The Talking Cure – Parashas Yisro פרשת וישמע יתרו

A healing tongue is a tree of lif;, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit” (Mishle 15, 4)

Rabeinu Bachaye explains that his verse teaches us that the highest form of cure is done by talking.  Other cures, using medicines and treatments may cure illnesses in the body, but their cure is not certain.  They may cure the patient, and they may not.  And even if the patient is cured from his illness, the medicine will only bring him back to his previous state of health, but it will not actually increase his life force.  Not so with speech.  Rabeinu Bachaye asserts that proper, healing talk is a certain cure.  Not only that, it can add to a person’s life force, actually improve his life.

The second half of the verse shows the dark side of the tongue: if it’s used perversely it will break the spirit.  Just like cure can come from the tongue, so can injury and illness.  If someone speaks degradingly, slanders, embarrasses someone, the words can break the spirit.  And this injury can be more severe than a physical illness.  For if the body gets sick, at least the spirit can sustain it.  But if the spirit gets sick and broken, who will sustain it?

In today’s terms we call it mental illness, depression, anxiety, etc. In Rabeinu Bachaye’s terms, it leads to sin, bad beliefs, and broken spirit.

How can this broken spirit be cured? By speaking with someone that has a healing tongue.  This is the real “Talking Cure”.  Man has an advantage over the animals in that he can speak.  And using this gift of speech can cure others of illness.

This was the secret behind how Avraham Avinu was able to bring people to the belief in God.  The Midrash said that he had a special jewel hanging around his neck, and people would come to him and see the jewel and be cured of their illness.  The cure happened because they heard the words coming out of Avraham’s throat where the jewel was, and the words were what cured them, and brought them close to the service of God.

This is the connection to our Parsha: “Moshe told the story to Yisro …” of all the miracles that God performed for the Jewish people.  Yisro heard this and converted.  And this is what is said at the beginning of the Parsha: “And Yisro heard …”

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True Chessed – Parashat Vayechi


One of the problems of translation of languages is that not every word has an exact translation.  One example of that is the word “Chessed” חסד in Hebrew, which is variously translated as “Kindness”, “Loving-kindness” “Benevolence”, or “Grace”.  But none of these translations have the authentic feel and usage as the word Chessed does in Hebrew.  Chessed is helping someone who is in need, and the best form of Chessed is doing it without any ulterior motivation, and without thought of getting something in return.   That is true Chessed.  And in its truest form it is doing the final Chessed for someone in burying them upon their death.


At the beginning of this week’s Parsha, Ya’akov Avinu is on his death bed, and summons Yosef to his side to have him swear that he will not bury him in Mitzrayim, but rather in Hebron in the burial cave where Avraham and Sarah are buried, Yitzchak and Rivka, and Ya’akov buried Leah there.  Ya’akov has Yosef swear using the phrase: “You will do for me Chessed and Truth” (חסד ואמת)  The Midrash is puzzled by this phrase: (Bereshit Rabba 96:5) “Can there be Chessed of falsehood? Why did he say Chessed and Truth?  There is a parable amongst the simple people, “If your friend’s son dies, then take up the burden of the burial. If your friend dies, leave him.”   The person who died will never be able to pay you back.  Someone does the work of the burial is only doing it out of altruistic motives, not of getting a reward from the person.


But it doesn’t exactly end there.  There is a reward for doing true Chessed.  In the Tractate of Sotah, the Mishna (8b) says that a person is judged, and given reward or punishment, according to his acts, measure for measure.  One of several examples of getting reward measure for measure is Yosef burying his father Ya’akov (9b) Yosef earned merit by burying his father, and there was none among his brothers greater than he; as it said:  “And Yosef went up to bury his father…” Yosef was the leader in Mitzrayim, and he took personal responsibility for the funeral.  Who, in the Jewish People was greater than Yosef? Moshe, who took personal responsibility for bring the bones of Yosef out of Mitzrayim.  Moshe, in his turn, was also rewarded for his act of Chessed, and deserved to be buried by One greater than he.  Who was greater than Moshe? Only the Holy One Blessed Be He, who occupied himself with the burial, as it says: “And He buried him in the valley.”(Devarim 34:6)


The burial of Moshe was the last thing to happen in the Torah.  In this Rabbi Simlai saw in this a basic principle of the whole Torah, as he expounded: (Sotah 14a) Torah begins with an act of Kindness11  and ends with an act of Kindness. It begins with an act of Kindness, for it is written: And the L-rd G-d made for Adam and for his wife coats of skin, and clothed them;  and it ends with an act of Kindness, for it is written: ‘And He buried him in the valley’.


