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Vayishlach 5769

Vayishlach (Genesis 32:4-36:43 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING! This might be the "slickest" segue you'll ever see: In this week's Torah Portion, Yitzchak (Isaac) dies. After they buried Yitzchak, they mourned him. And speaking of mourning, there are some things you might want or need to know...

When one visits a mourner during Shiva (the 7 days of mourning), he should not speak until the mourner speaks to him. The purpose of being at a Shiva home is for the mourner to feel that he is not alone - that people and the community care about him. Just sitting with someone is sufficient. If the mourner chooses to talk with you, do not try to distract him from his loss by, for example, talking about sports or movies. Ask questions like: "If you could think of one story that epitomizes your dad, what would it be?" or "What was the greatest thing your mom ever did for you?" or "What is the one character trait that you admire most about your sister?"

By focusing on the deceased the mourner is able to deal with the pain and loss. By telling stories and highlighting shining deeds and character traits, we are inspired and motivated to improve our ourselves and our actions. This is a tremendous merit to the deceased ... and to us!

Recently, I came across a list I received many years ago of "Do's and Don'ts While Visiting a Mourner". The list was compiled by L. Musckel after she sat Shiva for her father. Here is her list:

Do not call and ask the mourners for a ride to the funeral. Make your own arrangements.

Do not ask how old the deceased was. It really does not matter. If he or she was elderly, you imply that it was not painful to the mourners. Do not say, "He had a long life." It doesn't seem long enough to us.

Do not ask if he knew that he was ill or that he was dying. It makes no difference and just hurts.

Do not tell the mourners that "next week will be even worse for you." We figured that out already.

Do not ask the mourner, "Why does your mother (the widow) not look as perky as usual." I did not make this up.

Do not make or receive cellphone calls. This is incredibly rude.

If you are a widow, do not tell the new widow how very lonely she will be. Why do you think that is helpful right now - or ever?

If you lost a parent, or are suffering an illness, try to keep it to a minimum in discussion. Some people use other's Shiva visits as self-therapy sessions. I appreciate that you have problems, but I am not in the mood to hear them right now.

Do not socialize with other people in front of the mourners. If you have something important to tell someone that you meet there - and it can't wait - take it outside.

Do not discuss treatments for the disease that you think might have been helpful. It is too late.

Do not say, "at least he is not suffering now/he is at peace now." My father was not suffering.

Do not ask if there is a will. This is tacky behavior. We had two people who asked that.

Do something helpful like preparing or buying food (and deliver it). Make sure the food is kosher so that everyone can eat it. Do any mundane task that needs to be done that the mourner cannot handle now.

Do stay a short time. If you are not particularly close friends or family, pay your respects and move on.

Do respect the hour. If it is past 10 PM, try to remember to go home.

Do stay in touch with the mourners after the Shiva. Just because the official mourning period is over, the mourners should not be abandoned. This applies particularly to one who is left alone.

For more on "Mourning" go to!

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Torah Portion of the Week

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

The Torah states that after Jacob took his wife, their handmaids and children across the Jabbok and then sent his possessions across:

"And Jacob remained alone."

Why did he remain alone?

The Sages (Talmud Bavli Chulin 91a) explain that Jacob remained behind to retrieve some small flasks. From here, say the Sages, we see the principle that for the righteous their possessions are more dear to them than their bodies (since Jacob placed himself in danger for his possessions). The reason for this, said the Ari, is that the righteous realize that if the Almighty gave them something, it is important for them to have it. If it were not necessary for their total welfare, the Almighty would not have given it to them. Therefore, they do whatever they can not to lose what they were given.

With this understanding, we will gain a greater appreciation for what we have. The more you need something, the more you will appreciate it. When you are aware that all that you have is measured out to you by the Almighty for your benefit, you will have a profound sense of gratitude. The positive feelings of ownership will be much greater than what is felt by those lacking this awareness.

Rabbi Yeruchem Levovitz cited the story of a philosopher who wished to be satisfied with the least amount of possessions that were absolutely necessary. After thinking the matter over he gave up everything he owned and kept only a pump to draw water from wells. Once when he was walking on the road he saw a caravan of people. They stopped near a well and drank directly from it without any pumps or cups. The philosopher said to himself, "Now I see that I don't even need a pump!" He immediately threw away the pump, his only remaining possession. However, from Jacob we learn otherwise. The spirit of Torah is not to have nothing, but to have a deep appreciation for whatever you do have!

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It's better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid
than to open it and remove all doubt.
-- Mark Twain

Happy 98th Birthday!

Maks Rothstein

The World is a much better place
because of you!

With thanks to

Stephen Zukoff

for his continuing pro-bono
legal work for Aish HaTorah

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Kalman Packouz

Click here for Rabbi Packouz's bio
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Copyright Rabbi Kalman Packouz 2008

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