30 December 2012

What Did Bennett Really Say?

It's beginning to look alot like ... Ch ...elm!

This is awful, and I thought Bennett was going to be the wedge to prod Netanyahu. What's going on here?

First the IDF Radio says:

Bayit Yehudi chairman Bennett: If ordered to, he would forcibly remove Jews, or Arabs, from their homes.

Now Arutz Sheva reports:

Sources close to Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett told Arutz Sheva that he was misquoted Sunday by IDF Radio. . . . . . the quote in IDF Radio, which included a reference to the possible eviction of Jewish communities, was false.

Speaking at a political event in Herzliya Sunday, Bennett explained that some orders are obviously illegal and every soldier must decide if he will carry them out. He added that he explained his views on the matter when he was asked how he would handle such orders in the Channel 2 television interview ten days ago.

27 December 2012

Rueben and Judah

With great pleasure, herewith is some brilliance elucidating our Parsha, Vayechi, and the completion of Sefer Bereshis. I have been deeply enjoying Rabbi Jacobson's shiurim, going way back to when he was just starting out in 770, giving classes the the women.

The Saint vs. the Leader: Boots on the Ground

Rueben and Judah: A Psychological Profile

Summary of essay: Each of us is called to lead, in one shape or another. We are leaders in our families, companies, and communities; some of are given an opportunity to influence scores of people. What is leadership? What does it mean to be a leader? What should leaders demand of themselves? A most fascinating journey through the lives of two individuals in Genesis, demonstrates how the few vignettes shared about them hold the key to a rich portrait of two people who, through their downfalls and triumphs, teach us about our duties as leaders in a challenging world.

In the Flames

One dark night outside a small town, a fire started inside the local chemical plant and in a blink it exploded into flames. The alarm went out to the fire departments from miles around. When the volunteer fire fighters appeared on the scene, the chemical company president rushed to the fire chief and said, "All of our secret formulas are in the vault in the center of the plant. They must be saved. I will give $50,000 to the fire department that brings them out intact."

But the roaring flames held the firefighters off. Soon more fire departments had to be called in as the situation became desperate. As the firemen arrived, the president shouted out that the offer was now $100,000 to the fire department who could bring out the company's secret files.

From the distance, a lone siren was heard as another fire truck came into sight. It was the nearby Jewish rural township volunteer fire company composed entirely of menchen over the age of 65. To everyone's amazement, the little run-down fire engine operated by this Jewish Fire Department passed all the newer sleek engines parked outside the plant...and drove straight into the middle of the inferno.

Outside the other firemen watched as the Jewish old timers jumped off and began to fight the fire with a performance and effort never seen before. Within a short time, the Jewish old timers had extinguished the fire and saved the secret formulas.

The grateful chemical company president joyfully announced that for such a superhuman feat he was upping the reward to $200,000, and walked over to personally thank each of the brave, though elderly, Jewish fire fighters.

The local TV news reporters rushed in after capturing the event on film asking, "What are you going to do with all that money?"

"Well," said Morris Goldberg, the 70-year-old fire chief, "The first thing we are going to do is fix the brakes on that lousy truck!"

The Final Conversation

This week's Torah portion (Vayechi) tells the story of Jacob's final conversation with his children. In astonishing candidness, moving prose and profound vision, Jacob speaks to each of his sons, heart-to-heart, just moments before he is about to pass on to the next world.

"Come and listen, sons of Jacob; listen to your father Israel," Jacob begins the fateful encounter (1). Then he addresses Reuben, his oldest son, with razor-sharp words:

"Reuben, you are my firstborn, my power and the beginning of my might, foremost in rank and foremost in power. Water-like impetuosity -- you will not be preeminent, for you went up onto your father's bed; onto my couch and defiled it."

Reuben the firstborn, the rabbis explain (2), should have been entitled to priesthood ("foremost in rank") and kingship ("foremost in power"). The Jewish priests and kings should have emerged from Reuben. But Reuben forfeited these privileges and they went instead to his brothers Levi and Judah, respectively (Aaron's family of priests came from Levi; the Davidic dynasty of kings came from Judah). Reuben remained the firstborn, "my firstborn," with many of the privileges conferred by Jewish law on a firstborn (3), but he lost the priesthood and kingship.

Reuben's Error

What was Jacob referring to when he spoke of Reuben ascending on his bed? The midrashic tradition (4) offers two interpretations.

This first takes us back to a disturbing scene that transpired after Rachel's death, some 47 years earlier (5).

"So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath, that is, Bethlehem. Over her tomb Jacob set up a pillar, and to this day that pillar marks Rachel's tomb. Israel moved on again and pitched his tent beyond Migdal Eder.

"While Israel was living in that region, Reuben went and lay with his father's concubine Bilhah, and Israel heard of it (6)."

Rashi (7), following Talmudic tradition (8), illuminates the backdrop behind this incident. When Rachel died, Jacob, who usually resided in her tent, moved his bed to the tent of Bilhah, her handmaid. For Reuben, Leah's oldest son, this was an unbearable provocation and a slap in his sensitive mother's face. It was bad enough that Jacob preferred Rachel to her sister Leah, but intolerable that he should prefer a handmaid to his mother. He therefore removed Jacob's bed from Bilhah's tent to Leah's.

Almost a jubilee later, in his final moments, Jacob reminds Reuben of this episode and attributes his firstborn's loss of potential greatness to it. "Water-like impetuosity," Jacob declares, "you will not be preeminent, for you went up onto your father's bed; onto my couch and defiled it."

Reuben's Mandrakes

The midrash presents yet another meaning to Jacob's words, "For you went up onto your father's bed; onto my couch and defiled it." It takes us a back to another dramatic incident that occurred around 10 years before the one just discussed.

"During wheat harvest," the Bible relates (9), "Reuben went out into the fields and found some mandrake plants, which he brought to his mother Leah (the commentators explain (10) that mandrakes were considered both an aphrodisiac and fertility drug). Rachel said to Leah, 'Please give me some of your son's mandrakes.' But she said to her, 'wasn't it enough that you took away my husband? Will you take my son's mandrakes too?' Rachel said, 'Therefore, he shall lie with you tonight in return for your son's mandrakes.'" Indeed, Jacob spent the night with Leah instead of Rachel.

