OCTOBER 23-24, 2015 11 HESHVAN 5776
"Now the people of Sedom were wicked and sinful to Hashem, exceedingly." (Beresheet 13:13)
We tend to think of Sedom as a place that existed in ancient history. Let's hear a true story of recent times by Rabbi Dovid Kaplan.
How it happened is not certain, but the fact is that it happened and was reported by many of the news stations. An art connoisseur Elizabeth Wellington was visiting one of the fancier art museums in New York. At some point, she tripped or lost her balance
and fell heavily to the ground, howling in pain and writhing in agony. Her ankle was bent at a grotesque angle. The pain was excruciating. Unfortunately for her, as she lost her balance, she lunged forward and her finger caught the bottom of an $80,000,000 (!) Picasso, damaging the painting.
All the people in the immediate vicinity, without exception, gathered around the painting to assess the damage. "Do you think it's repairable?" asked one person in a panicky voice. "How could this have happened?" lamented another. All the while, Elizabeth called for help and moaned with pain. Yet the people totally ignored her. They lovingly carried the painting into a special emergency repair room in the museum, and Elizabeth was left alone on the floor.
The most grotesque angle in this story is the angle these people have on life and its value. Think about it. If the painting was only worth five thousand dollars, they'd have all rushed to help her. While halachah recognizes a factor called hefsed merubah (significant financial loss), it's never taken into consideration when human suffering is involved.
The conclusion of the story was that the museum spokesman announced a short time later that there was no permanent damage done to the painting. I think Elizabeth was lucky. I mean, if she would have caused serious damage they would probably have thrown her to the lions, or worse, to the humans! Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah
"And the fugitive came and told Abraham the Hebrew" (Beresheet 13:14)
When Abram's nephew, Lot, was captured by the four kings during their great battle with the five kings, the fugitive (Og Melech Habashan) came to tell Abram "the Hebrew" that his nephew was in danger. We know Abram went with his few men, destroyed the kings and brought back Lot. The Rabbis tell us that Abraham is called h¦r?c?g¨, Hebrew, because the word rcg means side, meaning, the whole world is on one side and Abraham is on the other side. Abraham was willing to go against idol worship and recognize Hashem against the flow of the entire world.
The question is, why is this description of Abraham said here by the battle of the kings, and not anywhere else that it talks about Abraham? The Skverer Rebbe z"l answers that this point about Abraham is why the fugitive (Og) came to tell him that his nephew was a captive. Og knew that no regular person would put himself in danger to save someone else, only someone like Abraham, who is willing to be different than the rest of the world. Only Abraham would be different enough to save his nephew from danger.
We are descendants of Abraham and we are called Hebrews because we also stay apart from the world. When everyone else has a lifestyle which is trendy and popular, we examine the Torah to see how to conduct our lives. We begin fasting on a fast day when we reach twelve or thirteen years old, even though some would say it's dangerous. We close our stores on Friday by sundown even though it's only 4:30 pm, and others call it foolhardy. We are confident of our way of life because we come from Abraham the Ibri. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"I will bless you and make your name great, and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who curses you, I will curse." (Beresheet 12:2)
Abraham HaIvri is the name given to our first Patriarch, the individual who, with his own cognitive ability, was able to understand what had eluded an entire world: there is a Creator; He is One; He is the G-d of Creation and of history. With simple - but penetrating - logic, Abraham reached out to a pagan society and imbued them with faith and conviction in the Almighty. Yet, he was all alone, literally b'ever ehad, on one side - the opposing side of everybody else. Hence, the name Abraham HaIvri. We, his descendants, are heirs to this proud appellation, Ivrim, all of us on the opposite side of world society.
The life of our Patriarch has been an inspiration to all throughout the generations. He stood up against an entire world, without fear and without shame, and declared his belief in Hashem. As unpopular as he must have been, he was still respected. Hashem conferred a remarkable blessing upon him, from which we, his descendants, should take a lesson: Va'abarechecha va'agadlah shemecha veheye berachah, "I will bless you, and make your name great, and you shall be a blessing." Va'abarecha mebarechecha u'mekaleelcha a'or, "I will bless those who bless you, and him who curses you I will curse."
