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. 


After a long week of traveling, I am back in Florida and so very thankful to wake up with the beautiful sun! Parshas Vayeira is long and there is so much to be written, but to pull out a short lesson…..
In this week’s Parshah, the three angels come to Avraham and tell him that after visiting him they are going to destroy Sedom. Avraham prays to save the city of Sedom on behalf of any of the good people who many live among the sinners. He begins a negotiation with G-d and asks even if there are 10 good people among the city that it should get saved, yet there was not even 10. R’ Moshe Feinstien asked why did Avraham plead so strenuously for the city of Sedom, a people who were so notorious for their wickedness?
Ordinary people preach kindness, but they become outraged and hate those who dispute their values. Avraham, on the other hand, cared only for the truth as defined by the Torah. He felt no animosity towards evildoers; he only wanted them to change for the better. Therefore he felt that if there was a nucleus of ten good people in the city, there was hope that they could influence others by teaching by example.
It was not about judging how bad the people of Sedom were, but that there was potential for change. Once he realized there was not even 10 influencers of good, he realized that he must stop fighting.
Have a beautiful Shabbas and May we, instead of judging others because they are different than us, have the ability to see their people’s potential.

Parshas Lech Lecha

October 11, 2013

Dear Friends and Family,

It has been a while, but I am back! I love Parshas Lech Lecha. It is the story of Avraham, a trailblazer, a leader in his time and the father of many future nations (Av – Hamon – Goyim). Avraham is known for ability to pass the 10 tests in his life and also for his kindness and his outreach. This week the Jewish Nation lost one of the greatest Jewish Leaders of the past 50 years, Rav Ovadia Yosef was a brilliant Torah (Bible) and Halachic (Jewish Law) Scholar, Chief Sephardic Rabbi in Israel and he started his own political party. It is not just that the Sephardic world lost their Posek, but the whole Jewish world lost a leader and a trailblazer. This was shown by the over half a million people who came to his funeral.

The Parshah (Weekly Portion) starts out G-d appearing to Avraham and giving him the commandment and test of leaving behind his family and life in Charan to travel to an unknown land of which G-d will show him the way. I read an amazing Dvar Torah this week by Rabbi Jonathan Saks who explains this topic beautifully. Rabbi Saks says that what sets a true leader apart is his ability to not conform. Most people in the world do conform. G-d is saying “Leave your land” People adopt the standards and absorb the culture of the time and place in which they live. G-d deepens the test to “leave your birthplace”, people are influenced by friends and neighbors. To take it one step further, G-d says ”Leave your father’s house”  because more deeply people still they are shaped by their parents and the family in which they grew up.

God is saying here to Abraham, I want you to be different. Not for the sake of being different, but for the sake of starting something new: a religion that will not worship power and the symbols of power. I want you, said God, to “teach your children and your household afterward to follow the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just.”

Abraham is without doubt the most influential person who ever lived. Today he is claimed as the spiritual ancestor of 2.4 billion Christians, 1.6 billion Muslims and 13 million Jews, more than half the people alive today. Yet he ruled no empire, commanded no great army, performed no miracles and proclaimed no prophecy. He is the supreme example in all of history of influence without power.

Why? Because he was prepared to be different. As the sages say, he was called ha-ivri, “the Hebrew,” because “all the world was on one side (be-ever echad) and he was on the other.” Leadership, as every leader knows, can be lonely. Yet you continue to do what you have to do because you know that the majority is not always right and conventional wisdom is not always wise. Dead fish go with the flow. Live fish swim against the current.

Avraham instilled this quality into his future nations with his first test of Lech Lecha. He chose not to conform, but to follow his beliefs. This ability made him the father of the Jewish Nation. A nation that throughout the centuries have has survived no matter what.

Have a beautiful and uplifting Shabbas and May we always have the ability to like Avraham be true leaders and do what is right.

– Michal

ps. I am not saying that you have to leave your family to be a leader, ( because I love mine!)  but in order to lead you must do things because you know inside they are right, not just because everyone else around you tells you it is.