Reuben, in other words, was the indirect cause for a relocation of his father's bed for one night.

Sensitivity of a Child

What is fascinating about both of these tales is that they sketch a portrait of a remarkably sensitive and noble child. Reuben's heart goes out for his mother's plight. As the firstborn son of Leah, he seems to carry alone the burden of his mother's relative lack of appeal in Jacob's eyes. In fact, his very name, Reuben, meaning, "see, a son," was bestowed upon him by his mother, "because G-d has discerned my humiliation, for now my husband will love me (11)".

In the earlier episode, Reuben, as a young lad out in the field, is thinking of his mother's anguish and hoping that, with the aid of the mandrakes, Leah will be able to win Jacob's complete affection. In the latter episode following Rachel's death, Reuben can't bear the pain caused to his mother by Jacob's placing his bed in Bilaha's tent.

It is, indeed, true that in both of these instances, Reuben's hastiness and impetuosity had negative consequences. In the incident with the mandrakes, had he waited until Rachel left Leah's tent, his gift to Leah might have prevented the bitter row that erupted between the two sisters, the only feud between them recorded in the Bible, and would have not created confusion in Jacob's sleeping arrangements. In the second instance, too, had Reuben broached the issue directly with his father or with Bilhah, instead of taking the matter into his own hands and moving his father's bed, the issue may have been resolved in a more dignified manner.

Still, it is clear that the motivation -- in contrast to the end result -- of both of these actions was pure and reflected profound moral concern. Why did he deserve to forfeit the priesthood and royalty?

Judah the King

Our dilemma becomes more disturbing upon considering who, of the 11 other sons of Jacob, received the gift of royalty in lieu of Reuben. It was the fourth son, Judah.

Here are Jacob's final words to Judah (12):

"A lion cub is Judah; from the prey, my son, you elevated yourself. He [Judah] crouches, lies down like a lion, like an awesome lion, who will dare rouse him? The scepter shall not depart from Judah…Nations will submit to him until the final tranquility comes."

The message is clear. Just as the lion is the "king of the jungle (13)," Judah is destined to be the king of the civilized world. Indeed, Judah became the ancestor of Israel's greatest king, David. Since David, royalty among the Jewish people belonged to Judah's tribe (14). The messiah himself, we are told, will be a descendent of Judah (15). Even our very name, "Jews" or, in Hebrew Yehudim, or in Yiddish, Yidden, is derived from the name Judah, or Yehudah. It was Judah who conferred his identity on the people (16).

Why Judah? Jacob presents the reason in eight words: "From the prey, my son, you elevated yourself." Judah was potentially a man of prey, a lion, a devourer; yet he succeeded in elevating himself from this terrible characteristic. Judah transformed himself.

Why did Jacob view Judah as a potential man of prey? Rashi, quoting the midrashic tradition, focuses our attention to two rather unforgettable incidents about Judah that transpired nearly four decades earlier (17).

The Joseph Drama

The first, of course, is the moment when Joseph, on instruction of his father, pays a visit to his brothers, who are shepherding Jacob's flock in the city of Shechem (Nablus).

The brothers, who despised Joseph deeply, see him approaching from afar. They realize that with no one to see them, they can kill Joseph and concoct a tale that will be impossible to refute. Only Reuben protests. The biblical text states (18): "Reuben heard and saved him [Joseph] from their hands. He said, 'Let's not take his life'. Reuben said to them: 'Don't shed any blood. Throw him into this cistern here in the desert, but don't lay a hand on him' -- intending to rescue Joseph from his brothers and bring him back to his father."

It is interesting to note that the Torah rarely described people's inner drives. In this instance, however, the Torah makes an exception, revealing to us Reuben's true motivations: He wished to save Joseph.

As the story continues, the brothers agree to Reuben's suggestion. They throw Joseph into an empty well and they sit down to eat a meal. In the midst of the meal they see an Arab caravan traveling to Egypt. Here, for the first time, we encounter Judah's voice (19):

"Judah said to his brothers, 'What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover his blood? Let's sell him to the Arabs and not harm him with our own hands. After all -- he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.'" The brothers consent. Joseph is sold and brought to Egypt as a slave, where, 13 years later, he will rise to become the viceroy of Egypt.

Reuben's Fasting

Reuben was not present during the sale. "When Reuben returned to the cistern," the Torah relates (20), "and saw that Joseph was not there, he tore his clothes. He went back to his brothers and said, 'The boy is gone! And I, where can I go?'" The brothers dipped Joseph's tunic in blood, and presented the tunic to Jacob, who exclaimed: "My son's tunic! A savage beast devoured him! Joseph has surely been torn to bits!"

Where was Reuben during the sale of Joseph? The text is obscure, but it does offer a glimpse: The brothers sold Joseph while in the midst of a meal. The Torah, perhaps, shared with us this irrelevant detail in order to hint to us the reason for Reuben's absence. Reuben left the scene because he could not eat with his brothers. Why?

Rashi, again quoting the midrashic tradition, says (21) that Reuben had been dressing himself in sackcloth and fasting ever since he rearranged his father's beds after Rachel's death. Although the incident with the bed occurred nine years earlier, Reuben was still seeking ways to repent. Therefore, he did not join his brothers in their meal and was not present during Joseph's sale.

A Tale of Two Personas

Now, we come to understand Jacob's final words to Judah: "From the prey, my son, you elevated yourself." Rashi explains, that when Jacob stated, upon discovering Joseph's blood-drenched tunic decades earlier, "A savage beast devoured him [Joseph]," Jacob was hinting to Judah that on his deathbed he would compare him to a lion." Jacob suspected that Joseph fell prey to Judah's hands. When Jacob learned the truth, that instead of letting Joseph die in the well Judah actually persuaded his brothers to sell him into slavery, Jacob, in appreciation, conferred upon Judah the crown of royalty, assuming the position taken from Reuben.

