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Vayishlach 5774

Vayishlach (Genesis 32:4-36:43 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING! My friend, Sunny Goldstein, of blessed memory, was named after his grandfather. While that is not unusual, the rest of the story is. One hundred and twenty-three years ago, Sunny's grandfather left his wife, three year old daughter and six month old son to head to California for a better climate and better living conditions for the family. The plan was to find a way to support the family and then send for the family to join him. Only one problem. He was never heard from again.

As Sunny grew up there was a split family opinion. All of the women maintained that his grandfather had abandoned the family, remarried and had a new family. His father maintained that something must have happened to him and always was looking to prove that he hadn't abandoned his family. When Sunny started to work and his travels took him to California, his father always asked, "Please, see if you can find your grandfather." But the task was too daunting ... there are a lot of cemeteries in California.

When Sunny was nearing his 80th birthday a fourth cousin asked to interview him for a family genealogy. When she asked about his grandfather, Sunny told her the story and apologized that he didn't have more information. His cousin told him, "Look, if you can think of anything else, let me know. I love solving these mysteries!" When they hung up, Sunny put forth a little prayer that he often prayed -- "Please God, help me fulfill my father's request and find out what happened to my grandfather. Thank you."

That night Sunny had a dream. He woke up in the morning and called his cousin. "I have no idea what it means, but one word kept coming to me over and over all night long. 'Oddfellows'. I have no idea what it means." The cousin thanked him and hung up.

One month later the cousin calls all excited! "I found your grandfather's death certificate. He died of pneumonia shortly after arriving in California. He's in the Oddfellows cemetery ... 15 minutes from your home in San Diego!" Sunny got the address and immediately drove to the cemetery and sought out the section, row and plot. And there, engraved in stone, was the proof his father was seeking all of those years.

There, engraved on the tombstone below the name of Samuel Goldstein, were the words: "Devoted Husband. Loving Father." The mystery was solved. He had not abandoned the family!

Since his grandfather was a member of the Oddfellows (a fraternal club started in the 1800's by two men who gave generously of their riches to the poor and were thus considered by their acquaintances as "oddfellows"), they visited him in the hospital, buried him in their cemetery and erected his tombstone according to his deathbed instructions.

Sunny could not find out more information because the Oddfellows records were destroyed in the Los Angeles earthquake a few years ago. Why didn't his grandfather or the Oddfellows contact his wife? Maybe they tried. Perhaps they wrote and the letter was lost. Perhaps the address had changed. In 1891 communication was not easy or as assured as today.

While I intended to use the story as a "springboard" to discuss how one gets his prayers answered, it seems my "springboard" reaches almost to the end of the "pool". Here are 5 Steps to Genuine Prayer: 1) Feel God's presence. You are talking to a loving, all-powerful Being Who wants to give you everything that's good. All over the world God is answering prayers because He loves His children. 2) Expect results. God has a track record. If you don't really believe God can and will help you, you're not really praying. 3) Pay attention to what God is teaching you. Everything that happens is for your good. If you are in need, realize God is teaching you something. If you trust Him, you will hear what He is telling you. 4) Get in touch with what you're really after. Know your bottom line. You're talking to the awesome Creator, so don't ask for nonsense. He wants you to grow up. 5) Being serious about what you're praying for means that you're doing everything you can to make it happen. God will lend a hand only when you put in the effort. He'll never take away your independence because that's His ultimate gift to you.


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Torah Portion of the Week
Vayishlach, Genesis 32:4 - 36:43

On the trip back to Canaan, Jacob meets his brother Esau; Jacob wrestles with the angel. Then they arrive in Shechem; Shechem, the son of Chamor the Hivite, (heir to the town of Shechem) rapes Jacob's daughter, Dina; Dina's brothers, Shimon and Levy, massacre the men of Shechem; Rebecca (Rivka) dies; God gives Jacob an additional name, "Israel," and reaffirms the blessing to Avraham that the land of Canaan (Israel) will be given to his descendants; Rachel dies after giving birth to Benjamin (Binyomin); Jacob's 12 sons are listed; Isaac dies; Esau's lineage is recorded as is that of Seir the Horite; and lastly ... the succession of the Kings of Edom is chronicled.

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Twerski on Chumash by Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, M.D.

When Jacob finds out the Esau is coming to meet him, the Torah tells us:

"Jacob became very frightened and it distressed him" (Gen. 32:8)..

Why was Jacob afraid? The Almighty promised to protect him.

Jacob was afraid that the merits of Esau's mitzvos might tip the balance in his favor, to the point where God's promise would no longer be binding and Esau would be allowed to triumph.

Esau was a scoundrel of the first order! The Midrash states that Esau committed the most grievous sins. How could Esau's mitzvos possibly outweigh Jacob's abundant mitzvos? Jacob studied Torah day and night for 14 years at the academy of Shem and Eber. He did not neglect any of the mitzvos while with Laban (Rashi, Genesis 32:5). What reason was there to suspect that Esau had greater merits?

The Midrash states that Jacob feared that Esau had the merit of two great mitzvos which he lacked: 1) Esau lived in Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel) while Jacob was in Mesopotamia, and 2) Esau was in the presence of Isaac and fulfilled the mitzvah of honoring his parents (Bereishis Rabbah 76:2).

Jacob did not willfully neglect these mitzvos. He left home and left the Land of Israel at his mother's behest, because Esau swore to kill him. Even though Esau was an evil person, Jacob still feared that the merit of these two mitzvos might earn Esau Divine favor over him.

We are blessed with the opportunity to do many mitzvos. We should appreciate their incomparable value!



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Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear --
not absence of fear -- Mark Twain


In Honor of the Bat Mitzvah of

Jordan Goldie Singer

With love,
Dr. and Mrs. Joseph A. Singer


In Loving Memory of

Geoff Frisch



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