Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Book with the Answers

Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

People have many questions and don’t know where to go for answers. In truth, the answers are ever-present in the words of the Torah. So many of our questions are answered in the parshiyos of Bereishis, which we are currently studying. If we study them properly, it can help us navigate our daily lives. When we are at a loss as to which way to proceed, the Torah provides us direction.

The Ponovezher Rov, Rav Yosef Shlomo Kahaneman, was on his first fundraising trip to the United States. He was riding alone on the New York City subway, going to an evening appointment, when he noticed a group of people who were up to no good. They were eying him as an easy target and drawing closer. He stood no chance against them and began to think of an escape plan.

He took out a piece of paper with the address of his destination scrawled on it and showed it to the group. “Which stop do I get off to go here?” he asked them.

The ruffians were thrilled to be of help. It would be much easier to hold the man outside on a dark street than in the lighted, occupied subway train.

“Get off with us,” they responded. “We are also going there.”

The train stopped and the rov let them exit first. He moved as if he was going to follow them off the train, but he was purposely too slow and the doors closed. He was safe.

When the rov recounted his tale of salvation, the person he was talking to marveled at his on-the-spot brilliance.

“Please,” said the rov, who was known for his genius. “I got the idea from the pesukim in Parshas Vayishlach (33:12-14), which state that when Eisov suggested to Yaakov that they travel together, ‘nisah veneileicha,’ Yaakov responded, ‘No, it’s fine. Yaavor na adoni lifnei avdo.’

“Yaakov told Eisov to go before him with his gang and he would slowly follow. It’s a befeirushe posuk!”

The answers to the questions are in the Torah.

In 1933, when Hitler became Germany’s chancellor, one of the roshei yeshiva in Radin asked the Chofetz Chaim whether the madman would succeed in his stated mission to wipe the Jewish people off the map.

The Chofetz Chaim responded with a posuk from this week’s parsha. He said that no one will ever be able to kill all the Jews, as the posuk (32:9) states, “Im yavo Eisov el hamachaneh ha’achas vehikohu vehaya hamachaneh hanishor lifleitah - Were Eisov to succeed in wiping out one camp, there will be another that will survive.”

“Nobody was ever able to kill all the Jews, and no one will ever be able to,” said the Chofetz Chaim.

The man asking the question was frightened by the response. “And if this murderer will be able to destroy European Jewry, who will remain?” he asked.

The Chofetz Chaim responded again with a posuk (Ovadiah 1:17): “Ubehar Tzion tihiyeh pleitah vehaya kodesh - Eretz Yisroel will be a place of refuge.”

The answers to the questions are in the Torah.

The immortal words of the parsha (32:25), “Vayivoseir Yaakov levado vayei’aveik ish imo,” ring with special urgency in our own times. “Yaakov was left alone and a man came to do battle with him.”

Chazal explain that “the man” referred to in the posuk was the angel of Eisov. Unable to defeat Yaakov, the malach struck Yaakov and hurt him. The angel left, but not before blessing Yaakov, saying, “Your name will no longer be Yaakov. It will be Yisroel, for you were able to do battle with angels and man and prevailed.”

Levado. Our legacy, handed down by Yaakov, is to be alone. Halacha hi beyodua she’Eisov sonei l’Yaakov. It is an irrevocable force built into the natural order that the Jewish people are hated. The nations of the world and the forces of evil will be forever locked in battle with us.

All through the ages, wherever Jews have found themselves, they have been hounded. Through the merit of our forefather Yaakov, as long as we were true to the mission of Yisroel, we were spared. Though battered and bruised, as was Yaakov, we have remained standing long after those who fought Eisov’s battles in each generation disappeared from the scene.

In the darkness of golus, men of faith stand out as lonely beacons of light and hope. Remaining loyal to the Torah in a degenerate world is not easy. We are always on the defensive. Sometimes Eisov appears in the guise of a well-meaning brother trying to help us. He tells us to make compromises so that we can advance our causes. He tells us to sacrifice our principles and bend the rules in order to get ahead.

We have to be prepared to do battle with him and his ilk. This means being prepared to be lonely, unpopular and unloved. They speak of love and paint us as creatures of hate. They speak of peace and acceptance, and define us as spiteful non-progressives.

Take the example of the promoters of Open Orthodoxy, though they are not the only deviants from Torah and mesorah.

People said that no person or shul that calls itself Orthodox could ever do it, but they have done it repeatedly.

Recently, two Open Orthodox shuls wished mazel tov to people who underwent unconventional marriage ceremonies. Here is what happened.

Congregation B’nai David-Judea of Los Angeles is led by a male Open Orthodox rabbi, Yosef Kanefesky, and a female “rabbanit,” Alissa Thomas-Newborn, the latter of whom was given semicha at Avi Weiss’ Yeshivat Maharat.

Kanefsky’s bio gives a sense of his Open Orthodox orientation:

He helped to introduce changes in synagogue ritual and leadership to enhance the role of women, and most recently guided the congregation through hiring its first female clergy member.”

Kanefsky wrote two articles in 2011 that argued against the recitation of the morning brachos of shelo asani isha and shelo asani goy, in which he provided what he called a halachic loophole that would enable people to avoid saying these brachos. The fact that these brachos are required by the Shulchan Aruch does not seem to matter to Kanefsky.

“Rabbanit” Newborn is basically Kanefsky’s assistant rabbi, who recites Kiddush for the congregation on Shabbosos when Kanefsky is away, among other tasks.

B’nai David-Judea’s weekly bulletin for Shabbos Parshas Vayeira, 2017, wished mazel tov upon the birth of a baby to a couple who have an unconventional marriage. Despite the halachic and hashkafic violation involved, B’nai David-Judea celebrates it.

Then, Hebrew Institute of Riverdale (HIR) wished mazel tov for another such unconventional wedding, as featured in the HIR weekly bulletin of Shabbos Parshas Vayeira, 2017.

The regular clergy at HIR, the Open Orthodox congregation founded by Avi Weiss, who is now semi-retired and is currently listed as “rabbi-in-residence,” are two males who were ordained by Weiss at his Open Orthodox seminary, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah (YCT), and by two females who were ordained at his Yeshivat Maharat.

HIR has previously been featured in the Yated for many of its outrageous deviations from halacha and tradition. A case in point is its annual Martin Luther King Day concert, where a church choir, garbed in church robes, sings gospel music in the HIR sanctuary in front of the aron kodesh. Some of the songs are solos performed by female church choir members, some of the songs are sung by the church’s pastor, Rev. Roger Hambrick, and some of the songs are led by Avi Weiss with the pastor and the church choir. This desecration has gone on for years, and no one from the Orthodox establishment besides this newspaper has really condemned it.

This past summer, HIR’s weekly bulletin for Shabbos Parshas Ki Seitzei, 2017, included an announcement that extended mazel tov wishes to an HIR couple for their son being married in an unconventional union.

The posuk refers to it as toieva, an abomination, yet they celebrate it.

At the Agudah Convention, the Novominsker Rebbe addressed the scourge of “the new plague called Open Orthodoxy,” which represents the “corruption of Torah ideals, Mesoras avoseinu and downright apikorsus.” He drew attention to the Mazel Tov announcement on the engagement of two men in the synagogue bulletin.

He warned that “the soton – and he’s standing next to everybody - comes sometimes with reasonable sympathetic arguments in the name of fairness, equality, enlightenment and being good natured and accepting and before you know it – if you are not on guard with strong Torah ideals - you can fall into his trap.”

