Category Archives: Vayetze

Missing out on the Righteous (Vayetze)

Missing out on the Righteous (Vayetze)

Get around people who have something of value to share with you. Their impact will continue to have a significant effect on your life long after they have departed. -Jim Rohn

Jacob had escaped his brother Esau’s wrath and exiled himself to Haran, to live and work with his uncle Laban. Upon meeting his cousin Rachel, Jacob falls in love at first sight and offers Laban that he will work seven years for Rachel as the price of marriage. Laban famously switches Rachel for her sister Leah on the wedding night and then scams Jacob into working another seven years for Rachel. Jacob agrees. Later on, when Jacob tries to get paid for additional work, Laban keeps switching the deal on him.

Laban was by all accounts a cheating, lying, avaricious, double-crossing scoundrel. Jacob had his own history of deceit. Jacob had pretended to be his brother Esau and snatched Esau’s blessing from their blind father, Isaac. Esau’s anger is what prompted Jacob’s exile in the first place. Nonetheless, in Haran, Jacob proved himself to be an industrious, loyal, honest and hardworking employee and son-in-law.

Eventually, Jacob, with God’s prompting, decides that enough is enough. When Laban is away shearing his own flock, Jacob takes advantage, packs up the whole family and all their possessions and without any notice leaves Haran and heads back to Canaan, back home.

Laban gets wind of Jacob’s hasty and unannounced departure, chases after him, chastises him, eventually comes to some sort of understanding and even a “pact” and then they each go their own way.

The Meshech Chochma on Genesis 32:1 wonders as to phraseology of the verse: And Laban went and returned to his place; and Jacob continued on his path.

He explains that typically, when one is in the presence of a righteous person, they learn from them, they are affected by them, they pick up some of their positive traits, some of their wisdom. However, Laban did not take advantage of having Jacob in his household and when they separated Laban “returned to his place,” he returned to his bad ways, to his negative traits and avarice.

Jacob, on the other hand, “continued on his way,” he continued to grow, he continued to ascend in his path of goodness. And that leads Jacob to the very next phrase of the verse, “and the angels of God met him.”

May we take advantage of the presence of good people in our lives, learn from them and continue on the good path, as opposed to returning to our old, bad ways.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

To the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution, the one abolishing slavery. It was made into law 154 years ago, this week.

Real Resurrection (Vayetze)

Real Resurrection (Vayetze)

A lawyer’s dream of heaven; every man reclaimed his property at the resurrection, and each tried to recover it from all his forefathers. -Samuel Butler

I have a theory as to one of the (likely many) divine purposes of technological developments (and to some extent science fiction and futuristic imaginings). It is to understand better how God might work.

We live in an era of disbelief in anything that is not scientifically provable, repeatable, explainable. What mankind in the past accepted as a matter of faith is today dismissed as the purview of the naïve, gullible and feebleminded.

Technological advancement may come to show that what was previously in the realm of the miraculous or impossible can become commonplace. For a small device the size of your hand to allow you to see and talk to someone on the other side of the planet was inconceivable just a few decades ago. For the same device to guide you as to the best possible driving route in real-time, taking into account construction, accidents and traffic, is now taken for granted. For a heartless machine to be able to predict and complete with unerring accuracy your next typed words wasn’t even dreamt of by science fiction authors. These modern miracles and technological imaginings are opening our eyes and changing our minds as to what we define as possible and impossible.

Perhaps the last scientific frontier and perhaps not coincidentally the last and least discussed article of Jewish faith of Maimonides’ 13 Principles of Faith is the belief in the Resurrection: “I believe with complete faith that there will be a resurrection of the dead at the time that will be pleasing before the Creator, blessed be His name, and the remembrance of Him will be exalted forever and for all eternity.”

The Berdichever in his analysis of the account of Jacob’s dream at Bet-El, zooms in on the seemingly extraneous detail that the city was previously called “Luz.” He explains that Luz is also the name of a part of the human body (I’ve heard some say it’s the vertebrae under the skull) that will be the physical seed of the regeneration and resurrection of the bodies that will merit to be reunited with their souls at some future date. Jacob’s encounter with God at Bet-El/Luz hints at that predicted resurrection.

The explanation brought to my mind the scene from Jurassic Park where they bring back the dinosaurs just from a preserved drop of dinosaur DNA. This concept has been known to scientists for some time now, that every molecule of our body, of DNA, has the complete instruction set for the re-creation of an entire body.

