenant which demands of us this task, and it celebrates the creation even though it is still yet incomplete. The Exodus from Egypt is recalled in the idea of the Sabbath of "yetziah"- the "going out" - which is an enduring metaphor for the eternal imperative of liberation - both personal and global.

Friend: What about cosmic thoughts? Cosmology versus cosmogeny.

Melman: The individual, so to speak, confronts his cosmic beginnings, and beholds his transformation through concentric realms of being. On one plane of consciousness, he identifies with the polity of Israel contemporaneously standing before the ongoing revelation. On another plane, he transcends history and space, imbibing once more of the protological serenity of Eden, that prefiguration of the messianic world where once again all will be united under the Divine principle. Along these lines run certain mystical strains in the Jewish tradition. Concepts of logos and genus merely tend to obfuscate the obvious.

Friend: I see. And what about G*d, the so-called "deity?"

Melman: How can G*d be really relevant to you, you wonder? I believe that if one looked at the world with his or her eyes fully opened, he would glimpse the vast multitude of deities that many worship - even today. If they don't worship "large case" G*d, they worship some other "small case" god. Upon that to which he directs his desires, beyond all proportion or degree thought necessary or appropriate, that is his god. Many worship power, domination, submission to authority, their country or even themselves. They become locked into a vicious and alienating circle from which it is even harder to emerge. Man is measured by that which he values. So it's not a question of choosing to serve G*d, but of choosing which god to serve. All people expend energy serving their particular god. In prayer, a person likewise serves G*d. He arranges his values in order, in their appropriate context. One reasserts control over one's life, and reminds himself in prayer that his choice is ultimately worth his while. Reward in the next world, olam haba - after life? So it is taught. But just as important is the reward of satisfaction in the attainment of self-mastery, in reaping the spiritual benefits of this world inherently earned in the journey of self discovery. Without this struggle and the self-knowledge derived from this struggle, there would possibly be no point to ever being born.

Friend: You mention struggling. Where does suffering figure in all this talk of halacha?

Melman: Prayer and halacha - Jewish law, literally "the way," have an additional extrinsic worth, beyond the intrinsic. In embracing the symbolic structures of a particular religious system, which by definition imposes meaning on the problems of existence, man places suffering within a cosmic framework. He can thus define his emotions to suffering in a meaningful way. As a means for dealing with the evils of the world as opposed to facing a chaos, an awesome terror of the unknown, the halacha charts an ethos, marking boundaries so that one can function as anxiety free as possible within the world. Like struggling, suffering leads to growth. A mighty oak tree is only born in the pain of the acorn's disintegration.

Friend: This Judaism. It's so vast. I'm frankly a little intimidated by its scope, vastness and depth. Is it really worth the effort to master?

Melman: Standing in direct counterpoint to the modern dogma of false spontaneity, a kind of compulsive reactivity to sensory input, is the principle within Jewish observance of kavanah, or "intention." It posits that the value of an action is markedly enhanced when it is couched in an aura of ready anticipation. Thus an act takes on an organic nature all its own, drawing its first breath in the seed of one's prior intention. While halacha admittedly limits my physical freedom, it more than compensates by widening my scope of perception. Every action is imbued with a more profound and higher significance. My horizons become sensitized to ever deeper levels of concern, and ultimately - to action. It gives a rhythm and continuity to my life, providing a steady anchor in an unstable world. As the Torah teaches (Leviticus 19:18): "Love your neighbor as yourself." And as Rabbi Hillel added, so succinctly: "That which is hateful to you, do not do unto others. All the rest is commentary." There you have it, phrased both in the positive and the negative. All bases covered.

Friend: So apart from me, does a person like you have many friends?

Melman: I grant you that my orientation and socialization within the world of Jewish observance was a natural one. What you most ably could identify with, would be my independent discovery and personal interpretation of the age-old system. In the main prayer, the amidah, we say elokeinu v'elokei avoteinu, "our G*d and the G*d of our fathers." We each have the task of not only learning from tradition, but of making personal sense of it all. I can receive what it meant for my fathers before me, but what does it mean to me? That only comes from study of the Torah and reflection. It says knei lecha Rav. "Acquire for yourself a rabbi." Push your comfort zone in order to grow. Little by little. That's the only way. Entering this age old system from an external vantage point, without guidance, would, I am sure, seem like a scary proposition. I might add, however, that with study, your fresh perspective would probably afford you a unique understanding. Should you wish to learn and be open to suggestion, I will share with you what I found to be the best way to enter the tradition: simply do it. Begin from where you are. Performing a mitzvah, a "G*d connector," teaches you more than any amount of study can. The experiential element is central to acquiring knowledge of "the way." I found that slow is best. I would slowly take one mitzvah at a time and make it "mine." Then I would take another, and so on. Coming back to it again would be like a reunion with an old friend. Right now, to answer your question, I have quite a few friends!

copyright 2007 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

This was dedicated to the memory of both my grandfathers, who both share the same yahrzeit, the ninth day of Tevet, but in separate years. One was my maternal grandfather, Burich ben Yonah, z"l, who was an iconoclast and whose first name I bear. The other was my paternal grandfather, Harav Yaaqov ben Meir Yisrael Hakohen, z"l, a deeply learned Rav and Baal Musar, musmach of the Mir yeshiva in Russia and rebbe of the Slobodka yeshiva in Russia, whose last name and Aaronide status I bear. A leader of the pre- WW2 NYC Jewish community, he had two daughters - my aunts. One helped found the first mikveh in Far Rockaway, Queens, as sisterhood president of the White Shul, and the other married the president of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. Such was the unity and brotherhood of the Jewish community once upon a time. Would that it might yet return.

Friday, December 14, 2007


by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

Do we have the courage to break free from our limiting paradigms?
To what extent does our anger limit us from growth and conciliation?
Finally, what reward awaits us for finding this key to change?

Jacob was forever trapped in a cycle of deception and trickery. Either on the giving end (Esau and Isaac) or on the receiving end (Laban and his own sons). He was stuck in an endlessly repeating loop from which he could not break out. He wore a mask, the pungent garments of his brother Esau, in order to attain blessings of mastery. He could only attain power through the veil of deceit, hence the endless cycle of bitterness and pain. His son, Joseph, however, was able to break this cycle. He attained power in Egypt by sheer mark of character, force of personality and faith in G*d. He needn't assume a false identity to achieve success. This is borne out when (his brother) Judah says to him in the opening line of our parsha,

(Gen 44:18)"...kee chamocha ke'Pharoah." "You are like yourself as Pharoah...(is like himself)." (my translation).

This is the highest compliment one can give to another human being. Judah is comparing Joseph to the King in greatness, and yet he is saying that he is still an individual, still his own man. "Chamocha" means "you are unique, there is no one like you."

On a deeper level, this means that Joseph, being his "own man," has now broken free of his father's patterning and addiction. Yes, he maintained a mask to test his brothers' sincerity and remorse, but more importantly he achieved the blessing of power in Egypt without any resort to the slightest hint of deception. He could become powerful like "Esau" without becoming like Esau in his impetuosity and compulsiveness. This connection between Joseph and his father is further underlined by the rare usage of the word"vayiGaSH," the very name of our parsha! To love one's father means taking the best of his character and leaving the rest behind. Blind absorption
of his negative human qualities is a form of slavish idolatry.

When Jacob is in the act of tricking his father, Isaac suspects fraud and therefore says, (Gen 27:21) "GeSHa na elai ve'amushcha b'nee..." "Come closer to me and let me touch you my son..."

And the next verse uses the same verb,"vayiGaSH Yaaqov el Yitzchaq aveev..." "Jacob came closer to his father Isaac..."

And here in the very first verse of our parsha it says,

"Judah drew right up next to him (Joseph) and said...." VayiGaSH eilav Yehudah...

The exact same verbs are used in these two narratives, precisely to draw a connection between father and son! Actually between both sons. The Torah wants to show how Joseph broke free from his father's style vis a vis the attainment of power as much as it wants to show how Judah demonstrated true personal leadership, putting himself at risk rather than risking his own children (a la Reuben).