Despite the disgrace, no one else has said a word publicly, other than the new TORA Rabbis organization, which issued a November 16 “Statement on Synagogue Acknowledgment of Forbidden Unions,” which read in part:

We call upon spiritual and lay leaders and members of the public of respective synagogues not to congratulate or celebrate, whether orally or in writing, those celebrating life cycle events in violation of Jewish law, included but not limited to halakhically prohibited marriages… celebrations held in blatant violation of Shabbat or kashrut laws, or any other event that publicly proclaims opposition to Jewish law…

“When there are events we cannot condone, it is not out of contempt or disrespect, but rather out of a firm commitment to the Torah, its values and its worldview, which requires us all to submit to the Torah even when doing so is difficult or inexpedient.

“We call upon all Jews to reaffirm the immutable character of the Torah’s value…and proclaim that to celebrate events that publicly flout Torah law is itself a violation. Within the confines of Jewish law, we recommit to making our synagogues and other Orthodox institutions sacred spaces where all can seek the wisdom of the Torah, the guidance of its teachers and the inspiration from the fulfillment of its precepts and the internalization of its values.”

More voices are needed to condemn these Open Orthodox shuls.

It is not only about female clergy. It is not only about changing brachos and violating the Shulchan Aruch. It is, rather, about a rejection of the values of the Torah and the authority of chachmei haTorah. It is about a rejection of all that Torah Judaism stands for.

What more will it take for us to recognize that there is nothing Orthodox about Open Orthodoxy?

We sit complacently, thinking that their deviation will never affect “us,” but as many have found out already, if we sit quietly and don’t expose these people for what they are, an Open Orthodox rabbi may be coming soon to a shul near you and bringing this brand of Judaism to your door.

Levado. We have to remain separate from them and continue reminding Torah Jews that they represent a growing danger to Judaism. We must not permit them to distort our religion and openly defy Torah and halacha.

People who celebrate actions the Torah refers to as disgusting are abhorrent. We pray that they reconnect with the veracity of the pesukim of the Torah and reunify with those for whom Shulchan Aruch is the guide.

The opening to Parshas Vayishlach tells us about the malochim sent by Yaakov. Rashi teaches that the messengers sent by Yaakov to scout his brother were malochim mamosh, angels. What was it about this mission that could not be carried out by men and required angels?

Why did Yaakov immediately assume that there was malice in the heart of his approaching brother? How did he know that Eisov intended to harm him? Perhaps upon hearing that his brother was returning home after having done well, he wanted to greet him and express his love.

The Baal Haturim in Parshas Toldos (25:25) states that the numerical equivalent of Eisov is shalom, peace. Perhaps we can understand the gematria as teaching that Eisov oftentimes presents himself as a progressive man of peace. He seeks peace and walks in peace, and all he does is motivated by a desire to spread peace and love.

Yaakov feared that if he would send humans to explore his brother’s intentions, they would be fooled by Eisov’s appearance and comforted with the belief that he seeks a peaceful existence with Yaakov.

When he was informed that Eisov was on the way, Yaakov sensed that he was in danger. The Torah doesn’t recount that the malochim warned Yaakov that Eisov was planning to do battle. It only says that he was on his way. But Yaakov understood that if Eisov was coming towards him, it could only mean trouble.

The wicked adopt the posture of Eisov, portraying themselves as calm intellectuals. As they promote their agendas, they slam us for deviating from the modern, liberal, progressive outlook.

The Bnei Yisroel though, have always opted for the emes of Yaakov, stating the facts as they are and accepting the ramifications.

The novi Michah said (7:20), “Titein emes l’Yaakov.” Yaakov Avinu, the fountain of emes, sent malochim to Eisov to gauge his positions. Yaakov yearned for shalom, but his primary concern was that it be within the context of emes.

He sent malochim mamosh, who could discern the truth of Eisov’s intentions. Yaakov was sending a message: “If you speak of peace, but under your smile lies a dagger, I will have no choice but to kill or be killed. I will not compromise on the emes. I won’t change and will not adapt the truth to conform to your evil path.”

Let us endeavor to inculcate a desire for fidelity to Torah as well as emes and shalom. Let us hope and pray that peace will reign in our camp, and that a united desire for truth leads to harmony. Let us all seek to bring peace among Jews.

The Maharal in Ner Mitzvah states that at the time of the neis of Chanukah, the Yevonim sought to transform the Jewish people through Greek intellectualism. The Sefas Emes (435) adds that there is a fine line separating truth and fiction. Knowledgeable individuals are able to bring people over to the cause of sheker by making small, barely perceptible changes. However, Jewish people, through their connection to Hashem, have an inbred ability, through the roots of their souls, to discern the truth.

Our study of Torah reinforces our fidelity to the truth.

Allowing the pesukim to pave our way will lead to unity, success, nachas and permanent peace.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

First Class

Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz
This week’s parsha portrays the difficult life of Yaakov avinu. The av of golus, Yaakov left his home in Be’er Sheva and was displaced for the next few decades. The posuk (Bereishis 28,11) relates that as darkness descended, he laid down to go to sleep. The Medrash (partially quoted in Rashi, relates that he slept there, but did not sleep during the fourteen years which he spent learning Torah at the feet of Eiver. He slept at that place, but did not lie down to sleep during the twenty years he lived in the home of Lavan. Such was the life of Yaakov in exile.

Hashem promised him as he slept that He would be with him as he wandered from place to place and would protect him and bless him. Though alone and penniless, Yaakov was strengthened (Rashi, ibid, 29,1) by his faith that he would emerge from his experience bigger and better than ever.   

The parsha details the ups and downs of Yaakov’s life under Lavan, his marriages, children, financial blessings despite all the maneuvers employed against him. Finally, at the end of the parsha, Hashem determined that it was time for Yaakov to return to the Promised Land. After all he was put through, Yaakov remained the same strong believer he was when he left the home of Yitzchok. Despite all the many blessings heaped upon him, despite his wealth, Yaakov remained as humble as he was when he fled to escape the wrath of his brother Eisov.

Thus, at the beginning of next week’s parsha, Yaakov avinu declares, “Katonti mikol hachassodim umikol ha’emes asher asisa es avdecha - I have become small because of all the kindness and truth that You have performed with me…”

Too often people who are successful become arrogant and pompous. They view themselves as on a higher plane than the people who fly coach. Oftentimes, when people become wealthy or assume higher positions they begin to take themselves very seriously, cutting themselves off from reality and looking down on others. Power and money lead to conceit and corruption.

Vayishman Yeshurun vayivot,” the Torah (Devorim 32,15) testifies that as people become more successful, they forget that Hashem has blessed them. They become enamored with themselves and assume credit for all they have attained, saying, “kochi v’otzem yadi asu li es hachayil hazeh.”

When Yaakov arrived in Choron, he was penniless and alone. As he was returning to Eretz Yisroel with his wives, children and many possessions, instead of becoming haughty, he felt humbled and undeserving of the gifts Hashem had bestowed upon him.

Yaakov, the av of golus, reminds us that when we live in times of plenty such as ours, we dare not become complacent and apathetic, we must always remember the source of our largesse and be appreciativee of the blessings granted us. Returning  home, Yaakov thanked Hashem for His kindness.

In expressing his gratitude, Yaakov thanked Hashem for the chesed bestowed upon him, and also for being dealt with emes, truthfully.

Rashi explains that Yaakov was grateful to Hashem for being true to His word and fulfilling His promises to him.

Isn’t that to be expected?

Perhaps we can understand “emes” in this posuk in another sense, as well. Yaakov was thankful for being dealt with honestly. In a world of darkness, with a brother like Eisov and a father-in-law like Lavan, there was subterfuge at every turn. Yaakov expended much time and effort during his life navigating between liars and their falsities as he sought to pave a successful path.

