Va'eira (Exodus 6:2-9:35 )
GOOD MORNING! George Burns once lamented that it's "too bad all the people who know how to run the country are busy driving taxi cabs and cutting hair." When I was in Israel last year I wanted to get a feel of the national mood, so I asked every cab driver three questions:
1) What country in the world would let a neighboring country shoot even one missile into it and not take action?
2) What country in the world would continue to supply food, electricity and water to a neighboring country that shot even one missile into it?
3) What country wouldn't have complete international backing if they took action after receiving even one missile? (By the way, the inherent right of self-defense to an armed attack is guaranteed under Article 51 of the UN Charter...)
Amazingly almost every single cab driver sighed with resignation and a half-hearted analysis of why the Israeli government wasn't responding. However, one cab driver responded to each question with a resounding "You're right! It's crazy!" And after his third "You're right! It's crazy!", he added "... and I am not so happy with Hamas either!" Then it hit me – the only one to clearly see the incongruity of the situation -was an Arab cab driver!
I am astounded, but not surprised, by the world reaction of governments and the press. One reporter asked Mayor Michael Bloomberg "Isn't Israel using excessive force?" He responded, "If someone is pounding on your door threatening to kill you, do you want us to respond with one police officer - which is proportional - or with all of the resources at our command? This isn't a game to be played by the Marquess of Queensbury rules. We are fighting terrorism. People's lives are at risk."
The mayor continued, "Since Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, Hamas -rather than building up Gaza - has tried to destroy Israel for its own political purposes. Hamas is a wholly owned subsidiary of Iran. They are trying every day to kill innocent civilians in the streets by sending rockets."
When asked, "But aren't innocents being killed in Gaza?" The Mayor responded, "Yes. And if Hamas wants to continue to kill them they will continue to lob rockets. It is the ultimate cowardliness to launch your attack with human shields."
This is not a new problem nor is it a problem caused by the creation of the State of Israel. In 1172, The Rambam, Maimonides, wrote to the Jews of Yemen who were being forcefully converted to Islam, "The nation of Ishmael … persecutes us severely and devises ways to harm us and debase us … No matter how much we suffer and elect to remain at peace with them, they stir up strife and sedition, as David predicted, 'I am all peace, but when I speak, they are for war.' (Psalms 120:7)"
We have a covenant with the Almighty. If we want to strengthen Israel and the Jewish people, we must strengthen ourselves in our observance of the Torah and upholding that covenant. It is a simple equation and anyone who reads and thinks about Jewish history can clearly see the pattern.
It is up to us to increase our observance of the Almighty's commandments – Shabbat, Kashruth, learning Torah and especially prayer - which makes us aware of our relationship with and dependence upon our Creator. The Almighty is our loving Father. He wants us on the right path to be a holy nation and light unto the world. He will not allow us to be destroyed … and he will not allow us to totally assimilate. He wants our return to His ways. Reading To Be a Jew by Rabbi Hayim Donin can help each of us know what more to do to fulfill our destiny as Jews. (available at your local Jewish bookstore, judaicaenterprises.com or call 877-758-3242)
In the Letter to Yemen, Maimonides concluded with a message that is relevant to us today: "And now, brothers, you must pay attention and listen carefully to what I am going to lay out before you …Let not the strength of the enemy's hand and our own nation's weakness frighten you. For this entire situation is no more than a trial and a test so that you can demonstrate your belief and your chosen-ness to the world."
For more on "Anti-Semitism" go to ShabbatShalomAudio.com!
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 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.
* * *
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 his 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.
CANDLE LIGHTING - January 23
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Guatemala 5:39 - Hong Kong 5:47 - Honolulu 5:57
J'Burg 6:44 - London 4:15 - Los Angeles 4:56
Melbourne 8:23 - Mexico City 6:05 - Miami 5:39
New York 4:44 - Singapore 7:00 - Toronto 4:58
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
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
With Thanks to
A Special Friend
Archie J. Newell
Rabbi Kalman Packouz
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