This is also a break from his father Jacob,who had sent his entire camp/family ahead of himself to meet up with Esau, while he stayed behind and was the last to cross over the River Jabok! The true moral of our parsha is that we should have the strength of character to break free from the pathologies and addictions of our forebears- either in terms of ideology or personality. Whether the addiction is rage or antisemitism, or alcohol or deception, every new generation has the chance to start fresh and begin new paradigms of relating.

In fact, he himself realized his inadequacies and wanted to be left all alone to contemplate his weakness and work on himself. The angel was sent by G*d as a validation of his determination
to work on his character.

The weak personality doesn't easily stand up and take responsibility. When leaving Canaan before going to his Uncle Laban in Padan Aram he tells G*d that if He will watch over him and take care of him he will remain loyal to G*d. All the onus is on G*d to guarantee his security.

While Esau acquired the aggressive tendencies Jacob acquired the opposite passive tendencies.
It was against his nature to take initiative and strike boldly. Indeed he chastised his sons for their proactive action against Shechem. Their actions were as extreme as he was passive and retiring.

The early Zionist pioneers looked with contempt and revulsion upon their diaspora yeshiva brethren who seemed effeminate and passive in the face of rising antisemitism. Being outside the land of Israel enabled Jacob's descendants to allow their passive side to re-emerge. Upon returning to the Land of Israel, the "new" Jacob cum Israel identity reasserted itself, allowing the latent aggressive and assertive Jewish personality to reemerge .

When the angel bestowed upon Jacob the new name of Israel, it was indicative of a deep change and insight on Jacob's part to what he saw as being the pattern of his life. Whereas Abram's name change to Abraham was a permanent and immutable one, Jacob's was not. His two names could be interchanged, reflecting the anguish of the vicissitudes of the emotional terra firma of the addictive personality; each day is a victory or a crushing defeat. But Jacob himself bestowed upon his own children the blessing to break free of the chains of Jacob, and to carry on as sons of Israel, sons of his better, higher self.

Rather than swing from one extreme to the other, is it possible to integrate the two natures of his personality and remain whole? A hint of the possibility of reconciliation of SELF is found in our parsha as Joseph reveals his identity.

In GEN 45:4 he says to his brothers: GeSHu na Elai VayiGaSHu.
"Come close to me now and they came close to him..." And then in the next verse he says "al teyatzvu v'al yichar b'eyneychem...don't be sad or angry (because you sold me)."

In other words, Joseph is hinting that the brotherly conciliation can only occur when sadness and anger are no longer operative. They can only draw close to each other when the toxic addiction of anger is let go (along with its sister emotion of sadness). Anger is a form of idolatry and divisiveness as much as G*d is emblematic of unity and reconciliation as manifested in the Shema prayer.

Jacob's integration is achieved finally through the achievements of his children. Three full generations must pass before the children of Israel (and Jacob and Isaac and Abraham) learn to achieve reconciliation. Indeed that is why we are all called the Children of Israel. Only the children of Israel were able to finally get along with one another!

The "reward" for this fraternal reconciliation is Joseph granting them the Land o' Goshen as their new dwelling place while in Egypt. Commentators have suggested that the name "Goshen"
is related to the idea of "gashmiut," or materialism. I would offer that the apportioned land which is named Goshen is really in recognition of the fact that the estranged brothers could finally achieve a drawing close together - vayiGaSH (gashniut- my neologism) after rivers of tears and paroxysms of pain, anger, guilt and ainguish.

We must learn from this episode that we can model conciliation in our own lives by letting go of our anger which blinds us from seeing the blossoming of the seed of fraternity. Anger prevents growth and stunts our emotional development. Adolescents only develop their full potential to achieve maturity to the extent that they can go through and finally let go of their anger and hostility. Whether our anger is directed internally or externally it still must be expunged. This week we welcomed the month of Tevet, the month for the kabbalistic fixing of anger.

Like the children of Israel, may we, too, come to draw close to one another in harmony and fellowship and dwell in prosperity and friendship in our proverbial Lands of Goshen until our messianic deliverance summons us back home. Letting go of our anger and transcending the pettiness of our self-limiting perceptions is the key to unlocking the dungeon doors to let in the Divine light.

Shabbat Shalom!

© 2000 - 2007 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

These words of Torah are written in the merit of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Ya'aqov Hakohen Melman, z"l

Chabibi stands for CHidushei Baruch Binyamin ben Yisrael Yehoshua

(a chidush, from the word chadash, means a new, original or fresh perspective)
Dedications are available.

My band, Niggun, is available for all simchas.
Contact me privately at

Sunday, December 9, 2007


by Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, ztk"l

Shabbos is the strongest vitamin.

Shabbos is one day when you can have paradise in your heart.

Unless you are drunk with the sweetness of Shabbos, you won’t really feel it.

On Shabbos, we are fixing the not-so-good and lifting the good up higher.

The whole world is waiting to hear about Shabbos.

Shabbos is something untouched by the rest of the world.

On Shabbos, take a vacation from the world, beyond time and space, beyond labels.

Have pity on yourself. Leave the world of fantasy, of lies, of being asleep.… Our soul comes from such an awesome place, it cannot live without bliss, the bliss of Shabbos.

Shabbos is worth more than the whole world.

If I would have the guts, I would run through all the streets of the world and I would tell the whole world about Shabbos.

Shabbos is the deepest healing of the world.

Our holy Rabbis teach us that a doctor can only heal a foot or a hand; they cannot give you a new one. Shabbos, on a spiritual level, gives you back your hands and your feet. It gives you new brains, new eyes, new ears.

Some people say, in a rushed, muffled, low voice, “Good Shabbos,” and are already pulling away their hand-shake because they are thinking about their chicken soup. If they were ordering herring, they’d say it with more joy! But some people do know how to say “Good Shabbos” in the warmest, sweetest way. “Good Shabbos, Good Shabbos.”

You can’t say it just one time. You have to say, “Good Shabbos, Good Shabbos.”

Did you ever hear the most assimilated Jew saying, “Good Wednesday,” or “Good Thursday,” or, without saying anything bad, a non-Jew saying, “Good Sunday?”

You only have Shabbos if you are longing for it. You have it if you miss it all the time.

The mitzvah of Shabbos is Shabbos itself. When Shabbos comes I am yearning to serve G-d in the most infinite way. During the week, my finite and infinite selves are apart. On Shabbos, my finite and infinite selves are brought together.

The Yid HaKodesh said, “Some people eat fish on Shabbos, and some people eat Shabbos on Shabbos.”

Shabbos is different from all other holidays. The Talmud explains that if there were no Jews in the world, there would be no Jewish holidays, but Shabbos would always exist even if there were no Jews to observe it, because on Shabbos something special happens to the world. G-d opens up the gates and something very holy comes down to us from Heaven. All we have to do is pick it up.

Shabbos is what G-d is doing. The Mishkan [holy Tabernacle] is what man is doing.

Shabbos Shalom [Shabbos is peace]. Shabbos is a name of G-d.

Perhaps in former good days, when a Jew kept Shabbos, he just kept Shabbos. Today, when a Jew keeps Shabbos, he or she is comforting the Jewish People and also comforting G-d.

Shabbos is the day for our souls. All week we care about our physical needs. On Shabbos we care for our spiritual enrichment.

Shabbos is Paradise. Paradise is a place where everything is good, everything is holy, and everything is beautiful.

In Paradise, it’s suddenly clear to me that I can fix all my mistakes. Even more so, everything that I thought was a mistake wasn’t, and every street I thought was the wrong street, was the only way to get to where I was going.

Shabbos has two faces. One is keeping Shabbos holy – the 39 laws of Shabbos, the withdrawing from the mundane world. Then there is the bliss of Shabbos, the inside of Shabbos, which is a gift from Heaven. The bliss of Shabbos is even deeper than Paradise. It is a secret between me and G-d, between me and the people I love so much.

Shabbos is peace, because peace is secrets, secrets of the deepest depths. Secrets are the deepest G-d revelation.

True Shabbos people are people who walk the streets of the world and seem to have a secret with every human being they see, with those they love. It’s the secret of all secrets.

When you don’t keep Shabbos, your heart becomes hard like a stone. You lose your sweetness.

Imagine you have a limp and you hope that one day you won’t be limping anymore. After many years, if you are still limping, you will probably give up hope. But imagine if one day a week you don’t limp, then you might say, “If I don’t limp one day a week, maybe one day I won’t limp at all.” That is what Shabbos is. One day a week we don’t limp. It’s the secret of Jewish survival.

