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Haftarah: Shemuel I 20:18-42

NOVEMBER 1-2, 2013 29 HESHVAN 5774

Remember to move your clocks back one hour on Saturday night.

Rosh Hodesh Kislev will be celebrated on Sunday and Monday, November 3 & 4.


"The voice is the voice of Ya'akob and the hands are the hands of Esav." (Beresheet 27:22)

The Midrash explains this verse by noting that the power of the Jew lies in his voice - that is to say, in his prayer and Torah study. The power of Esav, however, lies in his hands - that is to say, his military strength. When the Jew realizes the source of his strength he need not fear the strength of Esav. It is only when he ignores his own strength and instead usurps that which is rightfully Esav's that he must be concerned with the might of Esav.

Rabbi Ephraim Nisenbaum writes that Rav Shlomo Wolbe was asked to comment on the hot issue of Yeshivah students in Israel who do not serve in the army. We should note that Rabbi Wolbe passed away quite a number of years ago and it seems that this issue was contentious even then, as it is today. Rav Wolbe explained that there are various elements employed in fighting a war: the air force, the navy, ground troops, and so forth. Their goal is shared, but they use different means to achieve the goal.

Rav Wolbe said that he had spoken with many groups of soldiers in the IDF, and they repeatedly mentioned that they feel more secure knowing that people are praying and studying for their success. Torah study and prayer are an important means of defense, and the Yeshivah students' service is no less important than that of the soldiers involved in active duty. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"They called his name Esav" (Beresheet 25:25)

Not only did Ya'akob and Esav differ in the way they looked, their names also had different implications. Ya'akob comes from the word ceg which means heel, and this signifies humility, amongst other traits. Esav comes from the word huag - already finished - because he was born with hair, nails and teeth like an adult who is already finished. The implication of this name is that he doesn't need to improve, he is already finished, whereas Ya'akob means someone on a lower level who has to grow higher. Indeed, Ya'akob got his name changed to ktrah - Yisrael - which means 'prince,' because he recognized in himself the need to improve.

Many of us are content to stay on a certain level without thinking about growth. The fact that we are on this level means we grew this far, so why continue? That is the way Esav looked upon himself because he felt he was already finished. We who came from Ya'akob have within us the capacity to grow by realizing we are not there yet. So long as we have the energy, we must strive for higher levels, and as is guaranteed by Hashem, "He who comes to be purified will be helped from Heaven." Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"Yitzhak entreated Hashem… Hashem allowed Himself to be entreated by him, and his wife Ribkah conceived." (Beresheet 25:21)

Rashi explains that the implication of the masculine singular form lo, "by him," is that Hashem responded specifically to Yitzhak's Abinu's prayer, as opposed to that of his wife, Ribkah Imenu. In addition, he explains that the root of the word, va'ye'etar, "and he entreated," is the word atar, which denotes abundance. The sense of the pasuk is that Yitzhak prayed abundantly - every which way, in order to effect a positive response from the Almighty. Why was it necessary to pray so hard in every manner possible?

Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, z"l, gives us a powerful - almost frightening - insight into the concept and efficacy of prayer and its far-reaching implications. Rashi teaches us that on the day that Esav went out l'tarbut ra'ah, left the fold and publicly displayed his true malevolent character, Abraham Abinu died. The Patriarch was originally supposed to live five more years - to age 180. He died prematurely, so that he should not be privy to the infamy wrought by his evil grandson. This means, explains Rav Yosef Chaim, that Yitzhak and Ribkah's prayers had severe ramifications for the Patriarch. Had the prodigal twins been born five years later, Abraham could have lived out his entire pre-determined lifespan. Their prayer - if accepted - would be the indirect cause of Abraham's premature demise. Frightening! We see now why Yitzhak had to pray with such fervor. He was not simply asking for a child. It was much more. He did not know this, but Hashem, Who knows all, was well aware of the difficulty of this decision.

What a powerful lesson for us. We all pray and, while Hashem certainly listens to each and every prayer, the reply is not always, in our limited perception, positive. Sometimes, the answer is "no!" We have difficulty understanding His ways, but, He has reasons for everything.

Rav Yosef Chaim adds that this idea is underscored in the pasuk in Ashrei - Retzon yere'av yaaseh, v'et shav'atam yishma v'yoshi'em, "The will of those who fear Him, He will do; and their cry He will hear, and save them." This verse seems redundant. With the above, we understand that there are times when we ask for something which we ultimately might regret or which will eventually cause us pain. The pasuk teaches us that Hashem listens twice - before and after - we ask for something. At first, it is good. Then we realize - or become aware - that the ramifications are not good. We pray again. He listens - once again. May our prayers be heard, and may we know for what to pray. (Peninim on the Torah)


It takes a great deal of patience to complete a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle. Not only are there many pieces to handle, but the pieces are cut to look very similar to each other in size and shape. My best friend loves to do puzzles and has completed a great variety of them. His "artwork" is displayed in beautiful frames on the walls of his home.

Personally, I don't have what it takes to confront the challenge of a jigsaw puzzle. But I do enjoy watching puzzles develop from a mess of disjointed pieces into a beautiful, completed picture. My fascination is fueled as I come back to the table at intervals and observe the progress the puzzle doer has made since my last viewing. As each interlocking piece is placed in its designated location, a clear picture develops - until all one thousand pieces are joined into a work of art.

Life is certainly a puzzle. The more we learn and the more we consider the ways of Hashem, the more questions and inconsistencies we discover. But with maturity, we start to understand that although the incomplete picture is hard to fathom, there is a picture that will be beautiful when all the pieces are in place.

When you just don't understand "why," think for a moment about all the simple things that you understand as an adult which baffled you as a child. Notice that there is a way to understand the puzzle. Realize that you do see more of the picture day by day, but that until it is complete, some missing, vital pieces may prevent the puzzle from making any sense. This thought process only takes a minute, but it will give you the calm, patient approach to life that will shore up your emunah - faith 0 in the beauty of Hashem's completed puzzle. (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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