While those who have complete faith may not need scientific support, it may make it easier for the remainder of an unbelieving humanity to have assistance in imagining the possibility that nothing is beyond God and that ultimately there is nothing to “scientifically” prevent God from resurrecting the dead as promised.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

To the memory of my dear friend and one of my earliest mentors, Carlos Antonio Alarcon of Caracas, Venezuela.

Dangerous Jealousy

Dangerous Jealousy

The disease of jealously is so malignant that is converts all it takes into its own nourishment. -Joseph Addison

In Judaism there’s a concept of an “evil eye.” An evil eye is when someone looks upon another in some negative fashion. This is most commonly the result of jealousy.

Rabbeinu Bechaye on Genesis 30:38 (Vayetze) discusses the destructive power of such jealousy, how people can unwittingly bring it upon themselves, and how it can attack and damage even the most miraculous interventions.

The first example is Jacob’s wife Leah, who upon giving birth to Judah, her fourth child, thanks God (Judah’s name is actually based on the Hebrew word Thanks). Rabbeinu Bechaye explains that because of Leah’s gratitude for a greater portion of children of what she knew was prophesized for Jacob, the evil eye immediately fell upon her, and she was stopped (temporarily) from having further children.

The second example was the descendants of Joseph, who declared proudly their blessing of being a numerous people. After that statement Joshua directs them to go to the forest. The sages interpret the passage to mean a command for them to go to the forest to hide from the evil eye.

The most glaring example was the actual Revelation at Mount Sinai and the delivery of the Ten Commandments upon the Tablets of the Law. It was given with incredible fanfare, lightning, thunder and Shofar blasts. Rabbeinu Bechaye explains that the evil eye immediately fell upon the event, which led in turn to the breaking of the Tablets shortly thereafter. When the second set of Tablets was given quietly, inconspicuously, no evil eye fell upon the event. The second set of Tablets was never destroyed.

Finally, Jacob, who was attuned to the concept of the evil eye, in his efforts to increase his herd, utilized strategies that would be perceived as natural, to hide what he understood was the miraculous intervention he knew was taking place. His low-key understated work efforts hid what was truly going on from onlookers and protected him from the evil eye.

Rabbeinu Bechaye warns that “the power of the evil eye is so great that it can affect even things that miracles touch.”

May we beware of jealousy in all its forms and reduce our chances of attracting it.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

To the Krieger and Silverman families for their blessed hospitality. May the evil eye never enter their homes.

God Starts At Home

God Starts At Home

The ordinary acts we practice every day at home are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest. -Thomas Moore

home

Jacob departs from his parents. He travels to Haran to establish a family, a home. He travels empty-handed. He stops for the night and has a divine revelation in the midst of his dream. He sees a staircase with its feet in the ground yet reaching the heavens. Angels ascend and descend. God speaks to him, giving him encouragement and making promises.

Jacob wakes up, startled and amazed by the revelation and the realization that he is in a holy place. He takes a rock, anoints it with oil and declares it the House of God (Bet El).

Rabbi Hirsch on this scene in Genesis 28 states the following:

“Jacob goes forth in order to establish a Jewish home, and to this end he takes with him nothing except his own person, the qualities inherent in his personality. This fact is introduced at this point in the narrative, for everything that follows is concerned solely with the establishment of that home. For Jacob was the first to declare that God must be sought, above all, within the home. He was the first to articulate the lofty concept, “the house of God,” which simply means that the place within which the souls of man grow and flourish, and to which in turn brings all that he has accomplished and transforms into life-building activity, is the greatest and nearest place where God may be found and revealed.”

May we have and build homes with God.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

To Yehuda and Hadar of Krakow on their marriage.

 

Mark of the Righteous

 

 We shape our dwellings, and afterwards our dwellings shape us. -Sir Winston Churchill 

man-walking-away

There is a principle in biblical studies that the Torah does not include extraneous words. This leads to a famous question as to why the Torah needs to mention that Jacob is departing the city of Beer Sheva (Genesis 28:10), when we already know from previous verses where he’s leaving from. The popular answer that is given is that just as a city feels the effect of the arrival of a righteous man, so too they feel the departure of the righteous.

