Parshas Matos!

Dear Friends and Family,

I don’t want to make excuses, but I have Thank G-d been super busy and have not had time to write. This past week, my heart has been in Israel, constantly looking at the news for updates. As the war has escalated, I decided that I needed to share some Torah in merit for the safety and success of our brothers and sisters in Israel. 
To get refreshed on the Parshas Matos, I opened up The Little Medrash says ( it was all I could find…). In this week’s Parshah the Jewish people go to war again Midyan and Moav. They are successful and have no casualties. The spoils of the war are divided up and the tribes of Gad and Reuven ask Moshe to settle east of the Jordan river. They were rich from the spoils and owned large flocks of sheep and wanted the large fields for pasture land. Moshe was unhappy with this request and explained to them that they are strong tribes and the Jewish people will think that they are afraid of fighting the Caananim and will discourage them from conquering the land. 
They promised Moshe that they will build cattle houses and and towns for their families and then they will leave their wives to help their brothers fight the war again Caanan. Not only will they help fight the war, but they will stay until the land is apportioned. Moshe tells them that if they keep their promise, they can stay in the land and if they do not,  they will get nothing. 
When the two tribes requested land on the east side of the Jordan, they made a mistake. They thought there would not be enough land for their cattle  in Israel. This was not true. Hashem created Israel so that it would be big enough for the Jewish people and their belongings. Gad and Reuven gave up living in a land of kedusha (holiness). These tribes separated themselves from the rest of the Jewish people. 
The two and a half tribes kept their word. They and their descendants followed the Torah. For the holidays, they traveled to the Bais Hamikdash in Jerusalem. However, since they lived so far, their Torah observance became weaker over time. When the Jewish nation later sinned and was taken into exile, G-d exiled these tribes first. 
We learn from this how important it is to associate with Torah Jews and live close to a Torah community. We are influenced by our surroundings. Right now as a Jew in America, I feel so far away. My friend who is living there told me how her co-worker can not eat or sleep because her husband was called up. I am thankful not to be in her position, but what am I doing to help? The three weeks started this past Tuesday and we all have to answer the question of what are we doing? How are we helping fellow Jews both at home and abroad? 
May Shabbas bring peace and happiness to the world and May we see Mashiach soon. 

Parshas Beshalach!!!

Dear Family and Friends,

I was looking over what I wrote for the past two years on this Parshah and I have written about “As Yashir” and the dancing woman. So taking a little bit of a different direction this time….
The Jewish people arrive at the sea. They are trapped. The Egyptians are chasing them from behind and the sea is ahead. There is no where to go. After years of slavery and suffering, they are now in the desert left to die. The people start to panic and Moshe starts to pray to G-d. Yet, a new leader here emerges: Nachshon Ben Aminadav.  He was introduced in the Torah as Aaron’s brother in law and he later becomes the prince of the tribe of Yehuda. 
At this moment, Nachshon acts. Moshe stretched out his hand over the sea and the Jews had to prove their loyalty by walking into the water. The Midrash explains that the people were all fighting who should go first into the water. Nachshon was the first to obey Moshe’s command, he walks into the water until it was at his neck and then the sea splits. The Midrash enumerates the rewards that Nachshon’s brave deed earned him:
– He was given the name Nachshon, since he jumped into the waves(nachshol) of the sea.
– Five heroes of Israel were among his descendants: David, Daniel,Chananiah, Mishael and Azariah.
– The eternal kingdom of Israel was given to his tribe, Judah, and it follows that Moshiach will be his descendant as well.
Nachshon’s act of bravery here is great because in the midst of confusion, Nachshon takes action. He does not wait rather he understood that G-d will split the sea, but action on our part is needed. He does not hesitate, but takes a leap of faith and walks into the water. This was the faith that G-d wanted to see. 
Nachshon Ben Aminadav is remembered as role model in believing in an idea and taking the first step forward. It is his actions here that allowed for the great miracle of the splitting of the sea. Nachshon was a leader and he inspired us forever for his leadership in this moment.
Have a beautiful and inspirational Shabbas and may Hashem give us the strength to take a leap of faith when needed and May all our leaps be rewarded. 
– Michal
ps. I might be taking a little break soon from my weekly Dvar Torah’s. I will try to have someone fill in though! ( anyone who is interested in writing…please contact me!) 

