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Va'eira 5764

Va'eira (Exodus 6:2-9:35 )

by Kalman Packouz

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GOOD MORNING!  If you had the chance, would you like to discuss 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 new book just published, What the Angel Taught You by Rabbi Noah Weinberg, my teacher and the head of the world-wide Aish HaTorah education movement, co-authored 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. (It is available from your local Jewish book store or by calling toll-free 877-758-3242.)

Torah Portion of the Week

Here begins the story of the Ten Plagues which God put upon the Egyptians not only to effect the release of the Jewish people from bondage, but to show the world that He is the God of all of creation and history. The first nine plagues are divisible into three groups: (1) the water turning to blood, frogs, lice; (2) wild beasts, pestilence/epidemic, boils; (3) hail, locust, and darkness.

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch explains that these were punishments measure for measure for afflicting the Jewish people with slavery. The first of each group reduced Egyptians in their own land to the insecurity of strangers, the second of each group robbed them of pride, possessions and a sense of superiority; the third in each group imposed physical suffering.


Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

Moshe warned Pharaoh and the Egyptians that there was going to be a devastating hail that would destroy living creatures remaining out in the open. The Torah states:

"Those who feared the word of the Almighty from the servants of Pharaoh brought their servants and his cattle into the houses. And those who did not pay attention to the word of the Almighty left their servants and cattle in the field." (Exodus 9:20-21)

What can we learn from these two responses?

The Torah does not state that there were people who did not believe that Moshe's warning was true. Rather, the Torah states that they did not pay attention. From here we see that the opposite of fearing the Almighty is not paying attention.

Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz asked regarding these verses: Why didn't the servants themselves flee to safety? They should have feared for their own lives and run to find safe places. The answer, said Rav Chaim, is that they did not pay attention. When one does not pay attention to danger, it is as if it doesn't exist.

All the knowledge in the world will not help a person keep away from danger unless he takes that knowledge to heart. For this reason there are plenty of people who do things that could greatly endanger their spiritual and physical well-being. They do not take the dangers seriously. Lack of paying attention to dangers will lead to all kinds of impulsive behavior that will have painful and damaging consequences.

The Talmud (Tamid 32a) teaches that the wise man is one who sees the future consequences of his behavior. The Chofetz Chaim (Introduction to Chovas HaShmirah) writes that the Sages used the term "seeing" to tell us a means of making future events real. One should use one's power of imagination to see the future as if it is actually occurring in the present. When you see something before your eyes, it has a much stronger effect than just hearing about it.

(or Go to

Jerusalem  4:29
Guatemala 5:38  Hong Kong 5:47  Honolulu 5:56
J'Burg 6:45  London 4:14  Los Angeles 4:55
Melbourne 7:18  Miami 5:39  Moscow 4:27

New York 4:44  Singapore  7:01


It is not pleasure that makes
life worth living.
It is life that makes
pleasure worth having.
--  George Bernard Shaw

In Loving Memory of
Saul Horowitz

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