The Sfat Emet writing in 5636 (1876) is not satisfied with the popular answer. He feels that there is a deeper answer to the redundancy of mentioning Jacob’s city of departure. He explains that the effect of the righteous upon the city is so strong that it leaves a mark even after they have departed and that it becomes a source of merit to the city to have had the righteous living in their midst.

He further compares the effect the righteous have upon a city like that of the performance of commandments upon the body. Whenever a person performs a commandment with their body it leaves a mark of holiness upon their limbs which remains even after the commandment has been performed and serves as a merit to the body.

May we perform commandments with all of our selves and merit health and holiness for our entire body.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

For the Jewish community of Paysandu on the inauguration of its building and its wonderful hosting. May they have many more visits and successful community events.

In memory of my friend and neighbor, Yaakov Don h”yd, murdered by Muslim terrorists in Gush Etzion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Focused Prayer

First posted on The Times of Israel at: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/vayetze-focused-prayer/

Baal Haturim Genesis: Vayetze

Focused Prayer

No steam or gas ever drives anything until it is confined. No Niagara is ever turned into light and power until it is tunneled. No life ever grows until it is focused, dedicated, disciplined. -Harry Emerson Fosdick

In the first and perhaps most famous of the Biblical dreams, Jacob sees a ladder that reaches the heavens with angels ascending and descending. The scene has been recreated in art and literature, has been interpreted widely and has served as a metaphor for connecting heaven and earth.

The Baal Haturim on Genesis 28:12 explains that the sound of the righteous praying constructs a ladder for angels to ascend. He further states that we have it in our power to also create heavenly ladders. All we need to do is focus during our prayers. Our focusing completes the ladder. If we are focused during our prayer then he assures us that our prayers will indeed ascend on these spiritual ladders and reach their destination.

And another source as to the benefits of praying:

The influence of prayer on the human mind and body is as demonstrable as that of secreting glands. Its results can be measured in terms of increased physical buoyancy, greater intellectual vigor, moral stamina, and a deeper understanding of the realities underlying human relationships. -Dr. Alex Carrel

May we make the time to pray and when we do so, may we have the ability to focus.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

Mazal Tov to Nadia and Daniel Kacowicz on their wedding. May their focused prayers come true!

La táctica de Raquel

ficción bíblica: Génesis Vavetze

Traducido del inglés y editado por Caro Cynovich carocynovich@gmail.com

La táctica de Raquel

jacob-rachel-and-leah-by-raphael-largeRaquel puso su cuchillo de cortar en su cinturón. Pasó sus dedos a través de la espesa lana de las ovejas mientras escuchaba a Jacobo, que estaba parado en medio de su rebaño. Le encantaba el rico aroma de los animales dóciles.

—Es un acuerdo, entonces—Jacobo dijo a Raquel y a su hermana Lea.

Lea; co-esposa, socia, aliada y hermana, todo en una. Ahora que Raquel había dado a luz a José, las viejas rivalidades y celos menguaron.

—Nos vamos por la mañana —continuó Jacobo—. Por favor, empaquen sus pertenencias y preparen a los niños. No sé si volvemos alguna vez a la casa de tu padre.

Los tres echaron una ojeada a través de las llanuras arameas y  miraron el recinto de Labán en la distancia. Raquel recordó que antes de la llegada de Jacobo había sido una simple casa de ladrillos de barro. Ahora, veinte años después, se había convertido en una mansión de piedra, con una serie de casas de adobe más pequeñas y grandes establos. Es todo obra de Jacobo, pensó Raquel. Y mi padre lo robaría todo de nuevo.

Raquel y Lea caminaron de regreso al complejo en silencio, con el sol poniéndose a la distancia. Raquel sabía que el disgusto de Lea por su padre reflejaba el suyo propio. Eran poco más que esclavas para él. Y también lo era Jacobo. Fuerte y honesto, el trabajo duro de Jacobo había construido la riqueza del padre de Raquel y Lea, pero aún así él era tratado apenas mejor que una bestia de carga. Eran las reglas de su pueblo: mientras Labán fuera el amo, todos ellos le pertenecían. Huir no los haría libres. Laban los seguiría. Él traería sus ídolos en la mano y exigiría que todos regresen a él por la ley.

Los ídolos, esos aborrecidos ídolos. Raquel se preguntó si Labán controlaba los ídolos o si tal vez fuera al revés. Ella tenía que poner sus manos en esos ídolos. Tenía que quitar los ídolos del control de Labán y con ello romper la esclavitud eterna. Su hijo José debería crecer libre.