This is a deeply disturbing comment. Reuben is the only older brother of Joseph who attempts to save him and return him to his father. The Torah, as mentioned above, is unusually clear about Reuben's virtuous intentions. "His plan," states the Torah, "was to rescue Joseph from his brothers and bring him back to his father." Judah, in stark contrast, merely substitutes Joseph's death from starvation with a life sentence of slavery. Judah does not even consider liberating Joseph!

The powerful moral contrast between Reuben and Judah is even more striking when we reflect on the wording employed by Judah to persuade his brothers to sell Joseph. "Judah said to his brothers, 'What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover his blood? Let's sell him to the Arabs and not harm him with our own hands. After all -- he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.'"

This, let's face it, is a speech of monstrous callousness. There is no word about the evil of murder, merely pragmatic calculation ("what will we gain"). At the very moment he calls Joseph "our own flesh and blood" he is proposing selling him as a slave!

The moral paradox embodied by Jacob in his final moments, as he moves the gift of kingship from Reuben to Judah, is nothing less than astonishing. In the very episode for which Judah is rewarded the gift of royalty (because he "elevated himself from prey"), Reuben stands head and shoulders above Judah in his nobility, compassion and sensitivity. Yet it is Reuben who loses the crown to Judah!

The Tamar Drama

As we recall, in addition to the Joseph drama, the midrash and Rashi (17) present a second meaning in Jacob's final words to Judah, "From the prey, my son, you elevated yourself." According to this interpretation, Jacob was alluding to the event that took place between Judah and his daughter-in-law, Tamar.

Tamar, we recall (22), had married Judah's two elder sons, both of whom had died, leaving her a childless widow. Judah, fearing that his third son would share their fate, withheld him from her, thus leaving her unable to remarry and have children, since the levirate laws of marriage at the time held that when a husband died and left a childless widow, she was bound in marriage to either her brother-in-law or her father-in-law (23).

Once she understands her situation, Tamar disguises herself as a prostitute. Judah encounters her and they are intimate with each other. She becomes pregnant. Judah, unaware of the disguise, concludes that she must have had a forbidden relationship and orders her to be put to death by burning. At this point, Tamar, who, while disguised, had taken Judah's seal, cord and staff as a pledge, sends them to Judah with a message: "The father of my child is the man to whom these belong." Judah now understands the whole story. Not only has he placed Tamar in an impossible situation of living widowhood, and not only is he the father of her child, but he also realizes that she has behaved with extraordinary discretion in revealing the truth without shaming him. (It is from this act of Tamar's that we derive the rule (24) that "one should rather throw oneself into a fiery furnace than shame someone else in public.")

Judah admits he was wrong. "She is right!" he exclaims. "It is from me [that she has become pregnant]." Tamar's life, of course, is spared. She soon gives birth to twins, Peretz and Zerach, the former becoming the ancestor of King David.

This, then, explains the meaning behind Jacob's words, "From the prey, my son, you elevated yourself." Judah was a "man of prey" who sentenced Tamar to death. Yet at the last moment he confessed his guilt and rescued Tamar and her fetuses from death. Because of this he was conferred with the power of kingship.

One Moment Vs. Nine Years

This interpretation, too, is disturbing. Both Reuben and Judah commit serious wrongdoings. Reuben intervenes in his father's intimacy; Judah sentences an innocent pregnant woman to death. Both confess their guilt and take full responsibility for their wrong actions. But in this instance again, it is Reuben who surpasses Judah on two counts.

Firstly, Judah almost caused three innocent lives to die, while Reuben merely relocated intimate furniture. Secondly, Judah admitted his guilt and that was it. Reuben, on the other hand, for at least nine years after his sin, was fasting every day in repentance!

We encounter here what appears as cruel cynicism at its finest. The act for which Judah receives the endowment of royalty -- his readiness to confront his wrongdoing and acknowledge his guilt -- is performed by his brother Reuben with far more depth and diligence. Yet it is Reuben who loses his potential greatness to Judah.

Furthermore, if Reuben has been fasting and repenting all this time for his mistake in tampering with his father's bed, why did this not suffice in having the royalty restored to his bosom?

Jacob’s Response

There is one more vignette in Genesis which only intensifies the above riddle. Genesis chapters 42-43 finds Joseph, now the Prime Minister of Egypt, treating his brothers (who have come to buy grain in Egypt) very harshly. He accuses them of espionage, imprisons one of his brothers (the Rabbis identify him as Shimon), and stipulates his release with the other nine brothers bringing his youngest brother Benjamin down to Egypt. When Jacob hears of this condition, he is terribly distressed. He has lost two sons, Joseph and Shimon, and now he might lose Benjamin. Jacob refuses to let them take Benjamin, the last surviving child of his beloved wife Rachel.

It is here where Reuben steps in. “And Reuben spoke to his father, saying, ‘You may put my two sons to death if I don't bring him (Benjamin) to you. Put him into my hand[s] and I will return him to you."

But Jacob refuses. "My son shall not go down with you, because his brother is dead, and he alone is left, and if misfortune befalls him on the way you are going, you will bring down my gray head in sorrow to the grave."

Yet the famine lingered and the starvation persisted. It is Judah who steps up to the plate. He tells his father these words: "Send the lad with me, and we will get up and go, and we will live and not die, both we and you and also our young children. I will guarantee him; from my hand you can demand him. If I do not bring him to you and stand him up before you, I will have sinned against you forever.”

Jacob relents. He sends Benjamin with the brothers. It is during this visit that Joseph reveals his identity to his brothers, and the first Jewish family is reunited. Jacob relocates to Egypt and meets his son Joseph after a 22 year separation.

Here we wonder yet once again, why did Jacob refuse Reuben’s promise and embrace Judah’s pledge? The both promised to return Benjamin to Jacob. Reuben, we have discovered, seemed to be far more virtuous than Judah. Yet Jacob would respond only to Judah. The unfairness seems to repeat itself. The sincere Reuben who is ready to sacrifice both of his children is repelled.