There is a bit of a discrepancy between the example of Kindness at the end of the Torah with the one in the beginning.  The burial of Moshe is 6 verses from the end of the Torah, and essentially closes the action of the Torah.  But the example of Chessed from the beginning of the Torah comes only in the 77th verse, after the story of the Creation, the story of Gan Eden, of the sin of the forbidden fruit.  If the point of Rabbi Simlai was to show that the Torah started with Chessed, surely he could have found an earlier example.  In fact, the very Creation of the world was the biggest Chessed possible, as the Holy One Blessed Be He created the world for the very purpose of bestowing good onto something other than Himself, as the Ramchal writes in Derech Hashem.


Rather, Rabbi Simlai picked the example of Chessed of fashioning clothes for Adam and his wife to teach us an important lesson.  The Chessed that Moshe received at the end of the Torah was something that he richly deserved, for doing that Chessed for Yosef, who in turn richly deserved it for doing it for his father Ya’akov.  But with Adam and Chava, if they hadn’t sinned with the forbidden fruit they would not have needed the clothes.  Not only were they not deserving of this kindness, but it was their own fault.  In such a situation we may have the tendency to not want to do the Chessed because the person brought it on himself. “You made your bed, you sleep in it.”  What Rabbi Simlai is telling us is not to be swayed by such faulty thinking.  Rather, the True Chessed is helping someone who is in need, whether they deserve it, like Moshe, or whether they don’t, like in Adam and Chava.


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Woe to us on the Judgment Day! Vayigash

Rabbi Yochanan said: “Woe to us on the day of Judgment; woe to us on the day of rebuke! When Yosef revealed himself to his brothers and said ‘I am Yosef’ they were completely dumbfounded. When the Holy One Blessed Be He will stand in judgment, how much more so will we be dumbfounded. (Midrash Tanchuma Yigash 5)
This week’s Parsha is the dramatic denouement of the story of the sale of Yosef into slavery by his jealous brothers. Yosef is the most powerful man in Mitzrayim. His brothers came down to Mitzrayim to buy food because of the famine. But they have another purpose. They have seen how their father Ya’akov has been for the last 22 years thinking that Yosef was dead, killed by a wild animal. Now has come their opportunity to find and redeem their brother. Only they don’t know that their brother is the one sitting in front of them. They don’t recognize him, and are confused by his contradictory actions. And they have fallen into the trap that Yosef set for them.
This week’s story starts from were last week’s Parsha left off. Yosef, as the powerful Viceroy, had set a frame up and had Binyamin arrested for theft. He will not be allowed to go back home, and his father will never see him again. Yehuda stepped forward to plea with him, not knowing that this is his long lost brother Yosef.
Yehuda retells the story of how they came to Mitzrayim to buy food, and were required to bring Binyamin with them. He tells of how their father Ya’akov refused to let Binyamin go. Yehuda relates how Ya’akov spoke of his beloved wife Rachel who had two sons – Yosef and Binyamin. Yosef departed, was mauled by a wild animal, and never heard from again. If anything should happen to Binyamin, it would be too much to bear. Finally Yehuda convinces his father to entrust Binyamin to his care. If anything should happen to him, Yehuda will be personally responsible.
It is this responsibility that Yehuda is pleading with Yosef. Yehuda offers to take the place of Binyamin, and be a slave for life in Mitzrayim, in order to allow Binyamin to go back to his father.
The Torah says this point that Yosef could not hold himself back. He decides that it is time to reveal his true identity to his brothers. But in doing so, he also asks a question. He says, “I am Yosef. Is my father alive?” At first glance it would seem that he is asking again about the welfare of his father. But we see that he has already asked the brothers about their father, and they said that he is alive and well. In Yehuda’s pleading with Yosef he relates the details of the conversation that he has just had with his father before they departed for Mitzrayim.
Rather, what Yosef was saying could be explained thus: “You’re concerned about how your father will react when he finds out that Binyamin is gone? I am Yosef. You sold me into slavery and told our father that I was dead. He has been grieving for the last 22 years. Did you worry about him then? Did you worry if he would survive the grief?” In pointing out this contradiction in the brother’s actions, this was rebuke in its most powerful form. They are worrying about father now, but that very action now indicts them for their past action of not caring in the past.
This is what Rabbi Yochanan is telling us about the Day of Judgment. On that day the Holy One Blessed Be He will speak up for the Mitzvot that have been shamed, for the Torah that has been violated. If we think that we can come to the Day of Judgment and get a free pass because we have been “religious” and “Torah observant Jews,” we better make sure that we don’t have our own internal contradictions. Our own cutting of corners, of ignoring our wrong doings. How can we even begin to make sure that we don’t have these internal contradictions? Like we wrote here last week, the advice that the Rabbis give is to keep a spiritual accounting. To spend time every day to weigh our deeds, to make sure that we are actually doing good deeds, and not fooling ourselves into thinking that our bad deeds are actually good.

