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Haftarah: Obadiah 1:1-21

DECEMBER 16-17, 2016 17 KISLEV 5777


"And Ya'akob was left alone and a man wrestled with him until the break of dawn." (Beresheet 32:25)

Ya'akob Abinu was alone the night before he confronted Esav, and he was attacked by an angel that he fought off the entire night. Why was he alone? Rashi explains: "He had forgotten some small jars, and went back for them. From here we see that the righteous treat their property with care - so that they should not send forth their hands in theft." This explains why Ya'akob found himself alone on the far side of the river. Rashi implies that righteous people are especially careful with their "things" because they are so careful not to violate the laws of stealing. How can we understand this? How does their carefulness not to steal make their objects beloved to them?

Rabbi Reuven Noah Cohen gives a mashal in the name of Rabbi Yisrael Belsky zt"l. Someone learned the laws of lulab and etrog. But he didn't just learn them, he learned in great depth and understood them perfectly well. In addition to that he also visited the greatest Rabbis to watch how they picked out a perfect lulab and etrog. When the holiday was approaching he went to the big city to find the best ones. He applied into practice all that he learned for many days and searched the entire city until he purchased the four types that were perfect and beautiful.

He boarded his train to go home, but he was so tired that he fell asleep on the train. When the train pulled into his station, he suddenly woke up. However, he was so disoriented that he ran off the train forgetting on the train his beloved lulab and etrog, never to find them again.

Can we imagine the pain that he felt? It's not only the huge sum of money that he lost, but part of him was in that lulab and etrog. He gave so much of his time and effort to study, to research, to see the great ones, to shop, to buy, etc. He felt he lost part of himself.

This is the way the great ones dealt with anything they bought with their money. They applied all the laws of Shulhan Aruch - Hoshen Mishpat, not less than they would do when they purchased an etrog. This is the effort Ya'akob made when he purchased a small jar. Now we can understand the statement, "The money of the sadikim is beloved to them more than their bodies!" Why? Because "they don't let their hands take anything that is stolen. They are so careful with everything they buy that it should be according to all the rules of the Torah, until part of themselves is in the purchase they make. Therefore, when Ya'akob forgot the empty jars, it was to him like the beautiful etrog that he bought with all the effort. Won't he go back for it?

Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"Esav ran toward his brother and hugged him...and kissed him" (Beresheet 33:4)

Rashi tells us that although it is well known that Esav hates Ya'akob, this time, when he saw Ya'akob bowing down to him, he was filled with pity and he kissed Ya'akob with genuine feeling. The Rabbis tell us that the way we feel towards others will reciprocally make them feel towards us, as the pasuk in Mishle (Proverbs 27:19) says:?????????????????????????????????? -"As in water, face answers to face, so the heart of a man to a man".

Many times we feel stalemated in our relationships with others, and we look for ways to thaw the coldness between us. The Torah teaches us that if we could muster genuine good will towards others, be understanding of their ways and try to see them in a positive light, then the feelings will be communicated heart to heart, and we will see the same and more from them to us. Let's try it and we will benefit the most. Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

Drop by Drop

In less complicated times, disciplinary actions in school were simple: a child who misbehaved was kept late or given an extra assignment in order to atone for a behavioral transgression. One of the more popular techniques used by teachers was to have a child write a phrase over and over, at least 100 times. I will not talk in class - 100 times! I will not chew gum - 100 times! This practice was considered very successful in getting the child to stop a particular type of behavior.

The following story is told about how Rabbi Akiva became inspired to improve his life by a connection to Torah. One day, while caring for his flock, the shepherd Akiva noticed water dripping onto a stone. The drops were constant, falling one after another after another. They were almost all identical in size, and all hit almost the same point on the rock, one after another. The little drops, he noted, had worn a hole right through the rock.

"If droplets of water can bore a hole through stone," he said, "then certainly a hole can be made in my heart of stone." It was from that point forward that he began to study and grow in spirituality until he became Rabbi Akiva, the giant of his generation.

Teachers of Mussar (Jewish Ethics) stress that people should repeat an important principle over and over until it becomes part of their personality and behavioral repertoire. It is not so important to learn new things all the time. It is more important to truly understand even the simplest of principles. For example, Messilat Yesharim says that reading his work only once will not benefit readers at all. Only after constant review and repetition will they be able to comprehend his words, understand them well, and use his teachings for personal growth.

In this age of merchandising and advertising, we are trained to expect that new is better. Maybe a new car has more features that the old one, or a brand of toothpaste includes a previously unavailable ingredient which does make the product better. But the constant pursuit of "new" is not necessarily the same as the constant pursuit of "improved." People must spend time with themselves, reviewing and repeating important rules, strategies, and lessons in order to make them part of their lives.

The next time you hear something that seems bright, innovative, or intelligent - or perhaps only just really true - start repeating it over and over until you get it down. (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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