After being in golus for so many years, Yaakov was thankful that his faith was not misplaced. Hashem watched over him and protected him from the evil plots of those who sought his demise. Yaakov was able to marry and raise fine children far from the idyllic home of Yitzchok and Rivkah.

Titein emes leYaakov,” says the prophet Micha (7:20). “The truth belongs to Yaakov.” While maligned by those who detested him, Yaakov proved to be the essence of truth, as Avrohom was the paradigm of chesed. Thus, Hashem remained faithful to Yaakov through all his difficulties and blessed him and the shevotim with lives embodying the truth of Torah, the source of emes in our world.

Yaakov paved the way for us to excel in golus. Away from our ancestral home, removed from the kedusha of the Bais Hamikdosh, ensconced among cultures becoming more depraved by the day, we succeed, with the abilities inherited from Yaakov, in remaining faithful to the Toras Emes despite all that gnaws at us and all who seek our downfall.

The Nefesh Hachaim (1:21) explains why Yaakov married two sisters, even though he observed the Torah before it was given and the Torah forbids such a relationship. When we say that the avos kept the laws of the Torah before it was given to man on Har Sinai, it is not to be understood that they were aware of the laws of the Torah and accepted upon themselves to observe them. Rather, they were on such a high spiritual level, and their neshamos were so purified, that they were able to comprehend the tikkunim that each mitzvah accomplishes in creation, as well as the damage caused by the performance of each aveirah. They understood the cosmic relationship between heaven and earth, the spiritual and the physical, and thus acted in ways that strengthened the world and abstained from actions that would bring harm to creation.

Yaakov perceived that his soul could achieve great accomplishments for the spheres of the world if he would marry the two sisters, Rochel and Leah. He understood that through them, he would be able to build Klal Yisroel. Therefore, he labored mightily and withstood much pain and humiliation under Lavan.

Rav Chaim Volozhiner explains that the Torah was not given to the avos, for if it had been, Yaakov could not have married Rochel and Leah, and the foundation of Klal Yisroel would never have been established.

Titein emes leYaakov.” Our forefather Yaakov was given the ability to perceive the truth of the world and thus lay down the foundation for Am Yisroel. The world was created with Torah, and when we observe its commandments, we contribute to the greater good in ways we cannot understand. As anshei emes, we believe that the more Torah we study and the more truth we bring about, the more we fortify the world.

The Ben Ish Chai offers a similar explanation for how Rochel and Leah became familiar with Torah as they grew up in the home of Lavan. He says that they were born with exalted neshamos and were thus able to perceive the truth about Hashem’s existence and the fallacy of their father’s ways.

Our forefathers were blessed with special neshamos and ruach hakodesh to guide them as they grew in a stunted, pagan world.

We have been blessed with the strong foundations that they laid for us. In a world of decadence, they followed the light of truth. That truth was later delivered to us in the form of the Torah and has been guiding us ever since. We are a people of truth and have always been. Since the days of the avos and imahos, we have been mocked and vilified. We have been accused of every crime, blamed for various catastrophes, and hated throughout the ages.

Through it all, we have survived, and today Hashem has caused us to prosper spiritually and financially as never before. We must take advantage of the blessings, recognize them, and be appreciative of all we have achieved. Like our forefather Yaakov, we should collectively proclaim, “Katonti mikol hachassodim umikol ha’emes,” recognizing the source of our wealth and the obligations we have because of it.

All we do must be consistent with the truth. Our Torah is a Toras Emes, our foundation is emes, and our lives must be all about emes.

Too often, we sense danger, but are unable to properly address our concerns because we aren’t honest in appraising the situation. We see ill winds blowing, but if we don’t honestly examine their roots and causes, we can’t expect to be able to defend and fortify ourselves.

Our community seeks to deal with a wide range of serious problems, including shidduchim, abuse, drop-outs, children being rejected by schools, overcrowded educational institutions, rising tuitions, inadequate incomes, high costs of living, and other vexing issues. To formulate solutions, we must be able to honestly examine the substance of the issues without being straight-jacketed by tunnel vision and political correctness. If we are not forthright in our introspection, we will be overwhelmed by the dynamics and complexities of our challenges.

People who care about the truth get upset when told a lie. People who seek the truth are not afraid of it. The truth is what strengthens them. The more the facts emerge, the clearer their focus is and the stronger their convictions are.

Contrast this approach with philosophies built on self-deception and lies. Think of those whose way of life is fraught with duplicity. These people are threatened by the truth. They are scared of the facts. They hide from reality. They crumble when confronted by it.

People who know that they are right don’t have to sweep issues under the rug. They are secure in their beliefs and do not have to resort to convoluted rationales to convey their messages. When faced with an issue, they are able to examine it honestly, allowing them to arrive at a proper solution.

Similarly, countries built on lies and tyrannical governments lock their borders. They don’t permit their people to leave and don’t allow foreigners to enter. They are afraid that if their citizens learn the truth, they will revolt, so they feed their people a steady diet of fabrications, seeking to indoctrinate them with the greatness of their government and the supposed idyllic way of life they have created. The leaders know that they must ensure that the masses are never educated about the truth.

As bnei Avrohom, Yitzchok v’Yaakov, we are heirs to a golden heritage of fidelity to the truth. We know our place in the world and appreciate our blessings. Even in success, we must remain humble, ethical and honorable. We recognize that we become smaller when we become unprincipled and untruthful. We lose when we become disconnected and aren’t able to honestly examine problems that confront us. We jeopardize our connection to the avos and imahos, and risk being separated from our foundation if we don’t follow in their ways.

Yaakov Avinu merited to grow, prosper and receive Hashem’s chesed and emes because he was all about emes. If we want to succeed as a people, as a community, and as individuals, we must do the same.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Finding Inner Peace

By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

In this week’s parsha, we learn of Rivkah’s concern during her much-anticipated pregnancy. She sought out great men to explain to her why her unborn child was exhibiting tendencies toward kedusha and tumah. The posuk (Bereishis 25:22) states that she said, “Im kein, lamah zeh anochi,” and went to seek Hashem.

Why was she so bothered that she went to Sheim to find out what Hashem had planned for her?

Perhaps the language of the posuk provides us with a hint. The words “Lamah zeh anochi,” commonly translated as, “If so, what am I doing this for? Why did I pray for children?” can be understood allegorically a bit differently. Rivkah was perturbed, as the Medrash states, by the fact that when she passed the bais medrash of Sheim and Eiver, the baby kicked as if trying to exit, while when passing a place of avodah zorah, the same thing would happen.

When Rivkah said, “Lamah zeh anochi,” perhaps she was referring to the Aseres Hadibros that her offspring were to receive, commencing with the commandment of “Anochi Hashem Elokecha.”

She was concerned, for she knew that someone who pretends to be a proponent of opposing sides cannot be the progenitor of the Shivtei Kah, the chosen people who will receive the Torah. As the ultimate truth, Torah is not the domain of those who are all things to all people. Hashem is uncomfortable, kevayachol, with someone who presents himself as a holy person when that is advantageous to him, while he poses in a different fashion when he deems that to be more beneficial.

Rivkah knew that as the child of Yitzchok and grandson of Avrohom, the offspring she was to give birth to would have to be a leader, setting a standard of virtue as the epitome of goodness and G-dliness in this world. She was worried that the child she was carrying was demonstrating symptoms of being unprincipled. Since such a child would not be a worthy heir to Avrohom and Yitzchok, she thought that she would have been better off remaining barren.

