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 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 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!