SPARKS OF TORAH
VOLUME 63 NUMBER 6
November 23, 2012
9 Kislev, 5773
Candle-lighting Time: 4:21 PM
This edition of Sparks of Torah is dedicated by Stel Fine in memory of Rivka Chaya Hoffman who passed away this week after only a few days of life. We express our deep condolences to her parents and family, and we wish long life to her newborn twin sister Ahuva.
- Support Israel at our Israel Art Show, Dec. 5-9. 1500 works of original art from over 100 different Israeli artists for sale in time for Chanukah. Check our website for details.
- Chanukah this year is observed from Saturday night, Dec. 8th – Saturday night, Dec. 15th. Time to dust off the menorah…
by Rabbi Raphael Leban
In the few brief moments before I am overcome with sleep, I occasionally dream of creative little money-making ventures. Perhaps an electric converter which transforms X-mas lights into Chanukah decorations or a Jewish mother doll—you pull the string and she says, “Again with the string?”
Recently I thought of another kind of doll—a family of Jewish superheroes: Midosman, Wonderfulwoman and The Marvelous Kinderlach. (Midos are character traits.)
They wouldn’t be known for their super strength, just for their super strength of character. They may not bring me the big bucks, but they might garner a dusty shelf in the synagogue gift shop.
Jewish heroes are champions in the race to the ultimate perfection of the human personality. Able to leap over tall insults without responding in kind, faster than a speeding bullet at spotting an opportunity to help someone in need, more powerfully responsible than a locomotive. These are the people we look up to—the most gracious, the humblest and the most considerate of others. Not the most popular, the prettiest or the most athletic.
In this week’s parsha is a larger than life portrait of one such superhero, our Foremother Rachel.
As Jacob approaches his uncle Laban’s house, he first meets Rachel. Destined for one another, two halves of the same soul, they know instantly that they will marry. However, they also know that Rachel’s father Laban must agree.
In the Jewish superhero product line Laban is the archenemy. He is the greedy, deceitful trickster who will try everything in his power to cheat Jacob for all he can get. Knowing this, Jacob and Rachel devise a plan to prevent Laban from spoiling their intended marriage. Jacob gives Rachel a special sign. With the sign, she will be able to identify herself to him despite any attempts by Laban to trick them.
Sure enough, after Jacob works seven years as Laban’s shepherd for Rachel’s hand in marriage, the big day approaches. And sure enough, Laban plans to pull a fast one, just as they feared. Instead of Rachel marrying Jacob, Rachel’s older sister, Leah, would be substituted in her place.
At that moment, Rachel ran into the nearest phone booth and changed into Ms. Super Compassionate. With her x-ray vision she saw into the future, deep into her sister’s heart, and she realized that on her sister’s wedding night, after the great feast was over, in the intimate darkness alone with Jacob, she would be asked for the sign. She would not have it, and she would be utterly humiliated.
Our Super Foremother then sacrificed (as far as she knew) the love of her life, her betrothed, Jacob. She would not be a Foremother of the Jewish People, she would give up her destiny, she would watch as her sister married her husband.
To prevent her sister from such embarrassment, Rachel gave Leah the sign. “And it was in the morning, and behold, it was Leah!” The rest is history.
As a reward for her incredible, superhuman self-sacrifice to shield her sister from humiliation, Rachel was also able to marry Jacob. It even earned her an extra measure of love and respect from him. (See Kli Yakar 29:30) And it earned her an eternal place in the midos hall of fame, as the Jewish superheroine who taught us how to place other people’s feelings before our own.
HOW MUCH DO I GET?
by Rabbi Dovid Nussbaum
Hashem commands Yaakov to leave Lavan’s house. He gathers his family together and escapes from the antagonistic and hostile atmosphere that exists there. However, when Lavan hears that Yaakov has left, he pursues him and quickly catches up to him. Lavan receives a warning from Hashem not to harm Yaakov, but he nonetheless approaches him and berates him for kidnapping his children and stealing his livestock. Of course, the complaint is preposterous. After all, Yaakov married Lavan’s two daughters and the children are his. Despite Lavan’s attempts to swindle Yaakov, the wealth that he amassed was his just compensation. We must try to understand the mindset of Lavan that he was able to make such a ludicrous claim.