Thus, she was relieved when Sheim informed her that she would give birth to twins, one righteous child and the other evil. Although she would have been happier with two righteous children, she was comforted with the knowledge that she would be giving birth to a worthy progenitor to Avrohom and Yitzchok.

Not only in her day, but in ours as well, there is a shortage of leaders. In every society, in every country, and in every industry, people are disconcerted as they seek leadership in a drifting world. People look for someone trustworthy to rally around, searching desperately for a person who can put their feelings into words and give voice to their concerns. There is a dearth of leaders who act in the best interests of the people they are supposed to serve.

The Torah is not some esoteric book available only to the smart learned. The Torah is for everyone, at every time, and in every period. It is neither in the heavens nor available only in some remote region. It is for anyone who dedicates himself to its study and acquisition.

As we sit by the feet of good teachers and imbibe the lessons that were inculcated in them by their rabbeim, our minds are opened, our souls are purified, and our sensitivities are awakened to the needs and aspirations of our people.

To find answers in a confounding world, we should follow our grandmother, Rivkah, and seek the word of Hashem in the bais medrash. Only those who study the word of Hashem are equipped to guide us in times of disillusionment and confusion. It is only with the Torah’s perspective that we can appreciate what is going on around us and find direction and purpose in our world.

This week, as we enter the month of Kislev, we begin thinking about the story of Chanukah. We realize that the Bnei Chashmonaim were neither warriors nor leaders. They were people in whose hearts burned an insatiable desire to rid the world of evil. As we say in Al Hanissim, they were few and they were weak. But they were righteous. And they had the courage of their convictions. They refused to subjugate themselves to the profane practices and worldview of the Hellenists.

Under the leadership of Matisyohu ben Yochanan Kohein Gadol, the handful of die-hard tzaddikim and oskei Torah arose to provide leadership for a dejected, subjugated people. Hashem took note of their courage and self-sacrifice, and empowered them with the ability to rally the bnei Yisroel and to emerge victorious over a powerful and deeply entrenched enemy.

The leader is not the one who cheats his way up the political ladder. The true leader is not the one who repeatedly lies to his people and engages in subterfuges in a desperate bid to maintain a hold on power. He doesn’t just pontificate and blame the consequences of his ineptitude on someone else. The proper leader doesn’t hold on desperately to an outdated and disproved ideology. He is not crippled by arrogance and ignorance.

The Jewish leader spends his time bent over a sefer, teaching and helping people. He imparts his knowledge to others with love and devotion. He parcels out his advice and guidance with humility. People flock to him and follow him. We have an inbred sense of where to go for leadership and whom to follow.

A radio call-in show was playing in the background as I was writing. I wasn’t paying attention until I heard someone who identified himself with a Jewish name from a frum town ask a question. The host is retiring after a few decades of broadcasting. The listener called for advice.

“As you plan to retire, can you give me some advice?” the caller asked. “I want to be a success. How do I go about that? You are successful. How can I be successful?” he questioned with a tone of desperation.

The host asked him what his goal is.

“Goal? I want to be successful. That’s my goal,” was the response.

The host went on a rant, educating the caller that success is not a goal.

“A goal is something you want to reach. Do you have interests? Do you have any talents? Is there anything you care about? If there is something you can do and want to do, you work hard at it, set a goal, and aim towards it. Reach your goal and you’ll be happy, satisfied and successful.”

What struck me most about the conversation was that the caller was asking this person in the first place. Why would he turn to a radio talk show host? Is he the person best qualified to answer the question? If you don’t see yourself as succeeding in life, why would you call this fellow? Why wouldn’t you reach out to people known for their success in Torah and other areas of pursuit?

If this caller would be satisfied with his heritage and spend time each day learning Torah and mussar, he wouldn’t have to contact a radio show for tips. The Torah and sifrei kodesh are replete with lessons guiding a person to reach success. They teach what life is about. They teach us to set goals and what those goals should be. When confused, the bais medrash and its leaders offer care and concern, as well as proven advice on how to overcome dissolution and achieve success.

Yaakov and Eisov were born to the same parents, and had the same chinuch and upbringing. One grew up to be a tremendous success, while the other may have succeeded financially but is remembered for all time as an evil loser.

One spent his time in the bais medrash, studying Torah and seeking to establish a life predicated upon the values of his father and grandfather. The other spent his days hunting, acting as a ruffian and tough guy in the street, and putting on a show for his father, presenting himself as a holy and learned person.

Rav Reuvein Dov Dessler of Kelm would say that the way Eisov presented himself was dependent on his wants on that particular day. On the day of Avrohom’s passing, Eisov’s goal was to gulp down the bowl of adashim Yaakov had prepared for the seudas havra’ah following the funeral. He decided that in order to procure the adashim, he would present himself as a person of mussar, remembering the yom hamisah and broken over the loss of the tzaddik Avrohom.

In truth, he was moved by neither. His sole motivation was the sweet-smelling pot of beans. And so is the way of man, Rav Dessler would say. He has different masks, depending upon his specific wants. We have to be careful to be true to ourselves and not project ourselves as people we are not.

Which brings us to the age-old question of why Yitzchok wished to bless Eisov, and not Yaakov, with the blessings of Veyitein Lecho.

Let’s go back to Rivkah seeking out Sheim’s guidance regarding her troubling pregnancy and her statement of “Im kein, lamah zeh anochi – If this is the child I will be giving birth to, why do I need this?”

Rivkah knew that Avrohom had more than one son. She also knew that Hashem promised (Bereishes 17:21) to honor the covenant He had made with Avrohom through Yitzchok. She knew that following Avrohom’s bris, Hashem said (Bereishis 18:18), “Avrohom will give birth to a large nation… For I know that he will command his sons and household to follow the ways of Hashem, to engage in charity and justice, so that Hashem will bring upon Avrohom (and his children) all He promised.”  

In order for the son of Yitzchok to merit being the inheritor of the brachos and for the bris to continue through him, he would have to be someone who would follow in the ways of his father and grandfather.

Were Rivkah to give birth to a son who served avodah zora, he would not be able to continue the chain and would be rejected, just as Yishmoel was.

Rivkah feared that since the baby was exhibiting dangerous tendencies, he was evil, and when that would become evident, she would be scorned as Hagar was and would be evicted from the home of Yitzchok along with her son.

“‘Im kein,’ if that is to be my fate, worried Rivkah,lamah zeh anochi,’ I will not merit to be the mother of the Jewish people, so what will be of me?

“Eliezer came to my area and devised a test to see who would be the worthy wife for Yitzchok, carrying on the traditions established by Avrohom and transmitting them to future generations. Perhaps, although Eliezer was impressed by my acts of chesed, I was not the girl who was bashert for Yitzchok. ‘Im kein,’ if it is true that my son will be an unworthy heir, ‘lamah zeh anochi?’ What am I doing here? I am the wrong wife for Yitzchok and my shlichus is not to be the mother of the third av.

Sheim informed her that while one son would be unworthy, his twin would be the third of the avos, and through him the Jewish nation would begin to take shape. Rivkah was satisfied with that and happily returned home.

Apparently, Rivkah never shared that information with Yitzchok and never let him in on the fact that Eisov was an evil imposter, who succeeded in fooling his father with respect to his degree of religiosity. Explanations for Rivkah’s behavior are set forth by the Zohar, Rishonim and Acharonim and are beyond the purview of this article.

When it came time to transmit the brachos, Yitzchok planned on giving them to Eisov. However, Rivkah, who knew the truth about Eisov, worked to ensure that Yaakov, the worthy heir, would be blessed, and the chain would be transmitted through him and his children.