Reuben's Profile

Yet upon deeper reflection, it is precisely in this entire complex tale that we may encounter Judaism's perspective on the function and meaning of the crown of royalty and the art of leadership.

Reuben, throughout Genesis, displays moral dignity, sensitivity and gracefulness that surpass Judah. Reuben, obviously, is a person who works on himself. He challenges his instincts, habits and emotions. He seems to possess a frail ego. We do not notice a tinge of pompousness or arrogance in this human being. He is always thinking about somebody else. When he is in the field, his thoughts are with his mother and her plight. When Rachel dies, his thoughts, again, are with his mother. When Joseph is kidnapped, his heart is with his younger brother and father. Finally, for nine years he fasts and dons sackcloth in order to cleanse his ego, his sins, his faults.

Yet, Reuben's greatness is also his flaw.

If we examine every single episode recorded about Reuben we discover an astonishing commonality: In each of them, his noble intentions come across in delightful splendor; his sensitivity to injustice is nothing short of remarkable; his willingness to work on himself and his faults is legendary. Yet in all of them, the other person -- the outsider, the victim -- never ends up actually benefitting from Reuben's kind intentions.

Leah, instead of enjoying her mandrakes, ends up in a bitter row with her sister. In the story with Jacob's bed, instead of creating a more affectionate ambiance between Jacob and Leah, Reuben ends up offending his father deeply and not helping his mother's situation in the slightest. In the Joseph story, Reuben's actions have Joseph placed in an empty well, where he can easily die from starvation or venomous serpents.

The astonishing pattern continues: Reuben's fasting and repenting for nine years is what actually causes him to be absent while his brother's sell Joseph into Egyptian slavery. While Joseph lay helpless in a well, Reuben went off to pray, meditate and repent. Had he remained, he might have actually rescued Joseph before he was sold.

In promising to return Benjamin to Jacob, Reuben talks first about how forfeiting on his pledge will affect him and only afterward about the necessary action itself. “And Reuben spoke to his father, saying, ‘You may put my two sons to death if I don't bring him (Benjamin) to you. Put him into my hand[s] and I will return him to you." What is more, Reuben gives a condition that is purely fanciful. What would Jacob gain by killing Reuben’s two sons if Benjamin were not to return? After all, they are his own grandchildren!

The Contrast

At last, a pattern emerges. Reuben is consumed with his personal daily battle for transcendence. Reuben is a great man, but he is not a leader. He is a spiritual giant, but he is not a Rebbe, a king, a shepherd to his people. Reuben ought to remain the firstborn son, with all the great status involved, since he might be morally superior to his brothers. But he has not proven worthy of becoming a genuine leader.

Now, let us draw the contrast to Judah's profile.

In both episodes -- the sale of Joseph and the relationship with Tamar -- Judah does not display the dignity or sincerity of his brother Reuben. Judah's actions leave him wanting, but they produce concrete and tangible benefits to the victims in need of help. As a result of Judah's words to his brothers, Joseph is not allowed to die in the well and is left to live as a slave. As a consequence of Judah's confession, Tamar and her fetuses are saved from death. Judah does not reside in the richness of his own inner space; he is present in the flames of the outsider. Reuben's intentions were greater; but Judah made a real impact on people's lives.

Finally, let us note the words Judah employs to persuade his father Jacob that he can send Benjamin with him. “I will guarantee him; from my hand you can demand him. If I do not bring him to you and stand him up before you, I will have sinned against you forever.” Unlike Reuben, he begins by articulating definitely the necessary action, and does it in unwavering terms. “I will guarantee him.” Unlike Reuben, he does not make a completely impractical condition that Jacob may kill his sons; rather he states, “I will have sinned against you forever.” These are words of a leader.

Of course, Judah must learn from his errors and grow to become a deeper and finer human being, which he does. Years later, when Joseph's younger brother Benjamin is about to be taken as a slave, Judah offers himself instead. “And now if I come to your servant, my father, and the lad [Benjamin] is not with us, and his soul is so bound up with his soul, when he will see that the lad is gone, he will die. And your servants will have brought down the hoariness of your servant our father in sorrow to the grave. Because your servant [Judah] took responsibility for the lad [Benjamin] from my father, saying, ‘If I do not bring him to you, then I will have sinned to my father, for all time.’ Now, please let your servant [Judah] remain in place of the lad as a servant to my lord, and let the lad go up with his brothers…”

Twenty-two years earlier, the same Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain if we kill our brother [Joseph] and cover his blood? Let's sell him to the Arabs and not harm him with our own hands.” Now, when Joseph's younger brother Benjamin is about to be taken as a slave, Judah offers himself instead. A metamorphosis has occurred. Judah is a changed man.

Reuben too, learns from his errors, fixes them and discovers deeper and greater horizons of truth. But at the end of the equation, Reuben is a great, moral spirit; Judah is a king. The difference? Reuben sees his spiritual work as the epicenter of his universe; Judah knows that the bottom line of life is not who you are, but how your decisions and behavior affect the fate of other people. For Reuben, even at his highest moments, the zenith of life consists of man's confrontation with his own tension and darkness. Judah, in contrast, even at his lowest moments, knows that life in its ultimate expression is about touching and embracing the pulse of the other.

And that is what it means to be leader.

(This essay is based on an address by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, delivered on Shabbas Vayechi 5730, Dec. 27, 1969 (25)).

