OnegShabbosNorth West London's Weekly Torah and Opinion Sheets
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Rather recently, books have appeared advocating "positive imagery," suggesting that if you imagine the scene that you wish to occur, this will make it happen. The first tendency is to dismiss this almost derisively.
"I was laid off eight months ago. I have repeatedly imagined myself happily employed at a new job, but I am still unemployed." It is quite difficult to counter such observations. Magical thinking is juvenile, one says, and wishing it will happen does not bring it about.
Logically, I would go along with this observation. However, I came across an essay in the sefer Ohev Israel, by the Chassidic master, Rebbe Avraham Yehoshua Heschel of Apt. He cites Rashi's statement (Genesis 7:7)thatNoachvacillatedinhisbeliefthattherewouldindeedbeaflood,and did not enter the ark until the rising waters forced him to. The Rebbe of Apt asks, "How can one say that Noach, whom the Torah describes as a perfect tzaddik, was lax in his belief in Hashem's words?"
The Rebbe explains that the word emunah, faith, is related to he word omein, which means "to raise up," as in the Book of Esther, which uses the word omein in the sentence that Mordecai reared Esther. This connotation, the Rebbe says, means that emunah can "raise" things, i.e., bring them about. Therefore, Noach did not allow himself to have a strong belief that the floodwould occur, because he feared that thismightactuallycause theflood tomaterialize.Noachstillheldouthopethat the people might do teshuvah that might avert the flood, and hisintense emunah might hasten it. Thus, Rashi's comment is not an aspersion on Noach.
We have the principle that a positive middah is more powerful than a negative middah. If, as the Rebbe says, a strong belief (emunah) may result in a negative result, them certainly, a strong positive belief may bring about a desired result.
However, the belief must be genuine and complete, which may be difficulttoachieve.
RebbeYitzhakMeirofGurcitedtheMidrash,thatbeforeofferingtheTorah to the Jews, Hashem offered it to other peoples. The Moabitesasked, "What does the Torah say?" and Hashem said, "You shall not commit adultery." The Moabites rejected the Torah because, "We are a lustful people. We cannot accept that restriction."
HashemthenofferedittotheEdomites,whoasked,"WhatdoestheTorah say?" and Hashem said, "You shall not commit murder." The Edomites rejected the Torah because, "Our father, Esau, was blessed to live by the sword.'
WhydidHashemoffertheTorahtoothernations?Sothattheyshouldnot say, "You favored the Jews. If you had given us the Torah, we would havebeenthechosenpeople."NowHashemcansay,"Iofferedittoyou,but you rejected it."
"But,"RebbeYitzhakMeirasked,"howdoesthataddressthechargesof the Moabites and the Edomites. They will still say, You quoted us "You shall not commit adultery." and "You shall not commit murder," but to the JewsYousaid,"IamtheLordyourG-d."Hadyoutoldusthat,wewouldhave accepted the Torah."
RebbeYitzhakMeirexplained,"TheTorahisintendedtohelpapersonovercome his physical drives. The primary physical drive of the Moabites was lust, and that of the Edomites, bloodshed. These are not the primary drives of the Jews. The Jews' primary drive is skepticism. Other nations could believe that idols, rivers and mountains were gods. Jews, on the other hand, witnessed many supernatural miracles, yet as the Torah relates andourhistoryconfirms,continuedtodoubtHashem.Therefore,Hashemapproached each nation with what would be the greatest challenge for them. For the Moabites it was restraint of lust, for the Edomites it was restraint of killing, and for the Israelites, it was to believe in Hashem.
Emunah is indeed a powerful force and may make things happen. However, sincere and complete emunah isdifficulttoachieve.
The Power of Belief
Rav Dr. Abraham J. Twerski
7th Feb 15
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There is an ancient custom recorded and celebrated amongst Tunisian Jewry until this day. On the Thursday preceding the Shabbos that the portion of Yisro is read, they partake in a festive " ", Feast of Yisro, reminiscent of the party Yisro threw for Moshe, Aharon and the Seventy Elders, after joining them in the desert.
