Parashat Vayigash

Parasha Thoughts

Rabbi Yosef Shemtov

The most fascinating subject in this week’s portion is the confrontation between Yosef and his brothers. Now Yosef is the prime minister of a world power, Egypt, and his brothers are strangers who don’t have bread to eat. Yosef remembers his dreams and his brothers curtly as they had caused him so much sorrow. He remembers that he stayed in jail for 12 of the best of his years.

How does Yosef respond to his brothers when he introduces himself? “Don’t worry that you sold me into slavery because G-d has sent me here to provide you and the family with food.”

How did Yosef have such a power to forgive his brothers and comfort them? This is something supernatural. We know from last week’s portion that two years of jail time were added to Yosef’s punishment because he put his trust in human being by asking and begging so much the butler.

During these two years Yosef realized that God has a master plan and there must be a reason for everything that happens to a person. If Yosef went to jail, there must have been a reason for it. This way Yosef was able to forgive and forget.

Chanukah

Parasha Thoughts

By Rabbi David Shasho

The Gemara in Shabbat (21b) says the Mitzvah of Chanukah is to light a candle for a person and his household and the “Mehadrin,” someone who is more meticulous, lights a candle for each person in his family. One who is at an even higher level is the “Mehadrin Min Hamihadrin,” who lights adding a candle for each night. We see three levels of beautifying this mitzvah. Why with this mitzvah specifically did the rabbis give more options to be more meticulous and make the mitzvah more special, something we don’t find by any other mitzvah?

The Midrash says the Yom Tov of Chanukah is a reminder of the Menorah in the Bet Hamikdosh and we light it to remind us of the miracle that happened with it. It says three times in the Torah to be careful in the mitzvah of lighting the menorah, how to light it, and what to light it with. This is why we have three levels of beautifying the mitzvah, in the same way it applied to the menorah in the Bet Hamikdosh. We also find that when they rededicated the menorah, it took time to get money for a new one. First they made it out of copper, then silver, and finally gold – three levels of dedication.

When Hashem appeased Aharon HaKohen at the time of the Chanukat Hamishkan (Inauguration of the Tabernacle) with the lighting of the Menorah because he didn’t get to bring a sacrifice to Hashem as the other Shevatim had done, the Rambam explains that this alludes to the Chanukah lighting which takes place even without the Bet Hamikdash.

Our Rabbis tell us that the Chanukah light emanates from the inner soul of a Jew and therefore is not limited to a specific time and place. Perhaps this is because the sefarim teach us that the Menorah and the Chanukah candles emanate from the Torah Shebe’al Peh, the oral tradition, which is within the Jewish soul. This is the light which is our source of life in our bitter exile and will bring us to enjoy the light of Mashiach Amen.

Parashat Vayeshev

Parasha Thoughts

By Rabbi Avraham Moeinzadeh

The Sages teach us that the last conversation between Yaakov Avinu and Yosef Hatsadik was a Halachic discussion about the importance of escorting the passenger. As a matter of fact, we see that the impact of this lesson in Yosef’s life was so enormous that even after twenty two years, he only picks this lesson as a verification sign of himself to his father. Yaakov verifies his existence. But what is so important about the escorting of a passenger that Yosef cherished it more than any other lesson from his father?

Mefarshim teach us that when one escorts another, he is really giving him a subconscious message of importance and value. Someone who feels important to others won’t easily give up or sell his values short. He never detaches himself from those who he feels have confidence in him. Perhaps the few extra minutes that Yaakov Avinu spent escorting his son were the primary cause of him staying with his family values, despite all the hard feelings he might have had from his fate.

Parashat Vayishlach

Parasha Thoughts

By Rabbi Shlomo Zargari

Shalom,

In the Parasha, Yaakov Avinu is told that Esav is coming to greet him with an army. He prepares himself for the confrontation with prayer, gifts, and battle. As he moved his family across the river, he realized he left some items behind and crossed the river to bring them back. At that point, he was alone and a “man” wrestled with him:

וַיַּ֗רְא כִּ֣י לֹ֤א יָכֹל֙ ל֔וֹ וַיִּגַּ֖ע בְּכַף־יְרֵכ֑וֹ וַתֵּ֙קַע֙
כַּף־יֶ֣רֶךְ יַעֲקֹ֔ב בְּהֵֽאָבְק֖וֹ עִמּֽוֹ׃

When “the man” saw that he had not prevailed against Yaakov, he wrenched Yaakov’s hip at its socket, so that the socket of his hip was strained as he wrestled with him.(Bereshit 32,26)

The Midrash asks: what did he see? And they answer: he saw the presence of the Shechina and understood that he could not overcome Yaakov Avinu. An allegory illustrates this for us: a wrestler fights a prince. He lifts his eyes and sees the king watching…He becomes weak and is defeated. Same here: when the angel realized the Shechina was on top of Yaakov Avinu, he understood he could not defeat him.

