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Haftarah: Melachim II 4:1-23

OCTOBER 18-19, 2013 15 HESHVAN 5774


"And He said, 'By Myself I swear - the word of Hashem.'" (Beresheet 22:16)

After the incredible act of Abraham willing to sacrifice his only son, Hashem makes an oath to Abraham and blesses him with great blessings. The Midrash asks: What was the purpose of this oath? The Midrash answers that Abraham asked Hashem to swear never to test him or his son Yitzhak again. However, this is difficult, because according to Rabenu Yonah in Pirkei Abot, the difficulties that Abraham had in burying Sarah were a test. Despite the fact that Hashem promised Abraham the entire land of Israel, he had to struggle to bury her and paid an enormous price. So we see he was tested again! What happened to the oath?

Rabbi Shimshon Pincus z"l answers that the test of burying Sarah was not a separate test. It was part of the test of the sacrifice of Yitzhak. The nature of man is that when he does a great heroic deed of self-sacrifice for the sake of Hashem, he expects a special treatment from Hashem. That due to this great act, Hashem will "smile" upon him. But, if the opposite happens, he will have a complaint in his heart, "Is this the type of treatment I get after what I did?" So when Abraham came back after Akedat Yitzhak, he was tested right away with the burial of Sarah. This was a continuation of the test of the Akedah to see if he performed the Akedah with a full heart, not expecting anything in return.

This is a great lesson for all people. One shouldn't expect that after doing a great deed he will now receive special treatment. On the contrary, it might be expected that the opposite will happen as a test of his true devotion to Hashem. As the Torah says, "Tamim tihyeh in Hashem Elokecha - be wholehearted and trusting with Hashem your G-d." Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

We are all familiar with the story of the three angels appearing to Abraham, and how he ran about doing kindness for them in order to show them hospitality. We also see in this same perashah that Lot received angels graciously and exerted himself on their behalf. There is, however, a major difference in how they are referred to in the Torah. When the angels came to Abraham, they are called ohabt - people - and indeed, the Midrash says they looked like Arab peasants. When they came to Lot, they are called ohftkn - angels - because they looked like what they were. This is not coincidental, but rather to teach us an important lesson about the different types of hesed done by Abraham and Lot. Lot went out of his way to entertain his guests because they looked like angels. Had they appeared as regular people, and for sure as peasants, they would not have gotten such treatment. Abraham was on a higher level and even when he saw peasants, he went all out to take care of them. We, who are descendants of Abraham, must emulate our forefather and do kindness to everyone, not only the important people who need favors but even (and especially) the regular folks. That shows our hesed to be genuine and part of our inner self. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


Things don't always work out the way you plan. You may think that you can direct your own destiny, but time and time again you find that something can and will go wrong.

How a person reacts is the real test of a human being. Some people throw a tantrum - screaming, complaining, or even cursing those they perceive as having brought on the disastrous mistake. Others sink into numbness and depression; unable to fix what is wrong, they wallow in emotional quicksand until they are totally immersed in mental mud. There are some who analyze; but after examining a problem from many angles, they ultimately fail to implement a corrective plan to prevent a future recurrence.

A friend of mine reacts constructively to problems, especially those that are pervasive. The more people the problem affects - the more it paralyzes an industry or a geographical area - the more he is inspired to rise to the occasion. You see," he once told me, "when you order milk to make cheese and someone delivers lemons, you just make lemonade instead." His philosophy is a sound one: Do the best with the cards you are dealt.

` When plans go awry, and what you hoped would happen just doesn't, take the opportunity to spin a negative into a positive. For example, snow may cripple travel, but it is a bonanza for those who own trucks with plows and profit from cleaning the streets. A rainy day may upset children anticipating a trip to the amusement park or beach, but it is a profitable day for those who manufacture and sell bad-weather gear and apparel. Every negative has a positive, and every downside has an up. Look for the positive, and use it to turn what might be a worst-case scenario into a best. (One Minute With Yourself - Rabbi Raymond Beyda)

A Proper Burial

We have no idea how far-reaching tefillah, sincere prayer, can go, and the long-term effects it can have. One morning, an American Jew living in a major metropolis received the dreaded phone call that he knew would come one day. The administrator of the Jewish nursing home in London where his elderly mother was a patient, called to notify him that his mother had passed away during the night. The son reacted as any loving son would react, immediately reciting the blessing, Baruch Dayan Ha'Emet, Blessed is the Truthful Judge, and then broke down in tears. His mother had reached an advanced age, and she had been quite ill. The news did not come as a surprise, but a mother is a mother. Reaching London in a timely fashion was impossible. Could the local Chevra Kadisha, Jewish Burial Society, see to his mother's funeral? They agreed, and the son prepared to sit shivah, observe the seven day mourning period, at home.

Two days later, he was shocked to receive a call from none other than his mother - alive and well! She was fine, and leaving this world prematurely was the farthest thing from her mind. Her son immediately contacted the nursing home, where he discovered that apparently there had been a terrible mistake. Somehow, it was his mother's roommate who had died. One can only imagine the administrator's feelings of trepidation when they had to notify the son of the other woman who had passed away. It was thus shocking to hear the "other" son declare, "Good! Make sure that you cremate her body as soon as possible!" When the administrator told him that, "alas," they had already buried his mother by mistake, he was overcome with angry emotion, and declared, "Well, my mother won out. She got her way after all!"

The administrator felt that he had to get to the bottom of this story. After some research, he discovered that many years earlier, the son had had a falling out with his mother, followed by his complete break with Judaism. He became a virulent apostate with an animus towards religion and his mother. Clearly, the man was unhinged. He demonstrated his lunacy when, every time that he visited, he would yell at his mother and say, "When you die, I will see to it that you are not buried in a Jewish cemetery, but cremated."

This disturbed man's mother was herself a righteous, observant woman who prayed fervently every day of her life. As the end drew near, she would constantly supplicate the Almighty that somehow she would merit burial in a kever Yisrael, Jewish cemetery. Her tears flowed over the spiritual demise of her son and the consequent missed opportunity for her to be buried among Jews. Her prayers intensified when she heard her son's plans to have her cremated - a procedure that is prohibited by Jewish law, a method reserved for and utilized by our most rabid enemies to dispose of a Jewish corpse.

Our Father in Heaven had other plans - plans that did not coincide with those of her lunatic son. What appeared to be an error by an administrator was actually part of Hashem's Divine Plan that this righteous woman be buried in a Jewish cemetery, as per her wish. This is the power of tefillah. (Peninim on the Torah)

* * * * *

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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