Friday, November 28, 2008

Whose Bracha Is It Anyway ?

One of the most perplexing things about the episode of the brachos that Yitzchak gives Yaakov is the seeming bit of trickery that needs to be employed by Yaakov in order to receive them.

One of Eisav’s little dishonesties was pretending to be righteous. Specifically, says the medrash, that he would garner his father’s approval by asking him nonsensical questions in halacha and misleed Yitzchak into thinking that he was scholarly and pious. Interestingly, this action is referred to by the passuk as entrapping his father with his mouth [Bereishis 25:28]. So Eisav is basically encroaching on Yaakov’s koach and using it in a fundamentally Eisav-like fashion – to lie. This is what leads Yitzchak to believe that Eisav is worthy of the brachos.

Therefore, the True and Fair Judge decrees that Yaakov should reverse this process in order to merit his father’s brachos. Yaakov uses his hands to slaughter sheep and present food to his father. The torah even emphasizes this when Yitzchak proclaims, after feeling Yaakov’s dressed up hands, “see this is my son Eisav”. Yaakov must use two of Eisav’s traits, lying and the power of the hands, to undue the cosmic damage done by his brother – and thusly merit the brachos.

Hatzlacha !!

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Blessing In Disguise ?

When Lavan sees that nothing will dissuade his sister, Rivka, from following Eliezer back to Canaan – he gives her an interesting beracha.

“May you have thousands of descendants and may your children defeat their enemies”
[Bereishis 24:60]

This is the same Lavan who will later attempt to cheat Yaakov out of 20 years worth of salaries. The same one who was so completely selfish as to chase down Eliezer just to find his money – where does he get the altruism to offer a beracha ?

Answer is – he doesn’t. Lavan’s beracha is actually a parting shot – a spiteful, hateful interjection that is perfectly in line with Lavan’s character. When Rivka is offered a ‘way out’ of her father’s ( and brother’s ) household – Lavan feels jealous and threatened – his sister should be there to do his bidding, period – and if she is to marry – let the groom come here ! When Rivka shows her determination to leave immediately Lavan attempts to sow within her mind the seeds of his own malcontent. As Rashi [ad. Loc.] points out – his beracha for the descendents was that they come from Rivka and not another wife. His ‘beracha’ – if we can still call it that – reads more like this –

“Hope you don’t play second fiddle to some other wife and that your kids don’t all die out in wars !”

Clearly, we can see Lavan has nothing but his own selfish grudges in mind.

And us ? Well – presumably we aren’t as spiteful as Lavan ( Chas VeShalom ! ) but everyone could use another perspective on their comments – before we say something – think – will it come out as we mean it ? Or will it be a ‘beracha’ that is really jealousy or pettiness in disguise ?

Hatzlacha !!

Friday, November 07, 2008

Are We The Eyes and Ears Of Hashem ?

When Hashem commands Avram to enter with Him into a covenant He changes his name as well. Avram becomes Avraham.

Rashi, quoting the gemara in nedarim [32b], points out that before the bris Avraham was lacking (control or holiness of) five limbs - two eyes, two ears and the male organ. With the bris, Avraham increased these five limbs and had to correspond with an extra "ה" in his name.

What does having a bris milah have to do with the ears and eyes ?

A bris is not just circumcision - elective surgery performed for comfort or health. A bris is a sign - a declaration that we are allied to, and servants of, Hashem.

As servants we see things differently – not just in terms of how they will affect us – but rather, how will they affect all of our interests – which are really our master's interests. We even hear things differently. What might have been a benign comment becomes a malicious slight if the honor of my Master is involved.

The challenge for us is obvious – we have one aspect of the bris milah. But have we really fixed our other limbs ? Do we see things in terms of the chillul or kiddush Hashem that they will cause ? And our ears ? When we hear of an idea or goal that is antithetical to Torah does it sound wrong ? Or perhaps, do we have to make a conscious decision that it is wrong ?

IY"H we will all affirm our covenant with Hashem to the point that what we see and what we hear will reflect not only our choice to serve G-d but also our status as current servants of Hashem.

Hatzlacha !!.