We can learn from here each time we are confronted with the Yetzer Hara(evil inclination) and he wants to trick us into committing a sin – to look at something, or say something, or even to think a wrong thought. Even if we might be weak, remember that The Shechina is with us and helps us and the victory is ours!

Parashat Vayetzei

Parasha Thoughts

By Rabbi David Cohen

And Yaakov went out from Beer Sheva. (28:10)

When Yaakov Avinu fled his father’s home, he was sixty-three years old. He was a wholesome, G-d-fearing Torah scholar whose entire life was devoted to studying Torah. Yet, prior to arriving in Lavan’s home, he learned another fourteen years of Torah study in the yeshivah of Shem and Eivar. Rashi writes that during those fourteen years our Patriarch was glued to the sefer. He did not lay down in bed to go to sleep the entire time he was there. Why? He was preparing himself for his entrance into the outside world. Imagine, if this was Yaakov Avinu’s attitude, what ours should be. One question needs to be addressed: If these fourteen years of Torah study were so critical, why are they not mentioned in the Torah? The Torah seems to gloss over this significant period of time.

Horav Moshe Feinstein, zl, explains that the Torah is teaching us that, while it is of the greatest significance, Torah study must be a natural occurrence for a Jew. No pat on the back is received for doing exactly what is expected of us. Torah study is a Jew’s purpose. It defines us. Yaakov’s fourteen years of Torah study need not be mentioned. It was like breathing. The Torah does not mention breathing either. We must realize how important Torah study is to growth in every aspect of our lives.

Shabbat Shalom!

Parashat Toldot

Parasha Thoughts

By Rabbi Shemuel Akhamzadeh

וַיְהִי֙ כִּֽי־זָקֵ֣ן יִצְחָ֔ק וַתִּכְהֶ֥יןָ עֵינָ֖יו מֵרְאֹ֑ת וַיִּקְרָ֞א אֶת־עֵשָׂ֣ו ׀ בְּנ֣וֹ הַגָּדֹ֗ל וַיֹּ֤אמֶר אֵלָיו֙ בְּנִ֔י וַיֹּ֥אמֶר אֵלָ֖יו הִנֵּֽנִי׃

When Isaac was old and his eyes were too dim to see, he called his older son Esau and said to him, “My son.” He answered, “Here I am.”

Some tend to make the mistake of thinking that יצחק אבינו had not only lost his sight, but that he was also mistaken in giving the blessings to his older son Essav as he was wicked.

But this is clearly not the case as we know many Rabbanim in our own time are capable of seeing things even in their old and fragile states that regular people are unable to understand. יצחק אבינו was a prophet and obviously understood the spiritual levels of his sons and still decided to give the blessings to his eldest.
However the question is a valid question. Why did יצחק אבינו intend to give the ברכות to עשו הרשע?

To explain the answer האלשיך הקדוש brings a parable.
The story is told in regards to a very kind man that out of his kindness decided to become a medicine maker. השם rewarded him with much wealth and a large family of seven boys. However out of the seven children only his youngest son decided to take on his father’s kindness and join his father’s business.
As the man became older and realized his days were numbered, he decided to write a will. He called his old friend and asked him to record the will for him. In the will he split all his belongings amongst his 6 older sons and left nothing for his youngest. His friend was bewildered by the man’s decision and asked him for an explanation. The father responded that his youngest had taken after his footsteps and this son would clearly become as blessed as he was. However, his other children were wasting their days and there was nothing for them to be blessed with, so he wanted to at least leave them something.

This parable clearly explains the intentions of יצחק אבינו . As יעקב אבינו was following in his footsteps, יעקב didn’t require the blessing. But he felt for his eldest son and decided to leave him with the blessings. However, רבקה אמנו was given a prophecy to send her son יעקב to receive the blessings since the blessings would last for generations. Even though Yaakov was a righteous man and may be able to acquire his own blessings, his children may need to be given the blessings from יצחק אבינו.

Parashat Chayei Sarah

Parasha Thoughts

By Rabbi David Shasho

We know the famous first Rashi in the beginning of this week’s parashah which talks about why the pasuk separated the years of Sarah Imenu’s life. The next part of the pasuk repeats, “these were the years of Sarah.” Did it not just tell us this? Rashi says it’s teaching us something else, that all the years of Sarah Imanu were good. All good?! She went through so many troubles: 90 years of not having a child, being captured twice, traveling….. What is going on here?!

This is the life of a Jew: to always have faith in Hashem that whatever happens is for the best. Emunah and Bitachon are how we get through life and, if we believe, all of our years can be good as well no matter what happens.

