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Vayishlach 5775

Vayishlach (Genesis 32:4-36:43 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING!   What would you say to stop someone from committing suicide? What would happen if after listening to all of the pain and suffering the person has gone through in his life, you asked, "Tell me, what if on top of all of your problems you were blind, too? Then right before you jumped, a miracle happened and you could see. Would you still jump?" Chances are the person would say, "Are you crazy? I'd want to see what my children look like, the color of the sky, to see the ocean, a mountain! No way I'd kill myself!"

Yet, there are lots of people who can see who do kill themselves even though they can see their children, the color of the sky, the ocean and a mountain. Why? We just get used to our pleasures in life. A person can get used to anything -- good health, being a multi-millionaire, private jets, beautiful homes, even a loving spouse and children. It's sad. Worse, it's tragic. What can we do to focus on the pleasures in life?

Here's an idea: If you're married, agree with your spouse that at the end of each day you'll share two good things that happened that day. So often we spend our time with our spouse complaining about what went wrong that day. Just share the two good things before going into the trials and tribulations. Each day has to be two new things! And if you're single, plan with a friend to do the same thing each day.

What do you answer when someone asks how you are doing? Oftentimes the people I meet say, "Can't complain." It doesn't do much for me and it does less for the person saying it. Sometimes I'll try to focus them that if they can't complain, then they probably have something good from which to take pleasure. How do I do it? I ask them, "Why not? I'm a rabbi. I'll listen to your complaints about life." Most people say that they really don't have anything to complain about. (I am not naive; I know that it just might be possible that the person would prefer not to have this discussion with me...)

Then I suggest, why not train yourself to respond, "Good, thank God" -- or if he or she really wants to appreciate life to answer "Great, thank God." And if he or she really wants to thrill with life, answer "Fabulous, thank God" or "Magnificent, thank God." It not only uplifts the person responding, it uplifts the one who asked!

Why do I always suggest ending with "Thank God"? It is important in life to have gratitude and to show gratitude. Everything we have in life is ultimately a gift from the Almighty. By focusing on that fact and responding in kind, it not only makes one happier, but also a better person.

On an even deeper level, the Talmud (Brachos 54a) teaches that a person is obligated to bless the Almighty for misfortune with the same joy as when one blesses for good fortune. How is it possible to fulfill this obligation? If we appreciate that the Almighty loves us and only gives us what is good for us -- for our spiritual growth -- then we can work on focusing that what seems "bad" right now will be ultimately for the best.

In addition to the long-view philosophical approach, each of us has a choice as to what we focus on in the immediate present. The old question: "is the glass half full or half empty?" applies on a daily basis and a moment by moment basis. (By the way, maybe the glass is just too big? Or, maybe it depends upon whether you're pouring or drinking?) Happiness in life is a matter of focusing on the present. If you appreciate the good in every moment, then ultimately your life is filled with millions of moments of happiness and is a happy life.

If one focuses on the past, it is often with regrets for missed opportunities or lost benefits. (You can focus on the past, but there's no future in it!) If one looks to the future with expectations or wishes that things should be different, he misses out on appreciating what is going on now and is probably focusing on what is "missing" now.

I once saw a beautiful quote that sums it up, "The past is history, the future a mystery and now is a gift -- which is why it's called the present." Appreciate the present!


One More Way to Prevent a Suicide

There are well-meaning, responsible, loving, caring individuals who commit suicide to provide for their family from the insurance proceeds. They have had a reversal in their fortunes and don't want to cause pain of financial hardship to their families.

It occurred to me that if you ever met someone contemplating suicide for that reason, you could say the following:

Please, talk it over with your family. Lay it all out how difficult life will be if you don't kill yourself to provide them with financial security. Then ask them which they prefer.

Likely, they will say, "We prefer YOU! Don't kill yourself! We love YOU!" If so, then don't kill yourself.

And if they say, "You know, you're right. That will really be a horrific financial burden on us; we really appreciate your sacrifice!" If that's their response and how they feel -- then why kill yourself for people like them?


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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 Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

Before encountering his evil brother, Esav, Jacob divided all that he had into two camps. The Torah states:

"And (Jacob) said 'If Esau will come to one camp and smite it, the remaining camp will be saved' " (Genesis 32:9).

What lesson do we learn from Jacob's action?

Rashi, the great commentator, tells us that Jacob had three strategies to deal with the threat from his brother: 1) he sent gifts to appease him 2) he prayed for Divine assistance 3) he prepared for war.

Rabbi Yeruchem Levovitz points out that Jacob did not rely on his righteousness; he made every humanly effort possible. The forefathers kept to natural laws in dealing with life situations. After all, the laws of nature are the Almighty's laws (He did set up the universe!). This is our goal -- to do all that is in our power, but to realize that our success ultimately depends upon the Almighty.


Candle Lighting Times

December 5
(or go to

Jerusalem 3:59
Guatemala 5:12 - Hong Kong 5:20 - Honolulu 5:30
J'Burg 6:26 - London 3:39 - Los Angeles 4:27
Melbourne 8:05 - Mexico City 5:38 - Miami 5:11
New York 4:12 - Singapore 6:36 - Toronto 4:25

Quote of the Week

Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak;
Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.
--  Sir Winston Churchill



With Heartfelt Appreciation to

Beverly Bachrach


In Loving Memory of

Samuel & Rachel Cohen

May their names always be
associated with the performance
of mitzvos, good deeds,
and acts of lovingkindness
-- Elan Cohen



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