1) Genesis chapter 49.
2) Rashi to Genesis 49:3-4.
3) Midrash Tanchumah (Buber edition) Vayeizei 13; Agadas Berieshis section 48. Cf. Rashi to Genesis 35:23; 29:32. This does not contradict Chronicles 1 5:1, see Rashi ibid. and Likkutei Sichos vol. 15 p. 444 and references noted there.
Other sources are of the opinion that Reuben also forfeited his firstborn status, see Midrash Rabah Berieshis 98:4; 99:6; Tanchumah Vayechi 9; Targum Einkelus, Targum Yonason and Targum Yonoson Ben Uzeiel to Genesis 49:3-4; Agads Bereishis section 82.
4) Midrash Rabah Bereishis 98:4.
5) Rachel died when Jacob was approximately 100 years old (see Seder Hadoros year 2008 for the exact calculations). At this point, Jacob was 147 years of age.
6) Genesis 35:19-22.
7) Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, or Rashi, was the outstanding Biblical commentator of the Middle Ages. He was born in Troyes, France, and lived from 1040 to 1105, surviving the massacres of the First Crusade through Europe. His impact on Jewish scholarship and learning remains singularly unique.
11th century French Jewish sage, is considered the greatest biblical commentator.
8) Talmud Shabbas 55b.
9) Genesis 30: 14-16.
10) See The Living Torah (by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan) in footnote to Genesis 30:14 for a detailed commentary and references on the subject.
11) Genesis 29:32.
12) Genesis 49: 9-10.
13) Talmud Chagigah 13b.
14) See Rambam Hilchos Talmud Torah 3:1; Hilchos Melcahim 1:7-8. Cf. Ramban's fascinating commentary to Genesis ibid.
15) Rambam Hilchos Melachim 11:4.
16) See Midrash Rabah Bereishis 98:6.
17) Rashi to Genesis ibid. from Midrash Rabah Bereishis 98:7.
18) Genesis 37:21-22.
19) Ibid. 26:27.
20) Ibid. 29-33.
21) Ibid. 29, from Midrash Rabah ibid. 84:19.
22) Genesis chapter 38.
23) See Ramban to Genesis ibid. 38:8.
24) Talmud Soteh 10b; quoted in Rashi to Genesis 38: 25.
25) Published in Sichos Kodesh 5730 vol. 1 pp. 322-332; Likkutei Sichos vol. 15 pp. 439-446. A number of the ideas and rendition of biblical narratives presented in this essay were culled from Covenant and Conversation, Vayigash 5763 and Vayeishev 5764 (

25 December 2012

Along Came the Satan ...

This was an amazing CNN video I came across, that I am sharing with you. The underlying message was truly one of purity, simplicity, innocence, caring, loving, and grace:

 This is how we like to think about children. But this has again brought to mind a possible connection between Sandy and Sandy Hook. The gematria of Sandy is the same for the Satan (Beware of Sandy), which is the Malach HaMavis (DoubleTake). However there were hardly any lives lost from Sandy, only devastation to the way of life in communities where many Jews lived in the NY metropolitan area.

 What also comes to mind is that the devastation (Sandy) was a warning, a warning to take a Cheshbon HaNefesh (an accounting of one's life). Shortly thereafter another devastation occurred, involving children (Sandy Hook). The above video protrays children brought up in a good environment, in a caring community, with caring warm teachers, parents and officials; creating children that could be as caring and loving as Grace.

In another time zone, we have read about children being abused in their very tender years, harboring emotional devastation for many years, very often not discussing this with anyone. However, in the last few years there has been a slow painful breaking down of the walls of silence and terrible experiences are being made public.

Years of evil growing behind sealed lips and secrecy, a devastation that eats away at the way of life in communities, families, relationships, religion, and neshomas once loving and full of hope.

Yes a Cheshbon HaNefesh needs to be done, now that Sandy brought devastation to many a doorstep. Our children need protection. How odd to write this. The one time of life that should be the happiest while developing and learning pure values to carry one into adulthood, turns into emotional devastation and destruction of pure neshomas.

What will the future be if this continues. Remember that "our children" are our guarantors for the acceptance of the Torah at Har Sinai.

  "The Midrash relates that before G-d gave the Torah to the Jewish people, he requested guarantors who would ensure that the people would indeed study Torah and fulfill the mitzvot.   

Why did G-d demand guarantors before giving the Torah? Weren’t the Jewish people the Chosen Nation? 

Yet G-d knew that a time would come when the people would become preoccupied with work, with worldly cares and burdens.  For various reasons the Jewish people would eventually lose their sense of the importance of Torah and the preciousness of mitzvot. In that state, G-d forbid, it is possible that the Torah would be abandoned.   

Therefore G-d asked the people for guarantors. He wanted to be assured that His precious gift, the Torah, would be treated with the respect and dignity it deserved, and would never be forsaken." (Our Children, Our Guarantors)

And now along came the Satan.  Additional reading: Translation of a Letter

 Please Please Read Project Yes

Erev Rav and Erev Zeir Definitions

To help us understand and to shed some light on current events:

The following is a summary of the defining factors of the Erev Rav and Erev Zeir

Erev Rav of the Left

Religion - Mainly based on belief, if not outright secular. Should not require any action on behalf of the believer.

Morals - Morals shall be deduced by human reason alone. "I don't need G-d to tell me how to be a good person".

Science - Achievements in science are valued, as it brings understanding, does not necessitate the obligation to any sort of belief.

Politics - Separate Religion and State

Geulah - "We can make our utopia here and now", there is no "process" of Geulah. They desire to do all the work.

Erev Rav of the Right, the Erev Zeir

Religion - Mainly based on action, deeper/outside understanding of Kabbalah/Science is not stressed.

Science - Any seeming challenges coming from science are attacked, science is deemed unnecessary/heretical.

Politics - Separate Religion and State (by this I mean that there is no desire to eventually come to a "Torah" mode of governing, any religious influence is at most on the "dalet amot" scale)

Geulah - "We cannot make our utopia here and now, only Moshiach can, we must wait." There is no "process" of Geulah. They pray for Moshiach to do all the work.
PM Netanyahu is being squeezed into having to make a historical (*Geula) decision, and he will be given a choice with the next election. Hopefully this choice will make the Israeli Government stronger, to be able to match wits with the changing US Administration choices for Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense. For this, he needs support from strong leaders surrounding him in a strong government.