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Banishing the Darkness – Miketz, Channukah

_MG_5713“And it came to pass at the end of two years” (Bereshit  41:1) Our Parasha starts out exactly two years from the end of last weeks Parasha.  Yosef is languishing in prison.  Just like Yosef predicted from his interpretation of the dreams, the Wine Steward of Pharaoh got out of prison.  But he “forgot” to put in a good word for Yosef, which left him in the darkness of the dungeon.  The Torah now announces that from the darkness of Pharaoh’s bedroom come dreams that will start a chain of events that will bring Yosef’s two years of darkness to an abrupt end.

The Midrash compares Yosef’s sojourn in the darkness of prison and its sudden end, to the reality that we all live in.  We live in a world of darkness, and one day it too will come to an abrupt end.  The Midrash learns this from a verse from Iyov: (28:3) “He made an end to darkness…”  The darkness is the reality of the world that we live in.  The Talmud also refers to the darkness of this world (Baba Mezia 83b): “What is meant by, ‘You make darkness, and it is night’ (Tehilim 104:20)”?  This refers to this world, which is comparable to night.” This is the darkness of our lusts and desires, of the Yetzer Hara (Evil Inclination) which darkens the world so that we don’t see the truth that is in front of us, or we see it in a distorted way so that we are fooled into thinking that things that are false are actually true, and things that are true look false. (Mesilat Yesharim ch.2)

The Midrash continues: One day all of this darkness will end. Why?  Because evil will be vanquished in the end.  But until then, there will be the Yetzer Hara  in the world to fool us, and that is compared to darkness and the shadow of death, as the verse in Iyov continues: ‘…and every end He fathoms; a stone of darkness and the shadow of death.‘  So just like Yosef’s darkness ended suddenly with the dramatic events of Pharaoh’s cryptic dream, so will the darkness and evil of our world end.

But what can we do in the meantime, while we are stuck in this world of darkness? The Mesilat Yesharim (ch. 2) shows us the way.  It’s called “Cheshbon Nefesh” – the accounting of the soul.  Just like a good businessman keeps careful track of his accounts to make sure that he is making money and not losing it, so should we keep careful accounts of our actions, to make sure that everything we do is for good, and not the opposite.  This can only be done by setting aside regular times to make this moral accounting and inventory.  In this way we can start to correct our actions, and find our way through the darknes.

In the Jewish calendar, the Torah reading of Miketz, the end of Yosef’s darkness, almost always coincides with Channukah.  Perhaps one of the reasons for this is just to teach us that lesson of light and darkness.  On the longest nights of the year, we go out into the dark to light a candle.  It’s a small act of banishing the darkness of this world.  It commemorates event that happened in a time of great darkness, where we were miraculously brought into light. It reminds us that just like there was an end to the darkness in the time of the Maccabees, so too there will be an end to the darkness of this world.  Until that moment arrives, we do our small part to light a candle, and to look into all of our actions to banish the darkness of the Yetzer Hara, and to live by the light of H-shem.

third candle Kotel

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Sex, Lies, and a Good Name -Vayeshev

In Parshat “VaYeshev” Yosef is sold into slavery, and is bought by Potiphar, one of ranking officials in Egypt.  Yosef’s good looks attract much attention from the women, especially his master’s wife.  She starts to try to seduce Yosef, but he had a good upbringing, and resists all of her advances.  But what can he do?  He is a strapping young 17 year old, at the height of his hormones, and he’s away from home, away from the watchful eye of his father.  It’s not reasonable to think that any young man in his position could hold out for very long.  (see Bereshis Rabbah 87:5)

