Friday, December 29, 2006

No shoes, no shirt, no service!

Parsha for the Table
Vol 2 Issue 11
Parshas Vayigash
"What does that prove?!"
When Yosaif reveals himself to his brothers, Rashi (45,4) tells us that he decided to give them proof of who he really was. What was his proof? He called them over to show them that he was circumcised. This is puzzling, for Rashi at the in last week’s parsha (41,55) says that Yosaif made all Egyptions get a circumcision before buying food. If all of Mitzrayim is circumcised, what does Yosaif having a bris prove?
The answer I think is rather simple. Yosaif was the only one in Egypt who knew what a bris mila meant. No impostor would even think to show their bris because they didn’t understand its’ significance.
If we don’t learn about the meaning behind bris mila, and for that matter each and every other Mitzva, we are very similar to the Egyptions who had no idea what they were doing. When we learn about the beauty and importance of the Mitzvos, then we can turn to our brothers and say “I am also a proud Jew, I am one of you”.

Have a great Shabbos,
Rabbi Bader

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Interview with Rabbi Binyamin Jacobs'

Parsha for the Table Vol. 2 Issue 10

Interview with Rav Binyamin Jacob’s

Q: We were wondering if you could help us understand your brother Yosaif’s actions.

Binyamin: I love my brother very much, and would be glad to help set the record straight.

Q. Are biggest problem is the revenge issue. Doesn’t the Torah specifically prohibit taking revenge? Yet Yosaif deceives his brothers, accuses them of spying, and imprisons Shimon.

Binyamin: There is no question that revenge was the last thing on Yosaif’s mind. For that, who needs deceit? It would have been much sweeter just to say who he was and punish them.

Q. So why all of the theatrics?

Binyamin: To put them into the same situation as they were when they sold him. This would give them the opportunity to do real Tshuva. (Alshich)

Q. How was the situation the same? When your brothers sold Yosaif, they were certain they were dealing with a bad person. When they defended you for stealing Yosaif’s goblet, you were clearly innocent!

Binyamin: Not quite. I actually went to great length’s to appear guilty. When Menashe found the goblet in my bag, they actually beat me and called me “Thief, son of a thief), for my mother had stolen the idols from Lavan. (Midrash Rabbah)

Q. Why didn’t you declare your innocence?!

Binyamin: Because Yosaif had revealed himself to me at the palace and asked me to play along. (Sefer Hayashar)

Q. Even so, you lacked a motive for stealing a goblet.

Binyamin: I had a great motive. They thought I wanted to use the goblet to find Yosaif. After all, I cared about Yosaif so much that I named all ten of my children in his memory. (Midrash Rabbah)

Q. How would the silver goblet help?

Binyamin: At the dinner in the palace, Yosaif pretended it was a magic goblet, revealing hidden things to him. For example, he picked it up, smelled it, and said, “My magic goblet tells me that Yehuda is a king and should sit at the head of the table, and Reuvain is the first-born and should sit next to him.” He likewise revealed many things about the brothers that an Egyptian viceroy could not have known. (Midrash Rabbah)

Q. So it was only natural that you would want the goblet to reveal to you what happened to Yosaif.

Binyamin: They now had to defend a thief whose sole goal was to find Yosaif. They now used their regret for having sold Yosaif as a motivation for getting it right this time around. When we learn from our mistakes, and actually use them to strengthen our resolve to improve; that is the very essence of Tshuva.

Have a great Shabbos

Rabbi Bader

Thursday, December 14, 2006

"Would you like fries with your lethal injection?"

Parsha for the Table
Vol 2 Issue 9
פרשת וישב

"Before lethal injection, does it really matter what your last meal is?"

Apparently to some, it does.

"On November 6th 2006, John Schmitt was executed for the murder of a guard during a bank robbery. Schmitt shot the victim to death during the Feb. 17, 1999, robbery of a NationsBank branch in Bon Air. John Schmitt, 33, had a final meal request of cheese pizza, a cheese omelet with sausage, green peppers and onions, and white cake with white icing."

I personally don't think I would care whether or not I would be eating milchig or fleishig for my last meal. There are just some situations that are so bad that no matter what pleasantries are available, you could care less. For example, if my brother would ignore my pleading and sell me to a wandering band of Arabs. That would probably upset me to the point of not caring about how bad the cargo the caravan is carrying smells.
Yet Hashem does focus on just that.(Breishis 37,25 Rashi). When Yosef is sold, Hashem sees to it that his buyers aren't carrying their usual smelly goods, only nice-smelling spices and together with other pleasant fragrances. Why should Yosef care about the smell? His brothers think he is evil; so evil that he deserves to be killed; and he is being sold down the river to who knows where.
There is a lesson here. (By now you should know there is always a lesson.) Even in the worst of times, Hashem sends a message "I haven't forgotten you; I am still thinking of you. I am still with you." That realization gives strength, knowing that behind all the chaos is a master plan being executed by the Master Planner.

Have a great Shabbos,
Rabbi Bader

Friday, December 8, 2006

Don't trust your kindergarten teacher!


Parsh for the Table
Vol 2 Issue 8
פרשת וישלח

Don't trust your kindergarten teacher!

I have a lot of respect for pre-school teachers. But sometimes they just get it wrong. Just because they can't imagine how a rectangular vessel can float doesn't mean Noah's ark was a houseboat. The same holds true with the tablets of the 10 commandments, they were not rounded off. (That misconception is Michelangelo's fault.)
So we come to the famous hug and kiss between Yaacov and Eisav. (perek 33, pasuk 4). Dots on top of the וישקהו, and then crying. So we are quoted the Midrash that Eisav tried to bite Yaacov's neck and kill him and Hashem hardened his neck; Yaacov cries because his neck hurts; Eisav because his teeth hurt. (That's what I was taught.) But the midrash doesn't talk about the crying; why they cried is my morah's assumption. She may be right, but I suspect something more profound is happening.

The original partnership that Yitzchak planned was for Yaacov to be involved in Torah, and Eisav involved in business providing for Yaacov. This would have been the ultimate plan for the universe, except for one problem. Eisav proved that someone only involved in the world has no chance against the יצר הרע. So Yaacov has to add to his job of learning Torah the job of making a living. (Now you know why the decision of Torah verses Parnasa is so complicated; it never should have been this way.)

For one moment in history, when Eisav is about to embrace Yaacov, it seems that Eisav was finally able to rise above his demons and take his proper place in Klal Yisrael. But ultimately, he couldn't. His last minute-decision to kill Yaacov is a gut-wrenching failure, at a moment when there seemed to be so much promise.

When it is clear that someone chooses not to live up to his purpose of existence, not to reach true fulfillment of his life; that is a real tragedy. Not only Yaacov cries, but so does Eisav…. so does Eisav.

Friday, December 1, 2006


Parsha for the Table

Vol 2 Issue 7

פרשת ויצא

"How do get G-d to move mountains for you."

Yaacov traveled all the way down to Charan, passing the temple mount bye. He realized that he missed an opportunity to daven there, and then turned back. Hashem then uproots Har HaBayis and brings it to him. Rashi asks (28:17) "Why didn't Hashem just stop him when he passed it originally?"

His answer is eye opening. Hashem said, "If Yaacov doesn't think about davening there, why should I stop him?" Only later when he decides to go back, Hashem moves the mountain for him.

In short, if you want to do the wrong thing, Hashem gets out of the way. But even after you blow it and decide to get it right, Hashem will move mountains to help you.

Look at your lives and the lives of people you know and see how true this is.

Have a great Shabbas.

Rabbi Bader