JANUARY 6-7, 2012 12 TEBET 5772
"Now Israel's eyes were heavy with age, he could not see." (Beresheet 48:10)
Ya'akob Abinu in his old age lost his ability to see. Our eyesight is the most precious gift Hashem gives us. Hashem created a world filled with so many things to see. Our Sages teach us that the wonder of eyesight together with the phenomenon of light enables us to see Hashem in this world. There is nothing more important in our lives than proving the existence of Hashem by studying the things we see.
Every day we say the Shema a number of times. In the last paragraph we say "Ur'eetem oto - and you shall see it." The Shulhan Aruch (24:4) says that there is a custom that when one says "Ur'eetem oto" one should look at the sisit, and place them on the eyes and kiss the sisit; this shows that we love the sisit. The Kaf Hahayim adds (#14) that if one does this he is guaranteed not to become blind! Good advice to retain the unbelievable gift.
Rabbi C. Nissenbaum tells a story about Rabbi Elazar Shach zt"l. The Rabbi was suffering from an eye problem and visited an ophthalmologist when he was eighty years old. The doctor told him that he could do nothing and in fifteen years he would probably be blind. Rav Shach started to weep.
"But Rabbi," the doctor started to explain, "You won't have to worry about that until you're ninety-five!" The Rosh Yeshivah could not be consoled. "How will I be able to study Torah then?" he cried. "I'm afraid I will remain an ignoramus!"
His love for Torah and life wouldn't allow Rav Shach to consider the thought that he might not reach ninety-five years - or to take comfort in the fact that he had lived close to eighty years engrossed in Torah study, and that his knowledge of Torah was one of the greatest of his time. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah
Ya'akob told his sons to come around him so that he could bless them before he left this world. He began by rebuking Reuben for getting involved in his father's conjugal bed. Then he addressed Shimon and Levi, and cursed their anger which was displayed when they destroyed the city of Shechem. The Midrash tells us that Yehudah, who was next on line, shrank back because he was afraid of what his father would say to him, but Ya'akob blessed him instead.
We see from here that a blessing doesn't only mean being praised and having good wishes heaped upon oneself. If someone points out our fault and emphasizes our shortcomings so that we can better ourselves, that is called a blessing. Ya'akob knew that for some of his children, pointing out areas for improvement is the best berachah.
When someone gives us criticism, let's try to see how this can lead us to self improvement. Although it may hurt our feelings somewhat, if we look to better ourselves and are sincerely aiming to improve, we will try to take it constructively, and this will help us change. In the long run, this may be the best berachah! Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"And Yisrael stretched out his right hand and placed it upon Efraim's head…and his left hand on Menashe's head." (Beresheet 48:17)
Why did Ya'akob not change Menashe and Efraim's position, thereby avoiding the necessity of crossing his hands over them? The commentators cite various responses to this question. Rav Chaim M'Volozhin zt"l offers a profound insight into Ya'akob's behavior. The nature of a person is to minimize his friend's virtues, while simultaneously exaggerating his failings. This represents an unconscious attempt to minimize and allay one's own insecurities.
One foolishly thinks that he improves himself by denigrating others. This characteristic becomes manifest when two people stand facing each other. The right hand of one is across from his friend's left hand and vice versa. One's right hand, the stronger one, stands in readiness, focusing upon his friend's weakness, symbolized by the left hand. Conversely, one's left hand, symbolizing the weaker side of man, confronts his friend's virtue, implying man's lackadaisical attitude towards appreciating his friend's good qualities.
Ya'akob Abinu, the proverbial ish emet, man of truth, desired to maintain the status quo in which the older son coincided with his left side. His goal was to teach his children not to exaggerate their friend's shortcomings and to avoid detracting from their friend's good deeds. One should train himself so that his right side parallels his friend's "right side," and his left side coincides with his friend's "left side." (Peninim on the Torah)
"Life," some will say, "is a real rat race." Others declare, "It's a dog-eat-dog world." And perhaps the most often heard complaint? "Life is not fair!"
Are these statements true?
True or not, the life situations that prompt people to espouse the philosophy that underlies these clich?s are what we all must learn to deal with. When we consider the uneven distribution of wealth in the world, we could say that life is not fair. Even the looks, intelligence, and special talents that Hashem gives graciously to some and denies to others give credence to the notion of unfairness. And anyone who has been involved in a highly competitive business transaction with a tough adversary has very likely felt, at some time, that it's a dog-eat-dog world - not to mention that life is a rat race.
But Hashem is fair. He does not expect from poor folks what He requires of wealthy individuals. He does not compare the success of people gifted with intelligence to the accomplishment of those whoa re not blessed with superior mental capacity. All people are measured against the standard of their own potential, according to the material and spiritual talents they were given for their journey through life - not against the accomplishments or failures of another.
When you get the feeling that the "rat race" of this "dog-eat-dog world" is "not fair," look at yourself and measure your performance against the bag of tools Hashem gave you for building a life. This perspective will free you from the depression of keeping up with the "race" and allow you to achieve to the best of your own ability. (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 firstname.lastname@example.org (Privacy of email limited by the email address)
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