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Shmot 5776

Shmot (Exodus 1:1-6:1 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING!  If you had the chance, would you like to talk with God? Maybe ask God a few questions: Why was humankind created? What is the purpose of my life? How do I get the most pleasure out of life? Are there absolute truths? What is love? How do I get my prayers answered? I would.

Well, second best ... there is a book -- What the Angel Taught You -- by Rabbi Noah Weinberg, of blessed memory, my teacher and the founder of the world-wide Aish HaTorah movement. He co-authored the book with Rabbi Yaakov Salomon. The book is fabulous -- comprehensive and deep, yet understandable wisdom about life. The book presents Seven Keys to Life Fulfillment: 1) The Five Levels of Pleasure 2) Prayer 3) Knowledge 4) Happiness 5) Free Will 6) Intellectualism 7) Love.

Why the title, What the Angel Taught You? According to the Talmud, before we were born, when we were safely ensconced in the comfort of the womb, each of us had a personal angel to teach us all the wisdom we will ever need to know on this planet. Everything.

And then ... just before we are born... the angel gives us a little "tap" between the nose and upper lip and everything he taught us is immediately forgotten. That is how all human beings receive that small indentation in the skin beneath the nose, anatomically known as the 'philtrum.'

Why would God send an angel to teach us everything we need to know, only to instruct him to then make us forget everything he just taught us? The answer: learning something once makes it so much easier for us to learn it for the second time. When we hear truth it has a harmonic ring that we recognize. (There is also another lesson to learn from the philtrum -- every human being was touched by an angel sent to learn with him. We must respect every human being for he was lovingly created by the Almighty.)

To give you a taste of the wit and wisdom of my teacher, I will share with you an insight regarding attaining pleasure in life. One of the greatest obstacles to achieving pleasure is the confusion between "comfort" and "pleasure." Writes Rabbi Weinberg, "What is the opposite experience of 'pain'? When asked this question, about nine out of ten people will answer, 'Pleasure.' Not only is this the wrong answer, but the belief that pleasure is the opposite of pain is, by far, the most destructive counterfeit concept that faces Western civilization! In truth, the opposite of pain is simply no pain, or comfort. And comfort is NOT at all synonymous with pleasure. Comfort is nice -- it is a painless experience -- but it is not pleasure, by any stretch.

"In fact, pain and pleasure actually go hand in hand! Pain, or effort, is the price we pay to get pleasure. Think about it. To achieve anything in life that's really worthwhile -- good relationships, successful careers, the pursuit of meaning, all of life's lasting pleasures -- requires a lot of pain and effort...

"If you ask parents what is their greatest pleasure, they are most likely to answer, 'My children.' If you then ask what their greatest pain is, they will probably give the very same response, 'My children.' It is not simply coincidental that the object of our greatest pleasure, our children, also happens to be the source of our greatest potential anguish. Pleasure and effort are far from being opposite constructs -- they actually work together...

"If all you seek is comfort, it is true you'll be rid of pain, but you will also be robbed of almost any type of achievement. If you try to get pleasure by spending your life avoiding pain, you will only end up with the world's most prominent counterfeit -- comfort. Without effort, you will never get real pleasure."

If the above excerpt has the harmonic ring of truth -- you can thank your angel. If you want more insights into getting the most out of life, I cannot recommend highly enough that you buy a copy of this book. And if you're like me, you'll probably end up buying copies for those you love and care about. (What the Angel Taught You is available at your local Jewish bookstore, at or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242.)


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Torah Portion of the week

Shemos, Exodus 1:1 - 6:1

This week's portion tells a story often repeated throughout history: The Jews become prominent and numerous. There arises a new king in Egypt "who did not know Joseph" (meaning he chose not to know Joseph or recognize any debt of gratitude). He proclaims slavery for the Jewish people "lest they may increase so much, that if there is war, they will join our enemies and fight against us, driving (us) from the land." (Anti-Semitism can thrive on any excuse; it need not be logical or real -- check out our online seminar "Why the Jews?" at -- the seminar will transform the way you view yourself, your people and your history. It's spectacular!)

Moshe (Moses) is born and immediately hidden because of the decree to kill all male Jewish babies. Moses is saved by Pharaoh's daughter, grows up in the royal household, goes out to see the plight of his fellow Jews. He kills an Egyptian who was beating a Jew, escapes to Midian when the deed becomes known, becomes a shepherd, and then is commanded by God at the Burning Bush to "bring My people out of Egypt." Moses returns to Egypt, confronts Pharaoh who refuses to give permission for the Israelites to leave. And then God says, "Now you will begin to see what I will do to Pharaoh!"

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Almighty tells Moshe at the incident of the Burning Bush:

"The place upon which you are standing is holy ground" (Ex. 3:5).

What deeper meaning and lesson can we derive from these words?

When a person finds himself in a situation with many distractions and difficulties, he is likely to say, "When the Almighty improves my situation, then I will be able to study Torah and fulfill more mitzvot, but not right now. Now I can only think of my problems.

The Chofetz Chaim, the greatest rabbi of the last generation, applies this verse to those situations. "The place upon which you are standing" -- that is, the exact situation in which you find yourself -- that is sacred. If your life situation is difficult, it is exactly in that difficult situation that the Almighty wants you to serve Him. The Almighty only gives people tests which they can pass and the tests are for their own personal growth and spiritual elevation. The Sages teach us "According to the difficulty is the reward," We must strive to make the most of our every situation to serve the Almighty to the best of our ability.

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

Tziporah, Moshe's future wife, and her 6 sisters drew water for their father's sheep. Shepherds came and drove them away. The Torah tells us that then:

"Moshe got up and saved them and watered their sheep" (Ex. 2:17).

Moshe saved Tziporah, who at that time was a total stranger. Later on we read in the Torah how Tziporah saves Moshe's life (Exodus 4:24-5) while he is on his way back to Egypt from Midian to lead the Exodus.

The Chofetz Chaim tells us that from here we learn that all the kindness that a person does for someone else is eventually repaid to him. Whenever you do a favor for someone, you benefit yourself. Definitely, the highest level of righteousness is to do a kindness for the sake of the mitzvah without thinking of personal gain. However, if you find it difficult to do a kindness for someone, you can at least draw on a pragmatic motivation.

Life is like a mirror. If you do kindness for others, they will be kinder to you. Also, if you act with kindness, eventually you will make yourself into a kinder person.


Candle Lighting Times

January 1
(or go to

Jerusalem 4:11
Guatemala 5:26 - Hong Kong 5:33 - Honolulu 5:43
J'Burg 6:45 - London 3:44 - Los Angeles 4:37
Melbourne 8:27 - Mexico City 5:51 - Miami 5:23
New York 4:21 - Singapore 6:51 - Toronto 4:33

Quote of the Week

People who are green with envy are ripe for trouble



Happy Anniversary!

Marc & Dr. Helena


With Special Thanks to

Moshe & Robin Pamensky


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