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November 15th Parsha Vayiera

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November 15th Parsha Vayiera


… We are in the parsha of Vayiera, it is the parsha of the Akeidah, the binding of Yitzchak and there are some fascinating, fascinating subjects that we need to discuss. First of all we always look for the rest of the story; find the deeper reasons and motivations for the people in the Torah doing what they do because they are after all exceptional, G-dly inspired human beings. So what’s the story with Sarah? … The angel asks Avraham “Why is Sarah laughing? Is anything impossible for G-d?” Avraham asks Sarah “Why are you laughing”, she says “I didn’t laugh.” What’s going on? Did Sarah have doubts about G-d’s ability to perform miracles? … If you look at the story, the angel comes and says “This time next year Sarah will have a child.” Sarah laughs … the angel says “Why is Sarah laughing? Is anything impossible?” And then he seems to repeat the blessing: he says “At the right time I will return and Sarah will have a child.”


When a person is offered a blessing, a miracle, he has the right to refuse or to give some condition under which the blessing would in fact be a blessing for this individual.  If to you it doesn’t sound like a blessing you can say “No, no, not that.” Sarah was saying “I sense that this blessing which I am sure is going to happen without a doubt. It sounds like I am going to have a child but not for very long.” Almost like he is going to be a miracle child; he won’t be a long lasting, physical, real, healthy long-term child. Something is wrong in this blessing and she laughed as if to say “A temporary blessing? That’s not a blessing.” So her laughter was not mockery. Her laughter was not coming from doubt or from cynicism. It was coming from the angle or the opinion that a temporary blessing is not a true blessing. In other words, what is temporary is not real. And as a mature and profound thinker – that to her would not be considered a blessing at all. So in a sense her laughter was demanding or lobbying for a healthy child who would last long. In other words, she was anticipating the Akeidah. It sounded like G-d will give but G-d will also take it back. To that the angel said “Is anything impossible for G-d? If that’s your condition, then fine. He will live long.” In fact, when the time comes, not this time next year, the blessing is not being repeated. The angel is saying “When the time comes, I will come to you, and Sarah will have a child.” What he is saying is “I will come to you – Avraham – and thereby Sarah will have her child.” Why doesn’t he come to Sarah if it’s part of the blessing? But there exactly is the rub. Sarah knew and was correct – a blessing has to be given face to face, person to person …  up close and personal is the only right way to give a blessing. So Sarah was a little disturbed by the fact that the angel was talking to Avraham about her.  See if the angel was giving Avraham a blessing, “You will have a child” that would be fine. If he’s talking to Sarah, “You will have a child” that is fine but he is talking to Avraham and he says this time next year Sarah will have a child,” and Sarah says, “Oh – that doesn’t sound good. It’s a blessing but it’s not a full blessing.” So now when the angel says “At the appointed time I will come to you, to Avraham, and Sarah will have her child. What he is saying is when the Akeidah takes place and you are about to sacrifice Yitzchak, I will come to you, to Avraham on the mountain and I will stop you and Sarah will have her child” not give birth to a child. In other words what Sarah is asking for, what she is lobbying for, she will get.


You may have heard the way that Sarah passed away is that she heard about the event… and from shock, she died. If you look a little deeper, she was 127. It’s not like she passed away before her time. She was seven years over the limit. So another way of understanding it is, she knew that Avraham was going to take Yitzchak to the Akeidah and she also knew the angel promised it wouldn’t happen and so she held her breath and when she heard it didn’t happen, that the angel did in fact come to Avraham and stop him, then she could die in peace. But she would not die until she made sure that Yitzchak was fine.


Which explains another interesting thing. G-d tells Av to sacrifice Yitzchak an angel comes along and says “No” and Avraham listens. Why didn’t he say to the angel “G-d told me to do this – who are you to say no? I gotta hear it from G-d Himself.” So there is in fact a Midrash that says “That when the angel came to Avraham and said don’t do this.” Avraham said “Who are you?” Tzadikim are greater than angels; they’re not impressed easily by an angel. He says “Who are you?” The angel said “Don’t you recognize me? I promised Sarah that his would not happen.” In other words it was part of the blessing that Yitzchak would live long and the Akeidah would only be a trial and a test and would not happen. So it turns out that Sarah with her insight into the way a bracha works, actually lobbied for her child before he was even conceived and succeeded and Yitzchak lived a long life. Just another example of how if we look deeper, we find a whole new world. Not just a spin on an old story but a whole new world … so it’s a truly a divine story. Every detail fits.

Why Does Judaism Allow Divorce?

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Why does Judaism allow divorce? If the Torah says that the person we marry is our soul mate, why then
does the Torah create a process for divorce? Doesn’t the Catholic position make more sense?
God not only allowing, but creating a holy process for divorce is a wonderful thing, and an amazing
lesson to us.
God tells us that the person we marry is our soul mate, which means that he or she is the person that
God needs us to be married to. But, God says, even though I need you to be married to this person, if it’s
too painful for you, I will get you out of it. God is saying that our pain is more important to him than his
Perhaps, if we took this lesson to heart, in some cases divorce wouldn’t be necessary.


Seeing vs Listening

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In relationships, there’s a big difference between “seeing” and “listening.”

When we see someone, we do no get to know them for who they are, we just see their beauty. And although beauty is exiting and enjoyable, there is not connection.  But when we listen to someone, we hear them, without distraction.
This is why at Mount Sinai, when the Jews demanded to see God, God refused. God insisted on speaking to them people. He was saying: “I don’t want to impress you with my glory, i want you to listen to me!”
This is how God has taught us to live. This is why the Torah tells us to dress in ways that stimulate listening, instead of seeing.