How does G-d pay you for your good deeds? Do you think that G-d looks up to see how much you should get in the Yellow Pages? It is the most individual thing in the world. It cannot be written down.

Every Jew has to put on Tefillin [phylacteries]. Every Jew has to keep Shabbos, everyone has to…. But do you know what the reward is? The reward is the utmost G-d revelation just to you. And this happens on Shabbos.

Every minute of Shabbos, I am waiting for this Shabbos to become the Great Shabbos.
How is Shabbos double? If there is only joy, then there is only joy. If there is only sadness, then there is only sadness. The doubleness of Shabbos is that all those things which I did with sadness, are also full of joy. All those things I did in darkness are also full of light. This is the doubleness of Shabbos.

“You shall keep the Shabboses.” What are the two Shabboses? The holy Beis Yaakov says: there is one Shabbos before creation, and one Shabbos after creation. At the end of the Shabbos before creation, G-d decided to create the world. Then there were six days of ‘work,’ of creation, and then Shabbos.

The Shabbos before creation is on the level that G-d gives you without your asking. The Shabbos after creation is on the level of prayer. That means that you can’t work for it. When do I pray? When I can’t do, or get something on my own. I don’t know how to do or get it. I tried, and tried, for six days, and I am at the end. At that point I begin to pray. This is the second Shabbos.

The whole idea of peace is not to lie. Shabbos is a day of peace. Shabbos is also a day of truth. The Talmud says: even the lowest creature cannot lie on Shabbos. That means that during the week, when there is peace, it is a lying peace. The peace of Shabbos is that I am not lying at all.

On Shabbos new energy comes down from Heaven, but that energy refuses to be received in dirty vessels, so for one second before Shabbos purity and holiness also descend into the world. Happy are those who fill their hearts with it.

Mizmor shir liyom haShabbos. The whole world is waiting to sing the song of Shabbos. And I am also waiting to sing the song of Shabbos.

Friday, December 7, 2007


by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

There is a traditional saying that the experiences of the Patriarchs are signposts for their descendants: "maaseh avoth siman lebanim." Indeed, the idea that each of the Patriarchs alone ventured utterly alone into alien zones of being is further played out in Joseph's life. Abraham confronts idolatry and is imprisoned and later redeemed and blessed. Isaac confronts the prospect of dying by his own father's hands (alien to human nature), but is then redeemed and blessed. Jacob is imprisoned by his duplicitous tendencies and later confronts his fears and inner demons and thus redeems himself. Although his life in Eretz Yisrael was largely marked with sorrow, he was blessed in the end to have lived to see his son's success and the fulfillment of G*d's promise to Abraham that his descendants would descend into Egypt.

But G*d made another promise to Abraham as well.
In the beginning of Lech lecha (Gen 12:2):

" And I will make of you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great, and you shall be a blessing- veheyeh bracha.")

This promise was already becoming fulfilled by Joseph's ascent in Egypt. Owing to Joseph's newfound success as viceroy, his family could prosper and become a multitude in Goshen. His fame spread far and wide, and Egypt was blessed with survival and prosperity where nature would have dictated otherwise.

"...and they proclaimed before him "Avrech," thus he appointed him over all the land of Egypt!" (Gen 41:43).

Avrech could be understood as "I will bless." Thus Joseph's new name was indicative of G*d's promise to Abraham, that he (via his descendants) would become a blessing. And not only would Joseph be a blessing for his own people, but also a blessing for those who bless Israel and her people.

The continuation of G*d's promise to Abraham in Lech lecha reads:
"I will bless those that bless you and those that curse you I will curse."

Although Egypt later bore the distinct misfortune to have oppressed Israel, at the time of Joseph, however, Egypt was duly rewarded for her generosity and benevolenceto Joseph and his family. This concept of national apportionment of blessing and curse is borne out historically. While it can be explained via rational argument that those nations who expelled "their" Jews suffered the economic or intellectual losses as a logical consequence of their actions, the fact remains that the historical record bears out the veracity of the imprimatur of Providence's guiding hand.

Whether we examine the negative fallout in Rome, Spain, Russia or Poland, or the positive benefits earned by Holland, the Ottoman Empire or America, a distinct historical pattern emerges. America, too, stands in judgment. This is her moment of truth. Whether the blessings accrued to her as a safe haven for Jewry and protector of Israel remain operative or not depends on her resolve to stand by Israel in her hour of need. The media, academia and nativist irredentism all are working feverishly to undue the historic bonds between these two nations. America would do well to recall Joseph's rise in Egypt. An Avrech, a "blessing," like ballast, the Jewish people's ascent, security and success carry all who side with them on a path to security, prosperity and blessing.

Shabbat Shalom
© 2000 - 2007 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

These words of Torah are written in the merit of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Ya'aqov Hakohen Melman, z"l

Chabibi stands for CHidushei Baruch Binyamin ben Yisrael Yehoshua
(a chidush, from the word chadash, means a new, original or fresh perspective)
Dedications are available.
My band, Niggun, is available for all simchas.Contact me privately at

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

Armed Forces recruitment campaigns recently used for their recruiting slogan: An Army of One. As Jews, this has been our slogan since time immemorial. The Patriarchs were alone in their respective generations in their campaign for belief in ethical monotheism. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob each knew that the entire success of the campaign rested on their shoulders alone. And Joseph, all alone in pagan territory,was just one man against the cultural might of the entire Egyptian empire. Same for Moses. And Judah Maccabee launched a rebellion almost single handedly. Armed with but his faith in G*d, he brought the Syrian Greek empire to its knees and restored the light, cleansing and rededicating the Holy Temple in the process.

We are born alone in the world, armed with a mission to be morally upright and kind, and to leave the world a more righteous place than we found it. We are born, swearing allegiance to this mission as the angel sends us off, as we jump off the plane into the blue yonder of the hospital gowns. Floating alone, we are armed only with an all-consuming desire to imbue our lives with holiness.

Not only are we Jews "an army of one," we are also "an army of THE One." We are a reflection of the Divine. Only ONE can make a tenth, to enable a minyan to function. Nine is worth nothing until you add ONE. Armed with only a sincere and beating heart, one person can transform the world, enabling both the Kedusha and the Kaddish. One person can connect worlds, invoking legions of angelic beings to come and provide harmonic backup.

They say it's not easy to find true heroes these days. "They" are right and they are wrong. If the thought flashes in your mind that you might be needed for the minyan, then most likely you probably are, as that flash of insight is your conscience calling. Your soul which is connected to the network of all souls. Come to the minyan. You might just be the tenth. And for the person who needs to say Kaddish, you will be a hero indeed.
Chag Urim Sameach!
Happy Chanukah!

© 2000 - 2007 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

These words of Torah are written in the merit of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Ya'aqov Hakohen Melman, z"l

Chabibi stands for CHidushei Baruch Binyamin ben Yisrael Yehoshua

(a chidush, from the word chadash, means a new, original or fresh perspective)

Dedications are available.

My band, Niggun, is available for all simchas.
Contact me privately at

Friday, November 30, 2007


by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

Clothing may at times betray our deepest wishes. And at times it may betray our deepest fears.When we dress for success it reflects the former. When we veil our women it reflects the latter.

In the Tamar and Yehudah narrative, Genesis 15:38 states:"vayireha Yehudah vayachshevaha lezona ki chista paneha- Judah saw her, and because she had covered her face, he assumed that she was a prostitute." Note that because her face was veiled, he had assumed she was a prostitute. In fact, that was WHY she dressed that way. She WANTED him to assume that!

Note the odd vowelization in the word for "he assumed," or "thought"-vayachshVAHA. It might ordinarily be vocalized as vayachsheVEHA instead. But here it is not. Now VA means "in it"or "in her." This may signify that there is an element of psychological projection occuring. Not that he is assuming x,y, or z about her based on objective criteriae. Rather, his own fears are projected onto (into) her in his quick yet faulty summation of who she was.

He was driven by fear and guilt for having abandoned his brother Joseph. Guilt for and fear of abandonment had become defining forces in his personality makeup. He had spared his youngest son, Shelah, from the possibility of an untimely death only through abandoning Tamar and postponing/foregoing his levirite obligations. Er and Onan had died. Would Shelach be next? By abandoning Tamar and withholding her due, he would thus save his son. But at what price?

