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Vayetzei 5770

Vayetzei (Genesis 28:10-32:3 )

by Kalman Packouz


GOOD MORNING! Someone once said, "The problem with the rat race is that even if you win, you're still a rat!" We live in hectic times. Perhaps more hectic, intense, frenzied, pressured, multi-tasking, pulled in all directions at once than any time in history. With the cell phone, blackberry, instant messaging, WI-Fi we are connected 24 hours a day. Even our vacations are scheduled and crammed to milk every last experience out of our time away from the grind. Is it true that he who dies with the most toys wins? Is this life? Running on a treadmill and only getting off when you fall off dead?

For thousands of years the Jewish people have had the secret to balancing life - Shabbat! One day a week from before sunset on Friday to after the stars come out Saturday night the Jewish people have celebrated Shabbat ("Shabbat" in Sephardic pronunciation of Hebrew; "Sabbath" in English). For 24 hours no telephone, no televisions, no traffic, no rushing. Shabbat is a time to reconnect to the Almighty, to things spiritual and to put the material world in proper perspective. For as the Almighty said, "You shall observe My Sabbaths for it is a sign between Me and you for all generations to know that I am the Lord, Who makes you holy" (Exodus 31:13).

It used to be that the norm for the Jewish people was to celebrate and observe the Shabbat. The declination in observance is not because we know more or are better educated in our heritage than our ancestors. Perhaps in secular knowledge we know more than our forebearers, but a Jew in our age can have a Ph.D. in physics and be on a kindergarten level in his Torah knowledge.

For many Jews of our generation, observing Shabbat is considered perhaps quaint, possibly medieval, even antiquated. One might hear comments like "Ridiculous! Not turn off and on lights? Not answer the telephone? It could be important!" There is even a fear amongst some non-Shabbat observers about trying to observe a Shabbat - "I'll be embarrassed because I don't know what to do! I might make a mistake!"

I'd like to paint a picture of what Shabbat is like in the mind of a Shabbat observer: All week long it's work hard, run around, accomplish ... but in the back of one's mind it's 4 days to Shabbat, it's 3 days to Shabbat, it's 2 days to Shabbat, tomorrow's Shabbat! And then on Friday, it's preparation to finish off the day's work in time to come home in time to shower, change into Shabbat clothes (what in America they used to call "Sunday go meeting clothes") and help with the last minute preparations.

Eighteen minutes before sunset, the candles are lit and if it's a mother who is lighting them she will say a special prayer and then give each of her children a blessing. A sense of peace spreads over the household. A special quiet. A spiritual warmth. That's it; the work week is over. Whatever was supposed to be accomplished was accomplished. What didn't get accomplished will just have to wait until Shabbat is over.

Shabbat has been called an Island in Time ... peace and tranquillity, a time for family and friends. A time which puts life in perspective. The Friday night meal starts with Kiddush prayer said over wine or grape juice. Then comes the motzie, the blessing for bread over the 2 Challahs. Why 2 Challahs? The Torah tells us that on Shabbat during the 40 years in the desert, we received a double portion of maneh on Friday to last through Shabbat. The meal may go on for 2 to 3 three hours starting with questions for the kids on the week's Torah portion, special Shabbat songs, words of Torah giving insights into life ... and talking and being with the ones you love! And all of that punctuated by delicious courses of food - soup, fish, salad, chicken, kugels, drinks, desserts. Shabbat is special and every effort goes into making it special, particularly the food.

Want to bring Shabbat into your life? The easiest way is to find a Shabbat observant friend and ask him if you could come for a meal. Don't be hesitant. He will be thrilled that you ask! Avraham, our forefather, had a tent with 4 doors open to all directions so that passersby could come for a meal. He instilled the value of kindness and hospitality into our Jewish nature. Probably if a friend asked if he could come to your home for a meal with your family, you would be happy; don't think your friend's reaction would be any less than yours! As you see how different families celebrate the Shabbat, you can incorporate into your own Shabbat celebration the foods, customs and even songs.

Learn about Shabbat. I highly recommend Lori Palatnik's "Friday Night and Beyond - The Shabbat Experience Step by Step." Also, search "Shabbos" and "Shabbat" on . If you want peace and happiness for your family, Shabbat will make a big difference!

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Torah Portion of the Week

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 bedekin, the lifting of the veil, at traditional weddings - to ensure one is marrying the right bride.)

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.

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Love Your Neighbor by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

"And when Rachel saw that she did not bear children to Jacob, Rachel envied her sister. (She envied her good deeds. She said, 'Were she not more righteous than I, she would not have merited sons.' - Midrash cited by Rashi) And she said to Jacob: 'Give me children, if not I am as a dead woman.' And Jacob's anger was kindled against Rachel; and he said, 'Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?' " (Genesis 30:1,2).

Why did Jacob grow angry at Rachel? What is our lesson?

Rabbi Yeruchom Levovitz cites the Sforno, who explains that Jacob grew angry at Rachel because she said, "Give me," implying that her bearing a child was dependent on Jacob, rather than on God's will. His anger was for the Almighty's honor and this took precedence even over his love for Rachel. Nevertheless, we find in the Midrash (Braishis Rabbah 71:7) that Jacob should have controlled his anger. Despite the justice of his rebuke, he should have appreciated the immensity of Rachel's suffering and not have spoken so sharply. For this lack of consideration he was punished.

The Chofetz Chaim's son wrote that his father was particularly careful not to hurt the feelings of beggars, although sometimes these unfortunate people say things that could arouse one's anger. The Sages comment in the Mechilta on Mishpatim that the prohibition against vexing a widow or an orphan includes anyone who suffers. Causing such a person even a slight discomfort is forbidden.


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Jerusalem 4:01
Guatemala 5:12 - Hong Kong 5:20 - Honolulu 5:30
J'Burg 6:25 - London 3:40 - Los Angeles 4:26
Melbourne 8:04 - Mexico City 5:38 - Miami 5:11
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It is never too soon to be kind,
for we never know how soon
it will be too late.


With Deep Appreciation to

Steven & Leslie Saiontz



Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Kalman Packouz

Click here for Rabbi Packouz's bio
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