Im kein, lamah zeh anochi?” She learned that her shlichus, her mission in life, was to give birth to the third of the avos hakedoshim and ensure that he would be the heir who would give birth to the Shteim Esrei Shivtei Kah, the progenitors of Am Yisroel.

This is the meaning of the posuk which tells us (Bereishis 25:28), “Yitzchok loved Eisov and Rivkah loved Yaakov.” Yitzchok was unaware of Eisov’s true nature. Therefore, he loved him, because he would constantly seek to impress his father about his knowledge and frumkeit. Rivkah was aware of the truth and knew that the golden chain would carry on through Yaakov. Therefore, she loved him and dedicated herself to his welfare, though he was “ish tam yosheiv ohalim” and not one to brag or put on a show to impress anyone, including his father.

We all have our missions in life. We all seek to be worthy links in the chain going back to Avrohom, Yitzchok and Yaakov. We face many financial pressures just to be able to maintain a stable family life. We feel pulled from all sides. The yeitzer hora is ever-present, seeking to ensnare us. He has many vises, some of which allow us to maintain our outward appearance of frumkeit and yashrus. He causes us to fool ourselves and think that we are engaging in mitzvos, when what we are really after is the nezid adashim.

We have to be honest not only with others, but also with ourselves. We have to understand what we are doing and what our motivations are. If the cause is not as holy as we think, or if we are doing something that we can’t really afford, we should not let ourselves be fooled into something improper or unrealistic.

Flee from an overtaxed life and carve out moments of silence to hear your heart and soul, ensuring that they are focused on proper goals. Escape the noise of the world and find a tent, as our grandfather Yaakov did.

Eisov was a man about town, making deals, rushing, always on the move. He wanted to be successful. Yaakov, the ish tam yosheiv ohalim, was neither a participant in the rat race nor seeking to impress anyone. He set goals for himself and attained them.

In our day, as well, if we want to benefit from the brachos reserved for the Bnei Yaakov and not fall prey to the vicissitudes of life, we have to set goals for ourselves. A simple drive to succeed leads to bogus figures, dishonest dealings, deceitful relationships and false impressions, coupled with increased pressures and many dead ends. Eisov sought to succeed at all costs. Unprincipled and deceiving, he has been remembered throughout history as the epitome of fallaciousness.

Get away from the noise, frustration and pressure. Find a seat in the ohel of Yaakov. There you will find yourself and the elusive commodity of inner peace. You will become motivated to achieve a good life, and merit calmness and happiness as a worthy heir to Yitzchok and Rivkah.


Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Never Get Lost

Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

This week’s parsha, Chayei Sorah, speaks of historical underpinnings of our people as we read of Sorah’s death and Avrohom’s search for a proper burial place for her. That is followed by the search for a wife for Yitzchok and ends with the passing of Avrohom. As happens in Jewish life in the exile, there are obstacles and setbacks along the way. People who profess honesty and statesmanship turn out to be neither honest nor statesmen.  

Following the passing of Sorah, the Torah elaborates on how Avrohom reached out to the people of Cheis regarding a kever for her. The people of Cheis treat Avrohom with great respect, referring to him as a G-dly king and offering him any grave he chooses. Instead, he asks to speak to their distinguished friend, Efron, and offers him a high price for the cave at the end of his field. After first proffering the field and cave as a gift, Efron demands a very high price, telling Avrohom that he’s giving him a good deal.

Avrohom happily paid for the Me’oras Hamachpeilah and buried Sorah there without a complaint.

Avrohom Avinu paved the way for us in golus. So many times, we are lied to and played for fools. In the name of justice, good people, such as our friend Shalom Mordechai Rubashkin, get locked away for years. In the name of fairness, the Balfour Declaration is mocked and vilified in honor of the 100th anniversary of the document that led to the founding of Israel.

The New York Times honored the centennial with an article wondering whether the document was “the original sin in which Israel was conceived.”

The paper of record reports, “The Balfour Declaration, the pivotal, 67-word assurance by the British foreign secretary that promised support for ‘the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people,’ turned 100 on Thursday…

“Dated Nov. 2, 1917, the letter was delivered to the leaders of Britain’s Jewish community at the height of World War I, when Britain was driving the Ottomans from Palestine and seeking Jewish support in the United States to spur the American war effort. It did not gain the force of international law until 1920, when the remains of the Ottoman Empire were divided into mandates by the League of Nations, and the British inserted the Balfour Declaration into the text for their mandate for Palestine.

“The Arabs of Palestine were overmatched in the diplomatic realm, offering only feeble attempts at rolling back the declaration,” said Mahmoud Yazbak, a history professor at the University of Haifa.

The document was not fair, reports the Gray Lady. “Dueling academic conferences at the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities in central Jerusalem and at the Palestinian National Theater in East Jerusalem offered sharply different takes on the document’s meaning, genesis and historical consequences,” continues the Times. “The former emphasized World War I-era geopolitics and international law, and the latter keyed on imperialism and racism.”

More, “In an interview, MK Zouheir Bahlool spoke of the Balfour Declaration as if it were a fresh wound. ‘This declaration virtually buried the existence of the Palestinian people, which I am a part of,’ he said. The document, he said, promoted self-determination for the Jewish people ‘while completely ignoring the fact that there were Palestinians here.’”

One hundred years later, after all the crimes against humanity committed by Arabs in the name of a fictitious people they invented, the Palestinians, the world is still upset about the lack of fairness in returning the Jews to their ancestral home following two thousand years of being chased from place to place, pariahs wherever they were.

It is interesting that the Medrash (Bereishis Rabba 79:7) comments that there are three places in Eretz Yisroel that the nations of the world cannot contend to have rights to: the Me’oras Hamachpeilah, Har Habayis and Kever Yosef. Symbolic of the perfidiousness of the nations of the world, davka these three places are depicted most often as Muslim holy places where Jews should have no rights.

Such is the way of the nations.

Republicans were swept to power with promises of healthcare and tax reform. There was no healthcare reform, and now that they have presented their plan for tax reform, it seems that nobody will gain from the changes. More likely than not, you will pay more taxes if the bill, as it is proposed, is approved by both houses of Congress and signed into law by the president.

So much of what is said and promised turns out to be less than truthful. More often than not, politicians, upon being elected, turn their backs on their constituents and seek to benefit themselves.

Witness the trial of Senator Bob Menendez and the news about Mrs. Clinton and how she and her husband used their charity foundation to enrich themselves and collude with Russia on a deal giving them control of 20% of America’s uranium. Read the recent revelations of how she corrupted the Democrat Party to fix the primaries to guarantee her victory, while she continuously lied throughout the campaign about her handling of classified information.

As bnei Avrohom v’Sorah, we place our faith in Hashem, for we know that He is the One who guides us through our days.

This week’s parsha opens with the passing of Sorah Imeinu at the age of 127 years. We are all familiar with the Rashi that states, “Kulan shovin letovah – All her years were equally good.”

We have learned that Rashi repeatedly since we were youngsters. What does it mean?

There must be a deeper meaning to Rashi’s comment. If we are to understand his lesson as stating that all her years were good, we know that, in fact, they weren’t. The day she was snatched from her husband and brought to Paroh certainly wasn’t a good one. The day she was kidnapped by Avimelech was surely terrifying.

The day she saw Yishmoel being metzacheik with Yitzchok cannot be described as a good one. The days that Hagar caused her pain were not good ones. Of course, she accepted whatever came her way, but that alone does not turn bad days into good days.

The explanation may be that Sorah Imeinu was the personification of goodness. She was so good and so concerned about other people and the welfare of the world that she seized every opportunity to do good. Her days were filled with chesed and tzedakah.

