Wednesday, December 7, 2016

PARSHAS VAYETZEI 5777

STAM TORAH
PARSHAS VAYETZEI 5777
 “THE BIGGEST FOOL”

Alice had volunteered to bake a cake for the Ladies' Group but forgot to do it until the last minute. She remembered on the morning of the bake sale and panicked. After rummaging through cabinets, she found an angel food cake mix and quickly made it while drying her hair, dressing, and helping her son pack up for school.
When Alice took the cake from the oven, the center had dropped flat and the cake was horribly disfigured. She said, "Oh dear, there isn't enough time to bake another cake." This cake was important to Alice because she wanted to fit in with her new community of friends.
Being innovative, she looked around the house for something to build up the center of the cake. She took a roll of bathroom paper and plunked it in and then covered it with icing. Ironically the finished product looked beautiful.
Before she left the house to drop the cake by the bake sale and head for work, Alice woke her daughter Amanda. She gave her some money and specific instructions to be at the bake sale the moment it opened at 9:30 and to buy the cake and bring it home.
When Amanda arrived at the sale however, the attractive cake had already been sold. Amanda grabbed her cell phone and called her mom. Alice was beside herself. Everyone would know!
What would they think? She would be ostracized, talked about, ridiculed! All night, Alice lay awake in bed thinking about people pointing fingers at her and talking about her behind her back.
The next day, Alice promised herself that she would try not to think about the cake and that she would attend the fancy luncheon at the home of a neighbor and try to have a good time. Alice did not really want to attend because the hostess was a snob, but having already sent her RSVP, she couldn't think of a credible excuse to stay home.
The meal was elegant, and the company was upper class. Then to Alice's horror, the cake in question was presented for dessert! Alice felt the blood drain from her body when she saw the cake! She started out of her chair to tell the hostess all about it, but before she could get to her feet, the Mayor's wife said, "What a beautiful cake!"
Alice still stunned, sat back in her chair when she heard the hostess say, "Thank you, I baked it myself."

Forced to flee the wrath of his brother Eisav, Yaakov sought refuge in the home of his brother-in-law, Lavan, in Charan. The Medrash[1] relates that despite the fact that Lavan was legendary for being wily and duplicitous, Yaakov was not intimidated or afraid of living in his home. “If for deceit he is coming, then I am his brother (i.e. rival) in deceit. And if he is a decent person then I too am a decent person.”  
From the Torah’s account of Yaakov’s experiences in Lavan’s home however, one can’t help but feel that Yaakov’s confidence was somewhat misplaced. Lavan in fact duped Yaakov in a most egregious fashion. After Yaakov specified that he would toil ceaselessly and tirelessly on Lavan’s behalf for seven years so that he could marry his younger daughter Rachel, Lavan successfully manipulated Yaakov to end up with his older daughter Leah. The incident is even more intriguing because Yaakov was wary of the fact that Lavan would try to accomplish that switch. How was Yaakov able to be fooled by Lavan? What happened to Yaakov’s assertion that, “I am his brother in deceit”?
Rabbi Sholom Shwadron zt’l explained that in order to understand what truly occurred one must first understand who Lavan really was. The Medrash relates that Lavan was known as “Lavan Ha’arami”. Although the term simply means “Lavan the Armenian”, there is a deeper meaning and significance of his ignoble title.
The Medrash relates that at the wedding when Yaakov (unwittingly) married Leah, Lavan duped his entire town. Lavan gathered all of the townsfolk and told them, ‘You know that we have had a water shortage, and that since this righteous one (Yaakov) has arrived we have enjoyed bountiful water’. He then revealed to them his deceitful plan to cause Yaakov to marry Leah which would force Yaakov to stay for an additional seven years in order to marry his coveted Rachel. To ensure that no one would reveal the plan to Yaakov, Lavan solicited from every person in town an object for security. He then took all of those expensive objects, sold them, and used the proceeds to pay for the wedding. Anyone who wanted back his security had to purchase it from the storeowner who had accepted it as payment.
The Medrash concludes, “Woe! Why was he called Lavan[2] Ha’arami? Because he deceived[3] his entire village.”
Based on the aforementioned story, we must wonder why he is termed “the deceitful one” and not “the wicked one”? It would seem that tricking one’s own neighbors and friends is not only sly but blatantly malicious and evil?
We must also wonder how Lavan had the temerity to do what he did. Did he have absolutely no conscience whatsoever, as to be able to hoodwink those who he was closest with? Even the most imbecilic individual would have more sense than to swindle all of his friends on the night of his daughter’s wedding, and then dance and dine with them using the money he stole from them?
Rabbi Schwadron explained that the Torah defines people based on their true inner self. The commentaries expend great effort to explain the details and particulars of individual behavior. But the Torah pinpoints the origin, the source of all of an individual’s life behaviors and experiences.
Eisav is dubbed ‘Eisav the wicked’ because wickedness and cruelty was his core shortcoming. Indeed, he committed many crimes out of desire for money and hatred for holiness, but at his core was an unconquered moral depravity and corruptness.
Lot is dubbed the ‘desiring one’ because ultimately it was his lusts and desires that prevented him from reaching greatness. Although he too committed sins as a member of Sodom that could be viewed as wicked he is called the ‘desiring one’ because that was his primary inadequacy.
Lavan too committed many acts that made him deserving of many alternate titles. But the Torah reveals to us that the primary catalyst of his behavior was his unrestrained deceitfulness.
Although Lavan was innately a man of deceit the true depth of his treachery lay in the fact that his greatest victim was… himself![4] Whenever Lavan conjured up a new plan of action, a new way to solicit money or goods from a hapless victim, he immediately justified his actions in his own mind. So seduced was he by his own schemes and machinations that he wholly convinced himself that what he was doing was not only not a sin but it was the proper course of action. He was absolutely sure that what he did is what needed to be done at that time and in that situation.   
It is in that sense that Lavan is titled[5] “the father of all charlatans”. Lavan was not merely the master charlatan, he was in a league of his own. Because he so convinced himself of the veracity of his cause and motives his deceit knew no limits. That was why he was able to dupe his entire city and then dance with them at the wedding which they paid for. That was also why he was able to turn to his daughter at her own wedding and tell her to go back home because her sister was going home with the groom.
When Yaakov entered the home of Lavan he declared that he was prepared to deal with the trickery of Lavan and he was confident that he would not fall prey to Lavan’s deceit. But Yaakov failed to realize that he was not dealing with a charlatan - at least not in Lavan’s mind. Yaakov was wise and wary enough to outfox Lavan’s antics and foibles but Lavan did not present with antics and foibles. In Lavan’s own mind he was genuine and sincere, truly believing he was justified in all that he did. Yaakov had no way to rival a person who felt he was righteous and just.
When Yaakov indeed confronted Lavan and asks him, “Why have you deceived me?” Lavan did not even acknowledge the accusation. Instead he responded, “That is not the way it is done in our places, to give the younger one before the older one.” Lavan’s response reverses the accusation onto Yaakov, as if to criticize him for trying to breach the communal custom.
Arguing with Lavan was an exercise in futility. There can be no negotiation or discussion with an evildoer who believes he is righteous.