Parshas Va’eira

Dear Friends and Family,

I would like to start out by giving a huge Mazel Tov to the Sapoznik and Herzberg Family on the beautiful wedding of Micheal and Ariella! May this simcha bring bracha and good mazel into your lives and to the Jewish people!

In Parshas Va’eira, Moshe and Aaron set out on their mission from G-d to go before Pharaoh and tell him to let out the Jews. First, Moshe is commanded to go to the Jews to tell them that G-d will take them out. They do not listen to him. After Hashem commands him to go to Pharaoh. In between the commandment and the action, the Parshah gives some genealogy on the Shevatim and Moshe’s family. R’ Hirsh comments that the Torah takes pain to point out that contrary to the claims of the founders of other religions, the leaders of the Jewish people were humans, not supernatural beings. The Torah gives their family back rounds to make plain that their compatriots knew them and their cousins, remembered their parents and uncles. But although any Jew has the potential to lift himself to the level of greatness and prophecy, G-d does not assign such honor haphazardly. Instead of choosing His emissaries from the eldest tribe, He searched until He found suitable men.
This theme of potential is woven through again when the perek concludes with the words “This was Aaron and Moshe” to say that it is understandable that such men were chosen for their lofty task. The sakes take note that Aaron is mentioned before Moshe. This is to teach us that they were both equally great, although the Torah itself testifies that Moshe’s level of prophecy was the greatest of any man who ever lived. R’ Moshe Feinstein gives two reasons why Aaron is described as equal to Moshe : 1) His participation was indispensable to Moshe’s success. 2) he achieved the absolute maximum of his potential, just as Moshe did. In G-d’s scales, achievement is measured by how well one fulfills one’s personal mission.
I think the idea here teaches us: Not to compare ourselves to others. We each have our own mission and potential to live up to. The only person we can measure ourself is against ourself. No matter who you are or were you come from, we each were given the gift and the tools to fulfill our own potential. Focus on being the best and greatest YOU!
Have a beautiful and uplifting Shabbas and may you each continue to strive to be the best and only You!
– Michal

Parshas Shemos!!

Dear Family and Friends,

Last night I went to a dinner and they had a presentation from a children’s theater group of Fiddler on the Roof. They sang “tradition” and danced around looking like children of the shteatel. It is interesting because tradition has always been part of my life, but more than just matzah ball soup on Friday night. Tradition or Mesorah as it translated makes me who I am. Mesorah is the link that was passed down from my mother to me and will be IYH be passed down to my children as what makes me a Jew. Mesorah helps guide my life and my choices and ironically, Mesorah is the through the Jewish woman and only she has the ability to truly pass it on.
Although in Fiddler on the Roof’s version of “Tradition” a Jewish woman runs the home, there is so much more to her. She has a strong gut, she is courageous and she is a leader in her family. This is theme of women leaders is highlighted through out Parshas Shemos through the actions of Miriam, Yocheved, Shifra and Puah and Tziporah. Due to Pharoah’s decree to kill the Jewish boy babies, Yocheved and Amram, the leaders of the Jewish people in Egypt, separate. Miriam, their daughter has a prophecy that the savior of the Jewish people will come from her parents  and told them that they must get back together. Miriam had stronger Emunah than her father here and in a time of darkness had the strength to convince her parents to do what is right. When Moshe is put on a basket on the river, “His sister stationed herself at a distance to know what would be done with him” (2:4). Miriam was confident that Moshe would be saved. The question was only what would be done, meaning how God would cause him to survive.
Shifra and Puah, the Jewish midwives ( many say that they were Yocheved and Miriam) save Jewish babies and then tell Pharoah excuses on why the babies were saved. The Parshah ends off with Tziporah, the wife of Moshe, who saves her husband by giving her son a bris. The impression we have of her is of a figure of monumental determination who, at a crucial moment, has a better sense than Moshe himself of what God requires.
So last night as they sang “tradition” I started to think of what tradition means to me. Tradition is the strength of the Jewish woman and her role in the continuity of the Jewish people.  Her courage in times of darkness and determination is what has held us up as a Jewish nation. Without her, there would be no Jewish people.
Have a beautiful and uplifting Shabbas! May tradition is always being an integral part of our life.
– Michal
ps.Mazel Tov to my cousin Miriam on the birth of her baby boy!