Sorah didn’t just sit by and say, “Why doesn’t someone do something?” When she sensed an opportunity for improving the world, she grabbed it. When she saw someone who needed help, she didn’t just offer them advice about where to go and what to do. She brought them into her tent and took care of them herself, just as her husband did.

Because she was so intrinsically good, she spent her days and years doing good. She spread goodness and G-dliness wherever she went. In every situation and in every predicament, she discovered a way to increase goodness in the world.

When Rashi describes Sorah’s years as “kulan shovin letovah,” the word tovah is not only a noun and an adjective, but a verb. All her years were consistently spent performing good. That is the mark of a person whose essence is goodness.

She didn’t bother with the sheker of the outside world. She ignored it, as she worked on strengthening and improving people, one at a time.

As bnei Avrohom v’Sorah, we need to find the good in everything and seek to create goodness in every situation in which we find ourselves.

The Torah goes into extensive detail about Avrohom’s search for a mate for Yitzchok. Feeling himself growing old, Avrohom entrusted his servant Eliezer with finding a girl suited for his holy son.

The Torah spends so much time recounting how Eliezer went about his task that the Medrash (Bereishis Rabba 60:8) states, “Yofoh sichoson shel avdei botei avos mitorasan shel bonim.” The parsha of Eliezer offers many lessons regarding how we are to lead our lives that the Torah elaborates on everything that Eliezer thought, did and said.

The purpose of the Torah relating the episode of Eliezer is to instruct us in middos. The reason these stories are retold is not to make for interesting, charming tales for youngsters in the primary grades. They are meant to be studied on a deep level and used as practical guides in our own lives.

When a talmid’s first daughter was entering shidduchim, he traveled to Rav Elazar Menachem Man Shach for guidance on what they should be looking for in a boy.

Middos,” the sage responded.

“But what about yichus?” asked the father. “Is that something I should be looking for in my prospective son-in-law?”

“No. Middos,” repeated the rosh yeshiva.

“And what about excellence in other things?”

Again, the answer was, “Middos. The most important thing to look for is good middos. Only after you have ascertained that the boy is of fine character and middos tovos, then you can look into the other important attributes. 

Rav Shach may have reached that conclusion after a lifetime of observation and he may have learned it from this week’s parsha.

The Drashos Haran writes (Drush 5) that Avrohom sent Eliezer to search among his family members for a mate for Yitzchok and warned him against searching among the Canaanites, because the members of his family were blessed with a fine nature, while the disposition of the offspring of Canaan were not. That way, the girl’s children would also be exceptional. (See also Kli Yokor Bereishis 24, 3.) 

Eliezer was determined to find a girl blessed with middos tovos. He devised a test for the girl he would meet to ensure that the one who would marry Yitzchok possessed a refined character and excelled in dealing with people.

Eliezer’s dedication to Avrohom was reinforced with deep faith in Hashem to lead his way. Even when it seemed entirely dark and there was little hope that he would be able to fulfill his master’s request, Hashem lit the way for him. The Medrash states, “Hakadosh Boruch Hu haya me’ir lo bezikim ubevrakim.” When the believer appears to be lost in the dark, the light of Hashem bursts forth as lightning through the darkness and dread.

In Parshas Vayeira (21:14), the posuk recounts that Hagar was sent from the home of Avrohom and Sorah. The Torah states, “Vateilech vateisah.” Targum Onkeles translates the words to mean that she went and became lost. Rashi says that they mean that she returned to serve avodah zarah.

The Brisker Rov explained that Rashi saw in the word “vateisah” that she had left the path of Hashem, because anyone who has emunah and bitachon knows that they are never lost. They know that they didn’t end up in their situation by mistake, for everything that happens is Divinely ordained. Hashem declared it so for reasons not always evident at the moment.

A person who feels lost and aimless is lacking in their belief. Hagar was forlorn in the desert. She was confused, broken and lost. If she was feeling forsaken, Rashi reasoned, she must have left the path of Avrohom and drifted back to the ways of her family.

Sometimes, people involved in shidduchim become despondent and give up hope. This week’s parsha and its Medrashim can help instill the faith people need to endure the shidduchim period and other trying times.

We must never let anyone rob us of hope. We are entitled to dream of brighter and happier days. As long as we can keep hope alive, we will not lose sight of our goal and will remain loyal to our ambition. We mustn’t lose our faith and optimism. When we lose hope, we have lost everything.

When the Brisker Rov was trying to escape from Europe during World War II, he spent a night in war-torn Warsaw. There was a debate among the residents of the apartment building he stayed in whether it was safer on a higher floor or a lower one. The higher floors carried a danger, since if the area was bombed and the building would topple, they would most certainly not survive. But others argued that being higher up was safer, since at least there was no danger of the apartment being buried under the rubble, whereas on lower floors, although they might withstand an attack, they would be crushed by the building collapsing on them.

The Brisker Rov recalled that the night he slept in that building was more restful than his other nights on the run. He explained that as he moved from place to place, he would worry about whether what he had done and where he had gone was the proper halachic way to seek protection.

On that awful night in Warsaw, he felt that the question of where to take refuge in the building was a “safeik hashakul.” Since there was really no clear answer to the quandary, because both options were equally valid, he knew that his actions were correct.

And what about a fear of dying that night in a bombing attack? He said that he was not worried, for he had bitachon. He did what was incumbent on him to do for his safety and went to sleep with equanimity, for he knew that Hashem was watching over him.

A person like that is never “teisah.” He is never lost and never forsaken.

Eliezer found Rivka and was introduced to her family. Lavan saw Eliezer approaching his home and ran towards him (Bereishis 24:29), apparently to welcome the guest. Rashi informs us that Lavan observed the new jewelry his sister was wearing and sensed that the guest was financially blessed. He ran to him to seek some riches for himself.

The Torah describes the encounter between Eliezer and Rivka’s family, leading up to when Rivka took leave of them to travel with Eliezer to meet and marry Yitzchok. As she left, Lavan gave her a parting brocha: “Achoseinu, at hayee l’alfei revovah…”

Rashi states that Lavan repeated the brocha that was given to Avrohom at Har Hamoriah following the Akeidah. That indicates that Lavan possessed ruach hakodesh, for how else would he be aware of what Hashem told Avrohom?

So, was Lavan a good guy or a bad guy?

The Alter of Kelm writes that Lavan was a gadol hador, but his drive and passion for money led him astray. If someone were to analyze the major failings of our generation, at the top of the list would be the worship of money.

People forsake everything in their eagerness to become wealthy. They wear themselves down, can’t maintain relationships, forego family and friends, and forsake common sense and beliefs in the pursuit of the deal that will take them over the top.

People drive themselves into depression over their jealousy of the money other people seem to have. Their envy leads them to be spiteful, hateful and bitter, oftentimes leading others to be repelled by their behavior.

Some have such a craving for money that they assume crushing debt to create an impression and illusion that they are affluent. They struggle mightily to maintain that image, crushing their hearts and souls in the process.

Lavan was a gadol, and he could have remained a great man had he not craved wealth as he did. We need to take that message to heart and not be obsessed with money.

Like our avos, we are meant to be a people of character, who endeavor to raise our children to be kind, thoughtful and considerate. We seek to do what is right, in all situations. We are contemplative, intelligent and strong in the beliefs handed down for millennia. We are smart, strong and fearless when necessary. We live with faith, emunah and bitachon, and appreciate the calmness and happiness this engenders.

We inculcate in our children and ourselves a love for Torah and mitzvos. We don’t force children to learn by rote without understanding what they are learning. We explain to them the words of Torah and tefillah, and ensure that they understand and thus appreciate what they are saying and studying.

