Friday, February 5, 2010

Bo; the Heavy Heart

by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman


The Talmud teaches us Rachmana Liba Baee, meaning "G*d wants our hearts." G*d wants us to have a heart connection with Him. And if we are to have a heart connection with G*d, how much more so are we to try to achieve such a connection with G*d's creatures, our fellow creatures! It's hard enough to love a stranger, but does that extend to our enemy as well?

In Leviticus 19:18 the Torah says that we should "love our neighbor as (we love) ourselves." The Hebrew reads ve'ahavta le're'acha kamocha. Reah, meaning "neighbor," has also the same spelling as ra'ah, meaning "bad" or "evil." So it could also be understood as teaching that we should try to love our bad or evil neighbor as ourself. This makes sense, because through the act of trying we could ignite a change and turn him around. We may fail in the end, but we need to try just the same. To give up trying is to abandon hope for a better world.

Many people react instinctively and mimic our actions or emotional states. Some people may respond to a loving gesture with love. The answer to darkness is light. The answer to hate is love. But hard core evil is oblivious to such gestures. Such evil is beyond the pale. But only through showing love can we learn to tell the difference between redeemable evil and unredeemable hard core evil, that we must then vainquish or be vainquished in turn.

In the story of the Exodus from Egypt, the usual translation tells us that Pharaoh's heart was "hardened." But those who know Hebrew know that root for the word "hard" is "KaSHeH," with the letters koof, shin and hey. But the Torah uses the root word KaVeD, with a koof, a vet and a dalid. This means heavy, not hard.

Parshat Bo Ex 10:1"...Bo el Paro ki ani hichbadti et libo...""...come to Pharaoh because I made his heart heavy..."

In a sense, G*d wants Moshe to come to Pharaoh to cheer him up, to bring him out of his melancholy and sadness. The Torah thus is teaching us that there is a special value in comforting the sad, even those who intend us harm. Perhaps the act of kindness will awaken them to do teshuvah and repent of their ways.

Can you imagine how unbelievably sad Pharaoh was to have been oppressing Israel? When you oppress others and cause them pain you are really projecting your own sense of unworthiness onto the other. That is the reason why Pharaoh's heart was heavy. It wasn't "hardened," as is often mistranslated. His heart was heavy. The pain you inflict on others ALWAYS come back to you, adding layer upon layer, weighing you down with unbearable heaviness. The more pain he inflicted on Israel, the more his own burden increased. This is a life lesson of universal truth for each of us to ponder.

The word BO reflects the intimacy of casual relations. Moshe could enter Pharaoh's presence at will. Why? Because Pharaoh drew deep pleasure from Moshe's presence. Anyone so connected to Hashem ultimately brings pleasure to the soul of even the wicked, so as to assuage the sense of utter abandonment from the Source of Life. No guards were necessary. Moshe could enter at will. Pharaoh saw to that!

So in a sense, the deepest sense, actually, Pharaoh enjoyed Moshe's presence in the same pathological sense that a naughty child enjoys negative attention. Negative attention is better than no attention at all! Moshe's pointed admonitions were actually gratifying to one who had always seen himself as the ultimate ruler, who now realizes that his evil is coming back to haunt him and that his evil may have placed him beyond the pale, placing him beyond Hashem's mercy. Even Hashem's harsh judgment on some level is better than being ignored!!!

So here the Torah is actually speaking on the deepest level about human relations. The soul craves a Divine connection. Preferably a connection of mercy. But lacking that, even harsh judgment will suffice. This is a parable for all of us, and for each of us. The eschatological end times of ultimate Messianic redemption will dawn among us either from a quality of delicious sweetness, or CV"S ("G*d forbid"), a quality of harsh judgment.

Maaseh Avot Siman LeBanim. The deeds our forefathers are signposts for their children (us). Those who oppress and show cruelty to others have, in a sense, chosen Pharaoh as their father. It is said that we choose our parents before birth. We are Rachmanin b'nai Rachmanim, merciful ones descended from merciful ones. May our actions reflect our parentage and bring down mercy from heaven in their holy merit.

Shabbat Shalom

© 2000 - 2010 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

http://seferchabibi.blogspot.com/2007/07/yahrzeit-of-my-father-27-tammuz.html

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9506EEDC1630F93BA35754C0A9649C8B63

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.