What an inspiring blessing. The Gaon m'Vilna, points out a twofold difficulty. First, the syntax of the pasuk does not follow the Biblical pattern. One would expect akalel, "I will curse," to follow its matching vernacular, umekalelcha. Why is the word a'or used? Second, if those who cursed Abraham would, in turn, be cursed, how could all of the families of the earth be blessed?
The Gaon explains that a'or means to shed light! The brilliance of Abraham's life would illuminate the world with light. All will be beneficiaries of his self-generated sunshine - even those who curse him! Thus, in the end, all of the families of the world will be blessed by him. As his descendants, we must follow his prescription for living, so that we will bring luster to a world overshadowed with the darkness of immorality, hedonism, lack of integrity and modern-day paganism. The curses that plague society can be subverted with our blessings. How appropriate is the maxim: "Instead of cursing the darkness, we should light a candle." (Peninim on the Torah)
"And [Hagar] conceived; and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was lowered in her esteem." (Beresheet 16:4)
It happens all of the time: one strikes it rich and suddenly it is all about him; he is the worthy; he is righteous and worthy of blessing. Harav Gamliel Rabinowitz explains that such a person follows in the footsteps of Hagar. As soon as she conceived, she began to boast brazenly, "Since so many years have passed without my mistress having children, she obviously is not as righteous as she seems. I conceived immediately!" Herein is revealed the difference between Jew and gentile. When Hagar saw that Hashem had showered her with His benevolence, her attitude should have been one of humility, with a profound sense of gratitude, but, she reacted to the contrary.
Not so a Jew who is blessed by Hashem. He maintains a sense of humility and responsibility, wondering if he is deserving of Hashem's benevolence. Is he receiving his ultimate reward prematurely in this world? Has he forfeited his Olam Haba, portion in the World to Come?
We must realize that good fortune in this world often comes with strings attached. Likewise, when one's fortune is not as positive as he would like, he should realize that it is for a reason. One who strikes it rich or has incredible siyata diShmaya, Divine assistance, should act reserved, humble. and assume that Hashem has granted him a gift beyond his worthiness. Indeed, the more one receives - the more he should be humbled. Conceit is an attribute which Hagar exemplified. (Peninim on the Torah)
It is inspiring to watch the best in the field perform. It really doesn't matter whether it is a gymnast in an international competition, a scholar explaining a complex phenomenon, or an artist creating a thing of beauty. Observing the results of years of training and development of a talent which one received from Hashem is uplifting. Even the most blas? of observers might dream of being able to match the champion's performance. "I wish I could do that!" is a valid reaction.
Fortunately, in Heaven people are not judged in relation to the best on Earth. They are measured according to how well they developed their innate potential. Every human being is unique, and is blessed with abilities at birth that are the seeds of individual greatness. People are not expected to exceed their potential - they are expected, however, to develop it to the fullest.
Self-analysis is not limited to an accounting of what you have accomplished, but also should include what you have achieved as measured against your potential.
The first step on the ladder of success is to evaluate your potential. Then life's mission becomes to fulfill your ability quotient. Smart individuals avoid self-deception. Wise souls avoid comparison to others. Truly intelligent beings measure their performance against their own unique potential.
Shoot for success. Every night, spend a minute evaluating your day. Start with the question: "Did I do my best to become the best 'me' I am capable of being?" A daily dose of this personality medicine will yield spiritual health in the long term. (One Minute with Yourself - Rabbi Raymond Beyda)
A quick tip to boost the power of your prayer. Hazal tell us (Masechet Baba Kama Daf 92A) that Hashem loves the tefilot of one Jew for another so much that anyone who prays on behalf of a fellow Jew with similar needs will have his prayer answered first. A special service has now begun to provide people with names of others who find themselves in a similar predicament. You can call with complete anonymity and get the name of someone to pray for and give the name of someone that needs our prayers. The name of the service is Kol Hamitpalel. Categories include: Marriage; Income; Health; To have children etc.
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