My Rebbe, Rabbi Berel Wein, often relates that the events that the Torah records are not ancient history. We encounter the likes of Lot, Lavan, and Eisav in our everyday lives. We have to analyze and contemplate the ways in which the Patriarchs dealt with each of these challenging individuals to understand how we must respond as well.
On a deeper and more profound level we must realize that there is a bit of Lavan, Lot, and Eisav within ourselves. It is incumbent upon us to learn from these epoch narratives how we can grow and overcome our own shortcomings.

In an article entitled, “Torah Revitalized: Writing A New Chapter[6], the Los Angeles Times reports that a congregation in Northridge, California is undertaking the rectification of an ancient Torah scroll. The Torah is over 300 years old, having survived the Holocaust. After lying in a deserted warehouse with many other abandoned scrolls for over three decades in a deserted synagogue in Prague, it was rescued by a British philanthropist. One scroll eventually made its way to the congregation in California where to date it is used very rarely because of its fragile state. When it is fixed, it will be used more regularly.
The leader of the congregation is quoted as saying, “Torahs are meant to be used… read from… and studied from. Restoring the Torah shows the commitment we have to keeping a Torah in kosher condition, in working order, so we can read, learn, and study from it.”
What I found intriguing about the touching story is that the congregation belongs to a Reform Temple. How incongruous that they are looking to a restore a scroll, whose content they distort! How ironic that they will beautify the words which read “Remember the day of Shabbos to sanctify it” while they themselves do not observe the holy day according to the dictates of that scroll[7].
It must be said that we gain little by pointing out the foibles of our well-meaning, yet grossly misguided brethren. The truth is we have to take a candid look at ourselves to determine how/when we delude ourselves!  How often do we convince ourselves that what we are doing is proper, when others (and perhaps even the Torah) do not view it that way?
Yaakov was able and ready to counter all of Lavan’s ploys, but even he could not outwit a person who was convinced his actions were righteous and pure.
Sometimes the person we fool most is ourselves!

