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The Lamplighter Weekly

Volume 21 Issue 40
November 10-16, 2019 - 12-18 Cheshvan 5780
Torah Reading: Vayeira
 Candle Lighting: 5:12 PM
Shabbos Ends: 6:07 PM

 

Parsha Synopsis · A Word From the Rabbi
Essay ·
Thoughts That Count
Once Upon A Chassid · Tid Bits · Happenings · Notes From Israel

 

Parsha Synopsis

Vayeira
Genesis: 18:1-22:24

G‑d  reveals Himself to Abraham three days after the first Jew’s  circumcision at  age ninety-nine; but Abraham rushes off to prepare a meal for three  guests who appear in the desert heat. One of the three—who are  angels disguised as men—announces that, in  exactly one year, the barren Sarah will give birth to a son. Sarah  laughs.

Abraham pleads with G‑d to spare the wicked city of  Sodom. Two of the three disguised angels arrive in the doomed city, where Abraham’s nephew  Lot extends his hospitality to them and protects them from the evil intentions of a Sodomite  mob. The two guests reveal that they have come to  overturn the place, and to save Lot and his family. Lot’s wife  turns into a pillar of salt when she disobeys the command  not to look back at the burning city as they flee.

While taking shelter in a  cave, Lot’s two daughters (believing that they and their father are the only ones left alive in the world) get their father  drunk, lie with him and become pregnant. The two sons born from this incident father the nations of  Moab and Ammon.

Abraham moves to Gerar, where the Philistine king  Abimelech takes Sarah—who is presented as Abraham’s sister—to his palace. In a  dream, G‑d warns Abimelech that he will die unless he returns the woman to her husband. Abraham explains that he feared he would be killed over the  beautiful Sarah.

G‑d  remembers His promise to Sarah, and gives her and Abraham a son, who is named  Isaac (Yitzchak, meaning “will laugh”). Isaac is circumcised at the age of  eight days; Abraham is one hundred years old, and Sarah ninety, at their child’s birth.

Hagar and Ishmael are banished from Abraham’s home and wander in the desert; G‑d hears the  cry of the dying lad, and saves his life by showing his mother a  well. Abimelech makes a treaty with Abraham at Beersheba, where Abraham gives him  seven sheep as a sign of their truce.

G‑d tests Abraham’s devotion by commanding him to  sacrifice Isaac on Mount Moriah (the  Temple Mount) in Jerusalem. Isaac is  bound and placed on the altar, and Abraham raises the knife to slaughter his son. A voice from heaven calls to stop him; a ram, caught in the undergrowth by its  horns, is offered in Isaac’s place. Abraham receives the news of the birth of a daughter,  Rebecca, to his nephew Bethuel.

A Word From the Rabbi

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A FOOT IN EACH WORLD
Sitting on the Fence Syndrome

Sitting on a fence is a man who sees no sense in fighting  
Sitting on a fence is a man who sees no sense at all  
Sitting on a fence is a man who strokes his twenty beards  
Sitting on a fence is a man who drinks real ale

But the real problem with this man   
Is he says he can’t when he can  
He’d rather not get his hands dirty  
He’ll still be there when he’s thirty

I told myself to keep my mouth shut  
But I still end up saying if and but  
I lied to myself right from the start  
And I’ve just worked out that I’m falling apart

Sitting on a fence is a man who looks up to his guardian  
Sitting on a fence is a man who swings from poll to poll  
Sitting on a fence is a man who sees both sides of both sides  
Sitting on a fence is a man who looks down on opinion

But the real problem with this man . . .

(Song by Housemartins)

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How long will you vacillate between two opinions – 1 Kings 18, 21

_____________________________

We've all heard the saying “you can’t have your cake and eat it too,” or better said, “you can't eat you cake and have it too.” Well Lot, it appears, had missed this lesson.

On the surface Lot seems like a real pious guy. He does everything right. He says all the right things and makes all the right moves. When the Angels show up at the gates of Sodom, Mr. Lot is right there to greet them, just like his uncle Avraham was wont to do. Much as Avraham ran towards the strangers, Lot too runs towards them. . . Avraham bowed; Lot bows.

Despite great personal risk, Lot welcomes the nomads and even invites them into his own home. When the guests decline the invitation Lot insists. He does not give up until he succeeds.

Lot does not appear to be disingenuous or to have an ulterior motive. As a nephew raised on Avraham’s knee, it looks as if he has learned rather well from his sainted uncle, especially about Hachnosas Orchim (guest hospitality).