We know that in any given set of events, there can be different explanations of the story – “competing narratives”.   In our story here too, there are differing views in the writings of Chazal to explain our Yosef’s actions and motivation.  Did he come to the house that day simply to do another day’s work?  Or was the work he came to do the work of the Yetzer Hara – lust of the flesh? (Sotah 36b)

Either way, our hero finds himself in the mansion of his master, with only his wife there, with her plans to seduce him.  She carefully set up this opportunity by waiting for the big day when everyone would be out at the festival, or was it the theater.  She outright lied by saying that she doesn’t feel well and has to stay home in bed.  And she lied by omission by not saying what she planned to do in bed.

How did Yosef get himself out of this predicament? The Rabbis of the Talmud tell us (Sotah 36b) Moments before he succumbed to temptation, his father appeared to him in the window.  He said, “Yosef! In the future your brothers names will all be written on the precious stones of the High Priest, and your name is also destined to be there. Do you want your name to be erased and instead you will be called ‘A herder of harlots?!’”

A good name is more valuable than anything.  By our actions we affect our name.  In one moment, Yosef could have destroyed the ability of his name to be the Holy of Holies, and to be the lowest of the lows.  If Yosef had given in to temptation, the verse in Mishle (29:3) would apply to him “he that keeps company with harlots wastes his substance”.  Instead, Yosef resisted and he merited to be known as the “Mighty one of Ya’akov, … the Shepherd of Israel”, from the verse: (Bereshit 49:24)

וַתֵּשֶׁב בְּאֵיתָן קַשְׁתּוֹ, וַיָּפֹזּוּ זְרֹעֵי יָדָיו; מִידֵי אֲבִיר יַעֲקֹב, מִשָּׁם רֹעֶה אֶבֶן יִשְׂרָאֵל.


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Gone with the wind – Parshat Vayishlach

wheat“These are the generations of Esav…” (Bereshit 36,1) The Torah spends the next 43 verses telling us all about Esav’s children, grandchildren, etc., where they went, the kings etc.  Since the Torah is about the Jewish people, it leads one to wonder why all this information about the descendants Esav.  Also, in the end of Parshat Chayei Sara we are told about the generations if Yishmael.  Again, why do we need to know this?

The Midrash Rabba enlightens us with a parable (Parshat Vayishlach, 83:5) “The hay, straw, and chaff got into an argument with each other. This one said, ‘The field was planted on account of me!’ and the other one said, ‘On account of me the field was planted!’  The wheat said, ‘Wait until harvest time and we will know the real reason the field was planted…’”  This discussion sounds like a discourse of competing narratives.  Each side has their own truth in order to justify their own political stance. We can imagine the reasons behind their arguments.  The chaff says, “Certainly the owner needs me to feed his animals.”  The hay says, “I make better animal feed than you.  He planted the field for me, not for you.”  The straw says, “The owner is a polished politician, and needs me in his debates to set up a straw man.”  The wheat has no argument other than to wait and see.

The Midrash continues: “The harvest was gathered in.  The owner went to the threshing floor to thresh the wheat and the chaff blew away. He took the hay and threw it on the ground, and took the straw and burned it.”  Each one of the three protagonists got their answer.  For the chaff… the answer is blowing in the wind.  The hay came from the dust and returned to dust.  When the truth finally came to light, he straw was burnt.

“The owner took the wheat and stored it in the silo, and everyone who saw it kissed it…Thus are the nations of the world: These say ‘We are the raison d’être of mankind, and the world was created for us!  And these say the world was created for us!  Israel says, ‘Wait until the day comes, and we will know for whom the world was created.’  This is what it says. ‘For, behold, the day cometh, it burns as a furnace…’ (Malachi 3:19) And on them it says: ‘Thou shalt fan them, and the wind shall carry them away, and the whirlwind shall scatter them;’ (Isaiah 41:16)  But for Israel it says (ibid) ‘and thou shalt rejoice in the L-RD, thou shalt glory in the Holy One of Israel.”’

