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Haftarah: Melachim I 2:1-12

JANUARY 9-10, 2009 14 TEBET 5769

Pop Quiz: Who is buried in Me'arat Hamachpelah?


"And do kindness and truth with me - please do not bury me in Egypt." (Beresheet 47:29)

Ya'akob Abinu passes away in this week's perashah. In his old age, he requested from his son, Yosef, to demonstrate a measure of true kindness to him after he passes on. He asks of Yosef to make sure that he is not buried in Egypt, but only in the land of Israel. What is the difference between a true and a non-truthful kindness?

Sometimes an act of kindness could lack genuineness. The giver could have ulterior motives in mind, such as attempting to find favor in the eyes of the receiver. Such hesed is void of truth, whereas a selfless act of hesed without expecting anything in return but solely to benefit the recipient and to fulfill Hashem's will is a pure act of kindness. One would not expect the deceased to return any favors. It is possible that the deceased will intercede on behalf of the benefactor but that is something uncertain, intangible and cannot be relied upon, although it can happen.

Avi Shulman tells an amazing story. The story is about Rabbi Nahman Kahn z"l. In his youth, he was a student in Yeshiva Torah Vada'at. After receiving semichah, he served briefly as a Rebbe in the Yeshiva Torah Vada'at (in Brooklyn). Eventually he accepted a position as a teacher/administrator/fundraiser until his death seven years ago.

When Rabbi Kahn was eight years old, he was a student at Torah Vada'at. Rabbi Shraga Feivel Mendelowitz came into the classroom to test the students. After the test, he gave out pieces of candy. He ran out of candy just before getting to the young Nahman Kahn. Rav Shraga Feivel told the boy, "I owe you one."

Fast forward fifty years. Nahman Kahn lay in a hospital bed recovering from a heart attack, when suddenly he was struck by an even more severe heart attack. The doctors said his end was imminent but he made it through the night. The next day, Rav Nahman, who could not speak, wrote down a request that a note be placed by the grave of Rav Shraga Feivel to pray for his recovery. A few days later, when Rav Nahman was able to speak, he explained that Rav Shraga Feivel had come to him in a dream and told him that he "owed him one." Rav Shraga had paid back the nearly fifty-year-old debt. Rav Nahman had the merit to live another twelve and a half years and celebrate the birth of many grandchildren and the Bar Misvah of his oldest grandson. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

The midrash tells us that when Ya'akob's family took his coffin to the Me'arat Hamachpelah to bury him, Esav appeared and protested that the last spot in the cave belongs to him, Esav, and not to Ya'akob. The sons of Ya'akob began to argue with Esav, trying to prove that the right to burial in that cave was sold to their father with the birthright. Esav argues that this was not included, so they decided to send Naftali, who was as swift as a deer, to Egypt to bring the original document. Ya'akob had a grandson named Hushim (the son of Dan) who was deaf, and didn't hear all the give and take. When Hushim saw that Ya'akob was not being buried he asked (in some form of sign language), "Why is there a delay?" When he was told that Esav was blocking the burial, he took a weapon and chopped Esav's head off, saying, "How could we leave our grandfather, Ya'akob, lying in disgrace while we wait for a document?"

The Rabbis ask why only Hushim, the grandson of Ya'akob, had the inspiration to do such a courageous act. Where were all the sons of Ya'akob themselves? Surely they loved and respected their father at least as much as Hushim ben Dan!

Rav Chaim Shmulevitz says that we see from here what happens when we get used to something. The brothers were already involved in the negotiations with Esav so they didn't perceive it as such a disgrace for Ya'akob to be lying around since they were already somewhat accustomed to the situation. Hushim, however, was deaf, and didn't hear all that was going on. He therefore saw the situation in all of its stark reality, and reacted by killing Esav.

The lesson to be derived from this is that we all too often get accustomed to situations. Many times this is beneficial, so that we wouldn't always be shocked by things. Sometimes, however, being used to certain situations, we don't react the way we are supposed to. We become too accepting of things which should be corrected or spoken about. We should try to talk things over with an outsider who will see the situation from a fresh point of view, thereby getting an objective opinion. Sometimes, our spouse can be objective enough when he or she is not involved too deeply in whatever is bothering us. One way or another we should try to look at situations from a new, fresh perspective, which will help us in doing the right thing. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"And he saw that rest was good, and the land that it was pleasant; and he bowed his shoulders to bear" (Beresheet 49:15)

Rabbi Yeruchem Levovitz noted: The Torah was given to the Israelites at Mount Sinai in the wilderness. Some people find this difficult to understand. To acquire Torah one must be in a calm state. One needs peace of mind, without any disturbances. The Torah therefore should have been given in Eress Yisrael when everyone had a home of his own and they were settled in a peaceful environment. Why was the Torah given in a wilderness, a place empty of all physical comforts? Just as the Torah itself contains instructions for living, so too the manner in which the Torah was given serves as an important lesson for us. It teaches us how we can make ourselves fit for accepting the Torah.

For Torah study one needs peace of mind, said Rav Yeruchem. But Hashem taught us the true definition of peace of mind by giving the Torah in the wilderness. People who do not have a proper understanding of character traits mistakenly think that the way to have peace of mind is for a person to have physical comforts. But the reality is just the opposite. Peace of mind that is dependent on physical comforts and meeting all of one's needs is the source of confusion. A person who becomes used to having peace of mind only when nothing is missing in his life will be broken by unusual circumstances. When a person is able to have peace of mind even though he is missing comforts and pleasures, then he has acquired the peace of mind necessary for accepting the Torah.

How can a person gain this peace of mind? The way, said Rav Yeruchem, is to be aware of your ultimate goals in life. When you are aware of what life is really about and keep your focus on this, you are constantly in one situation: traveling towards your goal. When you internalize this awareness you will never be overly disturbed or broken. The reason people are broken is because they live in different life situations and feel much stress because of the changes. When a person experiences one stressful situation after the other, they add up and become overwhelming. But the person who views all life situations as means to reach his ultimate goals experiences less stress and will be able to cope with difficulties.

When one reaches the proper level of training, nothing will be able to take away his serenity. Therefore in reference to Yissachar the Torah states, "He saw that rest was good." Yissachar is the tribe that was devoted to Torah study. He knew that rest and peace of mind were necessary to master the Torah. What did he do? "He bowed his shoulder to bear" - by training himself to bear any difficulties he was able to reach the highest levels of peace of mind in all situations. (Growth through Torah)

Answer to Pop Quiz: Adam, Havah, Abraham, Sarah, Yitzhak, Ribkah, Ya'akob and Leah.

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)

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