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Vayeira 5779

Vayeira (Genesis 18-22 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING!  Humor. It lightens the load. It delights. It brings joy to the joke teller and the listener -- usually. However, sometimes, only to the teller.

I have a good friend, Dr. Ronald A. Goldstein. He's a mathematical genius. A graduate of the Courant Institute. Assistant professor at Notre Dame, started the Computer Department at University of Miami. Consultant to the U.S. Navy computing trajectories for ballistic missiles. Published and respected across the world.

However, what really sets Dr. Goldstein -- Ron -- apart is his sense of humor. He can laugh at anything and always find a funny comment. His sense of humor (and his will to live) has kept him alive. Twenty years ago after a major heart attack that reduced his heart to 20% efficiency, he forced the doctor to give him a prognosis. The doctor was hesitant, but trying to be encouraging told him "5 years." Ron outlived the doctor, too!

While not everyone laughs at every joke or comment, Ron never misses an opportunity to find humor in life. He knows the thrill, the energy, the delight that he gets out of telling the joke -- and figures that of course everyone would feel the same and would find his sense of humor funny.

Well, almost everyone. Here's the joke that cost him $300,000! (told by request of Dr. Goldstein)

Dr. Goldstein had just finished negotiating a consultancy contract to the Romanian military. They agreed to pay him $2,500 per day, 6 months guaranteed. After the negotiations ended, Ron mentions to the Romanian General, "You know, my grandmother was Romanian." The General's eyes brightened with excitement, "Yes?" Ron continued, "She was a great cook. Romanians are the best cooks in the world!" The General shone with pride and pleasure. "She had the most wonderful Romanian cookbook." With great curiosity, the General asked, "What was the name of the cookbook?" And here's where Ron just couldn't hold back -- "I don't remember, but each recipe started, 'First, steal a chicken'."

Says Dr. Goldstein, "Worst mistake I ever made!" Perhaps financially, but he still can't resist a joke or a punch line!

In Rabbi Noach Weinberg's 48 Ways to Wisdom, Way #21 focuses on humor. Teaches Rabbi Weinberg, the founder of Aish HaTorah: "Laughter is a deeply spiritual emotion. Understand the dynamics of laughter and use it wisely. Jokes have the power to grab our attention and focus our mind. Laughter can snap us out of melancholy, put things back into perspective, and provide the momentum to make the best of life.

"Why do we laugh? Laughter is when the unexpected occurs. Smiling and laughter can parlay that positive energy into movement, growth, and power for something meaningful you need to do. Having a sense of humor is a sign of maturity, because it demonstrates a sense of proportion about what's truly important.

"It is human nature to lose focus and get emotionally wrapped up in our day-to-day concerns. We can laugh in everyday life when we recognize the absurdity of a skewed perspective. Someone who breaks a shoelace may think his world is falling apart - until he meets someone without a leg.

"Laughter is a subconscious release of tension. It gets rid of gloom, aggravation, depression, worry - all forms of tension. Laugh to release steam and uplift yourself!

"Laughter is a double-edged sword. When used improperly - e.g., insulting others or causing inappropriate thoughts and behavior - laughter can be destructive. Abusing the tool of laughter can be dangerous. Stay away from: a) Ridicule b) Excessive Laughter c) Negative Laughter d) Off-Limits (i.e., Motherhood ... or if you're a Democrat making a joke about a Republican to a Republican or a Republican making a joke about Democrats to a Democrat! -- kp) Laughter destroys everything in its path - for good and for bad.

"Use laughter to keep your troubles in proportion. Realize they're not as bad as they seem. Life is not problems; it's opportunities. Laughter dispels pain and anxiety. It energizes. Use it as a quick way to snap back into action! Use laughter consciously and in a measured amount. Aggravation and suffering sap our strength. Laughter brings out cheerful relaxation and gives you new energy."

For 28 years, I have shared these ideas with Dr. Goldstein. Who knows? Maybe one day he won't tell Romanian cookbook jokes to Romanian generals!


Torah Portion of the week

Vayera, Genesis 18:1 - 22:24

Avraham, on the third day after his brit mila, sits outside his tent looking for guests to extend his hospitality. While talking with the Almighty, he sees three visitors (actually angels of the Almighty). Avraham interrupts his conversation with the Almighty to invite them to a meal. One angel informs him that in a year's time, Sarah, his wife, will give birth to a son, Yitzhak (Isaac).

God tells Avraham that He is going to destroy Sodom because of its absolute evil (the city is the source of the word sodomy). Avraham argues with God to spare Sodom if there can be found ten righteous people in Sodom. Avraham loses for the lack of a quorum. Lot escapes the destruction with his two daughters.

Other incidents: Avimelech, King of the Philistines, wants to marry Sarah (Avraham's wife), the birth of Yitzhak, the eviction of Hagar (Avraham's concubine) and Ishmael. Avimelech and Avraham make a treaty at Beersheva. Avraham is commanded to take up his son, Isaac, as an offering "on one of the mountains" (Akeidat Yitzhak). Lastly, the announcement of the birth of Rivka (Rebecca), the future wife of Yitzhak.

Do you want to know the reward for listening to the command of the Almighty? This is what the Almighty told Avraham: "... I shall surely bless you and greatly increase your descendants like the stars of the heavens and like the sand on the seashore; and your offspring shall inherit the gate of its enemy. And all the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your offspring, because you have listened to My voice."

* * *

Dvar Torah
from Twerski on Chumash by Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, M.D.

The Torah relates that when the matriarch, Sarah, was told that she would bear a child at the age of 90, she laughed "inwardly," thinking, "How can I bear a child at my old age?" God then said to Avraham, "Why did Sarah laugh? Is there anything that is beyond God?" Avraham reprimanded Sarah, but "Sarah denied, saying 'I did not laugh' for she was frightened." Avraham then said to her, "No, you laughed indeed" (Gen. 18:12-14).

The Rabbi of Gur says that it is impossible to think that Sarah lied. The Midrash tells us that Sarah was totally free of sin (Bereishis Rabbah 58:1). He, therefore, interprets the verse as saying not that Sarah denied, but that Sarah was in denial.

Her disbelief that she could carry a child was "inward" -- deep in the recesses of her subconscious. Sarah was not even aware of this thought. Only God Who knows a person's innermost thoughts and feelings, was aware of it. When Avraham reprimanded her for this thought, Sarah could not even imagine that she could have harbored disbelief of God's omnipotence. Her reverence of God was so great that a thought such as this was beyond her.

The verse thus reads, "Sarah was in denial because she was so God-fearing." Sarah was certain that she was speaking the truth when she said, "I did not laugh." Sarah did not deny or lie. She had no access to her subconscious.

If a person cannot be aware that he is in denial, how can we protect ourselves from being blind to reality? There is one way -- by listening to teachers and sincere friends who are objective and can see that which we cannot see.


Candle Lighting Times

October 26
(or go to

Jerusalem 5:19
Guatemala 5:18 - Hong Kong 5:32 - Honolulu 5:41
J'Burg 6:03 - London 5:27 - Los Angeles 5:49
Melbourne 7:30 - Mexico City 6:48 - Miami 6:26
New York 5:42 - Singapore 6:33 - Toronto 5:59

Quote of the Week

Laughter is an instant vacation
--  Milton Berle

A day without laughter is a day wasted
--  Charlie Chaplin



With Deep Appreciation to

Jay & Deanie Stein

With Special Thanks to

Dr. Howard Brenker



With Heartfelt Gratitude to

Evan Makovsky

Merci Beaucoup

Bob & Zivia Gill



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