Now the levirite laws were intrinsically righteous in nature in ensuring the social security of a widow in her old age. It was the world's first social security program! Psalm 71 declares: "al tashlicheni la'et ziknah, ki'chlot kochi al ta'azveni. Do not cast me off me in my old age. When my stength leaves me do not abandon me."

Having a child would serve to protect her from abandonment in her old age. Onan's deepest sin, when he "spilled his seed," therefore, was in avoiding his obligation to protect his widowed sister-in-law in her old age (as well as perpetuating his dead brother's name). This misreading of the text in its proper context "fails to see the forest for the trees." This focus has been the source of much guilt, anxiety and depression through the ages. True onanism in its deepest sense is really then the willfull neglect of the widow, the elderly and all society's vulnerable!

We see in our parsha the recurring theme of abandonment. Joseph is abandoned in the pit, then abandoned in Egypt, and lastly - abandoned in prison. He wrestles with sexual temptation in the context of committing adultery with Potiphar's wife, thereby resulting in the potential abandonment of his sole connection to his family's moral code, a succumbing to the alien allures of Egyptian pagan culture. That he did not succumb was the reason he became known as Yosef HaTzaddik, Joseph the Righteous.

Prostitution reflects the disconnect between sex and obligation. It embodies abandonment at the deepest taboo level. Fear of abandonment leads to hatred of that which symbolizes it. That which is hated must be covered up or put away. Rather than seeing someone covered as modest and demur, he projects onto her the opposite, a reflection of his own inner demons and struggles.
A face connotes personality. Veiling the face reduces her to a sexual object, violating her humanity. Many Muslim women would protest this assertion, but they have bought into their own oppression in a Stockholm Syndrome-like way.

In Afghanistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia, as well as in most of the Islamic world, the Taliban and the imams fear the freedom and sexuality of women. More to the point, they fear their own sexuality and its associated drives and passions. They project their fears onto women and turn them into objects of fear and loathing so intense that they punish the victim for the sins of the predator! Rape victims are lashed at best, and killed for the family's honor at worst. They justify their veiling practices to fend against the predatious demons of male society in the name of guarding their women's sexual purity.

Ironically, according to the sartorial descriptions of the Torah as read in this week's parsha, their women thus assume the costume of the prostitute who must dwell in the utmost darkened cave-like fringes of society. Their society is thus shut off to the ideas and values of female energy and insight. Islamic society became unbalanced when it was open only to the aggressive tendencies of male energy, and thereby lost its vital center and devolved into an orgy of hatred and a lust for warfare.

The beauty of traditional Jewish notions of Tzniut, or modesty, lies in finding a balanced attitude towards sexuality. Embracing a wholesome view of sex, it sees it as intrinsically good and worthwhile. Yet while its energies are viewed as basically positive, there is a recognition that it best be channeled through the vessel of consecrated marriage, or Kiddushin, lest its urges become destructive and all-consuming.

The Eishes Chayil song/poem, which is sung at the Shabbat table each and every week, validates the woman of the marketplace, whose wisdom and insight nurtures and sustains both the family as well as the greater society, and whose industriousness contributes to society and helps provide for the poor and destitute. Men and women equally must learn to focus on their internal as well as external qualities, and thus both equally develop their truest potentials and input society with a harmonious balance of male and female energies.

Israel today feels abandoned by world Jewry who have largely given their support from the relative safety of distant havens. Shamefully, very few have ever visited - even once! And world
Jewry feels abandoned by Israel's leadership, who claim they have no say over the status of Jerusalem, even though they pray three times each day facing Jerusalem, and include Jerusalem in their daily prayers three times each day and after every meal! And these are the Jews who visit each and every year and send their children to live and study there, thus forging a lifelong bond with the eternal city of King David.

And as the moral compass of Yehudah reasserted its sense of justice in doing right by Tamar and reversing her very real sense of abandonment, so too will the Jewish People come to reassert the centrality of Israel in their lives and give succor and support to her people through visiting. When family members are in trouble one goes to be with them in their time of need. And Israel must come to see that Jerusalem is the heart and vital center of world Jewry, just as Mecca is for the Moslem world and the Vatican is for Christendom.

Just as the G*d of Israel saw Joseph overcome his sense of abandonment and led him so breathtakingly up from his lowly slave status to the rank of grand vizier, so as to be a conduit of salvation for his people, and just as the G*d of Israel saw justice for Tamar, reversing her abandonment and causing the ancestors of the messianic Davidic redeemer to descend from her womb, so too will the G*d of Israel today protect and redeem His people in their time of travail as woesome as any in their history.

Shabbat Shalom! Good Shabbos!

© 2000 - 2007 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

These words of Torah are written in the merit of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Ya'aqov Hakohen Melman, z"l

Chabibi stands for CHidushei Baruch Binyamin ben Yisrael Yehoshua

(a chidush, from the word chadash, means a new, original or fresh perspective)

Dedications are available.

My band, Niggun, is available for all simchas.
Contact me privately at

Monday, November 26, 2007


Disappearance of Bishop Tutu By Simon Deng Friday November 16, 2007

Late last month, I went to hear Bishop Desmond Tutu speak at Boston's Old South Church at a conference on "Israel Apartheid." Tutu is a well respected man of God. He brought reconciliation between blacks and whites in South Africa. That he would lead a conference that damns the Jewish state is very disturbing to me.

The State of Israel is not an apartheid state. I know because I write this from Jerusalem where I have seen Arab mothers peacefully strolling with their families even though I also drove on Israeli roads protected by walls and fences from Arab bullets and stones. I know Arabs go to Israeli schools, and get the best medical care in the world. I know they vote and have elected representatives to the Israeli Parliament. I see street signs in Arabic, an official language here.

None of this was true for blacks under Apartheid in Tutu's South Africa. I also know countries that do deserve the apartheid label: My country, Sudan, is on the top of the list, but so are Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. What has happened to my people in Sudan is a thousand times worse than Apartheid in South Africa. And no matter how the Palestinians suffer, they suffer nothing compared to my people. Nothing. And most of the suffering is the fault of their leaders.

Bishop Tutu, I see black Jews walking down the street here in Jerusalem. Black like us, free and proud. Tutu said Israeli checkpoints are a nightmare. But checkpoints are there because Palestinians are sent into Israel to blow up and kill innocent women and children. Tutu wants checkpoints removed. Do you not have doors in your home, Bishop? Does that make your house an apartheid house? If someone, Heaven forbid, tried to enter with a bomb, we would want you to have security people "humiliating" your guests with searches, and we would not call you racist for doing so. We all go through checkpoints at every airport. Are the airlines being racist? No.

Yes, the Palestinians are inconvenienced at checkpoints. But why, Bishop Tutu, do you care more about that inconvenience than about Jewish lives? Bishop, when you used to dance for Mandela's freedom, we Africans all over Africa joined in. Our support was key in your freedom. But when children in Burundi and Kinshasa, all the way to Liberia and Sierra Leone, and in particular in Sudan, cried and called for rescue, you heard but chose to be silent. Today, black children are enslaved in Sudan, the last place in the continent of Africa where humans are owned by other humans. I was part of the movement to stop slavery in Mauritania, which just now abolished the practice. But you were not with us, Bishop Tutu. So where is Desmond Tutu when my people call out for freedom? Slaughter and genocide and slavery are lashing Africans right now. Where are you for Sudan, Bishop Tutu? You are busy attacking the Jewish state. Why?

Simon Deng, a native of the Shiluk Kingdom in southern Sudan, is an escaped jihad slave and a leading human rights activist.


I received this e-mail from someone in NY. One of his friends is living in France and posted this to him with the request that he distribute it to his American friends.

The writer prefaces with: "Once again, the real news in France is conveniently not being reported as it should. To give you an idea of what's going on in France where there are now between 5 and 6 million Muslims and about 600,000 Jews, here is an email that came from a Jew living in France. Please read!"

"Will the world say nothing - again - as it did in Hitler's time? He writes, "I AM A JEW -- therefore I am forwarding this to everyone on all my e-mail lists. I will not sit back and do nothing."