Recognizing that we are bnei Avrohom, Yitzchok and Yaakov, we have our priorities in order and aren’t led astray by feeble pursuits. We appreciate our lives, and if something is amiss, we daven and seek out good people to guide us.

We learn the parshiyos of Sefer Bereishis and gain perspectives on life and direction in a floundering world.

We say, “Ashreinu mah tov chelkeinu,” understand it, mean it, and feel it every day of our lives.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Peaceful Tranquility

By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

At times, people feel that they are stuck in a rut. They are lacking money or something else they feel they need and deserve. They are unable to overcome the gaping feeling that life has wronged them and therefore become anxious and depressed. They are overwhelmed by feelings of emptiness and suffering.

Rav Elimelech Biderman recently told the story of Reb Nisson Shtitzberg. One of his daughters married a fine young man. In the middle of sheva brachos, tragedy struck and the chosson suddenly died. Imagine the sadness that gripped the kallah and both families. The great simcha was turned into tremendous sadness. 
Not only that, but they found out that the new wife would be an agunah for the next eight years, as the chosson’s only brother was but a five-year-old lad. He wouldn’t be able to partake in chalitzah, which would enable the poor kallah to remarry, for another eight years, when he would become a bar mitzvah.
Reb Nisson was a chossid of the Yesod Ha’avodah. In utter dejection, he turned to the rebbe to find out what they had done to deserve such a tragic situation.
The rebbe said to him, “Look at what is happening and you will realize that it was decreed in Heaven that your daughter wouldn’t have children until eight years from now. Now, if this would not have happened, she would not have gotten engaged until now. You would have spent your days and nights trying to find a shidduch for her, and rightfully so. As time went on, without success, you would have undertaken various segulos, davened like you never had before, and begged any rusty shadchan to come up with someone normal for your daughter.
“And what would people say? They’d no doubt say that your daughter hasn’t found a shidduch yet because there must be something wrong with her. You would have been going through torture until finally finding her zivug after eight aggravating years.
“Hashem had mercy on you and saved you from all that. In eight years, the brother will come of age and she will perform chalitzah. She will then immediately marry and give birth to a beautiful family, all in the preordained time.”
One who trusts in Hashem knows that whatever happens to him is for the good and is brought on by Hashem. We don’t always understand what has befallen us or why. Sometimes it can take years until the reason becomes evident. Sometimes it becomes clear sooner and other times we never figure it out.
We read in this week’s parsha (18:10) how Hashem appeared to Avrohom and told him that he and his wife would be giving birth to a son who would be their heir and carry their mission forward. Why did Avrohom Avinu not rush to tell his wife that Hashem promised that they would have a son? The elderly couple had unsuccessfully sought a child for many years. How could Avrohom not share the great news with his wife?
Avrohom and Sorah had worked to bring Hashem’s message of G-dliness to the world. They set out on their path alone, and were successful in drawing many followers, until they had a wave of maaminim following them.
They were blessed with much wealth and fame, and had everything a couple could desire, except for a child. When Avrohom Avinu found out that he and Sorah would soon have a son, he kept the promise from his wife. Wouldn’t you imagine that this was the happiest moment in his life? How could he not tell her that their prayers have been answered and she would soon be a mother? 
The Ramban (Bereishis 18:15) writes that Avrohom waited for Hashem to let Sorah know the good news. Sorah actually found out the wonderful news from the malachim
He suggests, as well, that Avrohom was preoccupied with performing the mitzvah of milah on himself and his household as he had been commanded and didn’t have the time to tell Sorah. When he finished fulfilling Hashem’s commandment regarding milah, he was weak and sat at the entrance of his tent to recuperate. Before he had a chance to get back to himself and tell Sorah, the malochim came and told her themselves.
Even after studying the words of the Ramban, the question still bothered me. How can it be that Avrohom didn’t run to tell his wife that the one thing they were lacking in their lives would be granted to them? Wouldn’t doing so bring much happiness to his wife? How could he postpone bringing her that joy?
Perhaps the question is based on a mistaken premise. A believer knows that everything that happens to him in life is for the good. A person who lives with bitachon understands that Hashem’s purpose in creation is to bring about goodness and kindness.
We don’t always understand what is going on, but we know that there is a greater purpose for what is happening. Nothing that happens is haphazard and nothing happens by itself. 
People want children because they have been conditioned to expect to give birth to a child. Children bring joy, enrichment, and meaning into your life. 
But, in fact, we are all here because Hashem willed it so. Everything we have - or don’t have - is because Hashem willed it to be that way. We all have a mission in life. We are given what we need to be able to fulfill our mission. 
Some people need a large home in order to accomplish their shlichus, while some don’t. Some need a nice car, while for others a small jalopy suffices. Some people need a lot of money in order to carry out their mission, while some can be most successful in their shlichus without a dime in their pockets. 
A maamin and baal bitachon doesn’t look at what other people have and complain about why he is lacking in those blessings. He knows that Hashem chose this situation for him. He is not jealous of others and does not view himself as lacking in anything. He is happy with what he has, because he knows that his loving Father provides for him what he needs.
He is never jealous of other people, asking, “How come they have what I don’t have?” A familiar refrain is that life is unfair. Why don’t I have all that I want, just like the person across the street? Why is he so smart, yet as hard as I try, I can’t remember a thing I learn? Why does he always find the bargains, while I pay full price for everything? Why do their kids dress in designer clothes, while mine make do with end-of-season sale items? 
So many of our complaints are brought on by jealousy.
Rav Yecheskel Sarna, the Chevron rosh yeshiva told the Chazon Ish that during the Second World War some rabbis had a debate. A certain tyrant who persecuted Jews died. The question was, should they be happy now that he was gone, or should they worry that perhaps his replacement would be even worse. 
The Chazon Ish told him that “they could have simultaneously celebrated his departure and worried about the future. It is possible to be happy and apprehensive at the same time.” 
He proved his point. “Yirmiyohu Hanovi wrote Megillas Eicha, a mournful dirge of tragedy. We know that he wrote it with ruach hakodesh, and we also know that in order to merit ruach hakodesh, you have to be besimcha
“You see that it is possible to mourn and weep over the destroyed beis hamikdosh and to be besimcha at the same time.”
The depth of his message is that while a person is suffering from a calamity or loss, the knowledge that it did not happen by itself, but rather was orchestrated by the Creator for a higher purpose, is comforting and allows the person to be content.
People who trust in Hashem know that He oversees all. As the Gemara states (Chulin 7b), “a person doesn’t even get a small wound on a finger without it being decided so by Heaven.” If a person receives a setback of any kind, he should know that it didn’t happen by itself, but was decreed by Hashem. 
The Ribnitzer Rebbe was walking with Rav Eliyohu Tabak, when the elderly rebbe tripped and fell. Rav Eliyohu rushed to lift the rebbe off the ground. The Ribnitzer told him to wait. “Eliyohu, before I get up, I have to make a cheshbon hanefesh. If I don’t know why I fell, I will fall again.” The rebbe remained on the floor for a minute before allowing Rabbi Tabak to raise him.
People who live with emunah are that way. When something doesn’t go their way, they try to figure out why. They search their souls to find what is lacking and they seek to rectify it. Otherwise, they understand that Hashem brought it upon them for reasons they do not know. They accept it and move on. 
Avrohom and Sorah were maaminim. They understood that Hashem did what was best for them. Before they had a child, they were not overcome with grief. They didn’t view their lives as lacking. They viewed their lives as full and blessed. They perceived their mission to be bringing the knowledge of Hashem to the world. If they didn’t have a child, then apparently Hashem felt they didn’t need one. Their good acts would live on some other way. They would attain joy, happiness and fulfillment without giving birth to children together. 
Since they didn’t view the lack of a child as a tragedy, when Avrohom heard from Hashem that he and his wife would be giving birth to a son who would be their heir and carry on their mission, he didn’t feel the need to rush and tell his wife. 
In last week’s parsha (15:4-5), Hashem told Avrohom, “Ki im asher yeitzei mimei’echa hu yiroshecha - The one you give birth to will be your heir.” The posuk says that Hashem took Avrohom outside and told him, “Look up to the sky and count the stars. If you are able to count them, so will you be able to count your children,” for they will be so plentiful that it will be impossible to count them.
The posuk then states (ibid. 6), “Vehe’emin baHashem vayachsheveha lo tzedakah,” Avrohom trusted Hashem and Hashem looked upon Avrohom’s faith favorably.
What was the big deal about the fact that Avrohom trusted the promise of Hashem? And why did Hashem consider it a major act? If Hashem appeared to anyone, wouldn’t that person trust Him to keep His word? 
If we continue with our line of reasoning, we can answer that the big deal was that Avrohom was the paradigm believer in Hashem. He believed in Hashem when he didn’t have a son as much as he believed after he was promised the son and multitudes of offspring. 
As such, when Hashem promised that he and Sorah would give birth to a child who would continue their mission, Avrohom was not so overjoyed as to interrupt the mitzvah he was doing in order to tell Sorah.
This is what the Ramban means when he says that Avrohom was occupied with carrying out Hashem’s commandment regarding milah. Avrohom was fulfilling his mission of following Hashem’s word. That is what his life was all about. He was the consummate servant of Hashem, whether he had a child or not, so his first obligation was to finish doing what Hashem asked him to do. Sorah wouldn’t expect anything different.
We tend to plug our emotions, perspectives and reactions into stories of the avos. Thus, we have questions. We understand the burning desire for a child, the ache of loneliness, and the frustration of unanswered tefillos. 
But there is a level beyond ours, the level of tzaddikim. Yes, a child is a hemshech, a continuation of all man’s accomplishments, and a means of ensuring that the chain goes on. A child affords us the mitzvah of chinuch, the joy and fulfillment of seeing a new generation growing in Torah and avodah, and the nachas of transmitting eternal values. But there is a backdrop to all this: The only reality that counts and exists is that which Hashem desires.
To us, a husband and wife longing and yearning for something for so many years and then receiving it is a happy story. To tzaddikim, before they are answered, it is viewed as the ratzon Hashem, and after they are answered, it remains the same ratzon Hashem.
To Avrohom Avinu and Sorah Imeinu, the desire for a child was in the context of that reality. Since Hashem hadn’t blessed them with a child, they were content. They existed serenely within that reality. The news that they would have a child meant, in their terms, that the ratzon Hashem now was different than it had been before.
Their lives had been in concert with Hashem’s will all along, and so would it continue.
Similarly, the nisayon of the Akeidah was a test of Avrohom’s bitachon. Now that he had been blessed with a son, were he to learn that it was the will of Hashem for him to return that gift, would he happily comply with Hashem’s wish or would he question the command?
The posuk (Bereishis 22:3) relates that Avrohom passed the test. “Vayashkeim Avrohom baboker.” Without delay, he hurried to fulfill Hashem’s wish. He had wanted a son in order to perform his shlichus in this world. If Hashem wanted him to have a son, he was thrilled, and if Hashem did not wish for him to have a son any longer, then he would rush to fulfill the will of Hashem, fully accepting the decision.
The Chazon Ish wrote poetically, “Ein kol etzev ba’olam lemi shemakir ohr ha’oros shel ha’emes. There is no despair in the world for one who perceives the light of lights of the truth.” Rav Yitzchok Hutner pointed out that the Chazon Ish, who was childless and experienced the same struggle as the avos, was expressing that there exists an “ohr,” a light, of ratzon Hashem that is more obvious. There is also an “ohr ha’oros,” a less obvious but deeper light, that of amitas retzono Yisborach. For those who perceive the deep light of Hashem, there is no depression, for they recognize the truth that all that transpires is for the greater good.
On Shabbos, we do not wish a sick person refuah sheleimah. Instead, Chazal tells us, we say, “Shabbos hi milizok.” On Shabbos, we don’t cry out in pain.
Perhaps we can understand that pain and pity are appropriate when one is somewhat removed from the ohr ha’oros. On Shabbos Kodesh, our proximity to the Borei Olam makes such reactions inappropriate. Shabbos is the day when the ohr of sheishes yemei bereishes shines through and we appreciate that if things are a certain way, it is because that is what Hashem wants. During the yemei hama’aseh, things are less clear, and we cry, but on Shabbos, when the light is evident, we refrain from sadness.