This lesson of this metaphor of this Midrash at the end of the Parsha teaches us that the ultimate purpose is only known at the end.  What happens in the beginning is only a preparation for the end.  The many generations of Esav are mentioned only to tell us what will happen to them in the end: Not so the wicked; but they are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.” (Tehilim 1:4)

This is also told us in the end of the Torah in Parshat Ha’azinu:  For the portion of the L-RD is His people, Ya’akov the rope of His inheritance.  Rashi explains that the verse: ‘Ya’akov is the third of our forefathers, the merit of his father’s father, and the merit of his father, and his merit makes three, like a rope that has three strands.  Ya’akov and his descendents are the inheritance of the Holy one Blessed Be He, and not Yishmael son of Avraham, and not Esav son of Yitzchak.’

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לבור מוץ מבר –פרשת וישלח


‘וְאֵלֶּה תּולְדוֹת עֵשָׂו הוּא אֱדֽוֹם’׃ (בראשית ל”ו, א’) לכאורה, אחרי שהקב”ה הבטיח ליעקב אבינו בבית אל לתת לו ולזרעו אחריו את הארץ, אין לנו צורך לדעת התולדות של עשו. יעקב כבר נפרד ממנו, נפסק הקשר, ועשו הלך לגור בשעיר. למה התורה פירט הצאצאים של עשו לדורותם?. גם הדורות של ישמעאל מוזכרות בסוף פרשת חיי שרה, (כ”ה, יב) ‘וְאֵלֶּה תּולְדות יִשְׁמָעֵאל בֶּן־אַבְרָהָם…’ ולא היה שום קשר של בני ישראל עם הדורות האלו. למה התורה טרחה לכתוב כל כך הרבה על הדורות של ישמעאל ועשו אם זה כבר לא היה רלבנטי לסיפור של בני ישראל לדורותם

 המדרש רבא מפרש לנו את העניין בדרך משל (וישלח פ”ג : ה’): “התבן והקש והמוץ מריבים זה עם זה, זה אומר בשבילי נזרעה השדה וזה אומר בשבילי נזרעה השדה, אמרו החטים המתינו עד שתבואו הגורן ואנו יודעין בשביל מה נזרעה השדה…” הויכוח הזה נראה כמו שיח פוסט מודרני של נרטיבים מתחרים, שבו כל אחד יש לו את הנרטיב משלו ואת האמת שלו כדי להצדיק את עמדתו הפוליטי. אנחנו יכולים לדמיין את הטענות של הצדדים בויכוח. המוץ יכול לטעון שהשדה נזרעה בשבילו כדי לספק אוכל לבהמות. התבן טוען שהוא התכלית של גידול השדה, כי הוא מספק אוכל יותר טוב לבהמות. יתכן שהקש טוען שהוא יודע שבעל השדה הוא איש עסקים מבריק, ובטח צריך אותו להקים חברת קש. החיטים לא טוענים כלום, רק אומרים בסבלנות שכעבור הזמן האמת יצא לאור

ממשיך המדרש: “באו לגורן ויצא בעל הבית לזרותה, הלך לו המוץ ברוח, נטל את התבן והשליכו על הארץ, ונטל את הקש ושרפו” כל אחד משלשת המתווכחים קבלו את התשובה שלו. למוץ, כמו שאומרים… התשובה נושבת ברוח. התבן לוקח מן העפר, ואל העפר ישוב. הבעל הבית שלח חרונו ויאכלימו כקש

המדרש ממשיך: “נטל את החטים ועשה אותן כרי, וכל מי שרואה אותן מנשקן, היך מה שאת אמר (תהלים ב’, י”ב):  ‘נַשְׁקוּ בַר פֶּן יֶאֱנַף’. כך אומות העולם, הללו אומרים אנו עיקר, ובשבילנו נברא העולם, והללו אומרים בשבילנו נברא העולם. אמרו להם ישראל המתינו עד שיגיע היום ואנו יודעים בשביל מי נברא העולם. הדא הוא דכתיב (מלאכי ג’ י”ט) ‘כִּי הִנֵּה הַיּוֹם בָּא בּועֵר כַּתַּנּוּר’. ועליהם הוא אומר (ישעיה מ”א, ט”ז) ‘תִּזְרֵם וְרוּחַ תִּשָֹּׂאֵם וּסְעָרָה תָּפִיץ אותָם’ אבל ישראל (שם) ‘וְאַתָּה תָּגִיל בַּה’ בִּקְדוֹשׁ יִשְׂרָאֵל תִּתְהַלָּל’ עכ”ל המדרש.
והוא מליצה נפלאה בסוף סדרא, להורות כי התכלית ניכר רק מסוף, וראשית הדברים  המה רק הכנות ושמירות לסוף הדברים – אשד הנחלים

