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V'etchanan 5777

V'etchanan (Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING!  I have a tendency to respond with repartee when I am experiencing the stress of unwarranted, unfair emotional criticism. The other day I called someone with whom I am very close. He asked, "How are you?" I answered with gratitude, "Fabulous, thank God!" ... and he exploded, "Boy, they sure have you brainwashed!" Without thinking, I countered, "Better to have a clean mind than a dirty mind!"

He then retorted with vehemence, "No, I'm right!" -- and the words just left my mouth -- "Of course you are right. You're always right!" (My wife taught me that there can be no argument if you agree!) "No, I'm not always right!" he angrily rebutted -- to which came my knee-jerk response -- "You're right again!"

"Please," I asked, "what would you like me to say when you ask how I am?" The man answered, "Just say 'Can't complain' -- like everyone else does!"

In my experience in life, when a person says, "Can't complain," he means: 1) "Thank you for the courtesy of asking, but I truly doubt that you want to know the details of what I am going through in my life or that you have the time to listen" (I often reply to "Can't complain" with "Sure you can! I am a rabbi. I have all the time you need, will listen to you and I have a full box of Kleenex.") 2) "I could complain, but I don't want to share my problems and the difficulties in my life with you." Interestingly, I recently received an email from a lady who told me, "I can't complain. I don't want people's sympathy."

Why do I answer, "Fabulous, thank God" or "Magnificent, thank God" or "Incredible, thank God"? It is not to afflict my fellow human beings or insult their intelligence. The essence of my reply is that there is a God who has an individualized plan for my (and every human being's) personal growth in spirituality and character development. Everything that happens to me is ultimately from God and for my good. It may be painful or difficult, but that is what my Father in Heaven has set before me as the absolute best situation for me at this time. Therefore, I recognize that fact with gratitude and appreciation. The reality is fabulous, magnificent and incredible -- and I thank the Almighty! My father in law, Rabbi Joseph Kramer, is famous (at least in our family) for his reply -- "It couldn't be better!"

I respond the way I do to uplift those with whom I talk and focus them on all that they have to be grateful for and appreciate in life. Often times my reply will engender a very positive discussion on being grateful.

When we wake up in the morning, our Torah instructs us to immediately say before even getting out of bed, "I give thanks before You, living and eternal King, that You have returned my soul within me with compassion. Great is Your faithfulness." We start the day by focusing on the positive. We are alive! (Every day that you look at the grass from the top down, is a great day!) When we start the morning service, we recite a list of blessings focused on thanking the Almighty for what we have. During the day we aspire to make 100 blessings -- prayers in synagogue, before and after eating foods, blessings on fulfilling commandments, even on seeing or hearing the awesomeness of the Almighty's creation -- lightning and hearing thunder. We work on it day in and day out on being grateful and having a positive outlook on life.

Why should "Fabulous, thank God" set off such a negative reaction? Obviously, the person thinks that the reality is that nobody has it "fabulous." Perhaps he is pained by his own situation and thinks that anyone who believes that life is "fabulous" is living in "la-la land" and not living in reality. However, what happens to you is what is; how you view it becomes your reality. Whether you think you can or you think you can't -- you are right. Whether you think that what happens to you -- your health, your interactions, your finances -- are good or bad -- that is your reality!

Would you rather have happiness and peace of mind knowing that the vicissitudes of life are part of a grand plan for your benefit -- or the misery of believing that you are right that life is unfair, random, cruel? Life has its ups and downs. When it flatlines -- you are no longer alive!

And if the person who thinks that "Fabulous, thank God" is irritating -- he should meet my friend, Rabbi Alon Tolwin, who responds to inquiries about his well-being with -- "Life is perfect ... but, it will get better!"


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Torah Portion of the week

Va'etchanan, Deuteronomy 3:23 - 7:11

Moshe pleads with God to enter the Holy Land, but is turned down. (Remember, God always answers your prayers -- sometimes with a "yes," sometimes with a "no" ... and sometimes with a "not yet".) Moshe commands the Children of Israel not to add or subtract from the words of the Torah and to keep all of the Commandments. He then reminds them that God has no shape or form and that we should not make or worship idols of any kind.

The cities of Bezer, Ramot and Golan are designated as Cities of Refuge east of the Jordan river. Accidental murderers can escape there to avoid revengeful relatives. They then are sequestered there until tried.

The Ten Commandments are repeated to the whole Jewish people. Moshe then expounds the Shema, affirming the unity of God, Whom all should love and transmit His commandments to the next generation. Other mitzvot include: A man should wear Tefillin upon the arm and head. All Jews should put a Mezuzah (the scroll is the essential part) upon each doorpost of their home (except the bathroom).

Moshe then relays the Almighty's command not to intermarry "for they will lead your children away from Me" (Deut. 7:3-4).

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

"When you beget children and grandchildren and will become old in the Land, you will grow corrupt and make an idol, the image of anything, and you will do evil in the eyes of the Almighty, your God, to anger Him" (Deut. 4:39).

How does having children and grandchildren lead to becoming corrupt and doing evil? Shouldn't a person always be grateful for what the Almighty has given him?

The answer lies in the Hebrew word, venoshantem, "becoming old." If one becomes accustomed to what he has, then he no longer appreciates it. If he no longer appreciates it, he no longer feels a sense of gratitude to the Almighty. And without a sense of gratitude, a person will not only neglect his obligations to God, but can turn against Him.

The same principle applies in our relationships with our fellow human beings. Therefore, we must always focus anew upon our possessions and the favors we have received. Each day look at your possessions as if you just received them that very day. This will ensure gratitude. This will enhance our lives and those around us!


Candle Lighting Times

August 4
(or go to

Jerusalem 6:58
Guatemala 6:12 - Hong Kong 6:44 - Honolulu 6:51
J'Burg 5:25 - London 8:25 - Los Angeles 7:33
Melbourne 5:17 - Mexico City 7:53 - Miami 7:47
New York 7:50 - Singapore 6:58 - Toronto 8:18

Quote of the Week

Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion
without the discomfort of thought
--  John F. Kennedy



With Deep Appreciation to
Stewart Diamond
With Special Thanks to
Mario & Bertha Permuth


In Honor of the Engagement of

Goldie Goldman
Baltimore, to
Aharon Dovid Levy
North Miami Beach

Dr. Stuart & Debbie Goldman


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