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Haftarah: Shemuel I 20:18-42

NOVEMBER 25-26, 2011 29 HESHVAN 5772

Rosh Hodesh Kislev will be celebrated on Sunday, November 27.


"Hashem allowed himself to be entreated by him." (Beresheet 25:21)

Yitzhak and Ribkah were childless. They stormed the gates of heaven with their prayers. They succeeded and Ribkah conceived a child. Whose prayer was answered? It was Yitzhak's prayers. Rashi explains: "Because the prayer of a righteous man whose father is righteous is not like that of a righteous man whose father is a sinner." Yitzhak's father was Abraham Abinu and Ribkah's father was Betuel.

The Oznayim Latorah asks a great question. The Gemara tells a story (Ta'anit 23a-b) of the Rabbi Abba Chilkiyah and his wife, who prayed for rain. The rain came because of his wife. Abba Chilkiyah explained that the merit to be answered was that they fed the poor. But, his wife gave them food that they could eat immediately whereas he could only give money, since he wasn't home. The question is that Abba Chilkiyah's grandfather was the great Choni Hame'agel, so why wasn't he answered first? He was a sadik the grandson of a sadik!

One answer is that when it comes to rain, Hashem might be most inclined to answer one who feeds the hungry, for this is giving measure for measure. (Hashem likes to reward a person in the same way that the person did the good deed.) even if the lineage of Abba Chilkiyah was greater. But as for having children, the saddik whose father was a saddik would be best answered, for he is the most capable of raising children properly.

This idea of the Oznayim Latorah (Rabbi Zalman Sorotzkin) is an important one. It is common today that the father of the child is very busy earning a living and busy learning Torah. As a result, the mother is mostly in charge of raising the children. It often occurs that the Yeshivah speaks to the mother regarding the progress of the child because the father is not involved in the day to day upbringing of the child. Of course the mother nurtures and loves the child and as a result the bond between mother and child is strong, which is a good thing. However, we can learn from the story of Yitzhak and Ribkah that the father is very involved and he is required to apply Torah principles in the upbringing of the child to raise the child properly. Many times, unknowingly, the standards of secular society are used for our children, which is incorrect. The Torah standards are to be applied, and the father, who usually knows more Torah than the mother, is required to be very involved with the mother. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"[Yitzhak] called the well 'Esek' because they argued about it." (Beresheet 26:20)

When Yitzhak lived near the Philistines, they were jealous of him, and whatever he tried to do, they attempted to block it. When he dug wells they tried to stuff them with sand, so as not to be usable. It is interesting to note that Yitzhak gave the wells special names, which is meant to teach us something. The word "Esek," although it is used to mean "argument," really means "to get involved with" or "to get entangled with." The lesson we can learn from here is that Yitzhak realized this well needed too much involvement with it, which ultimately led to arguments. Therefore, he let it go, and dug a different well. For someone like Yitzhak, who spent his whole life serving Hashem, it wasn't worth it to hassle about this well, since it would involve him too much. He would ultimately lose out on his service to Hashem.

We can see this in our own lives very often. Sometimes we want to do things, thinking that they are hassle-free, but then we see that we get too involved. At that point, we can either let go and do something else, or try to force the issue and get entangled. This could lead to arguments, and to being taken up with something we didn't want. We should learn from Yitzhak and go on to the next thing - don't get involved unless necessary. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"Esav saw that Yitzhak had blessed Yaakov and sent him off to Padan-Aram… he commanded him saying, "You shall not take a wife from the daughter of Canaan… Esav saw that the daughters of Canaan were evil in the eyes of Yitzhak, his father… Esav took Mahalat, the daughter of Yishmael…, in addition to his wives, as a wife for himself." (Beresheet 28:6,9)

Twice the Torah states the word, vayar, and (Esav) saw. First, Esav saw that Yitzhak had blessed Yaakov a second time and instructed him not to take a wife from the daughters of Canaan. Yitzhak Abinu did not give such instructions to Esav. Apparently, he did not care whom Esav married, or he figured it would hardly make a difference, given the circumstances of Esav's spiritual life. When Esav saw that Yitzhak's spiritual legacy was being transferred to Yaakov Abinu, he must have been clearly upset. He was quite possibly upset with himself, realizing what he had just lost as a result of his errant behavior. Second, Esav saw that his father disapproved of the Canaanite women.

Let us now take this into perspective. Esav noted that Yaakov is considered Yitzhak's spiritual heir. He also became aware of his father's disdain for Canaanite women. Apparently, their moral posture did not coincide with the Abrahamitic mission. Horav Mordechai Gifter, zl, takes note of the respect Esav showed for his father, despite the pain he must have felt with the rude awakening that for "some reason" his father preferred Yaakov as his spiritual heir. Esav chose a wife who was the daughter of Yishmael, true yichus, pedigree, a granddaughter of Abraham Abinu. Esav, however, never got rid of his Canaanite wives. He simply added Yishmael's daughter to his harem. Ramban notes that by failing to divorce his previous wives, he was deferring to his lustful desires, which obviously took precedence over his father's wishes.

This flawed behavior describes Esav perfectly. Even though he fulfilled Kibud Av, honoring his father, to a great extent, he was not prepared to renege his previous behavior. He respected his father just so far. He did not mind doing "good," as long as he did not have to give up doing "bad." This perverted sense of values seems to be following us throughout time. How many of us think that by giving sedakah, charity, we absolve some of our moral excesses? There are also those who view wonderful acts of social justice as a replacement for Shabbat, kashrut and the maintenance of the purity of Jewish family laws. It is not a trade-off. It is not enough to "add" the good wives to the bad ones. Selecting those misvot that make us feel good, while simultaneously ignoring - often with malice - the misvot that define man's relationship with Hashem, is as flawed as one can get. The question is, who is worse, more flawed or broken: The individual who performs some "feel good" misvot to justify the others which he rejects; or the one who does nothing? If we take into consideration that the former is the accepted approach of Esav, the individual who is the archetypical evil incarnate, we have our answer. It all boils down to teshubah, repentance. The individual who thinks he is doing some good, who justifies his evil with good, never repents. There is, however, hope for the one who knows that he has been wrong. (Peninim on the Torah)


It happens too often. As soon as the words leave my lips, I am figuratively grabbing at the air, trying to catch them and retrieve them before they reach the ears of my listener.

If only I hadn't said those thoughtless words, I wouldn't be feeling regret right now. I don't even know why I said them. Was it an ego thing? Was I trying to fill the "quiet time" so that the other person wouldn't ask me something I would rather not answer? Or maybe I was just showing off. One thing is certain: Whatever motivated me to blurt out those words without thinking has left me embarrassed, with egg on my face.

Listening rather than talking is a discipline few people have. It is certainly an achievable goal, but not an easy one. Perfecting this talent requires patience and humility - but it will help avoid the flaming red cheeks of embarrassment.

Don't give in to the temptation to blurt something out. Hold it in! Drink some water, bite your lip, or do anything else that will reign in your words. That slight delay allows enough time to evaluate what you are about to say - and whether or not you should say it at all.

Good listening saves bad embarrassment. (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.

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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