Nowhere have the flames of anti-Semitism burned more furiously than in France: In Lyon, a car was rammed into a synagogue and set on fire. In Montpellier, the Jewish religious center was firebombed; so were synagogues in Strasbourg and Marseilles; so was a Jewish school in Creteil - all recently.

A Jewish sports club in Toulouse was attacked with Molotov cocktails, and on the statue of Alfred Dreyfus in Paris, the words "Dirty Jew" were painted.

In Bondy, 15 men beat up members of a Jewish football team with sticks and metal bars. The bus that takes Jewish children to school in Aubervilliers has been attacked three times in the last 14 months."

According to the Police, metropolitan Paris has seen 10 to 12 anti-Jewish incidents PER DAY in the past 30 days. Walls in Jewish neighborhoods have been defaced with slogans proclaiming "Jews to the gas chambers" and "Death to the Jews." A gunman opened fire on a kosher butcher's shop (and, of course, the butcher) in Toulouse, France; a Jewish couple in their 20s were beaten up by five men in Villeurbanne, France. The woman was pregnant; a Jewish school was broken into and vandalized in Sarcelles, France . This was just in the past week."

So I call on you, whether you are a fellow Jew, a friend, or merely a person with the capacity and desire to distinguish decency from depravity, to do, at least, these three simple things:"First, care enough to stay informed. Don't ever let yourself become deluded into thinking that this is not your fight. I remind you of what Pastor Neimoller said in World War II: "First they came for the Communists, and I didn't speak up, because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up, because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up, because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left to speak up for me".

Second, boycott France and French products. Only the Arab countries are more toxically anti-Semitic and, unlike them, France exports more than just oil and hatred. So boycott their wines and their perfumes. Boycott their clothes and their foodstuffs. Boycott their movies. Definitely boycott their shores. If we are resolved we can exert amazing pressure and, whatever else we may know about the French, we most certainly know that they are like a cobweb in a hurricane in the face of well-directed pressure.

Third, send this along to your family, your friends, and your co-workers. Think of all of the people of good conscience that you know and let them know that you and the people that you care about need their help.The number one best selling book in France is...."September 11: The Frightening Fraud," which argues that no plane ever hit the Pentagon.

Friday, November 23, 2007


by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

"When we stand alone, like Ya'aqov, along the banks of life's flowing river, let us wrestle with our higher selves and know that we have the power to turn our lives around and become a blessing for all the ones we love."

Everyone of us is touched by an angel- at least once. Before we are born, our tradition tells us, our souls are taught the entire Torah by an angel in the womb (BT Niddah 30b). And just before birth the angel which is teaching us gives us a tap over our upper lips and causes us to forget everything.

From that moment on, we are bidden to relearn that same Torah. That is why learning Torah so often seems like a deja vu experience. We nod and it makes sense, for something is always understood better the second time around. Just as we are born into the world, and leave the world without any possessions, save for our good name, so too did Yaaqov divest himself of all his worldly goods before crossing over. He was now utterly alone, unprotected by his wealth, by his family, by his externals. All he had was his utmost essence, his essential self, now doing battle with his birth angel. We all face challenges in life. Like Ya'aqov, we essentially face them alone and wrestling in the utter darkness of night.

His striving was his womb education. All he was to experience in life in the Land was a reliving of his strife in the womb- the literal womb now supplanted by the figurative one. Indeed it would be a comfort to him to know that although he was destined to suffer from constant strife, at the same time his victory over the angel would serve to indicate to him his ultimate personal conquest. And as we are taught by Chazal that "maaseh le'avot, siman lebanim," that the experiences of our forefathers are a template of sorts for the unfolding and development of Jewish history, so too we should know by history and by experience that the existence of the Jew is constantly one that is marked by stress and by striving, but ultimately one over which fortune and victory will shine.

Just as on Yom Kippur we know that we are forgiven by G*d for our sins only after first having asked sincerely for forgiveness from our fellow man, Ya'akov himself becomes a prototype for our forgiveness model. Indeed he says (Gen 32:21) "achapra (KaPaR) panav," following his sending of gifts to his brother. Hopefully Esav will forgive him. It was to be a Yom Kippur, a Day of Atonement between himself and his brother. He acknowledged the hurt and the deep pain which he caused his brother. In his growing maturation gained from the experience of leaving home, he now realizes the needless suffering which he had caused his family. He realizes that spiritual growth need not necessarily be gained through causing suffering to others!

Whereas coercion and pain to others is antithetical to spiritual growth, the same does not obtain with regard to self-inflicted emotional pain, that pain which is part and parcel of the process of maturation and spiritual growth. Indeed, that very pain, he realizes, is the stuff by which that very growth occurs. Now that he has sought forgiveness from his brother, the Divine blessing is finally permitted him.

In verse 26 we read "vateyka kaf yerech ya'akov behayavko imo- ....Jacob's hip joint became dislocated as he wrestled with him."

Note the play on words which is very telling. VaTayKAh is similar inspelling to tekiah, the Shofar blast of Rosh Hashana / Yom Kippur. Not only for Ya'aqov was the experience a mini Rosh Hashana/Yom Kippur rebirth, but when we ourselves hear the shofar blast we are to become aroused from our soul slumber. Just like Ya'aqov's hip, in a sense we become emotionally "dislocated," as we achieve an awakening in which we realize we are to keep striving and wrestling with our core being to be granted the blessing of a vision of our higher selves, a chance to rescript our future, to make for ourselves a new name.

In last week's parsha, as Ya'aqov was leaving the Land he dreamt a holy vision of a ladder reaching to heaven. Crossing the river that demarcates the holy land is analogous to the experience of dying and rebirth, depending on one's direction. In a sense the sulam, or ladder, was the figurative tunnel which one takes to cross to the other side upon birth or death. His life is portrayed to him when he gets there (Paddan Aram) in unflattering terms. In fact, Lavan, who awaits him, is his ultimate teacher, reflecting back toYa'aqov the very same deceit which he inflicted on his father and his brother.

The name Lavan is related to the word Levana, or moon. And what is the moon but a reflector of the sun's light. It is not capable of emanating its own light. It is capable merely of reflecting back the light from some other source, namely that of Ya'aqov. Indeed Lavan serves in his own life to neatly mirror back to Ya'aqov the negativity of his own behavior, and inflicts midah k'neged midah, or measure for measure, the same deception which Ya'aqov himself inflicted upon others.

Ya'aqov, through this suffering and through experiencing that very same pain which he had caused to others, was ready now to return and to make amends. He is reborn as the dawn arrives, taking the angel's solemn oath to be a striver for his better self. Each of us has a "better self." The true descendants of Ya'aqov are those who are constantly striving to aspire to become their better selves.

Moreover, in the blessing which the man/angel confers upon Ya'akov, whereby he attains a name change reflective of his new spiritual attainment, now becomingYisrael, he says,

"ki sarita im elokim v'im anashim vetuchal..(Gen32:29).....

"You have become great (through having wrestled) with G*d and with man. And you have won."

Note the similarity between sarita and *sherita,* if one were to read the same letters a bit differently, mentally putting the holy dot on the other side of the letter. Thus it now could read , because you *serve G*d.* In other words, ironically, the way for man to rule over G*d, that is, to give honor to his transcendant self, is by simultaneously *serving* G*d. By subjugating one's lower, more selfish and baser instincts, and transmuting them through fealty to a higher subliminal calling, one can call forth and bring to the fore one's higher G*d self. He has overcome G*d in a certain sense by overcoming his own baser self!

And looking at it another way, it is a Divine confessional of reciprocal responsibility, a coming-full-circle of Ya'aqov's "preconditions" for serving G*D (Gen 28:20,21). Like the medieval "lord of the manor" who rules his subjects and commands their fealty by virtue of his fulfilling their needs, i.e., by each serving the other, the early/young Ya'aqov's sense of his deity fits this model. This idea is then conflated into unique expression at the time of the wrestling through the word play of sarita/sherita. As he has conquered his demons in the darkest hour before the dawn, the "sarita" now becomes "sharita," as he is now free to serve G*d now fully unencumbered. The way is clear for him now to dedicate himself to a "sharita" life of service.
Heretofore his life was devoted to paying Lavan back for his two wives. Only now that he is back home can he manifest his life's true destiny.