On Shabbos, as well, we do not engage in obvious acts of mourning. On the six days of the week, we cry over the passing of loved ones. When Shabbos arrives, there is no sadness. On Shabbos, we proclaim that the world was created by the Creator. We receive a neshomah yeseirah, which allows us to comprehend concepts that we can’t understand during the week. On this day, we do not mourn or engage in sadness, for we recognize that Hashem created the world to do good and all that transpires is for the good. 
It’s all ratzon Hashem.
Such is the way of the avos, tzaddikim and maaminim, and that is the way we should try to live our lives. 
We see treachery and evil rising. We see morality under attack, as laws that promote deviancy are enacted. We see dishonest people prosper and corruption entrench itself.
Our personal lives are tumultuous. Life is not going as planned. Everyone has a share of heartache and problems. We wonder why we have to work so hard and why we can’t attain our goals with less aggravation. It takes so much money to make ends meet. We can’t take the constant pressure to stay above water. There are so many things we wish were different. Should we be overcome with sadness? Should we give up? Should we feel alone and forlorn? 
We have to do our best to live besimcha. We have to recognize that what happens is His will and ratzon hatov leheitiv. We should have no doubt that what happens is good and is the right thing for us, whether or not we easily understand it. We must know that those who see the ohr ha’oros recognize the good nature of everything that transpires. We have to do our best to rise to that level.
The connection to the Ribbono Shel Olam means that we know that He who created us and gives us life also knows what we need. At times, we wish for things to be different, for a lack to be filled, or for a situation to be changed.
So we daven and hope, but always with the confidence that He knows how things ought to be. Avrohom Avinu prayed for the people of Sedom, pleading for Heavenly mercy on their behalf. He was turned down. How did he respond? The posuk says that Avrohom returned the next morning “el hamakom asher omad shom es pnei Hashem” (Bereishis 19:27). He went back to the same “place,” with the very same submission, humility and faith with which he had offered his tefillos and been turned down the day before.
“Yes” and “no” are but two expressions of the same ratzon. They are thus not different. As Hashem’s children, we have the ability and unique attitude to recognize that everything is from Hashem. So ein kol etzev. We don’t become dejected. We continue to hope, certain that one day, may it be very soon, we will rejoice when it all becomes clear just how good it has been all along.
What seems to us as reality is only a façade. One who seems blessed may in fact be cursed. One who seems poor may actually be blessed.
Let us learn from Avrohom and Sorah to look at the world properly, envisioning things as maaminim and baalei bitachon.
Let us live with faith and confidence, recognizing that we have a calling and mission in life. Let us do what can to accomplish our goals without jealousy or sadness. Let us concentrate on our own lives, on our own improvement, on what we must do to achieve happiness and wholesomeness. Let us take the steps which will enable us to attain the peaceful tranquility we all yearn for.