( ) , Yisro, the father in law of Moshe, took an Olah, and feast offerings for G-d, and Aharon and all the elders came to eat bread with the father in law of Moshe before G-d.
Prior to the battle with Amalek during Shaul HaMelechsreign, the descendants of Yisro, the , who dwelt among the Amalekites are encouraged to escape, in gratitude for the kindness Yisro, their ancestor, extended to the Jewish nation when they left Egypt.
,( ) For you have shown kindness to all of the children of Israel when they came up out of Egypt.
Rashi elucidates that this kindness refers to the meal Yisro tendered for Moshe, Aharon and the Elders which was equivalent to having acted benevolently to the entire nation.
What is the depth and significance behind thismysteriouslittle feast that is so remarkable?
The Torah describes in great detail the seemingly frightening revelation atHarSinaiwith all the sounds, lightening, clouds,smoke and fire. Indeed Chazal tell us that one must learnTorah with a sense of (. ) , , ,, awe, fear, quivering and trembling, justasitwasgivenatHarSinai.
Chazalalsoexpressanotionofathrillinglearningexperiencewhich is reminiscent of the joy that occurred during the giving of theTorah,whenitdescribesinseveralplaceswheretheSagesafter engaging in learning observed a fire encircle them andregaling how, ( " ") , the joy of Torah was as it was given at Har Sinai.
Yet, nowhere is any evidence of encountering joy in conjunction with the receiving of the Torah ever mentioned in Chumash!
There was however one moment when the joy of that event was celebrated.
( ) ' , Yisro rejoiced over all the good that Hashem had done for Israel.
RashiteachesusthathereforthefirsttimeYisrowasrejoicingover the giving of the Torah as well. (see Bartenura )
YisrowasntjustcelebratingthejoyofTorahlearning,hewasrejoicing over joining the team and becoming a player. It was at this juncture we are taught he actually converted ( ).
The word used here is similar to , joy, based on the idea of being part of a greater whole, belonging and contributing, thus ,one.Thehappinessonesensesuponrealizingoneisavitalpartofsomethingsosignificantisthejoyof , the giving of the Torah.
TheimplicationofonenessalsoemphasizesYisrosuniquetalent and personal mission, that each Jew possesses, and the exultant sense of privilege and purpose it bestows upon one who comestothatthrillingrealization.
Yisro was never merely a spectator. Whatever situation he found himself in he sought to be part of. Whether it was as an advisor to Pharaoh ( ), a zealous Preacher ( ) or as aGeneral in the army ofAmalek ( ). All his endeavors brought him no satisfaction. When he discovers Hashem and the mission of Torah he immediately senses the belonging he yearns for, and the resulting joy of that discovery.
The Talmud derives from the description of this episode of Yisrosfeastaseating, ,beforeG-d,thatwhoever enjoys a meal that a Torah scholar dwells there, is as if he is deriving pleasure from the " ", radiance of Hashem. ( )
Rashi describes how Moshe in this meal was , standing and serving them. I would venture to suggest this means he was regaling them with brilliant words of Torah. The fire and passion of Torah gave immeasurable joy to allthose present simply because they were a component within Klall Yisroel. There was a sense of oneness with Hashem, the ,theradianceofG-d,whichispresentwhenconveyedthrough the medium of Torah.
The introduction to the description of the giving of the Torah begins with this most vital lesson of Yisro. He taught us to realizethateachofusispartofsomethingsomagnificentandifwerealizethatwewillrejoicespontaneously.
The joy of Torah lies in our becoming players not remaining mere spectators. Whether we are capable of reaching the thrilling intellectual heights of Torah or by participating within our unique roles in contributing to the greater mission we are all joinedto,theresultisexuberance.Wemustrealizethisinorderto sense it, and we must celebrate it!
It is for this awareness that we are forever indebted to Yisro. If we live with this consciousness we will merit happiness in our lives and inspire our children to become outstanding players.
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