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NOVEMBER 12-13, 2004 29 HESHVAN 5765

Rosh Hodesh Kislev will be celebrated on Sunday, November 14.

Pop Quiz: Where did Yitzhak settle when the famine began?


"Yitzhak entreated Hashem opposite his wife because she was barren." (Beresheet 25:21)

We as Jews have learned that prayer is our most powerful asset. As we see in the instance of Yitzhak and Ribkah, Hashem responded to the sincere prayers of Yitzhak, and Ribkah conceived both Ya'akob and Esav. We should never think that this only occurs in the days of old, or that Hashem only responded due to the greatness of Yitzhak. G-d Almighty listens today and to each and every one of us in all circumstances. A story is told in Torah Ladaat that once there was a person who was very wealthy, but he lost all of his money. He came to the great Gaon, the Rabbi of Sokolov. The poor man told the Rabbi, "I have no peace day or night. I can't even concentrate and pray in my hard times!" The Rabbi recounted to him a Gemara that says that the wicked king Nebuchadnetzar wanted to sing a song of praise to Hashem, but the angel Gabriel came and smacked him across the face! The Kotzker Rebbe asked: Could it be that in the heavens they didn't want to hear the prayers of Nebuchadnetzar? No, that could not be! The angel was sent to slap him to see how he will sing after getting a slap in the face!

The Rabbi looked at the once wealthy man and said to him, "In the heavens, they already heard your prayers when you had wealth and serenity. Now they want to hear your prayers in poverty. Why shouldn't you pray?"

Sometimes people feel that now is not the time to improve one's prayers, or attend classes or give charity. Let things calm down a bit and then, etc.

To that, the answer is: it is precisely now when Hashem wants to measure the performance of the person. Don't let the opportunity pass you by.

Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah "And Esav came from the field and he was tired." (Beresheet 25:29)

Rabbi Nissan Alpert z"l points out that this is the first time the Torah uses the word “ayef” (tired). When a word is introduced to us in the Torah in a certain context, we are supposed to learn from that usage and apply that same meaning all over.

Abraham was one of the busiest men we have ever seen. He traveled from place to place, building altars, serving guests, being tested and passing those tests successfully, and we never find that he was tired. He lived for 175 years and had a full and very involved life and yet the Torah never describes him as tired. We know from our own experiences of great people who are very busy, involved in a million things, and we never perceive them as tired. The lesson here is that someone who is involved with a spiritual dimension to his life has the energy for many more things than someone who is just existing a mundane life. Esav was busy doing sins on the day he sold his birthright and he was not rejuvenated by anything spiritual of any meaning. Therefore, he was "tired." If we fill our lives with meaning, if we have spiritual contact in the things we do, we will have the spice and sparkle which will keep us from getting stale. Only someone who lives a life of materialism, without letting Hashem into his world, will become "tired" easily. Let us be like Abraham and have the energy for much more in our lives. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"And Yitzhak was forty years old when he took Ribkah, the daughter of Betuel the Arami, from Padan Aram, the sister of Laban the Arami, for himself for a wife" (Beresheet 25:20)

Rashi raises the question that the information in this verse about Ribkah's background seems superfluous. The Torah has already stated that Ribkah was the daughter of Betuel, the sister of Laban, and was from Padan Aram. The answer, says Rashi, is that this is to let us know the praise of Ribkah.

She was the daughter of an evil person, the sister of an evil person, and lived in a community of evil people. Nevertheless, she did not learn from their evil behavior.

Many people try to excuse their faults by blaming others as the cause of their behavior. "It's not my fault I have this bad trait, I learned it from my father and mother." "I'm not to blame for this bad habit since all my brothers and sisters do it also." "Everyone in my neighborhood does this or does not do that, so how could I be any different?" They use this as a rationalization for failing to make an effort to improve.

We see from Ribkah that regardless of the faulty behavior of those in your surroundings, you have the ability to be more elevated. The righteous person might be considered a nonconformist and even rebellious by those in his environment whose standard of values are below his level. But a basic Torah principle is that we are responsible for our own actions. Pointing to others in your environment who are worse than you is not a valid justification for not behaving properly.

If you ever find yourself saying, "It's not my fault I did this. It's because of the way I was raised or because I learned it from so-and-so," change your focus to, "I'll make a special effort to improve in this area to overcome the tendency to follow in the footsteps of others."

Blaming others for your faults and saying that you cannot do anything to change them will be a guarantee that they will remain with you. Make a list of the negative traits you picked up from your early environment. Develop a plan of action to improve in those areas. (Growth through Torah)


"Yitzhak called Ya'akob and blessed him, and commanded him saying, 'You shall not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan." (Beresheet 28:1)

Any time we attempt to give advice to others, we obviously want to do it in the most effective way possible. If we do it in a way that makes the person ignore our suggestions, then we have failed in our attempt to help him. The Hafess Hayim learns from this pasuk that the best way to counsel others is to first show them that you are genuinely concerned for their welfare. When Yitzhak was going to tell Ya'akob not to take a wife from the daughters of Canaan, he first gave Ya'akob a berachah. Now that he demonstrated that he only had Ya'akob's best interests in mind, Ya'akob would more readily be receptive to the advice and follow it.

Question: When you give advice to others, do they get the impression that you are only looking out for their welfare? Does it ever happen that when you are making a suggestion to someone, you sense that he is not even listening to what you are saying?


Question: Why are the tefillin placed on the left arm?

Answer: The verse instructs us to place the tefillin on "your hand." From the unusual spelling of this word, the Gemara (Menahot 37a) learns that the tefillin should be placed on "the weaker hand."

This is why a lefty, whose right arm is weaker, places his tefillin on his right arm. (Sefer Ta'amei Haminhagim Umkorei Hadinim)


This Week's Haftarah: : Malachi 1:1 - 2:7.

In our perashah, Ya'akob manages to get the birthright from Esav, first by selling him the lentil soup and second by getting the blessing from Yitzhak In the regular haftarah for this week, the prophet Malachi recounts the story of Esav and Ya'akob, telling the people that Ya'akob was chosen because G-d saw the future of the Jewish people in him.

However, since tomorrow is Rosh Hodesh, we read a special haftarah known as "Mahar Hodesh - tomorrow is Rosh Hodesh." This is because the haftarah begins with a conversation between King David and Yehonatan, son of Shaul, which took place on the day before Rosh Hodesh.

Answer to Pop Quiz: In Gerar.

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.

Call to 646-279-8712 or email (Privacy of email limited by the email address)

Please pass this message along. Tizku L'misvot.

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