Voters are punishing Prime Minister Netanyahu for attacking rival who said that if he were in the army, he'd refuse an order to evacuate settlers. [Haaretz poll: Likud-Beiteinu weakening as Bennett's rightist party rises]

“Naftali Bennett, chairman of the right-wing Habayit Hayehudi, was heard muttering during a panel discussion Sunday: "We'll even get more seats out of this story."

"'This story,' for anyone who has been unconscious for the past four days, is Bennett's now-famous slip of the tongue in a TV interview, supposedly approving refusal by Israel Defense Forces soldiers of an order to evacuate Jewish settlers, if and when such an order is given. Bennett did not call for refusal of orders or preach it, but the personal example given by a man who in two months might be a member of the government's security cabinet stirred up a hornet's nest that is only now calming down."

Arutz Sheva

MK Tzipi Hotovely wants a large Likud but believes Bayit Yehudi will also be in the government.

"In an interview with Arutz Sheva, Hotovely stressed that Likud is the party with the most experience and the most "ideological steadfastness" but added that "any person who sees the Jewish people's natural right to its land as sacrosanct" is a natural ally in the next coalition..."

Arutz Sheva on Haaretz Poll

Israelis Trust Bibi on Security but Don’t Believe Him: Israelis would prefer not to buy a used car from any political leader but trust Netanyahu on security – even if they don’t believe him.

"A plurality of Israelis don’t believe Israel’s political leaders and would not even buy a used car from them, but they trust Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu more than anyone else on security, according to a new poll … When asked which politician can be believed, a plurality of 22 percent answered 'none.' Among those who named someone, Prime Minister Netanyahu was at the 'top,' with 18 percent believing him, followed be Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett, with 14 percent. Tzipi Livni earned only 10 percent of 'believers,' followed by Shas’ state politician Aryeh Deri and Yechimovich, each with 9 percent. Lapid’s support in the “believer" category was a paltry 7 percent, followed by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, with 5 percent."

*Further interesting reading:

The Fall of the Dynasty of Shaul and

6 Million for Makhzit HaShekel Part 2

24 December 2012

Kamtza bar Kamtza ... again ?

And We Wonder Why Am Yisrael 
is in Golus so long?

You can hear them yelling that the Yeshivaleit "don't believe in G-D" chv"s
(they look like the Naturei Karta in Manhattan)

20 December 2012

EXPOSÉ: No-go Areas for Jews in Europe


B"H Thank the Al-mighty that my Husband and I were enabled to pack our things, after trimming them down to bare bones, and move to Yerushalayim. As Dov Bar Lieb wrote, "G-d Never Meant Geulah to Include a Magic Carpet Ride".


18 December 2012

Another Day at The Office .... G-d Help Us!

Is Homeland Security Trying to Say This is The "New Norm?
Shooting sprees happening almost every week???

A Texas government program prepares citizens for what has become a new and sick American custom of mass killings: 

Run. Fight and Hide.

The “Ready Houston” website offers a free 15-minute DVD for families to prepare themselves for a mass murderer and teaches how to respond. The site states, “The Houston Region is the kind of place where big ideas typically become larger-than-life realities. Throw any challenge our way and we meet it head on. But are we really ready for anything?”

"Shooting sprees have been an increasing plague in the United States, occurring almost every week."  And one law enforcement official speaks out, St Louis County Police Chief:
"Time to talk about arming civilian school personnel"  
"Pilots have been armed now for many many years...."

Could it be that when a people take G-d out of their lives, their schools, their homes, their cultural events, their minds and hearts ... evil steps in?

Read G-d Help Us by Ben Stein ...

“There is evil in the world. It’s beyond mental illness, beyond gun control. It is evil.” (John R. Coyne, Jr.)

17 December 2012

More Handwriting on the Wall ... But We Have a Mighty Warrior on our Side

Message to A Hypocritical World
by Shoula Romano

“Israel will be left tiny and defenseless if it continues to try to appease international community ... Not one righteous nation was found in Western Europe, Asia, Africa, or South America to sympathize with Israel....” Author: Shoula Romano Horing is an attorney.

Darkening Clouds Over Europe
by Riccardo Dugulin

A Must Read in its entirety, excerpts follow:

“In the early days of the 20th century, Theodor Herzl warned European Jews of an impending catastrophe which would strike at the heart of the continent. A catastrophe like nothing seen before based on an ensemble of factors ranging from racially motivated nationalism, economic interests and a deep crisis at the heart of the European cultural system.”

“This is not to say that Europe is actually bracing itself for events similar to the ones that happened in the 1930s and 1940s, but there is nevertheless the presence of an indubitable fertile ground to irrational and possibly dangerous thinking which in the long term may lead to incontrollable events.”

“The combination of anti-Israeli governmental policies and a growing indifference toward anti-Semitic incidents in European societies should be a cause of great concern to all good willed citizens - regardless of their faith or political affiliation - for two reasons. As was the case in the past, when tacitly accepting the irrationality of the anti-Semitic discourse, Europeans surrender themselves to the darkest aspects of the continents socio-political thinking.”

An excellent article with an excellent perspective:

Author: Riccardo Dugulin holds a master's degree from the Paris School of International Affairs (Sciences Po) and is specialized in International Security. He is currently working in Paris for a Medical and Security Assistance company. He has worked for a number of leading think tanks in Washington DC, Dubai and Beirut.


While we believing Jews see the storm clouds gathering and listen to the hypocritical rhetoric we know we have a mighty warrior on our side, G-d is maneuvering the Geula chess pieces to produce an awakening like never before. The Jewish Neshoma needs to strengthen in Emuna (faith & belief) and Bitachon (trust & perseverence) because our Father in Shomayim is moving within 'nature' and 'history' to bring about His vision of the creation of His world.

Some who fight against those who brought about the re-entrance of Eretz Yisrael to the world in our days, are blinded by the light of the golus, and they fight its development and their participation; they fail to see the Hand of Hashem in all the miracles that have taken place since. They are lost in a maze. 