What significance do we have in the eyes of God?

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What significance do we have in the eyes of God? After all, His is the only opinion that really matters.
God gave us life. God gave us our existence. God continues to sustain and support us. Does that mean that we are significant? If God created us, then surely we must be important.
But the truth is, God giving us life doesn’t give us our ultimate importance, although it does give us some importance.
When someone gives a gift to another, they shows how important the other is to him/her. But when someone gives as a gift something which is already precious to them, that is the real compliment. They are showing the other that they are more important to them than something which is very precious to them.
What is most precious to God are the Mitzvot.
When God gives us life, he signals our importance to an extant. But when he gives us his precious Mitzvot, that is the real compliment. He is showing us that we are more dear to him than anything.

Help Your Spouse Keep Secrets

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It is very healthy for couples to respect each other’s privacy.

One of the most important duties of a spouse, is to help his/her spouse protect his/her dignity. Part of that is helping the spouse protect his/her secrets.

There will inevitably be things that a spouse will feel uncomfortable sharing. Our job is to protect that sensitive area, and help our spouse keep it private.

People put up psychological curtains to hide and protect certain sensitive information and emotions. Tearing down your partners curtains is wrong. It is not right to poke around where we are not invited.

Our responsibility to each other is to be sensitive to each other’s sensitivities, not to try to fix them. To fix them is a therapist’s job, not a spouse’s.

When we marry someone, we marry all of them, including theirs masks, curtains, and sensitivities.

How Can Selfish Humans Have A Relationship?

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Humans are selfish beings by nature, we all look after ourselves, we are constantly protecting ourselves. We get offended, and we offend easily. So what makes relationships possible?

The Tanya says that we have two souls, a Godly Soul, and an Animal Soul. The Godly Soul is eternal and holy. The Animal Soul is mortal and unholy.
Because the Animal Soul is mortal, it is insecure. It knows it’s existence will end, and even while it does exist, it’s existence is limited and empty, unlike the Godly Soul which is literally a part of God. This is why we get offended so easily. Any time we are made light of and are not taken seriously, our reaction is exaggerated by our Animal Soul’s constant insecurity.
But in truth, it’s even worse. Not only does an insult awaken fear and insecurity in our Animal Soul, the very existence of another offends our Animal Soul, because it highlights the limits to the Animal Soul’s existence.
The only way the Animal Soul can have a relationship with another is if the other becomes a satellite of, and is dominated by, us. But that is a toxic relationship that will make both worse.
How then are relationships possible?
The only way we can have a real relationship, is if we value our own Godly Soul more than our Animal Soul. If we value the immortal part of ourselves more than our mortal part, then we won’t be threatened by others, and only then we can have a relationship.
In other words, if we value the eternal and holy values that we have over the earthly and mortal parts, we can have a real relationship.

In order to have relationships, we must raise our spiritual values above the material. And that is what Judaism is all about.

Why I Can’t Shake Your Hand

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The Torah tells us that men and women who are not related should not engage in any physical contact, no hugs, no handshakes, not even a high five.

Why is that?
The Torah tells us that physical contact between men and women is intimate, and therefore must be reserved for family only.
In the modern world we don’t see it that way. Today physical contact between the sexes has become mundane and commonplace. Men and women shake hands without giving it a second thought.
But that is not a good thing. We need more intimacy, not less.
The more intimacy we bring into the family, the healthier our families will be.

Genesis: The Real Genesis.

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In English, we call Bereshit, the first book of the Five Books of Moses, “Genesis.”
However, it is an imperfect translation.
Bereshit means “In the Genesis,” or “In the beginning.”
The difference is, that “In the Beginning” means that it is not “The Beginning”. It happened in the beginning, but it is not the beginning.
The book of Bereshit begins with the story of creation, but creation was not the beginning, creation happened in the beginning.
The true genesis, the true beginning, was God’s plan and vision for the world.
Creation happened after, and as a result of, God’s desire.
If we are the beginning of it all, then our existence is a given.
But we are not the beginning. The story of the universe starts before we come onto the stage.
When we think of the creation of man as “the beginning,” we take our own existence for granted, when really, we didn’t have to exist. The world didn’t have to exist. We are only here because God has a plan and purpose for us.
It’s not that “we existed, and then God came along and told us to do stuff.”
It’s “God wanted something, and so he brought us into existence and told us how to do what he made us to do.”

Why can’t we serve God our own way?

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Why can’t we serve God our own way? Why do we need to follow rigid rules?

Serving God our own way would be good if God didn’t need to be served.
If God doesn’t need anything than we can serve God by giving him whatever we want.
But if God does want something, then we serve him by giving him what he wants.
If God wants something from us, and we give him what we want to give, then we aren’t serving him.

Do Jews Believe In Hell?

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Do Jews believe in hell?

Jews do not believe in eternal damnation, because it has no purpose. What’s the point of making someone suffer forever and ever? Eternal pain is just cruelty, and there is no cruelty in Judaism.

What do we believe? We do believe in a hell, but it’s not payback from God. It’s a process. Hell means the process of burning away the bad in a person to bring out the good. Then, once the soul is only good, the soul leaves hell and goes to heaven. The purpose of hell is to prepare the soul for heaven.

If someone is all bad, they don’t go to hell. They don’t deserve it.

Judaism and pointless cruelty are not compatible. They cannot coexist. We need to dump ideas that promote it.