Ya'aqov himself had a deja vu of sorts upon his return to the Holy Land. Just as he was born in a state of wrestling with his brother Esav in the womb, just *prior* to birth, so too does he now prepare to wrestle with him again as he re-enters the land, as his re-entry to the Land is a form of rebirth for him. But whereas at the time of his actual birth he indeed was literally wrestling with his brother in the womb, this time, as he is figuratively reborn, he now wrestles with the man/angel just prior to his crossing the river of life, the Yabbok River, a tributary of the Jordan.

He wrestled his brother in life and won. And now his wrestling with the man/angel, from which he has emerged victorious, has indeed supplanted that wrestling which he engaged in with his brother. As this new wrestling partner, the G*d partner, has now supplanted his wrestling with Esav, it was now clear there could be no more strife between them. His fraternal conflict was decreed for a purpose by heaven. But as there was no longer a purpose for it, there was no longer any need for the conflict to sustain itself. It was now transcended. Finished. Hence the new peace between them. As he had finally transcended his issues with his brother, and had now finally sublimated them to a higher level, his strife with Esav was now pointless.

And yet it was held in abeyance, always on call to be resummoned. For whenever Israel was now to respond to the call of her lower self, and was to engage in sinat chinam, or gratuitous hatred, Chazal - our sages, may their memory be for a blessing, teach that the old rivalry would reemerge. That is why Ya'aqov hesitated to firmly reestablish the familial ties, in his begging off Esav's invitation to visit his Seir homestead. And besides, he had his business now in the holy land, having finally crossed over once more. He was wary.

Perhaps he foresaw the irredendist potentiality for failure and trickery, as exemplified in the Shechem narrative. Edom, the nation of Esav, was seen in perpetuity to be the figurative nemesis of Israel. The final vainquishing of Esav would coincide with the Messianic Age, which would itself only be precipitated byIsrael's vainquishing of her own tendency to gravitate to her lower self. Only through Israel's conscious manifestation of Ahavat Chinam, of gratuitous love for her fellow Jew and for her fellow man, could this Messianic Age, the y'mot hamashiach, finally come about.

Meanwhile, until we arrive collectively at that glorious and wondrous time, let us heal the rifts between our own siblings, both biological as well as societal. Let us strive to transcend the pain of earlier years which only serve to cripple us and prevent us from growth. Let us examine ourselves internally, and hold up little Lavan mirrors to reflect back, however painful it may be, the truth of our own actions by which to light the way and guide us along the path to make amends and to do a true teshuva. When we stand alone, like Ya'aqov, along the banks of life's flowing river, let us wrestle with our higher selves and know that we have the power to turn our lives around and by so doing become a blessing for all the ones we love.
Shabbat Shalom.Good Shabbos.

© 2000 - 2007 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

These words of Torah are written in the merit of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Ya'aqov Hakohen Melman, z"l

Chabibi stands for CHidushei Baruch Binyamin ben Yisrael Yehoshua
(a chidush, from the word chadash, means a new, original or fresh perspective)

Dedications are available.

My band, Niggun, is available for all simchas.
Contact me privately at

Friday, November 16, 2007


by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

Many of us travel many miles until we meet our soulmate. Sometimes our true soulmate was always there but we didn't notice. Sometimes we get it right the first time around. Sometimes the one who we think is our soulmate isn't, and the one who we don't think is our soulmate is. Sometimes we might find our soulmate. And then we might find our deepest truest soulmate. Sometimes it is necessary in life to go through certain experiences before we can appreciate the treasures we are destined to encounter. And sometimes we need to go through certain experiences in order to appreciate that which we already have, to see with opened eyes the soulmate we always had.

Not in vain do we meet certain people, for they are often the keys to meeting yet others. If Avraham had never met his servant Eliezer, he may never have met Rivqa. The soulmate encounter was made by the well. Water often symbolizes Torah. This teaches us that relationships that are based on Torah, that are based on plumbing the deepest depths from the wellsprings of Torah, have that built-in liquid interface to help reduce the heat and friction that naturally builds in any relationship.

We had learned that Rivqa offered to water the camels to the one who in the end led her to her true soulmate. A similar soulmate encounter occured at the well in Parshat Vayeitzei, as Yaaqov seeks out *his* soulmate. This time it was *he* who brought the water to the woman, to Rachel. But unbeknownst to Yaaqov, it was also Rachel who was out looking for a soulmate as well, but not necessarily for herself. More than Yaaqov was looking for a soulmate for *himself,* she was looking for a soulmate for her sister Leah. As was the custom in her land, the younger could not marry before the elder, so she did both herself and her sister a favor by searching on her sister's behalf. And that's what's so special about our mother Rachel. She is teaching us that the deepest blessings come to us when we are helping others achieve*their* deepest desires, bringing blessings to ourselves even as we bring blessings to others.

Rachel hoped for a sign from heaven that she might find her sister's soulmate, or even her own one day by the well. Rachel means lamb, one of the b'hemot hat'horot, the animals fit for an offering. But what is a korban? A vessel for drawing near. Rachel was the vessel to help Yaaqov draw near to help him find his truest soulmate. And what was the purpose of the sign? Perhaps it was to find one whose inclination was like Avraham's, one whose nature was to contravene convention in serving G*d, and thus was able to bring down from heaven the greatest blessings. So here Yaaqov insisted on rolling off the big rock from off the well while it was still the middle of the day- so unconventional! Yaaqov saw all of Lavan's sheep alongside Rachel, thirsty in the heat of the day. How could he *not* help her, despite the protestations by the other shepherds, slaves were they to convention, living by the exigencies of the clock, instead of living in the moment!

Thus he fulfilled her sign from heaven. A soul mate was at hand. Just as Esav "lifted his voice and wept"- (Gen 27:38), so too does Yaaqov when he meets Rachel (Gen 29:11): "Vayisa et qolo vayevk."

Identical language! What can we learn from this?

We all have a "low" voice, which we use in our material pursuits. But we also have a "high," or raised voice which we use in our deepest spiritual moments. Not high in volume, but high in vibration.

With Esav it was a plaintive cry of sorrow. But with Yaaqov it was a cry of joy. But just as Yaaqov is identified by his voice- his "qol," by lifting up his voice, Esav was finding his Yaaqovness within, that holy spark within himself, however late, that was worthy of a blessing from his father. And on the deepest level, by his words, he was "lifting up" his brother Yaaqov, euphemistically praying to heaven for Yaaqov to marry. By thus blessing his brother and wishing him joy, he merited blessing from his father, Yitzhaq, who found in his quiver of blessings one more left forEsav.

So just as Rachel looked for a soulmate for her sister, Leah, and ended up finding one for herself as well, so too did Esav pray on behalf of his brother Yaaqov, and benefited himself in the process. This is the deepest meaning of vayisa et kolo vayevk.

Now Rachel was *also* Yaaqov's soulmate. She was the "outer" soulmate, while Leah was the "inner" soulmate. Just as Sarah was characterized by her outer beauty, which was actually merely a reflection and expression of her inner beauty, so too was mother Rachel- yefat toar viyfat mareh (Gen 29:17).

When Yaaqov meets her he kisses her, which is actually a clever play on words with giving water- vayashaq vs. vayishaq (Gen 29:10,11). This really is saying that when you give someone water, i.e., when you teach him Torah,you're touching the innermost soul part of that person. As water nourishes on the physical level, Torah nourishes and gives life on the soul level. Later we see kissing to be intrinsic to reunions of those who were separated and then reunited. Esav and Yaaqov weep when they later meet again. Similarly Yosef and his brothers weep when they reunite as Yosef reveals his true identity in Pharaoh's palace.

"Vayishaq" also alludes to a kind of death, in the sense of passing from one state to another. A neshiqah, a kiss, is really a drawing out of the soul to encounter its soulmate. A nesheq, or a gun,
in modern Hebrew, is really the means by which to draw out the soul of a person from THIS life and enable him to cross over into the next life.

But Yaaqov and Rachel had never before met. How could this phrase in the text of kissing indicate any sort of reunion? Indeed it means that they were really soulmates who had once been together, separated, and now were reunited. Kissing always implies reunion. But how could this be, that they were *both* meant to be Yaaqov's wives? We see it from what comes later, and we see it from what comes earlier- from after and from before. We see it in that twelve tribes descended from them and from their respective handmaidens. All twelve were beneficiaries of theAbrahamic blessing. As Ishmael had twelve descended entities, so too did Yitzhaq achieve parallel blessing through his son, Yaaqov, both blessed"seed descendants" of Avraham. This is the argument from "later."