El sol se hundió en el horizonte y la luna llena tomó su lugar en el cielo. Cuando Raquel y Lea alcanzaron los recintos, se saludaron con una inclinación de cabeza y se fueron cada una a sus aposentos privados. Raquel pasó por delante de su propia puerta y continuó hasta el Templo privado de Labán. Labán está a varios días de distancia, pensó. No se habría llevado a sus ídolos a la esquila de su rebaño lejano. Tienen que estar aquí en su Templo.

Raquel se dirigió a la parte posterior del recinto donde el Templo estaba en pie. Bendijo la luna llena por iluminar su camino en la noche oscura. Un gato negro salvaje chilló repentinamente. Raquel dio un salto atrás con miedo.

—Maldito gato —murmuró, temblando—. Me has dado un susto de muerte.

Raquel se acercó al Templo. Era una estructura de tierra circular, cubierto con una cúpula sencilla. El diámetro del Templo era de la longitud de dos hombres, al igual que la altura. Raquel se recordó de Labán construyendo cuidadosamente la estructura del mismo, mientras lanzaba hechizos y protecciones para sus ídolos. La puerta del Templo estaba en el lado este, hacia el sol naciente, con ventanas abiertas en los otros tres puntos cardinales.

Raquel se acercó cautelosamente a una de las ventanas y miró en su interior. Una vela solitaria ardía siempre en un brasero que colgaba del techo. Sobre un pedestal de piedra en el centro del Templo, Raquel pudo ver los ídolos. Ambos estaban en el pedestal. Estaban a menos de la distancia de un brazo de altura. Había una estatuilla dorada de un hombre, tallada con exquisito detalle, junto a una estatuilla similar pero de plata. Si uno miraba el tiempo suficiente, se podría pensar que estaban vivos. Eso no es lo que le preocupaba a Raquel. Lo que la turbaba era el dominio que estos ídolos representaban.

El dueño de los ídolos era el dueño de su fortuna. Le daba el derecho a la tierra, a los esclavos y rebaños. Los ídolos se pasaban de padre a hijo. Un hombre libre arameo necesitaba recibir su propio ídolo de su amo. Labán no liberaría a Jacobo, ni tampoco el justo Jacobo aceptaría un ídolo a cambio de su libertad. Por ley aramea, Jacobo y sus descendientes por siempre serian esclavos. A Jacobo no le importaba esta ley, y se iría a pesar de ella. Pero Raquel no aceptaría esto. No quería que esta condena pesara sobre su José.

En el suelo del Templo una forma negra y sinuosa se deslizó alrededor del pedestal. Tenía el grosor de un tronco de árbol, y en algunos momentos Raquel fue capaz de ver a través de su cuerpo la tierra que había debajo. Un demonio, pensó con alarma. Esa es la forma en que los ídolos están protegidos. ¿Cómo puedo pasar a través de él?

Raquel encontró la cabeza de la forma deslizante. Dos brillantes ojos rojos iluminaban su rostro. No tenía nariz ni orejas. Sólo esos ojos profundamente hundidos y una boca ancha que ocupaba la mitad de su cabeza. Le recordaba a una anguila gigante, excepto que ella podía ver los brazos y las piernas largas descansar a los lados del cuerpo del demonio. La forma se movía dentro y fuera del estado de solidez, demostrando así su origen demoníaco.

¿Cómo puedo engañar al demonio? Raquel se preguntó. ¿Atraparlo? ¿Distraerlo? ¿Qué sabía ella acerca de los demonios? Su padre nunca le había enseñado ningún sortilegio. Pero a menudo le gusta alardear de cómo capturaba a los demonios y los controlaba. Sangre. Sí. Les gustaba la sangre. Ellos eran adictos a la sangre. Seguirían el olor de la sangre fresca y festejarían por él. En agradecimiento obedecerían sus deseos.

Raquel se retiró en silencio del Templo y examinó el suelo con cuidado. Entonces lo vio. El gato estaba sentado frente a uno de los edificios, lamiendo sus patas. Con una velocidad nacida de la desesperación Raquel se abalanzó sobre el gato, con los brazos extendidos. El gato se escapó de su mano derecha, pero ella cogió el gato por el cuello con su izquierda. El gato chilló y arañó el brazo de Raquel. Ella golpeó la cabeza del gato en el suelo, sacó su cuchillo de corte y rebanó el cuello del gato. La sangre fluyó rápidamente en el suelo.

