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.

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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!