Va'eira; the stench of the frog heap

by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman


The popularly known refrain to the Negro spiritual was "let my people go." But while it is an accurate Biblical quote, it is also an incomplete one:

The full text reads (Ex 8:16 among others," ...ko amar Hashem shalach ami veya'avduni-...thus saith the L*rd, let my people go (so that/and) they shall serve me."

In other words, the proper question we might ask ourselves is "wherefore freedom?"

What is the point, to what end, do we seek to live in a "free"society? The notion of freedom is explicit, and so is its purpose. The text seems to indicate that freedom without properly understood Divine ends necessarily devolves into a dark nihilistic morass. Society and its malcontents (sic) desperately need to imbibe this imperative to place spirituality, the quest for Divine service, front and center of any social enterprise.

Some wore buttons in the seventies proclaiming "shalach et ami/ let my people go/Free Soviet Jews." While earlier waves of refuseniks sought emigration out of a yearning for Jewish identification and religious fulfillment, latter day waves were clearly less so motivated, often placing material yearnings paramount over the spiritual. Tel Aviv is warmer than Moskow, but being in the Land should mean so much more.

Likewise, many synagogues today find themselves in trouble when they place monetary or materialistic values over spiritual ones. When education and learning take a lower priority, apathy and malaise are the bitter fruit. Their long term assurance is not guaranteed.

A remarkable textual allusion offers a rich homiletic support to this idea. As the plague of frogs is halted, their rotting frog corpses were gathered in "gigantic heaps, fouling the air with their vile stench."

(Ex 8:10) "vayitzberu otam chamarim chamarim vativash ha'aretz."

Notice that the word for heaps, "chamarim," in the Hebrew is spelled minus the letter yud, the usual plural indicator. The duplication of the word chamarim serves to call our attention to a deeper understanding of the word, in the sense of "CHoMeR," or materialism. Most tellingly is the verb "vayitzberu." Its root is TZiBuR, meaning a congregation, i.e., a "gathering." In a sense, then, the Torah is warning synagogues about misplaced priorities. And the doubling of the missing yuds, so striking in their absence, spells a name often referring to G*d.

How often G*d Himself is missing from synagogues. There is no room left for Him for He is crowded out by the massive ego heaps and materialism run amok. So what this is really teaching us, is that when the spiritual is missing, from out of a heightened and disproportionate focus on the material, a foul temper then rules the day.

The purpose of the synagogue is similar to the purpose of the Land of Israel: to be a vessel for the spiritual development of its inhabitants. Ego is to people what materialism is to values. Both have their place, but neither should predominate. Physicality, the physical structure, is but to serve spiritual ends. The body is the vessel for the soul's manifestation and expression.

Indeed, even America, in its mandate to espouse the freedom and safety of its people, was envisioned by its early Puritan founders to be a New Israel, seeking freedom of worship to escape the spiritual bondage of the Church of England. America was their Promised Land, England was their Egypt, while the oceanic voyage was their Exodus, their crossing of the Great Sea. Freedom was but to serve spiritual ends.

It behooves us today to take this lesson to heart. Let us ponder its meaning, drawing from the message of our timeless Torah. As long as we make G*d the center of our lives, seeking to understand the proper path of our life's true work, we shall be spiritually free. When we see each other as fellow reflections of the Divine, as true brothers and sisters to one another, we will always be able to count on each other for support. For without that common bond, we are all merely but frogs on a heap.

Shabbat Shalom

© 2000 - 2010 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

http://seferchabibi.blogspot.com/2007/07/yahrzeit-of-my-father-27-tammuz.html

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9506EEDC1630F93BA35754C0A9649C8B63

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.

Shemot; Love and Surrender

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 - 2010 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

http://seferchabibi.blogspot.com/2007/07/yahrzeit-of-my-father-27-tammuz.html

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9506EEDC1630F93BA35754C0A9649C8B63

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.

Vayechi; the Last of the Patriarchs

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 - 2010 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.

http://seferchabibi.blogspot.com/2007/07/yahrzeit-of-my-father-27-tammuz.html

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9506EEDC1630F93BA35754C0A9649C8B63

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.

From VayiGosh to Goshen

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. Some people out of a misplaced sense of guilt feel obligated to honor their deceased parents' memories by adopting their negative pathologies.

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 determinationto 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 learn to 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 - 2010 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

http://seferchabibi.blogspot.com/2007/07/yahrzeit-of-my-father-27-tammuz.html

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9506EEDC1630F93BA35754C0A9649C8B63

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.

