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V'etchanan (Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING! Life is filled with challenges and difficulties in getting along with others - family, friends, fellow workers. How can one successfully defuse a situation and find a creative solution?

Many a person's first reaction is: "He can't do that to me. It's not right. He should do the right thing!" We first look to blame others. There is an old Jewish proverb: The Almighty gave us two eyes - one a telescope to see the faults of others from afar; the second, a microscope to see our own faults.

The First Rule: Determine the reality of the situation. Whose fault is it? Am I culpable in any way? Why is the Almighty bringing ME this situation? What am I supposed to do to pass this test and to learn from this predicament? These questions put the situation in perspective and soften the emotions.

Too many people initially seek "justice and righteousness" - which often means seeking revenge. Instead of sweet and fulfilling, it ends badly and is destructive for everyone. There is an old adage, "He who seeks revenge should dig two graves."

Luckily for us, the Torah commands us, "You shall not take revenge nor bear a grudge against the children of your people" (Leviticus 19:18). Not only is revenge a bad idea, it's forbidden! Pirkei Avos, Ethics of the Fathers, teaches "Who is mighty? He who subdues his passions, as it is written (Proverbs 16:32) 'One who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and one whose temper is controlled than one who captures a city' ".

The Second Rule: Look at the possible solutions and their outcomes. This is where a person sees that all of those "solutions" that seem so "sweet" actually end in bodily harm and/or jail! Be creative to find a win-win answer. Success is measured by looking at the results of your actions.

Here's an example: A condo neighbor has the air conditioner drainage hose dripping from her balcony to the parking spot below - onto your car! You have politely asked her to move it, but she has forgotten and your car is being covered in a slurry mess as the water mixes with the dust to make your car look like modern art. Let your imagination go wild. How would you feel? What would you think? What would you like to do? Yell at her? Scream? Call the police? Write a letter to the condo board?

One clever fellow had this problem. What did he do? He brought her flowers! She was completely baffled. "Why are you giving me flowers?" The man softly said, "You're a good neighbor ... and I really appreciate your efforts to keep your air conditioner from draining on my car." She thanked him and shut the door a bit confused. However, never again did she forget to move the hose. It is very difficult to get angry at someone who brings you a gift!

Sometimes a problem can be dealt with by making a paradigm shift -looking at it from a different direction. In some locales, you may have noticed that there seems to be a lot more horn honking. It can be disconcerting.

However, my good friend Marc Singer, put the honking in a different light. "It's a cultural difference. When the person behind you is honking, he's really saying, 'Good morning, my beloved friend. I hope you slept well. Just in case you are feeling a little drowsy, I want you to know that the light is about to change so you won't miss it and be late to where you are going. Have a wonderful day!' " Driving has been oh so more pleasant since I realized that's what the honking really means.

The purpose of life is not to be comfortable. The Almighty did not put us in this world so that we can cruise through with all of the comforts of life, no pain, no challenges and then to die peacefully under a beach umbrella with a piîa colada in hand. The Almighty placed us in this world to face challenges, to perfect our character and to grow spiritually. That's why life is filled with challenges. It is our choice whether to view the challenges as obstacles or stepping stones!

For more on "Life Challenges" go to!


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Torah Portion of the Week

Moshe pleads with God to enter the Holy Land, but is turned down. (Remember, God always answers your prayers - sometimes with a "yes," sometimes with a "no" ... and sometimes with a "not yet".) Moshe commands the Children of Israel not to add or subtract from the words of the Torah and to keep all of the Commandments. He then reminds them that God has no shape or form and that we should not make or worship idols of any kind.

The cities of Bezer, Ramot and Golan are designated as Cities of Refuge east of the Jordan river. Accidental murderers can escape there to avoid revengeful relatives. They then await there until tried.

The Ten Commandments are repeated to the whole Jewish people. Moshe then expounds the Shema, affirming the unity of God, Whom all should love and transmit His commandments to the next generation. A man should wear Tefillin upon the arm and head. All Jews should put a Mezuzah (the scroll is the essential part) upon each doorpost of their home (except the bathroom).

Moshe then relays the Almighty's command not to intermarry "for they will lead your children away from Me" (Deut. 7:3-4).

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Love Your Neighbor by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

"And you shall do that which is right and good in the sight of the Lord" (Deuteronomy 6:18).

What does this verse come to teach us?

The Ramban, Nachmanides, cites the words of our Sages who explain that this verse exhorts us to go beyond the dictates of the law in our dealings with our fellow human beings. The Ramban adds that this is a very great principle, since it is impossible for the Torah to actually list every last detail as to how a person should behave with his neighbors and friends.

The Talmud (Bava Metzia 30b) states that Jerusalem was destroyed because its inhabitants failed to go beyond the letter of the law. Rabbi Zalman of Volozhin explained that this alone was not the cause of the destruction, for they had other transgressions as well. However, had they gone beyond the letter of the law in dealing with others, God would have gone beyond the letter of the law in dealing with them. Consequently, Jerusalem would have been saved (Toldos Odom).

Rabbi Eliyahu Lopian used to cite this passage during the month of Elul (the month preceding Rosh Hashanah). He added that before Rosh Hashanah everyone tries to find extra merits. From here we see that the most effective merit is to go beyond the letter of the law in our dealings with others (Lev Eliyahu).

Rabbi Yosef Hurwitz, Rosh Yeshiva of Novardok, used to say, "Someone who is lax in fulfilling matters that are beyond the obligation of the letter of the law will eventually be lax in fulfilling laws that are explicitly expressed and self-evident" (T'nuas Hamussar).


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Intellectuals solve problems;
geniuses prevent them.
--  Albert Einstein


In Memory of

Herbert Schnider

and in honor of

Muriel Schnider,
Rachel & Carlton Turner

With love,
Stuart, Liz and the girls


Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Kalman Packouz

Click here for Rabbi Packouz's bio
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