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
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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!
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Parshas Vayigash!!

Dear Friends and Family,

 
I am reading a great book called “Tribes” by Seth Godin. It is about leadership and the concepts of a tribe. He explains that what stops people from being great is the fear of failure. He goes further to suggest that it is not just fear, but that people are afraid to take criticism or blame. Sadly, the fear of making a mistake and being criticized is so great that it stops one from reaching his potential. When I read this, I thought it was brilliant and describes the millennial so well. (read the book – it’s great….) Lord Jonathan Sacks brings out this idea of leadership in this week’s Parshah.
 
Lord Sacks explains that after the last couple of weeks, discussing Yosef’s leadership capabilities, this week an unlikely leader emerges onto the scene, Yehuda.  This is the same man who proposed selling Yosef as a slave, who then separated from his brothers, living among the Canaanites, intermarried with them, lost two of his sons because of sin and having sexual relations with a woman he takes to be a prostitute and we wonder how can leadership is explelified by Yehuda. 
 
In last week’s Parshah, the family is in a bind. They need more food and without bring down Binyamin, they will not be able to get more. Yaacov does not want to give up Binyamin and so Reuven proposes something radical: “Kill my two sons if I do not bring Binyamin back safely.” It was then Yehuda who with quiet authority – “I myself will guarantee his safety; you can hold me personally responsible for him” – persuaded Yaacov to let Binyamin go with them.
 
Now in Egypt the nightmare scenario has unfolded. Binyamin has been found “stealing” Yosef’s cup and is to be held as a slave. The other brothers can go free. At this point Yehuda steps forward and makes a speech that changes history. He speaks eloquently about their father’s grief at the loss of one of Rachel’s sons. If he loses the other he will die of grief. I, says Yehuda, personally guaranteed his safe return. 

Full teshuva (repentance) is the ability to be in the same situation to repeat an earlier sin but who does not do so because he is now a changedperson. Right here we see Yehuda’s teshuva ( repentance) because it was his suggestion to sell Yosef as a slave and now when faced with the same situation of leaving Binyamin as a slave, he says, “Let me stay as a slave and let my brother go free.” That is perfect repentance, and it is what allows Yoseph to reveal his identity and forgive his brothers.

The Torah had already hinted at the change in Yehuda’s character. Having accused his daughter-in-law Tamar of becoming pregnant by a forbidden sexual relationship, he is confronted by her with evidence that he himself is the father of the child and immediately admits: “She is more righteous than I” (Gen. 38: 26). This is the first time in the Torah we see a character admit that he is wrong and from this union descended King David. 

Leaders make mistakes. Leaders are also human and they make mistakes that have nothing to do with leadership and everything to do with human weakness and temptation. What matters is that you repent, you recognize and admit your wrong, and you change as a result. 

Going back to the book, instead of being afraid of making mistakes, we must understand that we will make mistakes and take responsibility for our actions, hear criticism and after move forward as a stronger person. In Lord Saks beautiful words “A leader is one who, though he may stumble and fall, arises more honest, humble and courageous than he was before.”

Have a beautiful and uplifting Shabbas! May we always have the courage to overcome our fears and stand up as leaders. 

Parshat Miketz – Shabbat Chanukah!

Dear Friends and Family,

This D’var Torah was written by my hubby Daniel!!!

 

If you flip through the Chumash, at the end of each Parshah is listed the total number of pesukim ( verses) of the Parshah. At the end of Parshas Miketz not only listed the number of verses, but also that there are 2025 words. This aludes to Chanukah, which falls out on Parshas Miketz each year. On Chanuka, we light a new Ner (candle), for each of the eight nights. The numerical value of Ner is 250 and if you times it by eight night it equals 2000. Chanukah begins on the 25th night of Kislev. 

There is a famous question that has been asked by many Torah Scholars.  If there was enough oil to last for the first night, the miracle of Chanukah is really that the oil lasted 7 more days.  Why do we celebrate it for 8 days and light 8 candles?    

Greek culture has taught is that what’s important is the results and not the effort.  Pirkei Avot (Ethics of Our Fathers) teaches us that “According to the effort is the reward.” (5:22-23) This is the essential battle between the Greek and Jewish Philosophy. 

 

Perhaps, this can be an answer to our question, when we do our part and put in the necessary effort then miracles can occur.  Once we have done so, the effort we put in is included as part of the miracle as well.  Perhaps, the extra candle and day is to commemorate the fact that we won can can continue to win the battle of results versus efforts, Greek versus Jewish Philosophy.  We have to remember that all we can control is our efforts and that the results, are up to Hashem.  Once we do that, we turn our efforts into miracles.

 

 

May Hashem instill within us, the ability to put in the necessary efforts, see them produce miracles and turn our efforts into miracles.

 

Happy Chanukah and Shabbat Shalom,

The Behars

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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!
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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 Toldos

Dear Family and Friends, 
 
In the beginning of this week’s Parshah it tells us the struggles of Rivka and Yitzchak to have children. “And Isaac prayed to the Lord opposite his wife because she was barren, and the Lord accepted his prayer, and Rebecca his wife conceived.” (25:21) Rashi comments that the implication of the masculine singular form is that G-d responded to Yitzchak’s prayer, rather that Rivkah’s. There is no comparison between the prayer of a righteous child of a righteous person and that of a righteous child of a wicked person.  
 
I was bothered by this Rashi a little. How is this fair? Rivkah has to work so hard to not follow her family’s way and do Teshuva and yet, she still will not be viewed the same as Yitzchak. We must understand this through looking at it with a different lens. Although it is much more difficult and therefor meritorious for the product of an evil family to become righteous, Yitzchak’s achievement was even more unique than Rivka’s. It would have been easy for him to become a carbon copy of his father, surely as great a role model had ever lived, but Yitzchak did not content himself with that. He forged his own path toward the service of G-d, and the merit of such an accomplishment is awesome. 
 
I think the perspective is not about looking at who is greater, but understanding that it is not enough to just follow in the footsteps of our parents, but make Torah our own. It is about taken all the opportunities given to you and using them to be your own person who serves G-d. 
 
Have a beautiful and uplifting Shabbas! May we each take the gifts that G-d has bestowed on us and use it forge our own path! 
 
– Michal