And we see it in the argument from "sooner," in the earlier Qain and Abel narrative, where the three sons of Adam and Eve (Cain, Abel and Seth) parallel the three patriarchs. Abraham is asked to kill Yitzhaq, but doesn't, thus achieving a tiqun, or a fixing for Qain's killing of Abel (first born killing the second born). Lamech had two wives (Gen 4:23), Adah and Tzillah. Chazal teach us that one was for beauty; the other, for procreation. Similarly, one of Yaaqov's wives was more loved (Rachel); the other was more for procreation (Leah). Indeed, Lamech says to them , shma'an qoli- listen to my voice. Qol, or voice, is always associated with Ya'aqov (haqol qol Ya'aqov).

There is a strong connection between the earliest Hebrews and the earliest humans, even relating specifically to the love between Yaaqov and his wives. Here is a hint:

Lamech says, (Gen 4:23): "I have killed a MAN by wounding, and a CHILD by bruising."

This is an allusion to Yaaqov's future deceit and clever trickery. First against his brother (the child)- when he cajoles and buys the birthrite from Esau in a famished state when he was out of his mind from hunger, while still a youth. And later on, years later when he tricks his father Yitzchaq (the man) by gaining the actual birthrite blessing via gross deception. The final touch is when he then says "If Cain shall be revenged seven times, then for Lemech it shall be seventy seven times." That is, if someone were to seek vengeance for my misdeeds, the price shall be seven/seven. Esav sought to kill Ya'aqov. The result is now seven/seven. Seventy seven is also written as seven and seven. Seven years for Rachel and seven years for Leah!The story of Lemech may be only a literary prefiguration for Yaaqov and the other Avoth. But it may also hint of a reincarnative/metempsychotic connection between the first humans and the first Hebrews!

Now that we understand that both Rachel and Leah were destined soulmates for Ya'aqov, we see in the text four hints of Leah's special connection toYa'aqov. The first hint is in Leah's name, and in the previous parsha's description of Ya'aqov as an "ish tam yoshev ohalim...a "perfect" man (Targum) who dwelled in tents. Why is ohel, or tent, expressed in the plural? The text could have said "yoshev ba'ohel,"i.e., in the singular. This plural expression may hint to his future association with Leah, for ohel in Hebrew, is an acronym of Leah!

One ohel so as referring to his actual proclivity for dwelling in tents, the other ohel suggestive of his soul's proclivity for reuniting with Leah. A second hint of Leah's special soul connection to Yaaqov was in the Torah's description of Leah, referring to her eyes:

(Gen29:17) ve'eynei Leah rakot...and Leah's eyes were "lovely," or "soft."

Traditionally, we usually associate eyes with the inner, soul level, while beauty and good looks, are usually associated with the outside level (or at times as a manifestation or expression of an inner beauty). Leah's description focuses exclusively on her eyes, the proverbial windows to the soul.

The third example is based on a comparison with other Biblical women who conceived and had children before their "competetive" wives or concubines. Hagar mocks and ridicules Sarah. Likewise in Judges, Peninah mocks and ridicules Hannah, who remained barren for many years. Not so Leah!

Although she outpaces Rachel many times over before she (Rachel) could have children, nevertheless the text gives no indication of any scorn or mockery on her part towards her sister. This is quite laudatory, and is so valorized by the text. As a result, she partakes in the blessing of fulfilling the Abrahamic line and blessing through *her* children as well. Her experience lies outside the typical pattern, whereby usually the woman who remains barren for many years and subsequently gives birth has exclusive claims to blessings of her lineage. This was not the case with Leah, and so is further evidence of a soul connection with Yaaqov and bearer of the seed of Abraham (zera Avraham).

The fourth hint of Leah's special soul relationship with Yaaqov is in a class all by itself, worthy of its own careful treatment. The four sons of Leah reenact in miniature the struggle of merit versus birth order that is played out in many Biblical fraternal conflict scenarios- Yitzhak and Ishmael, Ya'akov and Esav, to name just two. Here the first two by birth order, Reuven and Shimon, are played against Leah's second pair- Levi and Yehudah. Each of the first two are eventually cursed by their father,whereas the last two are held out for special blessings. Each pair of brothers correlates to the traditional single brothers in their birthrite primogenitural struggles.

With regard to the first pair of Leah's sons, Reuven is cursed for allegedly moving his father's bed; Shimon is cursed for his wanton, gratuitous unrepentant violence committed against Shechem.

And with regard to the second pair of Leah's sons, "Levi" does teshuvah on the tribal level for partaking in the same act as Shimon, by rechanneling his passion at the Golden Calf episode. He goes on to wear the mantle and robes of Israel's priesthood. Yehudah initially fails by his actions in the sale of Yosef, then redeems himself through his actions with regard to Binyamin later in the Joseph narrative. He subsequently wins his father's blessing and would later wear the mantle and crown of Israel's future monarchy. As this struggle is played out with Leah's sons, but not with the sons ofRachel, it suggests a special kind of relationship between Ya'akov and Leah, akin to that of the other patriarchal marital units. Hence they all similarly share burial privileges in Machpelah- the cave of the "couples."

While we all seek our soulmates in life, we should understand that our truest soulmates are staring back at us in the mirror. We need to look forward to that day when we reunite with our true selves, and become the righteous person each of us was meant to become when we took the angelic oath upon leaving the womb (BT Niddah). As long as we keep standing near the well of Torah, we increase our chances of discovering that true-self soulmate.

We may break many hearts when we go through life. And our hearts similarly may become broken many times. Our expectations may be dashed, our hopes may be shattered. But then we realize that all the doors we go through are but ladders to ascend up to the next level of experience, where we may hope to achieve a healing.

Indeed, we also learn that to heal ourselves, we best start with first healing others. And in the process we move beyond our own pain and bring healing and blessing to everyone. May the weeping and crying we experience from sadness, become soon a weeping and crying that we experience from joy. As the psalmist says, "Hazorim bedimah berinah yiktzoru - may they who sow in sorrow, soon come to reap in gladness." May our tears of sadness become tears of joy! Amen.

Shabbat Shalom. Good Shabbos!

© 2000 - 2007 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

These words of Torah are written in the merit of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Yaakov Hakohen Melman, z"l

Chabibi stands for CHidushei Baruch Binyamin ben Yisrael Yehoshua
(a chidush, from the word chadash, means a new, original or fresh perspective)

Dedications are available.

My band, Niggun, is available for all simchas.
Contact me privately at

Friday, November 9, 2007


by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

This is the parsha of struggling, of wrestling within the womb. What spirit will emerge and achieve dominance as the symbolic representative of our heart's true nature?

Our name is our essence, the keenest description of our most innate beingness. In Parashat Toldot we experience the birth and the naming of Ya'akov and Esav, the disparate twins of Yitzhak and Rivka. Ya'akov means supplanter, or heel, the ergonomically accessible point by which to pull another back and pass him by in the process, in the same instant. The blessings which accrue to Ya'akov give the Divine imprimatur to the Biblical idea of merit over birth order, of moral primacy over primogeniture.

Yitzhak's rising over Ishmael was arguably won by dint of the power struggles between Sarah/wife andHagar/handmaid-concubine. But with the ascendancy of the younger Ya'akov over the older Esav, there is no question that they shared the same set of parents; all control factors accounted for; everything else being equal. The name Ya'akov in its deepest essence alludes to the ikvei mashiach, the footsteps of the annointed one, the future redeemer. The age of redemption will be characterized by the vainquishing of the stronger by the weaker, of the still small voice of quiet prayer over the gluttonous, raucous, brutish impetuosity of strength and power and might, of hakol kol ya'akov over hayadayim y'dei esav.

Esav means "done," already made, his spiritual growth already seemingly completed by the time he left the womb. The name Esav has the rank odor of fermentation on the brink of spoilage. It symbolizes the weight of the psychological security of amassed comforting false remembrances of the glory of things past asserting domination over the hope, aspirations and promise of the emerging moment of a new day that is dawning.