Parshas Vayishlach!

Dear Family and Friends,

Lately on NPR, they have been talking a lot about climate change and sea level rise. The whole thing is starting to get to me and I don’t know if it’s the fact that Miami has been a little grey this week, but I am getting sea level rise anxiety! There are three things that could probably help, one being to stop listening to NPR and two is to work on my emunah and three move to south dakota! I think I will stick to option one and two for right now…but a thought on the parshah gave me some clarity.
When Yaacov goes to meet up with his brother (who hates him), he brings him gifts. Eisav tells Yaacov “ I have plenty, let what you have remain yours” and Yaacov replies, “Please accept my gifts which was brought to you inasmuch as G-d has been gracious to me and inasmuch as I have everything.” (33:11) Rashi point out the difference in the two brothers outlooks. The righteous feel that no matter how much or how little they have in absolute terms, they have everything they need. Eisav here is speaking boastfully, emphasizing the abundance of his possessions and proclaiming that he has accumulated more than he could ever want!
The above Rashi and lesson is one that is quite well known and simple. Righteous people are happy with what they have and the wicked always want more. I am not saying which category I fall into, but I have a running list at all times of “wants”. I can break it down into shoes, clothes, household items….and it can go on forever. I seem to be always adding to it and very rarely taking off items! This week is my 1- year engagement anniversary and I must say you can go on and on with wants, but I am so thankful in this present moment for all that I have been blessed with. Ok…I might still have a Chanuka wish list, but I stop remind myself of what truly matters to me and am so very thankful that Hashem has blessed me with all that I need and want.
So going back to my sea level rise anxiety, I realized that part of gratitude is living in the present. It is realizing the that we must be thankful for what we have NOW and not focusing on what we don’t have or worrying too much about what we will or won’t have tomorrow.
Best cure of anxiety: come into Shabbat and think about 3 things you are thankful.
1) My parents and in-laws are home from Morocco safe.
2) I am healthy and feel good.
3) I live in Miami where it is not snowing…
Have a beautiful and uplifting Shabbas and May we each have the clarity to always be thankful for the blessings G-d gives us!

Parshas Vayeitzei!!!

Dear Friends and Family,

This past week I have been filling in for my mother in her therapy sessions and went back to pre-school! It’s been a little fun to color again and see how many kids I can diagnose with ADD within 10 minutes. I have been also listening to Parshah while sitting on the floor Indian style and it bring me back to being a little kid. Ironically I still love learning the Parshah just not while sitting on the floor. Besides for the fact that I am now a little taller than my 5-6 year old self, I also get to look at the Parshah with an older view and they take on a different meaning.

 Yaacov knows that he is destined to have the 12 tribes. After the brachos bebacle of last week, he runs away because Eisav wants to kill him. Yaacov goes to his mother’s brother, Lavan, house. Lavan has two daughter’s, Rochel  (younger) and Leah (older). Yaacov right away realizes upon seeing Rochel that she is his soul mate and he falls in love with her. He negotiates with Lavan to work for him for 7 years to marry, Rochel, his younger daughter. Yaacov knows that Lavan will try and trick him into marrying Leah so he makes it very clear which daughter he is working for. In the end, Yaacov does get tricked and marries Leah.  Yaacov and Rochel had made signs that only each other knew to prevent this from happening, but Rochel does not want her sister to get embarrassed and gives them over to Leah. Yaacov wakes up and realizes he married the wrong girl and goes to Lavan. They negotiate that Yaacov will marry Rochel after sheva brachos and then work another 7 years for Lavan. Yaacov marries Rochel.  

The story is only just beginning…there is jealousy, rivalry, trickery, and conflict and there is humanity. 