In fact, if attention is paid, one will notice that the very choice of words and expressions that Lot employs in his conversation with the travelers are almost identical to those uttered by Avraham with respect to the very same visitors.

Lot's defiance of the surrounding ethos was apparently not limited to social kindness either – the fuzzy Tikun Olam stuff. Lot it appears actually observed hardcore religion – Mitzvos. In fact, according to the commentaries, Lot observed the Jewish holidays.

Rashi, for example points out, matter of factly, that Lot like Avraham served his guests Matzoh in honor of the holiday of Passover which fell out at that time.

Imagine that! Eating Matzoh, perhaps even Shmurah Matzoh, in the heart of Sodom and Gomorra, in observance of the holiday of Passover. Not too shabby for a guy in the hood – the most decadent and perverted place on earth.

Given the above it could be argued that Lot was actually a hero – a man who defied his surroundings and risked his life for the sake of G‑d and religion. Yet Jewish tradition portrays him as anything but a hero or even a man of piety. What does our religion have against Lot?

Grant it Lot was not perfect, but then who is? So he had a small altercation with his good uncle over some grazing land and decided to split, does that make him a bad guy? Even if he wasn't as discriminate as Avraham with regards to where he let his cattle graze, as Rashi notes, does that erase all the good stuff? Let's not forget the age and culture in which he lived. This was a very minor infraction by the standards of the prevailing civilization.

Why then does Judaism fail to recognize Lot's heroism or piety? Is he being picked on because he wasn't part of what was to become the Jewish people, or because he actually decided to quit the club?

Whatever was wrong with Lot, it was obviously not some small indiscriminate incident or squabble. It was rather something that reflected on his overall character and values. It was in fact, the very place he chose to live and raise his family.

Lot, as we know, was not born in Sodom, neither was his father or grandfather born in Sodom. Nor, for that matter, did he move there before it gained its notoriety as the Mecca of evil and corruption. Why, after all the years under the tutelage of the great Tzadik Avraham, would Lot choose to relocate to the most depraved and degenerate spot on earth? What business did Lot have in Sodom? What attracted him, of all places, to this morally depleted cesspool? The obvious answer is its ruthlessness and licentiousness.

Lot, as it turns out, was a man of many passions; a few too many perhaps. While he wanted to maintain the level of piety that he acquired from his uncle Avraham, he also liked what he saw in Sodom. He was a man with a foot in two worlds – two opposite worlds – the world of Avraham and the world of Sodom. Worse even, he thought it actually was possible for one to live this way.

The Biblical characters are not just historical figures that came and went several thousand years ago. They are rather symbols of ongoing human behaviors and traits. They identify positive and wholesome forms of existence, as well as the converse.

Lot's mistake is not unique or unusual. It is quite common in our own day and age to come across people who suffer, to varying degrees, from the very same delusion. Perhaps we ourselves may contain a touch of this psychological malady.

The Talmud (Yoma 69b) asserts that the impetus of the 'Evil inclination' towards idolatry has been removed nowadays; it has been replaced with the tendency towards vacillation and irresolution. There is a strong inclination to temporarily set G‑d aside for the sake of expedience – money, honor or social status. This seems to follow the contemporary maxim of Western civilization that rules are meant to be stretched, traditions forsaken, in exchange for the elusive 'spirit of the age.'      

People with this mindset just don't get it. They fail to realize that to be in one world you have to give up being in the other. You simply cannot live a life of higher spiritual purpose and that of hedonism at the same time, as they are essentially dichotomous. When you try to be all things to all people you are, in the end, nothing to anyone.

The political correctness of our times, places particular demand on people to maintain “Neutrality” where honesty and integrity dictate otherwise. The desire to be popular and “Good with everyone,” would have us turn our back on what we know in our heart to be wrong – to remain silent and take no stand where pro-activity and intervention is the only correct and just alternative.

As our Parsha and the life of Lot continue to unravel, we discover the sad and pitiful state into which Lot's life has lapsed – a lonely frightened man, held up in a cave not knowing who to trust and what will happen next.

Through the character of Lot, the Torah hopes to impart a valuable message to all of mankind for all of time: When one endeavors to live in opposite worlds; when one strives to have everything – "the best of both worlds;" the holy as well as the unholy – he may, like Lot, in the end be left with nothing at all, Heaven forbid.

We need to take a lesson from Lot – to overcome the folly of the times, as Eliyahu the Prophet demanded of the confused and wayward worshipers of the Baal, “How long will you vacillate between two worlds?