An example in the parashah we can learn from is when Avraham became famous and rich after the first time Sarah was taken captive by Pharaoh. It looks like a great tragedy, but what came out of this was an unbelievable success. The Midrash says that while Sarah lived in Pharaoh’s palace for 6 months, he had a painting made of her like all princesses had done. Many years later when Yosef was in the palace he saw that picture and was inspired to follow in her path.

There is a higher power in charge and a higher goal. We are very limited in our understanding of what we are all here for. The negative things that occur in one’s life can be a devastation or an opportunity to grow. As one tries to believe that life has a higher purpose than the here and now, we can strive to cultivate a life like that of Sarah Imenu. This week we are being told the way Sarah saw her troubles and how she reacted to the hardships. In her perspective, everything was for the best, and it was a good life.

Shabbat Shalom!

Parashat Vayeira

Parasha Thoughts

By Rabbi Shlomo Zargari

Shalom,

In the Parasha, we find that after Yitzchak is born and grows more:
וַתֵּ֨רֶא שָׂרָ֜ה אֶֽת־בֶּן־הָגָ֧ר הַמִּצְרִ֛ית אֲשֶׁר־יָלְדָ֥ה לְאַבְרָהָ֖ם מְצַחֵֽק׃
Sarah saw the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Avraham playing.

וַתֹּ֙אמֶר֙ לְאַבְרָהָ֔ם גָּרֵ֛שׁ הָאָמָ֥ה הַזֹּ֖את וְאֶת־בְּנָ֑הּ כִּ֣י לֹ֤א יִירַשׁ֙ בֶּן־הָאָמָ֣ה הַזֹּ֔את עִם־בְּנִ֖י עִם־יִצְחָֽק׃
She said to Avraham, “Cast out that slave woman and her son, for the son of that slave shall not share in the inheritance with my son Yitzchak.”

Sarah saw Yishmael had very shallow demeanor and bad character, and she was afraid he would have a negative impact on her son Yitzchak.
״צוף דב״ asked why did she have to distance Yishmael? Why not keep Yishmael and let Yitzchak have a positive effect on Yishmael through his good midot, behavior, holiness, and fear of sin? Was this not the family business? From here we can see when there’s a bad friend, chances are he will affect all those around him and not the opposite!

We therefore see we need to open our eyes and be on the alert when it comes to our children’s friends or our own “friends” or social media so that we should not be affected negatively. We should not be naive thinking that these influences won’t have an effect on us.

Parashat Lech Lecha

Parasha Thoughts

By Rabbi Yosef Shemtov

Avraham Avinu had 10 tests. In the test of Lech Lecha, the Almighty asks Avraham to leave his country, his city, and his father’s house. Meanwhile, Hashem assures him that in a new place he will be rich, famous, and able to have children. Avraham is now about 75 years old and he believes in Hashem and was ready to put his life in danger for Hashem’s sake. As we know, King Nimrod put Avraham in a fire because he refused to worship idols. Avraham had full trust that Hashem would fulfill his promises.

So there is a big question here: Why is leaving the country the test?? Wouldn’t a barren person go anywhere to be able to have kids? Isn’t a test something which is hard and challenging? Wouldn’t anyone jump on this opportunity? Why is this one of Avraham’s tests?

The answer is many times we do what God wants from us, but do we do it because God said it, or do we do it because it is good for me and I will benefit from it? The test of Lech Lecha was about Avraham’s intention. Did Avraham do it in order to get rich ,famous and have children, or because this was Hashem’s will? So then Torah states that Avraham did just what Hashem told him to do, meaning he didn’t care about the benefits; he cared about doing God’s will.

Parashat Noach

Parasha Thoughts

By Rabbi Avraham Moeinzadeh

The following question is asked by the commentators on this week’s Parasha. On one hand, the Torah tells us that the world at that time was full of adultery. On the other hand, from the Torah it is clear that the reason for the flood was because of stealing. If the Dor Hamaboul was guilty of much greater sins such as adultery or idolatry why was their verdict signed only because of robbery?

The Shem Mishemuel wants to answer this question with the following analogy: Having pain in the body, as uncomfortable as it might be, is a great phenomenon that indicates the cause of illness and treatment to cure it, or to at least prevent it from getting worse. If a person has an illness but is numb and can’t sense the pain, although he is not bothered by it, the disease spreads in the body without him even realizing it. The same thing applies to the spiritual life of the person says Shem Mishemuel. Hashem has set a system for the person to identify his shortcomings before is too late. Chachamim teach us that when punishing the person, Hashem starts by taking away money. That is a wake up call for the person to start doing Teshuva. But that is only if his wealth was acquired appropriately. If the money is not really his, then that won’t be subjected to the Yisurim, rather the punishment would be decreed straight on the person. Although the main cause of the flood was the adultery and idolatry that was common in Dor Hamaboul, if their money was gathered in an appropriate way, their verdict wouldn’t be signed so suddenly.

Shabbat Shalom.