Vayetzei (Genesis 28:10-32:3 )
GOOD MORNING! Every day we make decisions, we react, we interact, we do acts of kindness. Oftentimes we don't even remember our acts of kindness and infrequently do we realize the impact on another's life or even on our own lives. This week I share with you a powerful story I heard from Rabbi Shmuel Dishon. It's a story that leaves you tingling and energized to help others.
The year is 1917, the communists take over Russia and begin their tyrannical campaign to wipe out religion and Judaism. In Minsk, a rabbi, Reb Shiah, vows no matter the cost, he is going to continue leading a life of mitzvot (following the commandments of the Almighty) and helping others fulfill the Torah. After an inexplicable 4 years without interference from the Communists, the rabbi is "invited" to an interview with the Chehka, the secret police. Knowing what the invitation means, he puts his affairs in order, says good-bye to his family and prepares for the worst.
At the secret police headquarters, he is ushered into a room. The interrogator greets him cordially in Yiddish, "Reb Shiah, would you like to have a seat?" This is not how these sessions were described to him by the people who had survived them! Seeing that the rabbi is frozen in indecision, the interrogator tells him to "please sit down." He then asks, "Reb Shiah, perhaps you and your family would like to go to Palestine?" Reb Shiah doesn't know what to answer. If he says "Yes", then he is a disloyal citizen. He doesn't answer.
The interrogator sees that he is getting nowhere, so he reaches into a drawer and pulls out a five inch thick file and puts it down in front of the rabbi. "Reb Shiah, this is your file. It details everything -- every mitzvah, every child you taught, every bris that you performed." Reb Shiah looks at the file and trembles.
"Reb Shiah," says the interrogator, "for the last four years I have been assigned to your case. It is I who has protected you and watched out for you. Now I am being promoted and there is no way it will go well for you with a record like this. The best I can do for you is to help you and your family get to Palestine. I see that you don't recognize me." He then tells the rabbi his name and the rabbi is shocked -- the interrogator is the son of a famous rabbi who died young.
The interrogator continues, "I want you to know why I have been protecting you. After my father died, it was very difficult for our family. One Friday, before Shabbat, my mother came running to your home with me in her arms. She cried out to you, 'Reb Shiah, what are we going to do? We have nothing in the house!' You were dressed in your long black Shabbos robe and you had a beautiful gold watch and chain. Without a moment's hesitation, you reached down, grabbed the watch, handed it to my mother and said, 'Take this!' For months we lived from the money we got for the watch and I have never forgotten it!"
Concludes Rabbi Dishon, the teller of this story, "Don't think that when you are helping someone that you are only helping him -- sometimes you are also helping yourself!"
Vayetze, Genesis 28:10 - 32:3
This week we have the trials and tribulations of Jacob living with and working for his father-in-law, Laban. Jacob agreed to work as a shepherd 7 years for Rachel only to have Laban switch daughters on him at the marriage ceremony. This is why we have the badekin ('covering' ceremony) where the groom sees the face of his bride to ensure he is marrying the right woman before he covers her with the veil.
As Jacob tries to build his equity, Laban changes their agreement time after time. After 20 years, the Almighty tells Jacob the time has come to return to the land of Canaan. Jacob and his household secretly leave only to be pursued by Laban who has claims to put forth. The story ends with peace and blessings between Jacob and Laban.
* * *
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states:
"And Yaakov saw the face of Lavan, and behold, he was not with him as previously" (Gen. 31:2).
What lesson can we learn from this verse?
We see from here the importance of being able to notice the emotional state of another person from the expressions on his face. Lavan did not say any unkind words to Yaakov. Nothing verbal was communicated that would imply that Lavan felt resentment or animosity towards Yaakov. Nevertheless, Yaakov was sensitive to the look on Lavan's face.
Especially with people you see on a regular basis, take note of how they look when they are pleased or displeased with someone. By gaining the sensitivity to detect these differences you will be able to tell when something you said or did offended him or hurt his feelings.
We can also see how careful we must be with our own facial expressions when talking with people. This is especially so when the person you are talking with is very sensitive and his feelings are easily hurt. We should not cause any suffering to another person even by a grimace.
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Guatemala 5:12 - Hong Kong 5:22 - Honolulu 5:31
J'Burg 6:17 - London 3:52 - Los Angeles 4:31
Melbourne 7:53 - Mexico City 5:39 - Miami 5:13
New York 4:19 - Singapore 6:33 - Toronto 4:33
If you want misery in life, seek justice and fairness;
if you want happiness, never miss an opportunity
to do an act of kindness or to express gratitude.
-- Rabbi Kalman Packouz