As I read through the exchanges, I saw glimpses of people. I saw sisters, fathers, husbands, wives and mothers. I saw women who knew that their mission was to be  mothers of tribes of the nation of Israel. They were human beings who know that from them will come greatness and they will fight to merit it.  The Torah shows a conversation between Rochel and her husband. Rochel comes to him and asks him why is he not praying for her to have children like his father Yitzchak prayed for Rivka. Yaacov gets angry and says  “Am I instead of God, Who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?” (30:2) Rashi explains that he was saying I am not in the position my father was in, I already have sons. Yaacov is also saying something deeper her: Rochel, this is between you and G-d. There is a spiritual blockage in your heart and it is not something my prayers will take away. You have to be the one to pray for yourself. Right after Rochel gives him her maidservant, Bilha, to be built up from her. She realizes that she must remove the spriritual blockage between her and G-d to merit children and the Bilha gets pregnant.

 The entire Sefer Berashis is the story of the Jewish people. In is about conflicts and resolutions. It is about humanity. As I read through the Parshah, my mind was blown. We see our imahos (mothers) fighting with each other, we see their internal conflicts, their struggles, their reactions and emotions and we get to meet them. After Leah has her fourth son, she names him Yehuda, to thank G-d for the extra child she merited to have. Leah is the first person in the Torah to publicly give thanks. After this, Rashi explains that the Matriarchs were prophetesses, they knew that twelve tribes would emanate from Jacob, and that he would marry four wives. They knew that they were the ones who would have the tribes and were focused and went for their goal…does this sound like any Jewish mothers I know?

Have a beautiful and uplifting Shabbas!

 –       Michal

Ps. Thank you Deeda for helping me out with this one!

Pps. Mazel Tov to my dear friend Esther Nueman on her engagement!

Parshas Chayei Sarah!!!

Dear Friends and Family,

This week I started learning with three of the cutest girlies. They are about 10 -11 years old and we study Tefillah and just about being Jewish. We started talking about the power of prayer and the gift each Jewish person has to have the ability to pray to G-d which then turned into: how do I know I am Jewish. I told them that Judiasm is based on Mesorah (heritage). I am a Jewish woman because my mother is Jewish and she passed that down to me and my children will be Jewish because of me! In the Parshah we see the importance of the Jewish mother and how much went into the search to find the next mother of the Jewish people after Sarah dies. Avraham sends his servant Eliezer on a mission to find Yitzchak a wife from his family. Through the help of G-d, Eliezer “happens” upon Rivkah and realizes that she is special. He brings her home with him to meet Yitzchak.

“Now Isaac was on his way, coming from Be’er Lachai Ro’i, and he dwelt in the land of the south. And Isaac went forth to pray in the field towards evening, and he lifted his eyes and saw, and behold, camels were approaching. And Rebecca lifted her eyes, and saw Isaac, and she let herself down from the camel. And she said to the servant, “Who is that man walking in the field towards us?” And the servant said, “He is my master.” And she took the veil and covered herself. And the servant told Isaac all the things that he had done. And Isaac brought her to the tent of Sarah his mother, and he took Rebecca, and she became his wife, and he loved her. And Isaac was comforted for [the loss of] his mother. ” (24: 62 – 67)

Radak explains that the “Torah” begins the narrative by saying that Isaac “happened” to meet Rebecca and Eliezer on the road, before they entered the city, just as Eliezer “happened” to encounter Rivkah at the well. Both meetings seemed to occur by chance, but in reality they were results of G-d’s Providential Will.

The brief passage describing the meeting and marriage of Yitzchak and Rivka is touching and reflective of basic principles of Judaism and Jewish marriage. It begins with Yitzchak walking back home from praying at a place that recalled G-d’s mercy to the previous generation ( Beer – lahai – roi), for Jews cleave to their past and the G-d who has guided them. Yitchak and Rivka “met”, but not by chance. She displayed the personal modesty that has been one of the glories of Jewish women and she intuitively recognized that the stranger she had just encountered was a holy person. Finally, Yitzchak brought her back to his mother’s tent, and there it became apparent that she was a fitting successor to Sarah, for the holy presence of Sarah returned to the tent of her son. (through the three signs) It was then that Yitchak loved her for the Jewish home is temple and its priestess is the wife and mother whose spirit infuses it. Isaac could love only a mate who could be his companion in creating the Chosen People. In Rivka he found her.

Have a beautiful and uplifting Shabbas! May every Jewish woman realize her importance as a Jewish priestess and the power she beholds to continue on the Jewish people! and May every Jewish man realize this to and only marry Jewish….

– Michal


My Jewish Mothers!