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Lech Lecha 5780

Lech Lecha (Genesis 12-17 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING!  Recently, I spent 5 days in the hospital. I don't think that it is ever a pleasant experience -- except perhaps for having a baby (and then again, it is not so pleasant for the mother).

One thing you need to get through the hospital experience -- and life -- is to have a sense of humor -- which means seeing the humor wherever you can find it.

For instance, I found the Food Service absolutely hilarious. They'd ask me what I'd like to order and I would ask, "What's on the Kosher menu?" "Meatloaf and Mashed potatoes, Salisbury steak and Mashed Potatoes, Roast Turkey and vegetables." I ordered the meatloaf -- "Sorry, we don't have that." OK, I replied, the Salisbury steak -- "Sorry, we don't have that." No problem, I'll have the roast turkey. And sometime after an hour they deliver the chicken dinner.

Here's my favorite. I get a call from food services about my order. "Sir, you ordered the chicken soup with a matzoh ball." "No," I responded, "I ordered the vegetable soup." The food service person was adamant! "No. you ordered the chicken soup with a matzoh ball." To which I said, "I really did order the vegetable soup." For the third time and with a very firm and strong insistence, "NO! You ordered the chicken soup with a matzoh ball."

At this point, I asked myself, "What are you doing arguing over a bowl of soup?" So, I said, "Yes, what about the chicken soup with the matzoh ball?" The lady replied, "We don't have the chicken soup. Would you like the vegetable soup??"

Besides a sense of humor to get through a hospital experience - and life -- there is one more requirement. Always express thanks and appreciation. We are all human beings doing our best (some people are just more limited than others). Encourage others and find things to compliment them that they do well. People respond to appreciation.

Anger does not motivate anyone to do their best. It creates resentment and likely a lower level of service. Also, in the end it is you who suffers from getting angry! Just default to finding humor in what's happening ... and I know that can be hard.

I have stage 4 prostate cancer. I have very little energy or desire. About the only thing I desire is to make sure my Shabbat Shalom gets out each week. I only tell you this because I have some thoughts to share with you about dealing with people who are faced with serious medical dilemmas (or other life challenges).

I am totally good with my health opportunity. I believe in God and that He has an individual plan for me that is for my best -- to come close to Him, to grow, to fulfill my purpose in life. What that plan entails, I await as it unfolds. Whichever direction it goes, I am just thankful.

When someone finds out about my cancer they respond "I'm sorry. Please, let me know if there is anything, anything I can do." Heartfelt compassion is deeply appreciated. However, keep it short. Obsessing on the issue and asking for a complete medical history really is oppressive (though well-meant), depressing and depleting of energy. You may ask, "Is there anything that you think I should know or that you want to tell me?" This is a great kindness -- not forcing the sick person to answer questions he'd rather not answer.

One man immediately started asking me about his symptoms -- "Do you have this?" "Do you have that?" Really inappropriate. I interrupted him and said, "Please, you can't diagnose yourself by my situation. Go see a doctor."

One more thing. Almost every person I run into says, "You're looking good!" That is supposed to be uplifting and encouraging. I think we cancer patients interpret it as "Wow! You should be looking sallow and on the edge of death." It doesn't really feel good. Also, I once heard that there are three stages in life: youth, middle age and "you're looking good."

Notes are appreciated. Little acts of kindness. A rabbi at the Talmudic University in Miami messaged me that they are having a special learning session in my merit. Very touching!

And if you want to know what you can really do -- pray for the person. A simple, heartfelt request, "Almighty, Master of the Universe, who has given me all good things, please grant a complete and speedy healing to Kalman Moshe ben Devorah" (my name). Your prayers are precious and make a difference. Thank you!


Torah Portion of the Week

Lech L'cha, Genesis 12:1 - 17:27

The Almighty commands Avram (later renamed Avraham) to leave Haran and go to "the place that I will show you" (which turned out to be the land of Canaan -- later renamed the Land of Israel). The Almighty then gives Avram an eternal message to the Jewish people and to the nations of the world, "I will bless those who bless you and he who curses you I will curse." Finding a famine, Avram travels to Egypt (once renamed to be part of the United Arab Republic) asking Sarai (later renamed Sarah), to say she is his sister so they won't kill him to marry her (the Egyptians were particular not to commit adultery ... so they would kill the husband instead).

Pharaoh evicts Avram from Egypt after attempting to take Sarai for a wife. They settle in Hebron (also known as Kiryat Arba) and his nephew Lot settles in Sodom. Avram rescues Lot -- who was taken captive -- in the Battle of the Four Kings against the Five Kings.

Entering into a covenant with the Almighty (all covenants with the Almighty are eternal, never to be abrogated or replaced by new covenants), Avram is told that his descendants will be enslaved for 400 years and that his descendants (via Isaac, "... through Isaac will offspring be considered yours." Gen. 21:8 Isaac, not Ishmael!) will be given the land "from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates."

Sarai, childless, gives her handmaid Hagar to Avram for a wife so that he will have children. Ishmael (the alter zedeh - the grandfather -- of our Arab cousins) is born. The covenant of brit mila, religious circumcision, is made (read 17:3-8), God changes their names to Avraham and Sarah and tells them that Sarah will give birth to Yitzhak (Isaac). Avraham circumcises all the males of his household.

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Love Your Neighbor by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

Although greatly outnumbered, Avram (before he was renamed Avraham) rescued his captive nephew Lot and all the other people who had been captured with him. When Avraham returned victorious, the Torah states:

"Malkitzedek King of Sholaim brought out bread and wine, and he was a priest of God, the most high. And he (Malkitzedek) blessed him (Avram) and said, 'Blessed be Avram to God the Most High, Maker of heaven and earth. And blessed be God the Most High Who has delivered your enemies into your hand' " (Genesis 14:18-20).

The Talmud (Nedorim 32b) states that Malkitzedek erred by expressing gratitude first to Avraham and then to God. We must be grateful to anyone who does us a favor, but at the same time, we must realize that God is the ultimate source of all favors.


Candle Lighting Times

November 8
(or go to

Jerusalem 4:09
Guatemala 5:13 - Hong Kong 5:25 - Honolulu 5:34
J'Burg 6:11 - London 4:04 - Los Angeles 4:37
Melbourne 7:44 - Mexico City 5:42 - Miami 5:17
New York 4:26 - Singapore 6:32 - Toronto 4:42

Quote of the Week

To strengthen the muscles of your heart,
the best exercise is lifting someone else's spirit.



In Loving Memory of

Oscar Boruchin


In Loving Memory of

Nieves Olemberg

Jeremy & Lisette Goldstein



In Loving Memory of

Sam (Sunny) Goldstein

Shmuel Yaakov ben
Zvi Hersch

Happy Anniversary

Moshe Eliyahu and

Barbara Growald


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