MIKEITZ; on being an avrech

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 - 2010 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

http://seferchabibi.blogspot.com/2007/07/yahrzeit-of-my-father-27-tammuz.html

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9506EEDC1630F93BA35754C0A9649C8B63

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.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

VAYEISHEV; OF ABANDONMENT AND HOPE

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.

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.

The G*d of Israel saw Joseph overcome his sense of abandonment and led him 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 - 2010 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

http://seferchabibi.blogspot.com/2007/07/yahrzeit-of-my-father-27-tammuz.html

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9506EEDC1630F93BA35754C0A9649C8B63

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.

VAYISHLACH; THE COURAGE TO BE VULNERABLE

by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

A unifying theme to this week's parasha is the seemingly paradoxical idea of the acquisition of inner strength through the display of outward vulnerability. Jacob faces his fear of encountering his brother Esau, and instead of unifying his camp which would make himself stronger and thus more able physically to defend himself, counterintuitively opts to divide his camp segmentally to face him. This display of vulnerability won over his brother's heart.

Some take risks for love; others for safety. At last he made a peace with his brother and could now move on with his life. He could never realize his life's mission as long he was dominated by his fear of Esau. He was so sure of his parents' unconditional love for him that he was willing to risk vulnerability in the pursuit of his father's blessing.

His brother's love for him was not guaranteed, however. Deena perhaps emulated her father Yakov's sense of risk for venturing out from the safety of the family compound to visit the local girls. Yakov perhaps needed to grow spiritually by venturing out in order to compensate for his youthful predilection for dwelling in tents. His personal challenge was to leave the comforts of home. As a bearer of the Judaic vision, he could only learn to do so by venturing out from the protective confines and relative safety of the home (yoshev ohalim).

But his challenge was not necessarily her challenge. Each person needs to reflect on the personal growth challenges which he alone needs to face. Yakov won Divine blessing for choosing to go forward to meet his brother rather than to hide and live in fear. Facing his fears actually made him stronger. That being said, however, she had every right to live her "normal" life and visit in town. She wasn't looking for trouble. She wanted to make friends.

Let us not blame the victim for the crime. Shechem was brutal. Three verbs are used in the Torah to describe his actions. He seduced/took her (vayikach), he lay with her (vayishkav), and then he raped her (vayaneha). Only later did he "love" her. His brutality necessitated a strong response.

But on account of the love he felt for her as a result of the peace council whereby they agreed to be circumcised an agreement was made. All the males circumcised themselves and made themselves vulnerable. Jacob must have respected their acceptance of vulnerability as a result of his past experience. It made him open to the possibility of rapprochement.

Where Esau's righteous anger could be abated by a display of vulnerability on Jacob's part, so too could Jacob's own righteous anger be abated by vulnerability on Shechem's part. Now if we examine and contrast Chamor and Shechem's words with respect to Israel and his family, and their words which they used with respect to their own people we see an eery foreshadowing of today's conflict.

To Israel they say (Gen 34:10):

"You will be able to live with us, and the land will be open before you. Settle down, do business here, and the land will become YOUR PROPERTY."

But to their own people they say (Gen 34:23):

"Won't their livestock, their possessions, and all their animals eventually BE OURS?"

Whereas Shimon and Levi saw through the ruse and disallowed their own potential vulnerability which would lead to their demise, their father perhaps was unduly influenced by the need to validate his own past experiences which gave form and meaning to his life. Jacob, who in his youth found it all so easy to trick others (hence his name), now found his own life an endless sequence of others, from Laban to Shechem to his sons' future claiming of Joseph's death, now tricking him.

So we can learn in our parsha that vulnerability plays out in two possible ways- reconciliation or ruse. They seem to cancel each other out. But the parsha also suggests a third way. At Beit El, the place of his initial Divine/angelic dream encounter, G*d swore to him (Gen 28:15):

"no matter where you go I shall protect you- ushmarticha bechawl asher telech").

When Jacob is now in great fear of Canaanite retribution for the slaughter in Shechem, G*d tells them to exchange a false protection for a True protection. They must make themselves seemingly MORE vulnerable by discarding and burying all the idolatrous artifacts - elohei hanechar- even the rings in their ears (25:4), which were in their midst.