G‑d’s blessings for success and Nachas, especially with regards to Jewish continuity – parents, children and grandchildren following in the same footsteps and direction – are precipitated through commitment, resolve and allegiance to our principles and traditions.

May we all witness this blessing in our own lives, with the coming of the righteous Moshiach BBA.

Gut Shabbos 

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Rabbi Kahanov is the founder/director of Chabad in Northeast FL, consisting of 6 Chabad Centers
He is also the author of "What Chabad Really Believes"
If you like this, you might be interested in purchasing his book click here for more information 

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100% Natural

"G‑d revealed Himself to [Abraham] in the Plains of Mamre, as he sat in the doorway of his tent in the heat of the day" (Genesis 18:1).

Our sages note that, "It was the third day following his circumcision (described in the closing verses of the previous parshah) and G‑d came to inquire after his health" (Talmud, Bava Metzia 86). But why did G‑d wait three full days to visit the ailing Abraham? G‑d's delay is even more puzzling in light of the fact that the natural healing process following circumcision takes three days (see Talmud and commentaries, Shabbat 134b). The Talmud (Nedarim 39b) also tells us that "one who visits a sick person removes 1/60th of his illness." If a human visit has such an effect, a divine visit would certainly have removed Abraham's illness entirely. Apparently, G‑d waited until a primary benefit of visiting the sick was no longer operative!

But that exactly was the point. The chassidic masters explain that the purpose of a mitzvah is to transform and sanctify the physical world. Thus, a mitzvah performed by miraculous means is invalid. Let's say that that it's Passover and I don't have any matzah, but I'm a holy man with the power to perform miracles. I wave my wand, and a stack of matzahs materializes on the table. Eating them would not fulfill the mitzvah of eating matzah on Passover, since the entire point of a mitzvah is to elevate the natural reality. For Abraham to have been miraculously cured of the natural results of the mitzvah of circumcision would have compromised the significance of his mitzvah.

In Abraham's case, we see this principle applied not only to the mitzvah itself, but to the entire swath it cuts through time and space. After all, as long as Abraham fulfilled the mitzvah of circumcision by natural means, why should it matter if one minute later all natural effects of his action would be miraculously whisked away? But everything connected with a mitzvah—everything that enables it and everything that results from it—shares in its transformative power, and becomes holier and more G‑dly in the process.

Therein lies an important lesson to each of us. Often we look at our lives and are disappointed by how little of it is directed towards a higher purpose. We would love to learn more, but can only spare a few minutes a day. We wish we could give more to charity, but are able to give just a small amount. In truth, however, every action extends backwards and forward in time and has a ripple effect in every area of our lives. We may have studied for just a few minutes, but a single new idea will affect our thinking throughout the day. We give a few dollars to charity, and the time and effort we expended to earn that money are "elevated" along with it. Like a small pebble cast into a pool, a single G‑dly deed will reverberate though our life and infuse it with purpose and meaning.

Yanki Tauber

Thoughts That Count
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And when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed to the ground (Gen. 18:2)

The great Sage Shammai said: "Greet every man with a pleasant countenance." Should a person give his friend every gift in the world, yet greet him with a scowl, it is considered as if he gave him nothing. But if he greets him with a smile, it is considered as if he gave the other person everything, even if he is empty-handed. (Avot D'Rabbi Natan)

And he took butter and milk and the calf which he had prepared and set it before them (Gen. 18:8)

How could Abraham have offered his guests meat and milk at the same time? The answer is that he served the meat and dairy foods to them separately, with the intention that each guest should choose for himself what he wished to eat. Abraham even went to the trouble of preparing three tongues, should each of the three guests wish to eat only meat. This is the epitome of the mitzva of hospitality. (Likutei Sichot)

And offer him there for a burnt offering (Gen. 22:2)

"Master of the Universe!" cried Abraham before G‑d. "When you commanded me to offer up my son as a burnt offering, I could have said, 'But yesterday You promised that my seed would be perpetuated through Isaac!' However, I conquered my own inclination to carry out Your will. In return, may it be Your will that should the descendants of Isaac ever be in trouble, with no one to defend them, You Yourself will come to their defense." (Jerusalem Talmud, Taanit)

The trial of the binding of Isaac is ascribed to Abraham's merit, even though he was not the intended sacrifice. For the agony of a father who leads his child to slaughter is much greater than the child's own suffering. (Taharat HaKodesh)

Once Upon A Chassid

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This is Education

For I know him, that he will instruct his children and his household after him, so that they will keep the path of G‑d, to do righteousness and justice… (18:19)

Just as it is incumbent upon every Jew, from the greatest scholar to the most simple of men, to put on tefillin every day, in the same way there is an unequivocal duty which rests upon every individual to set aside half an hour each day to think about the education of his children. (Rabbi Sholom DovBer of Lubavitch)

Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok of Lubavitch once told:

A child remains a child. On Rosh Hashanah of 1888, when I was a child of seven and several months, I visited my grandmother and she treated me to a melon. I went out to the yard and sat with my friends on a bench directly opposite my father's window and shared the melon with my friends.