האומות העולם נמשלו לקש, תבן, ומוץ – דברים שבקרה הטוב ראוי למספוא  לבהמות, ואין להם קיום או המשכיות, או יכולת פוריות. בסוף לא יהיה להם קיום בעולם. ‘לא־כֵן הָרְשָׁעִים כִּי אִם־כַּמּוץ אֲ‍שֶׁר־תִּדְּפֶנּוּ רֽוּחַ’ – תהילים א’, ד

לעומת זאת, יהיה ברור לכולם בסוף שהעולם נברא בשביל עם ישראל כמו שכתוב בסוף התורה בפרשת האזינו (דברים ל”ב, ט’) ‘כִּי חֵלֶק ה’ עַמּוֹ יַעֲקב חֶבֶל נַחֲלָתֽוֹ’  פרש”י: יעקב חבל נחלתו: והוא השלישי באבות המשולש בשלש זכיות, זכות אבי אביו וזכות אביו וזכותו, הרי ג’, כחבל הזה שהוא עשוי בג’ גדילים, והוא ובניו היו לו לנחלה, ולא ישמעאל בן אברהם ולא עשו בנו של יצחק

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“Jewish” means “Giving Thanks” – Vayeitzei

On  today’s holiday of Thanksgiving in America it’s worth taking a look at the origins of the practice of giving thanks, and to see what the Jewish influence is in creating the holiday.  It’s true that the Pilgrims in America looked to the Bible for their inspirations, and may very well be true that they based it on Biblical practices, such as Sukkot, bringing Bikkurim, bring a Thanksgiving offering ((קרבן תודה to the Temple.  But more than all of this, the essence of the Jewish people, and the very name that we are known by “Jews” – “Yehudim” in Hebrew – is giving thanks.  And the source of it is in the Torah portion that we read this Shabbat (ויצא).

In the Parsha, Jacob marries Leah and Rachel, each of them bringing a handmaid, Zilpah and Bilhah.  Leah gets pregnant and gives birth right away, to one boy after another: Reuven, Shimon, Levy, Yehuda.  Leah knew that Jacob was destined to have twelve sons, so that the equal share of all four Mothers (wives and handmaids) was three apiece.  When she had her fourth son, Leah exclaimed on her good fortune: “This time I will thank the Lord! Therefore, she named him Yehuda.” (Bereishit 29:35)  The name Yehuda comes from the word “Hoda’a”, which means giving thanks.

The Rabbis of the Talmud saw this thanksgiving of Leah as an extraordinary act: (Brachot Bavli 7b) “Rabbi Yohanan  said in the name of Rabbi Shimon bar  Yochai: From the day that the Holy One Blessed be He, created His world there was no one that thanked the Holy One Blessed be He, until Leah came and thanked Him. For it is said: “This time will I thank the Lord.”  The Midrash furthers the thought, and shows how her act lasted for generations: “Leah grasped the tool of giving thanks, and her descendants excelled in giving thanks. Yehuda: “He recognized the truth and said ‘she is right’” (Bereishit 38:26) David: “Give thanks to the L-rd for He is good…” (Tehilim 136:1) Daniel:  “To You, O G-d of my forefathers, I give thanks and praise,…”

Because Yehuda was able to admit the truth even when it was very embarrassing, his brothers were able to praise him, and the nation of Israel would eventually become known by his name. (Targum Yonatan, Bereishit 49:8) We see that from the time of Megilat Esther, the nation became known as “Yehudim” (which transformed to Jew in English) which means “those who give thanks”.  So we see that the very essence of the name of Jewish people comes from our rich heritage of giving thanks.