Just as the sukkah is a reminder that becoming vulnerable and trusting in G*d is our truest, most reliable protection, so is our parsha this week "pre"iterating that notion, albeit in a proto-Sinaitic context. While the Torah wisely mandates the apparatus of police and a court system, it also recognizes and endlessly repeats the message that true security rests in Hashem alone. We dare not shut off the possibility for love in our lives by encasing ourselves in psychic armor.

Vulnerability leads to possible hurt, but also to possible love. And the truest love and security of all is Divine love. As we begin on the path to follow and observe both the letter and the spirit of G*d's Torah, we make ourselves vulnerable to the possibility of ridicule or rejection by others who claim to know what's best for us. But other people come and go. To follow the easier path of social comfort may be easier but not necessarily the more fulfilling one. G*d's path may be less comfortable physically, but it behooves us to recognize that the Torah of Hashem is eternal and its truth endures forever.

Shabbat Shalom

VAYEITZEI; KISSING AND A WEEPING TONIGHT

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" (and he kissed) 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 the Abrahamic 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 of Rachel, 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

http://seferchabibi.blogspot.com/2007/07/yahrzeit-of-my-father-27-tammuz.html

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9506EEDC1630F93BA35754C0A9649C8B63

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.

Toldot: Holy Names/Holy Laughter

by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

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 very 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 and Hagar/handmaid-concubine, beyond solely the purity of the merit of the children.

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. Hakol kol ya'akov ("the voice is the voice of Jacob") will win in the end over hayadayim y'dei esav ("but the hands are the hands of Esau").

Esav means "done," already made, his spiritual growth already completed by the time he left the womb. The name Esav has the rank odor of fermentation on the brink of spoilage, 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.

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 the angel/man saying, "your wife Sarah will have a son." Later, however, in the same parasha, Sarah sees the son of Hagar "mitzachek-ing" with Yitzhak, which our holy commentaries say possibly allude to sex-play or scornful mockery.

Why was Ishmael's behavior seen as unworthy by the text in light of Sarah's insistence that Hagar and 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, like the gift of speech, laughter itself is holy and must never be misused.

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 angels, 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 (Gen 26:8), Vayehi ki archu lo sham hayamim.... customarily translated as "when he had been there a long time." It could also be read deeply and metaphorically as "when "they" made his days long," alluding to a Divinely granted vision of the eschaton, the end of history, a long day, when all will be in a constant state of Shabbat, a yom she kulo Shabbat, a "day" which is entirely like Shabbat.

At the end of time Yitzhak will be Mitzachek, i.e., we, his descendants, will be in a state of holy bliss brought about by the awareness of being in the Presence of the Divine. On Shabbat we experience a temporary vision of the Yom SheKulo Shabbat, of the bliss which awaits the righteous at the end of days.

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 Messianic age." This, on the deepest level, is the meaning of Avimelech's gaze, connecting Yitzchak to the Divine laughter awaiting each of us in the end of days. Here (Gen 26:8), 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. But 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 (parshat Vayera) in the text "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.

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" (gazing) immediately precedes revelation. Likewise, Avimelekh's gaze prefigures awareness of the ultimate redemption.

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.

© 1999-2010 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 ben Meir Yisrael Hakohen Melman, z"lI was raised in the musar tradition of silence and meditative thoughtfulness, as were my father and grandfather before me. I was born on the first day chol hamoed Sukkos, which is also the yahrzeit of both Rebbe Nachman and the Vilna Gaon.

http://seferchabibi.blogspot.com/2007/07/yahrzeit-of-my-father-27-tammuz.html

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9506EEDC1630F93BA35754C0A9649C8B63

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.

NEVER GIVE UP!

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Reb Shlomo with Reb Zusha ben Avraham Zimmerman

Reb Shlomo with Reb Zusha ben Avraham Zimmerman

moshav band live at mexicali blues

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What mind is it?

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


ON FIXING AND HEALING...

"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

Hatiqwa

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Beta Israel - Ethiopian Jews - The Ingathering from Without

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SELICHOT LIVE AT CARLEBACH SHUL 2008

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"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

the last hoshana rabba with reb shlomo and me playing together the week before he took off in '94

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bob marley - one love 6:13 (6 MINUTES 13 SECONDS) and exodus

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Larry David wants to Save the Planet

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Alpha blondy from cote d'ivoire sings his love of Jerusalem in Hebrew and French all over the world

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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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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!