The last of the Ten Commandments states that one should not desire what does not belong to him. Whether it is another man’s wife or his monetary possessions, the Torah forbids one to covet what belongs to others. Ibn Ezra poses a question that is asked by many. How can the Torah prohibit a person from desiring something that attracts him but is someone else’s possession? He gives an analogy of a simple villager who sees the beautiful daughter of the king. Although it may cross his mind for a fleeting moment that it would be wonderful to marry her, he realizes that such a thought is a fantasy and he might as well wish that he had wings so that he could fly like the birds in the sky. Since it is obvious that he doesn’t have access to the king’s daughter, he puts the possibility totally out of his mind.
In a similar fashion, if we would realize that everything is Heavenly ordained and each person receives what Hashem deems that he should have, we would not anticipate acquiring another person’s possessions, no matter what they are. The underlying idea is that one’s cunning or ingenuity does not ultimately matter when it comes to acquiring material wealth or anything physical in this world. Rather, it is Hashem’s plan that determines what each and every one of us is entitled to, based on a Divine formula and calculations which we are not privy to.
Hence, we can now somewhat understand the workings of a mind like that of Lavan. Lavan wanted to destroy Yaakov and undermine the future establishment of the Jewish nation. We cannot imagine any denial of Hashem greater than that. Such a person could say to Yaakov that everything that you have truly belongs to me.
This encounter defines the lines of demarcation between a fundamental belief in Hashem’s jurisdiction and domination of world events and the counter forces of the world that submit that they can ‘outwit’ Hashem and destroy His nation. What we must know with clarity is that we cannot surmount the challenges that confront us entirely through our own resources and efforts. If we abandon our recognition that Hashem is our source and basis for deliverance from our enemies, we might not merit His assistance in our time of need.
Question for the Rabbis
By Rabbi Mordechai Becher, reprinted with permission from www.partersintorah.org.
Is it permitted to hold the weddings of two sisters at the same time? The Mordechai (Moed Katan 8) maintains that a verse in the Torah portion this week requires one to wait for the end of the sheva brachot (the week-long celebration after a wedding) of one daughter until making the wedding for the next daughter. After Laban agrees to let Jacob marry Rachel, he says, “Complete this week” (Genesis 29:26), which is understood by the Jerusalem Talmud to mean the week of celebration, because one should not “mix one joy with another” (Moed Katan 6a). Rabbi Moshe Feinstein however points out that this would only be true in the case of one man, like Jacob, who is marrying two sisters, in which case his personal obligation to rejoice with one bride will interfere with his obligation to rejoice with his other bride. Nevertheless, Rabbi Moshe Isserless (Code of Jewish Law, Even Haezer 62:2) does forbid holding the weddings of two sisters simultaneously, but for a different reason. Thus Rabbi Feinstein concludes that holding the wedding ceremonies one after the other, providing the crowd disperses in between, or holding one before sundown and the other after nightfall, is permitted (Igrot Moshe, Even Haezer 4:89).
Joke of the Week
After the assassination of Tsar Alexander II of Russia, a government official in Ukraine menacingly addressed the local Rabbi, “I suppose you know in full detail who was behind it.”
“Ach,” the Rabbi replied, “I have no idea, but the government’s conclusion will be the same as always: they will blame the Jews and the chimney sweeps.”
“Why the chimney sweeps?” asked the befuddled official.
“Why the Jews?” responded the Rabbi.
BYTE FOR SHABBOS
In Parshas Vayeitzei, Yaakov vows to make an altar and bring sacrifices to repay G-d for His kindness if he escapes Lavan’s house safely. Our Sages learn from this that one may make a vow at a time of distress on condition that he be saved. Such an approach was truly appropriate for Yaakov who also instituted the Maariv or evening prayer service, which is symbolic of our need for salvation in times of darkness, i.e. exile.