My father called me in and said to me: "I noticed that you did indeed share with your friends, but you did not do it with a whole heart." He then explained to me at length the idea of a 'generous eye' and 'malevolent eye.'

I was so deeply affected by my father's words that I was unable to recover for half an hour. I wept bitterly and brought up what I had eaten of the melon.

"What do you want from the child?" asked my mother. Father replied: "It is good this way. Now this trait it will be ingrained in his character."

Concluded Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok: "This is education."



Tid Bits
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Size Large Works for Me and My Family

tid bit
I settled myself in the window seat as the flight attendant began closing the overhead compartments and preparing the cabin for takeoff.

Suddenly, a young husband and wife, clutching a tiny baby, rushed in and took the seats next to mine.

“How old is she?” I asked the mother.

“Just a week and a day.”

“Wow!” I said, wondering what such a little baby was doing on this flight from Israel to the United States.

Watching them struggle to squeeze their hand luggage into the remaining space, I offered to hold the baby. I felt her tiny body rise and fall with each breath. She was so pure and innocent and beautiful. Inside me, I felt a huge desire to hold a little baby of my own in my arms. As the plane began to take off, I was almost jealous of this mother, even though I knew that it was completely illogical. I had a large family of my own that I had left behind.

I spent most of the flight resting and reading, but in between, I couldn’t keep my eyes off this baby. Was I crazy that I felt so pulled to her? My youngest was no longer a baby, and I should just be enjoying the space and freedom and luxury of a full night’s sleep, yet there was something so incredible about holding a newborn. I knew that this innocent pink bundle would grow into a food-throwing toddler, and then into a hair-pulling whining kid that needed to be dragged to play dates and school events. The teenage years were sure to be a winning combination of maturity and immaturity, and kids who learn to drive before they know how to step on the brakes of self-control. Still, a silent prayer slipped from my heart; please G‑d, at the right time ...

I returned home the next week to my busy life while trying to get past the jet lag. As I walked my kids to day camp, I looked at all of the children and was overwhelmed by the beauty of the Jewish people. I live in a community where children are treasured. Sometimes, people may think there’s some kind of external pressure—almost like a competition to have more and more children—but that’s not why there are so many little ones in the playground or why three, four and even five children crowd into the same bedroom.

I continued on to my exercise class. I was tired and really didn’t want to go, but I pushed myself. We were doing squats, sit-ups and planks. “You can do it! The instructor cheered us on. “Eight, seven, six ... it’s hard, but that’s why we’re here. We need to work hard to improve. If we stay at our comfort level, we’ll never really build any new muscle.”

There were days and weeks that I feel stretched—like I’m doing a 60-second plank again and again, but it’s worth it. Sometimes, I have to close my eyes and ears to the stresses of my children and remind myself that nothing good comes without challenge.

The choice to go from a large family to an extra-large one may be viewed by those on the outside as bordering on insanity. As a friend in the playground asked, “How can you manage, putting that whole brood to sleep? I have only three, and it takes me all night.”

I whispered my secret: “Sometimes, I can’t.” But go ask a mother of two or four or five if they can handle it all. I’m sure that they can’t. Ask a new mother with just one baby if she is managing. Chances are that she’ll say no.

We grow with ourchildren and through our children. My desire to build and give through raising children is so powerful that it pushes me to want more, even when my hands and home seem already full. Having children opens my eyes to the miracles that G‑d grants once again—new life, health—and it pushes me to find within myself a higher level of belief that if G‑d can give me children, He can give me the money and the strength to raise them. Logically, it doesn’t make sense how families with many children can pay their bills and give each child the time and the love that they need, but I look around at my friends and myself, and I’m humbled to realize that everything is a miracle. If G‑d can help me raise one child, He can help me raise many more.

A friend once smiled at my children and at me, then said, “You don’t have to have, like, a million kids.”

I smiled back at her as I thought, “I know, but does a millionaire stop after he’s made his first million?”

By Tova Traub 


Happenings

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