Ani Yosef is recommended reading and video viewing, because it clarifies the distinction between the vision of the brothers and Yosef's destiny. A very interesting and fine perspective captured by Rabbi Pinchas Winston. [Thank you Shirat Devorah]

Mission Blue

A Beautiful Video of Hashem's Underwater World

Making David and Goliath from Octavio Aburto on Vimeo.

Behind the Photo David and Goliath

"The recently published photograph by Octavio Aburto, titled “David and Goliath” has been widely shared over the last few weeks. Mission Blue recently caught up with the photographer to get an inside look at the photo that visually showcases the sheer size of fish aggregations in perspective with a human and captures a once and future ocean: abundant with life. "

Visit Mission Blue to read an interview with the science photographer.

16 December 2012

"Handwriting on the Wall" in the News

Dramatic Rise in AntiSemitism
Simon Wiesenthal Center Special Report

Denmark is dangerous for Jews:
"It's like Gaza" here".

Hungary is dangerous for Jews:
Burning Israeli Flag

Sweden is dangerous for Jews.
Stoning of Jewish Boy “Heil Hitler” and European Press.

France is dangerous for Jews.
  Villeurbanne: "Hotspot for Anti-Jewish" aggression.

Jordan is dangerous for Jews:
Jordan Defines Dress Code for Israelis

Meanwhile, closer to home, signs of ‘unity’ appearing:

Signs of Unity coming from Hebron. Our friendly neighbors, desirous of creating a state contiguous with Israel, bordering most of Israel, only a few kilometers’ distance “as the crow (rockets) flies” and promising to pursue a Third Intifada, they call themselves “the National Unity Brigades”:

 "We announce that our brigades include supporters of al-Yasin (Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmad Yasin), al-Yasser (Fatah leader Yasser Arafat), al-Shiqaqi (Islamic Jihad leader Fathi al-Shiqaqi), and (PFLP leader) Abu Ali Mustafa," Link here to Video

Meanwhile in America, Jews continue to struggle to get back on their feet after being targeted by a Frankenstorm called Sandy. See communities torn to pieces and devastated Seagate and Long Beach Restoration.

Many people trying to stay alive; families trying to support each other. The storm cluster called SANDY is not to be the first or last such occurrence.

The Anti-Semites are pursuing Jews worldwide and the "forces of nature" are pursuing nations, and our hearts should be humbled and worrisome.

Rabbis and others ARE speaking out and Jews should take these words to heart.
Read Their Lips ,
Rabbi Nir ben Artzi,
Rav Moshe Shapiro,
Red Alert to Klal Yisroel in the name of HaRav Moshe Sternbuch Shlit"a, Interesting analysis of the UN Vote (and Moshiach)
The American Babylonia by Rabbi Wein

And as one blogger commented:

"When you consider that most of the Jews in the world, outside of Israel, are in America and Europe and the fact that Hashem is sending very definite messages to those Jews, (Sandy, Jew hatred, economic and political problems, etc), there is a natural emphasis on helping the Jews of that area. So far as why aren't the Jews all in Israel, there are two explanations. Most of the Jews are like the 80% of the Israelites in Egypt who did not want to follow Moses into the desert and perished in the plague of darkness. They believe that they are happier where they are even though they have no idea how far superior it is to be in Israel (this Geula will be different since they will all want to come later when things get so bad). The second reason is many want to come but don't have the resources to pick up and leave. Right now, Nefesh B'Nefesh has tens of thousands of Jews making application and they are greatly short of funds to help. If you have about 50 million extra dollars you don't need, give them a call. Let me also tell you a very interesting fact. This Geula, the ten lost tribes will be returning -- meaning that a very large population who say that they are non-Jews, like yourself, may find that your interest in all this is because you are of the lost nation of Israel and will be joining us here soon...."

12 December 2012

What's Today's Date?

12 / 12 / 12
Today's Date

The End of ... What?

When one picks up the morning newspaper, or their iPad, to see what's happening in the world (since the evening before), one is greeted by unimaginable craziness, sheer insanity in bold print.

The world as we know it may be ending, but not from any Mayan calculations. More accurately the end of the world you have known is from the mental and moral decline in 'thinking' human beings. 

How, you ask?

When you stop at the next red light, your road neighbor might just be a furry one! Or your new next-door neighbor is Ms Rhesus. Or your kid comes home with a new religion?

More?,  The New England Aquarium Rescue Program is now shipping cold turtles to Florida for a warm vacation (even though there are killer tornadoes roaming neighborhoods).

More, you say? One headline reads,

"Ikea monkey should have 'right to choose' where he lives, says owner. The owner of a monkey caught wandering outside an Ikea store in Toronto says the tiny primate should have the "right to choose" who he wants to live with..."

What is the name of this rhesus, none other than "Darwin". A new "fashionista"

So Darwinism has finally eclipsed/morphed into monkeys moving into the apartment next door, and perhaps becoming your neighbor. A "rhesus macaque," that is, or maybe a Zombie. What else?

Darwin's 'mother' says, "He needs his mother like a child needs his mother," she was quoted by the National Post as saying, adding to the Globe and Mail: "How do we know what he needs unless he's given the right to choose? I think he should be given the right to choose. If he chooses something else than me, that's fine. For me, it has never been about me, it has always been about him."

"He was captured by animal control officers and moved to a primate sanctuary, but today his ('mother') said Darwin should have the right to choose, and revealed she is considering taking legal action."

Speaking of animal rights,

Auckland, New Zealand, can teach us a thing or two, or:

“Our dogs may be a motley bunch, but they’re all smart and they’re all lovable,” ... The Driving Dogs program was organized by SPCA of Auckland to show that dogs that have been abandoned and abused are smart, trainable and worthy of adoption. Porter is considered “the world’s first driving dog,” See amazing photos here.

Here's one citizen's reaction to the headlines about the Mayan end of the world craziness (prepare to laugh your wig off):

If you don't believe the world as you knew it is coming to an end, you may want to reconsider after watching these Canadian interview here and here.

07 December 2012

An Elephant Never Forgets ...