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לאה לא מפסיקה להודות – פרשת ויצא

‘טוב להודות לה
המזמור שהוקבע לזמר על הדוכן במקדש בשבת הינו (תהילים צ”ב) “מזמור שיר ליום השבת. טוב להודות לה’ ולזמר לשמך עליון”. על הקשר בין ההודאה לה’ ובין יום השבת מפרש הרד”ק: יום השבת טוב להודות בו לה’ משאר ימי השבוע, כי האדם פנוי בו מעסקי העולם ונשמתו זכה מטרדת הגוף, ומתעסקת בחכמה ובעבודת האלוקים. וטוב לזמר לשמך עליון, כי הנשמה העליונה תמצא מקום לשבח לך שאתה עליון. עכ”ל
על נושא של הודאה אנחנו קוראים בפרשה על לאה אמנו “ותהר עוד ותלד בן ותאמר הפעם אודה את ה’ על כן קראה שמו יהודה.” פרש”י על הפעם אודה. שנטלתי יותר מחלקי, מעתה יש לי להודות עכ”ל. לאה קבלה יותר ממה שהייתה ראוי לה לקבל, ראתה על הנכון להודות על כך, ולהכריז על ההודאה בזה שהיא קראה את בנה על שם ההודאה. חז”ל שיבחו על ההודאה של לאה: (ברכות ז:) ואמר רבי יוחנן משום רבי שמעון בן יוחי “מיום שברא הקב”ה את עולמו לא היה אדם שהודה להקב”ה עד שבאתה לאה והודתו שנאמר (בראשית כט לה) “הפעם אודה את ה’ “.
זה שלאה הודתה לה’ על החלק הטוב שלה היה משפיע לדורות הבאות אחריה, כמו שאמרו חז”ל: (בראשית רבא ע”א ה’) לאה תפסה פלך הודיה ועמדו הימנה בעלי הודיה. יהודה (בראשית לח כו) “ויכר יהודה ויאמר צדקה ממני.” דוד אמר (תהלים קלו א) “הודו לה’ כי טוב”. דניאל אמר (דניאל ב כג) לך אלה אבהתי מהודא ומשבח אנה.” עכ”ל המדרש. ואפילה שההודאה של יהודה הייתה במובן של “מודה על האמת”, הוא גם מענין של הודאה ושבח. כמו שלאה לא הייתה חייבת להכיר על הבן הרביעי כמשהו יותר מהשלשה הראשונים, כך יהודה היה יכול להתעלם ממעשיו עם תמר ולא להודות.
טוב להיות יהודי
וגם להודאה של יהודה הייתה השפעה לדורות. על הפסוק של הברכה של יעקב אבינו ע”ה ליהודה (בראשית מ”ט, ח’) “יהודה אתה יודוך אחיך…” התרגום יונתן בן עוזיאל אומר: ” יְהוּדָה אַנְתְּ אוֹדֵיתָא עַל עוּבְדָא דְתָמָר בְּגִין כֵּן לָךְ יְהוֹדוּן אֲחָךְ וְיִתְקְרוּן יְהוּדָאִין עַל שְׁמָךְ” יהודה היה מספיק עניו שהיה יכול להודות על פשעיו, לכן אחיו שבחוהו וקבלו אותו למנהיגם. ובזכות זה אנחנו נקראים “יהודים” על שמו, כדי להמשיך את האומנות של הודאה. וכאמור, המועד הטוב ביותר להודות לה’ ביום שבת קודש.

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It depends on how you look at it – Shelach Lecha

Moshe sent twelve leaders to view the land.  We refer to these men as the “spies” – ‘Meraglim’ מרגלים in Hebrew. But the Torah does not call them spies. Moshe tell them לתור את הארץ “to tour the land”. Really they were sent as “tourists” not as “spies”. What’s the difference between a tourist and a spy? A tourist travels to see the good things. A spy searches out the weaknesses. That was the whole difference of their approach, and where they made their mistake.

Moshe gave them instructions on on what to look for, and told them to bring back some fruit.  The idea being to see how good the fruit is in the Promised Land.

They brought back the fruit alright.  They picked the biggest cluster of grapes anyone had ever seen.  It took eight men to carry it.  This would show how great the land it – right?

Well, it depends on how you look at it.  Or as they say in today’s “post-modern” world, it depends on your narrative.  If you’re looking for the good that G-d is giving to us, you’ll see this fruit and be amazed at what a wonderful land his is giving to us.

But if you’re looking for the negative, you’ll find a way to take something as wonderful as this outstanding fruit and use it to show how bad things are.  “If you think this fruit is big, you should see the people there!”  In this way they convinced the whole nation that it was impossible to enter the land.

Did they have a conflict of interest?  Well… in the desert they were leaders and princes.  Once the nation entered the land, would they be needed?  Would they win the next election?  It’s safer not to find out.  Better to convince them not to enter the land so as not to lose our cabinet post.



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