Raquel corrió hacia el Templo y se paró detrás de una estructura. Un momento después, la puerta del templo se abrió y el demonio negro se deslizó fuera. Raquel corrió hacia el Templo. Se detuvo en la entrada, en busca de nuevas trampas o defensas. Se dio cuenta de una gruesa capa de polvo alrededor del pedestal central. Dio sutilmente un paso hacia adelante y sintió una sensación de ardor a través de sus sandalias de cuero. Sacó el pie hacia atrás y miró fijamente al suelo. Vio un contorno de huellas en el polvo. Puso sus pies sobre la huellas y de esa forma no sintió dolor. Pisó las huellas sucesivas y llegó al pedestal ilesa.

El ídolo de oro la miraba fijamente. Era hermoso. Rara vez había visto un objeto hecho por el hombre que fuera una obra tan fina. Raquel cogió el ídolo, sólo para llorar de dolor mientras el ídolo quemaba los dedos de su mano derecha. Se arrancó la tela de la parte inferior de la falda, envolvió el tejido de lana alrededor de los dos ídolos y los sacó del pedestal. Raquel se apartó, cuidadosamente pisando las huellas para volver para atrás. Llegó a la puerta y dio un suspiro de alivio.

Cuando se volvió y se alejó, una mano oscura atrapó su tobillo y tiró de ella hacia la puerta del Templo. Raquel se aferró a la estructura de la puerta con los ídolos todavía envueltos y apretados en su mano izquierda.

—Me has engañado, hija de Labán —el demonio siseó desde el suelo.

—Yo te di de comer sangre, demonio. Libérame. Esa es mi petición.

—¿Crees que somos tontos, humana? Estamos vagamente obligados. La sangre me atrajo, pero no fue suficiente para subyugarme. Mi tarea era proteger a los ídolos y he fallado. Aunque seas una ladrona, tú eres ahora el amo de los ídolos. Pero no te irás ilesa.

—Entonces obedéceme, demonio. Yo soy el amo ahora. Libérame y vuelve a tu vigilia circular.

—Te voy a liberar, pero me has avergonzado. Por eso deberás pagar. Ningún ser humano puede avergonzar a un demonio y tener una larga vida para contarlo. Pongo una maldición de muerte sobre ti.

—Os di a beber sangre, soy el amo de los ídolos ahora, yo soy la hija de su antiguo amo. ¿Cómo te atreves a maldecirme? Cesa este absurdo en este momento y déjame ir.

—Voy a dejar que te vayas, joven Raquel. Incluso te concederé un último deseo. Nombra tu deseo y me aseguraré de que se cumpla antes de que mueras.

—No acepto tu maldición, demonio. Aunque si pudiera tener un último deseo antes de morir, sería el de tener otro hijo.

—Así será. Ahora quédate quieta mientras canto tu destino.

El demonio, todavía con el tobillo de Raquel en sus manos, acurrucó su largo cuerpo como una bola y miró a Raquel con los ojos de color rojo brillante. Cantó en un profundo estruendo.

“O, engañador del engañador,

Has superado al hijo de Betuel.

Hermosa, la más joven, Raquel,

La reina de lo que será Yisrael.

Madre de los guerreros y reyes,

Nombre por siempre venerado.

Riqueza y honor para tu progenie,

Lucha y batalla con los parientes de su hermana.

Uno más veréis, niña de la tristeza,

Hijo de tu mano derecha,  hijo de la fuerza.

José deberá gobernar un imperio,

Y acelerar el exilio.

Tú deberás montar guardia sobre sus hijos

En su largo regreso a casa.

No ver en este mundo,

Una fuerza entre los justos.”

El demonio soltó el tobillo de Raquel.

Raquel volvió a su habitación, temblando. Lo hice, pensó. Tengo los ídolos. José será libre. Los hijos de Jacobo e incluso los de Lea serán libres. Tenemos que salir con la primera luz, antes de Labán se entere.

Pero ¿qué pasa con la maldición de la muerte?, se preguntó.

Raquel sonrió. Si mi último deseo se hace realidad, me daré por satisfecha.