31 Marching Memories Pay Tribute



Lawrence Anthony, a legend in South Africa and author of 3 books including the bestseller The Elephant Whisperer, bravely rescued wildlife and rehabilitated elephants all over the globe from human atrocities, including the courageous rescue of Baghdad Zoo animals during US invasion in 2003.


On March 7, 2012 Lawrence Anthony died.

He is remembered and missed by his wife, 2 sons, 2 grandsons and numerous elephants. Two days after his passing, the wild elephants showed up at his home led by two large matriarchs.

Separate wild herds arrived in droves to say goodbye to their beloved man-friend. A total of 31 elephants had patiently walked over 12 miles to get to his South African House.

Witnessing this spectacle, humans were obviously in awe not only because of the supreme intelligence and precise timing that these elephants sensed about Lawrence ‘s passing, but also because of the profound memory and emotion the beloved animals evoked in such an organized way: Walking slowly - for days - Making their way in a solemn one-by-one queue from their habitat to his house.

Lawrence’s wife, Francoise, was especially touched, knowing that the elephants had not been to his house prior to that day for well over 3 years!
But yet they knew where they were going.

The elephants obviously wanted to pay their deep respects, honoring their friend who’d saved their lives - so much respect that they stayed for 2 days 2 nights without eating anything…

Then one morning, they left, making their long journey back home…………

04 December 2012


In Celebration of Yud Tes Kislev
Gut Yom Tov to Chabad that cares for every single Jewish Neshoma and brings everyone closer to the Abishter!

L'Shono Tova Tichoseivu V'Seichoseimu

GUT YOM TOV! GUT YOM TOV! wishes all readers and all Anash the world over a Gut Yom Tov, and may we go from the Geulah of Yud-Tes Kislev to the Geulah ha'amitis v'hashlaimo, NOW! All the above brochos are especially pertinent this year, in Shnas HaMosayim since the histalkus of the Alter Rebbe.


From the Alter Rebbe's letter: This indeed must be made known, that on the day G-d made for us, the 19th of Kislev, Tuesday (the day on which "it was good" was said twice in Torah) yahrzeit of our holy teacher whose soul is in Eden, while I was reading in the book of Tehillim the verse "He redeemed my soul in peace," before beginning the following verse, I emerged in peace by (the act of) the G-d of peace.

From Yale University: Legacy of Hassidism in Modern Times
A Live Lecture by Rabbi YY Jacobson at Yale on the 19th of Kislev. [Soon to be uploaded at] Photo from

Yud Tes Kislev Address at Jewish Women's Convention
The Chassidic Response to the Challenge of Modernity: The Judah-Tamar Drama The Joseph and-His-Brothers Drama.Presented at the 51st Neshei Chabad Convention of Southbury, CT ...  18 Kislev 5773 - December 1, 2012 [Photos courtesy CrownHtsinfo]

"The 300 Chabad women and girls who gathered at the 51st Nshei Ubnos Chabad Convention at the Heritage hotel in scenic Southbury were more than grateful for participating." "What's so amazing is that everyone here has a story," ... "Everyone here has something to share, and we are all inspired by each other." Shluchos listening to chassidus by Rabbi Y.Y. Jacobson

And one who came along with Mommy:

B"H Yud Tes Kislev comes to Boro Park. Photos courtesy of CrownHeights. This past Motzai Shabbos hundreds of men from all different Chassidusin gathered in the Ateres Golda ballroom in Boro Park for a Seudas Melava Malka and Farbrengen marking Yud Tes Kislev, which was organized by Chassidus Library and publisher Heichal Menachem.

From Arutz Sheva:
"Chabad-Lubavitch hassidim around the world began on Monday to celebrate Yud Tet Kislev, known by its acronymt "Yat Kislev" and called by some the “Rosh Hashanah of Hassidism.”

The holiday falls on the 19th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev, according to the Jewish calendar. It was on this date in 1798 that the founder of Chabad Hassidism, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (1745–1812), was freed from his imprisonment in czarist Russia.

More than a personal liberation, this was a watershed event in the history of Hassidism, heralding what Chabad terms a new era in the revelation of the “inner soul” of Torah.

The public dissemination of the teachings of Hassidism had in fact begun two generations earlier. The founder of the hassidic movement, Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (1698–1760), revealed to his disciples gleanings from the mystical soul of Torah which had previously been the sole province of select Kabbalists in each generation. This work was continued by the Baal Shem Tov’s disciple, Rabbi DovBer, the “Maggid of Mezeritch”.

The Baal Shem Tov spoke to the common man, whose life was hard and whose knowledge of Torah was limited, bringing joy and acceptance to those who could not spend their time studying in yeshivas. People generally see hassidism as characterized by this joy, singing and dancing, as well as special customs, but it is actually based on a deep, philosophic approach to Judaism which is studied in religious and academic milieus today.

Rabbi Schneur Zalman went farther than his predecessors, bringing these teachings to broader segments of the Jewish population of Eastern Europe. More significantly, Rabbi Schneur Zalman founded the “Chabad” approach—a philosophy and system of study, meditation, and character refinement that made these abstract concepts more easily and rationally comprehensible and practically applicable in daily life.

In the fall of 1798, Rabbi Schneur Zalman was arrested on charges that his teachings and activities threatened the imperial authority of the czar, and was imprisoned in an island fortress in the Neva River in Petersburg. In his interrogations, he was compelled to present to the czar’s ministers the basic tenets of Judaism and explain various points of hassidic philosophy and practice. After 53 days, he was exonerated of all charges and released.

Rabbi Schneur Zalman regarded his arrest as but the earthly echo of a heavenly indictment against his revelation of the most intimate secrets of the Torah. He saw his release as signifying his vindication in the heavenly court. Following his liberation on the 19th day of Kislev, he redoubled his efforts, disseminating his teachings on a far broader scale, and with more detailed and “down-to-earth” explanations, than before.

The nineteenth of Kislev therefore marks the “birth” of Hassidism: the point at which it was allowed to emerge from the womb of “mysticism” into the light of day, to grow and develop as an integral part of Torah and Jewish life."*

Mayim Achronim — Balak

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