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

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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!