The twins wrestling within her reflect our own inner demons of confidence and self-doubt, of "I am but dust and ashes" wrestling with "the world was made for my sake." All patriarchal and matriarchal (mis)adventures prefigure our own (ma'asei avot siman le-banim). But confidence emerges triumphant, like Ya'akov over Esav. Generosity of heart and grandiosity of spirit wins out over self-centered stinginess.

Ironically, the heartset (as opposed to mindset) that declares the world was made for my sake, has the confidence to be overflowingly generous. He knows that he can conquer all obstacles, and that scarcity, if experienced at all, is but a fleeting phenomenon. The mindset may be small, but the heartset is extremely big. Does our ego confidence have room for magnaminity and generosity? Our conflicting impulses wrestle within us on so many levels. And yet, in the end the spirit of generosity wins out, as the seal of kindness imprinted on the souls of Abraham's descendants is earned by Rivka, who now earns the mantle of matriarchy.

How is this shown in the text? When the servant says "(Gen 24:17,18) give me, please, a little water to sip from your jug

...hagmieeni na me'at mayim mikadech,"

she doesn't respond parsimoniously, but rather with generosity, superceding the modest request for a sip with a thirst quenching drink. Her response was an aspect of the concept of "lifnim meshurat hadin," of going beyond the letter of the law. Eliezer knew that any worthy matriarch must be a paragon, teaching her future descendants by her own example, that true kindness means following the spirit of generosity even more than the letter.

Finally, Yitzhak himself achieves fulfillment, by earning in the end his own name. Avimelech is gazing out his window (Gen 26:8) "and saw, and lo and behold, Yitzhak was "enjoying himself" with his wife Rivka

....vayar vehiney Yitzhak mitzahek eyt Rivka ishto."

Well, finally Yitzhak himself is living his name, whatever it may mean. Does anyone remember "laughter" in the Torah? In Lech Lecha, (Gen 17:17) Avraham laughs when G*d tells him that he and the newly named Sarah will have a son in their old age. Further on, in Vayera, Sarah now laughs (Gen 18:12) when she overhears (first of the eavesdropping matriarchy) the angel/man saying,"your wife Sarah will have a son." Later, in the same parasha, Sarah sees the son of Hagar "mitzachek-ing" with Yitzhak, which some holy commentaries say possibly alludes to sex-play or scornful mockery. Contextually, why was Ishmael's behavior seen as unworthy by the text in light of Sarah's insistence that Hagar and her son be expelled on account of it, whereas it is seen as valorized and worthy when performed by Avraham, Sarah, and now, by Yitzhak himself?

That is because laughter itself is holy. In all three of the latter cases, the laughter took place in the presence of the holy. Avraham's laughter took place in the presence of G*d, Sarah's likewise was in the presence of the emissaries of the Divine. Finally Yitzhak's holy laughter took place in the presence of Avimelekh's glimpse into a Divinely granted vision of the future. How's that?

It says, "Vayehi ki archu lo sham hayamim.... "

Customarily translated as "when he had been there a long time."

It could also be read as"when "they" made his days long," alluding to a Divinely granted vision of the eschaton, the end of history, when all will be in a constant state of Shabbat, a yom she kulo Shabbat, a "day" which is entirely like Shabbat. And "archu" is prefigurative of the psalmist's "orech yamim asbiayhu va'arayhu beyeshuati... (Tehillim 91)

With long life I will satisfy him, and I will show him my salvation." i.e. : he will witness the salvation I will bring about at the advent of the Messiah, at the time of the revival of the dead, and at the salvation of The World to Come (Radak)). The three angels gazed (vayishkefu) at Sodom (Gen:18:16), immediately prior to G*d's revelation of His plans for the city to Avraham.

There, "hashkafa" immediately precedes revelation. Here, similarly, the "hashkafa" of Avimelekh precedes the ultimate Revelation of the end of days. Divine laughter, holy laughter, is the celebration of all life on earth, that everything occurs according to G*d's plan, following the teleological timeline to cosmogonic bliss.

Hagar's son's laughter was mocking laughter, not the laughter of the Divine Presence. He had crossed that fine line and Sarah's holy intuition perceived it. He is called here "ben-Hagar" purposely on account that he had learned the art of mockery from his own mother, who had herself scorned and mocked Sarai when she had conceived while Sarai had not!

This is not to imply that Ishmael was somehow "lower" than Isaac. After all, he was blessed with twelve progeny as was Jacob/Israel. Rather that he had unmoored the act of laughter from its Divine connotations and thereby exposed its nakedness, now denuded of its holiness. For laughter indeed is an apt response to the awareness of the Divine, when all controlled linguistic response somehow feels inadequate.

And symbolically, Yitzchak is the one whose name bears the seal of laughter. And for Ishmael to engage in "Tzichuk" with Yitzchak is in a way to be appearing to "supplant" the Tzichuk essence of Yitzchak. Only Yaakov may act as the supplanter (EKeV)! Two bearers of laughter wrestle for dominance. Holy laughter wrestled with scornful, mocking laughter. Ishmael's supplanting of Yitzchak's laughter with his own brand only sows confusion and symbolically does violence to Yitzchak's essence, and by extension to laughter's holy essence as a response to the awesomeness of the Divine.

At the end of time Yitzhak will (be) Mitzachek, i.e., we will be in a state of holy bliss brought by the awareness of being in the Presence of the Divine. Yaakov, his son, needed to emerge as the supplanter, his name's essential meaning. Only with his son's assistance would HIS vision of holy laughter ultimately supplant the mocking laughter of the scorner, the holy laughter of the idealist over that of the scorner, and the righteous promoter of Tikkun Olam over the cynical defender of the status quo.

On Shabbat we glimpse a vision of the Yom SheKulo Shabbat, of the bliss which awaits the righteous at the end of days. May we all, like Yitzchak, live our true essence, becoming the persons we were destined to be, and in our own worthy way, help bring about the vision of Avimelekh and taste the salvation of that long day, when the great light shall shine forth from Zion, and when all darkness shall be banished.

Shabbat Shalom. Good Shabbos.

© 2000 - 2007 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

These words of Torah are written in honor of the memory of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Yaakov Hakohen Melman, z"l

Chabibi stands for CHidushei Baruch Binyamin ben Yisrael Yehoshua

(a chidush, from the word chadash, means a new, original or fresh perspective)

Dedications are available.
My band, Niggun, is available for all simchas.
Contact me privately at

Reb Shlomo with Reb Zusha ben Avraham Zimmerman

Reb Shlomo with Reb Zusha ben Avraham Zimmerman

What mind is it?

"Great minds discuss ideas;
average minds discuss events;
small minds discuss people."
-Eleanor Roosevelt


"If you believe that you can damage, then believe that you can fix..... If you believe that you can harm, then believe that you can heal..........." Rebbe Nachman of Breslov
"No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care."

- anonymous
"Perhaps the greatest force in the entire universe is compounded interest."

- Albert Einstein
When I was young I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people.- Abraham Joshua Heschel
The whole world is a very narrow bridge. And the most important thing is to not be afraid.
-Rebbe Nachman of Breslov
"The greatest thing in the world is to do somebody else a favor." - Aish Kodesh
"As you want G*d to give you a chance, give everyone else a chance to also begin again." - Shlomo Carlebach

About Me

My photo
United States
I played violin with Reb Shlomo and studied under him for over nine years at hundreds of concerts and learnings. Shlomo wanted to give me smicha before he passed. Deepest influences: My father,obm, who was a great scientist and human being, and my grandfather, obm, who was a great Torah scholar who was a musmach of the Mir Yeshiva and taught in Slobodka in Russia before WW1, and was also personal friends with the Chafetz Chaim and came to America in 1914. He knew the Talmud by heart! You could stick a pin in a word and he could tell you what word was on the other side! And my mother, Esther bat Baruch, z"l, who was a scholar of classical Hebrew and Tanach and who gave me a love for the language. And her mother, Anna (Sucher) Deutsch, who was born in Horodenka, spoke six languages, and shared her aged wisdom and eternal sweetness with me. I studied at Brandeis, Hebrew College, Pardes as well as seven years at The Metivta/ITJ earning my Advanced Semicha (yoreh yoreh)under Rav Halivni. What's truly amazing is that Shlomo and Rav Halivni each received semicha from Rav Hutner! But my deepest influences of them all are my sweetest sweetest girls who have taught me the most!