Ekev (Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25 )
GOOD MORNING! Here's a name I want you to remember: T.K. Lawless. When I first heard the name it connoted a Western cartoon outlaw ... and boy was I wrong!
My beloved friend and colleague, Rabbi Alon Tolwin, enjoys riding bike events to raise funds for good causes. Recently, he was training for the Chai Lifeline Bike4Chai to help kids with cancer (if you want to contribute: http://www.chailifeline.org/events/Bike4Chai/my/atolwin ). He stopped on his way to Chicago to ride the bike trails in the Dr. T.K. Lawless Park in Vandalia, Michigan. While walking down the hall in his alma mater, The Hebrew Theological College in Chicago he saw a plaque in honor of ... Dr. T.K. Lawless!
His curiosity was piqued -- not so much by a plaque to a doctor who donated to a Jewish school, but what did this doctor do that the State of Michigan named a park after a Jewish doctor? So Rabbi Tolwin set out to find out who this T.K. Lawless was -- and was he surprised!
T.K. Lawless was not a Jewish doctor. He was African American. Now Rabbi Tolwin had a new puzzle -- not why did the State of Michigan name a park after the doctor, but why did a non-Jewish African American donate to a Jewish religious school? So, he dug deeper. And he found ...
Dr. T.K. Lawless didn't just give to the Hebrew Theological College, he gave to many Jewish organizations and the department of dermatology at the Beilinson Hospital in Israel, is named The Lawless Department of Dermatology!
Dr. Theodore Kenneth Lawless was one of the foremost dermatologists of the past century. He discovered cures and treatments for leprosy, syphilis, psoriasis. He was a professor of dermatology and had his own private practice in the heart of South Chicago. People of all backgrounds and races came to him to treat baffling skin diseases. While other doctors were charging $10, Dr. Lawless charged $3 ... and treated U.S. servicemen and others who couldn't pay for free.
In his spare time he became a successful and wealthy businessman with a bank to help finance black businesses and a real estate enterprise to promote low cost housing. He never married and left all of his money in a Trust to be divided up between helping African Americans get an education and Jewish causes.
What would cause an African American doctor to support Jewish causes? Dr. Lawless's life was impacted by Jews -- a Jewish peddler helped his family in New Orleans, a Jew helped get him into Columbia medical school and when he needed the recommendations of 12 doctors to get accepted in a program overseas ... 11 out of the 12 recommendations were from Jewish doctors.
Commented Rabbi Tolwin, "Dr. Lawless probably said to himself, 'There must be something very special about the Torah that made these Jewish people so compassionate, so caring and so driven to make this world a better place. This is a people that I want to help keep strong and survive. The world needs them!' "
Unlike Dr. Lawless's conclusion about the Jews and Jewish contributions to the world -- past, present and future -- the Ayatollahs in Iran think differently. I recently heard that they want to put a ban on using Jewish/Israeli medicine/medical procedures. It reminded me of the great Jewish humorist Sam Levinson's Response to the Anti-Semite:
"It's a free world; you don't have to like Jews, but if you don't I suggest that you boycott certain Jewish products such as the Wassermann Test for syphilis; digitalis, discovered by a Dr. Nuslin; insulin, discovered by Dr. Minofsky; chlorohydrate for convulsions, discovered by Dr. Lifreich; the Shick Test for diphtheria; vitamins, discovered by Dr. Funk; streptomycin, discovered by Dr. Z. Woronan; the polio pill by Dr. A Sabin and the polio vaccine by Dr. Jonas Salk.
"Good! Boycott! Humanitarian consistency requires that my people offer all these gifts to all people of the world. Fanatic consistency requires that all bigots accept syphilis, diabetes, convulsions, malnutrition, infantile paralysis and tuberculosis as a matter of principle. You want to be mad? Be mad! But I'm telling you, you ain't going to feel so good!"
Aikev, Deuteronomy 7:12 -11:25
Moshe continues his discourse guaranteeing the Jewish people prosperity and good health if they follow the mitzvot, the commandments. He reminds us to look at our history and to know that we can and should trust in God. However, we should be careful so that we are not distracted by our material success, lest we forget and ignore God.
Moshe warns us against idolatry (the definition of idolatry is the belief that anything other than God has power) and against self-righteousness -- "Do not say because of my virtue that God brought me to possess this land ... but because of the wickedness of these nations that God is driving them out before you" (Deut. 9:5). He then details our rebellions against God during the 40 years in the desert and the giving of the Second Tablets (Moshe broke the first Tablets containing the Ten Commandments during the sin of the Golden Calf.)
This week's portion dispels a common misconception. People think that "Man does not live by bread alone" means that a person needs additional foods beyond bread to survive. The quotation in its entirety is, "Man does not live by bread alone ... but by all that comes out of God's mouth" (Deut. 8:3).
The Torah then answers a question which every human being has asked of himself: What does God want of you? "Only that you remain in awe of God your Lord, so that you will follow all His paths and love Him, serving God your Lord with all your heart and with all your soul. You must keep God's commandments and decrees ... so that all good will be yours" (Deut. 10:12).
* * *
based on Twerski on Chumash by Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, M.D.
The Torah states:
"It shall be the reward when you hearken to these ordinances and keep and do them, that God will safeguard for you the covenant and the kindness that He swore to your forefathers" (Deut. 7:12).
The Midrash teaches that whenever the Torah uses the phrase "vehaya," "It shall be," it refers to simcha, a joyful occurrence. On the other hand, when the Torah writes "vayehi beyimay," "It was in the days," it refers to an unhappy theme.
It is a fact that happy people are future-oriented. Sad people are past-oriented. Friday night with the start of Shabbat marks the close of the previous workweek, with all its anguish and disappointments. Shabbat is a day of meditation and renewal. It is not merely a day of rest to "recharge one's batteries" for the next workweek. Rather, it is a day where Torah study, prayer, family unity and introspection should elevate one spiritually, so that the next week that follows can be one of spiritual advancement.
Just as it is difficult to walk and take great strides with a heavy burden on one's back, so it is difficult to advance spiritually carrying a heavy burden of the past. True, we may have made mistakes. We should learn from these to not repeat them and to avoid the things that are conducive to errant behavior. Wherever possible, we should make amends for any harm we may have caused. These are the components of teshuvah (correcting our deeds) and Torah literature states that Shabbat is particularly propitious for teshuvah. However, once we have done proper teshuvah, we should let go of the past and not allow it to hinder us in the future.
Correct mistakes, resolve not to repeat them, and that be the end of it. "It shall be" is looking to what we can accomplish in the future. That indeed is simcha!
(or go to http://www.aish.com/sh/c/)
Guatemala 6:14 - Hong Kong 6:43 - Honolulu 6:49
J'Burg 5:25 - London 8:20 - Los Angeles 7:31
Melbourne 5:19 - Mexico City 7:51 - Miami 7:44
New York 7:46 - Singapore 6:58 - Toronto 8:14
Some people like the Jews, and some do not.
But no thoughtful man can deny the fact
that they are, beyond any question,
the most formidable and the most remarkable race
which has appeared in the world
-- Winston Churchill