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Torah Attitude: Parashas Vayeitzei: Emulate G'd and provide food and clothing for the needy

Summary

In Jacob's prophetic vision, G'd appeared to him and blessed him. G'd promised that He would be with Jacob to protect him wherever he went and return him to the land of Israel. G'd's blessings to Jacob and His promise to protect him has sustained the Jewish people ever since. Just like G'd clothed Adam and Eve, so we shall provide garments for those in need. Every morning we make various blessings in appreciation of our ability to get up and get dressed. G'd orchestrates thousands of people to bring us our bread. The same applies to the thousands who are involved to produce our garments. The concept of modesty elevates us above the rest of creation. It is most unfortunate that the fashion designers have taken G'd's present to mankind, that was intended to cover our bodies, and turned it around to show off our bodies. It is not sufficient that we thank G'd. We must also emulate Him and provide garments for the needy. Our sages learn from Jacob that we must all strive to tithe our income on a regular basis. When someone comes to us to ask for financial assistance, or we receive an appeal letter in the mail, we should be generous and donate.

Jacob's prophetic dream

In the beginning of this week's parasha, the Torah relates how Jacob listened to his parents and fled from Beer Sheva and went to Haran. En route, he had a prophetic vision in his dream where G'd appeared to him and blessed him. G'd promised that He would be with Jacob to protect him wherever he went and return him to the land of Israel.

G'd's blessings sustained the Jewish people

Our sages teach that whatever happened to our Patriarchs relates to us as well. G'd's blessings to Jacob and His promise to protect him has sustained the Jewish people ever since. Despite all calamities we have experienced throughout the generations, we have survived and bounced back in a manner that defies the laws of nature. In these days when the Palestinians shoot their deadly missiles and rockets, we unite in prayer for the welfare of our brothers and sisters in Israel. At the same time, we marvel at the special protection G'd constantly shows. Every victim is one too many, but we must realize that it is only through G'd's special protection that there has been so few casualties.

Food and clothing

Back in this week's parasha, Jacob got up in the morning after his prophetic dream and promised (Bereishis 28:20-22): "If G'd will be with me and protect me and He will give me bread to eat and clothes to wear and all that You give me I will constantly tithe to You." Jacob asked that G'd provide him with food and clothing. In the last three Torah Attitudes we have discussed three of G'd's acts of lovingkindness that the Talmud (Sotah 14a) teaches that we should emulate. Providing garments for those in need is the fourth act that we are expected to emulate.

Get up and get dressed

The Talmud (Berachos 60b) teaches that every morning we shall make various blessings to show our appreciation for being able to get up and get dressed. Most people take these abilities for granted. However, one only needs to pay a visit to a hospital to realize how much we need to thank G'd for our ability to function with every part of our body and dress ourselves.

Process of making bread

In one of the morning blessings, we thank G'd for clothing us. The same blessing is made when one buys a special new garment. On a simple level, we thank G'd for having garments to cover our bodies. However, the Talmud (Berachos 58a) elaborates in great detail to what extent we must appreciate what G'd does to provide us with our food and clothing. Says the Talmud, how much did Adam have to go through until he had a piece of bread to eat. Adam would have to plough to prepare the ground. After that he would have to sow the seeds. When the seeds had grown into plants he would have to harvest and gather them. Next he would have to go through the process of threshing, winnowing, and selecting the grains. Once this was done, he would have to grind the grains to flour and sift it. Only then could he knead his dough and bake his bread. We, on the other hand, get up in the morning and go to the bakery and buy fresh baked bread. G'd orchestrates all the people that bring us our bread, from the farmer and his farmhands to the miller and his workers, and finally the baker and his assistants.

Process of making clothes

The same, says the Talmud, applies to the production of our garments. Adam would have to shear the wool and wash it. Afterwards, he would need to comb the wool into strands, spin the strands into thread and then weave the actual garment. We merely go to a store and buy a finished garment. So many people have been involved worldwide in making our clothes. The farmer and his farmhands raised the sheep, and at the textile plants a host of different workers, each with their own special skills applied their crafts. Add to this the shippers, the wholesalers, and storekeepers, each with their particular contribution. If we add it all up, we will find that thousands of people have been involved in the production of our food and clothing.

Modesty

This is what we thank for when we say our blessings in the morning prayers. Rabbi Shimon Schwab, the late Rav of Khal Adath Yeshurun of Washington Heights, New York, writes that in addition to expressing our thanks for our own clothes, we thank G'd for providing Adam and Eve with their garments after they sinned. Before their sin they did not need garments. They were so holy and elevated that their body had no significance other than to cloak their soul. But after the sin, when they gave in to their bodily craving, they lost their superior holy state, and then their bodies needed to be covered to show that they were still capable to raise themselves above the animals. Only man was presented with the concept of modesty, and this is what elevates us above the rest of creation. And, says Rabbi Schwab, we thank G'd for that every morning.

Fashion designers

It is most unfortunate that the fashion designers have taken G'd's present to mankind, that was intended to cover our bodies, and turned it around to show off our bodies. They are instrumental in lowering the moral standards of modern society and encourage us to give in to our animalistic cravings and desires.

Emulate G'd

The Talmud teaches that it is not sufficient that we thank G'd. We must also emulate Him and provide garments for the needy. This is but one example of our obligation to look after those in need. G'd provides us with all our necessities including food, clothing, housing and health, as well as the ability to educate our children.

Tithe

As mentioned above, Jacob promised that if G'd would be with him and provide him with food and clothing, he would tithe his income constantly. The Chofetz Chaim (Ahavas Chesed 2:19) writes that our sages learn from Jacob that we must all strive to tithe our income on a regular basis. From the fact that Jacob used a double expression when he promised to tithe, our sages teach that the one who can afford it should tithe twice and thus give 20% to charity.

Be generous and donate

We live in a time when many people suffer in many different ways. We do not always have the ability to help them with their problems. But there is one thing that we can do. When someone comes to us to ask for financial assistance, or we receive an appeal letter in the mail, we can be generous and donate. In this way, we emulate G'd's acts of lovingkindness and follow in the footsteps of our Patriarch Jacob. In this merit may we see the fulfilment of G'd's promise to be with Jacob and his descendants, and to protect us and let us return to the land of Israel and live there in peace. Let us conclude with the words of King David (Tehillim 41:2-3): "Praiseworthy is the one who understands the needy; on the day of evil G'd will save him. G'd will protect him and let him live and be happy in the land, and will not give him over to the desire of his enemies."

These words were based on a talk given by Rabbi Avraham Kahn, the Rosh Yeshiva and Founder of Yeshivas Keser Torah in Toronto.

These words were based on a talk given by Rabbi Avraham Kahn, the Rosh Yeshiva and Founder of Yeshivas Keser Torah in Toronto.

Shalom. Michael Deverett

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