“I am his brother in deceit”
“The father of all charlatans”


Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW
Rabbi, Kehillat New Hempstead
Rebbe/Guidance Counselor – ASHAR
Principal – Ohr Naftoli- New Windsor




[1] Bereishis Rabba  70:13
[2] “Lavan” means white. He would commit all of his antics and yet show a face of innocence and purity, as if he was white and pure (see Medrash 60:8).
[3] A ‘ramai’ is a deceitful individual.
[4] Rabbi Shwadron explains that “Arami” is a verb, as in who is deceitful to others. But “Ha’arami” is a noun, connoting one who is himself a deceived person… deceived by himself.
[5] Tanchuma, beginning of parshas Vayishlach
[6] The article is dated October 16, 2010
[7] I surely do not mean to denigrate what the congregation is doing. It is a beautiful idea to restore a Torah scroll to its glory. But it is unquestionably a far greater, and more important, restoration of the beauty of Torah to renew commitment to its laws. 

Friday, December 2, 2016

Hesped for Rav Aharon Kotler

Dear All,

Below is a hesped (eulogy) that my Zaydei, Rav Yaakov Meir Kohn, gave for his rebbe, Rav Aharon Kotler zt'l, whose yahrtzeit is tonight - 2 Kislev. 
[It is also the yahrtzeit of the Lakewood Mashgiach, Rav Nosson Wachtfogel zt'l.]

I sent this hesped out a few years ago in honor of my Zaydei's yahrtzeit. I happened to chance upon it tonight, and so I am sending it again in honor of the yahrtzeit of one of the foremost builders of Torah in America. 
May the memory of my Zaydei and Rav Aharon zt'l be for a beracha for all of us. 


__________________________________________________


This Monday, 27 MarCheshvan, is the yahrtzeit of my Zayde, R’ Yaakov Meir ben R’ Yosef Yitzchok, Rabbi Yaakov Meir Kohn zt’l.
On the night of November 18, 1987, Zayde arrived home from a meeting of the United Jewish Council of the Lower East Side and opened his gemara and began learning. [He was a disciple of Rabbi Elchanan Wasserman zt’l hy’d in the great Yeshiva of Baranovitch and of Rabbi Aharon Kotler zt’l in the famed Yeshiva of Kletzk. Thinking he heard a knock at the door, he went to answer it. At that moment, he had a massive heart attack and was niftar with his gemara still open. 

The following is a eulogy he delivered in the shul where he was the rabbi, Congregation Anshei Slonim, in honor of the yahrtzeit of his Rebbe, Harav Aharon Kotler zt’l (2 Kislev). In attendance were two thousand b’nei torah and talmidim, including Harav Moshe Feinstein zt’l, Harav Pinchos Teitz zt’l, and Harav Shneur Kotler zt’l. The eulogy was originally delivered in Yiddish, and subsequently printed in Hebrew in Hama’aor magazine, Volume 15, Number 1 (January 1965). The English translation is my own:

Even though I am not worthy, and even though I do not have the ability to properly relate the greatness, of the tremendous personality and leadership qualities of my teacher and master, Rabbi Aharon Kotler zt’l, however because I am the Rav of this shul, and being that I am a disciple of the venerable Rosh Yeshiva, it is impossible for me not to express some sentiments and feelings about the great sage and gaon, who enlightened the entire Torah world throughout his lifetime. 
The Gemarah Sanhedrin (105) relates that when Rabbi Eliezer was ill, four great Torah scholars came to visit him. They each extolled his virtues and how valuable he was to the world. Rabbi Tarfon stated, “You are more valuable to Klal Yisroel than drops of rain because rain only nourishes in this world while you nourish your students in this world and the next world.”  Rabbi Yehoshua followed and said, “You are more valuable to Klal Yisroel than the sun itself because the sun shines in this world while you shine in this world and the next world.” Finally, Rabbi Eliezer ben Azaryah said, “You are more valuable to Klal Yisroel than parents because one’s parents bring him into this world while you bring your disciples into this world and the next world.”
What is the meaning of the aforementioned statements of the holy Tana’im by stating that Rabbi Eliezer’s value is greater than rain, the sun, and one’s parents?
It is well known that in order for any seed, and subsequently any plant, to sprout and produce fruit, there must be proper exposure to sun as well as sufficient rain. However, there is a difference between how the sun affects a plant versus how rain affects a plant. The sun remains in its place millions of miles away from earth and only its rays reach the earth. The sun itself has no relationship, so-to-speak, with the plants and trees on earth. Rain on the other hand, traverses the distance from the rain clouds to the earth, and the raindrop itself enters the plants and trees.
Both rain and sun however, can only ‘fulfill their mission’ of nourishing life on earth if seeds were pre-planted in the earth. The sun and rain cannot create those seeds. The concept of creating seed from nothing in order to reproduce life is only accomplished by parents. It is only after the ‘parent-fruit’ has produced seeds, which are then planted in the ground, that the rain and sun can be effective.
Rabbi Yehoshua declared to Rabbi Eliezer that he is greater than the sun. The sun heats and lights up the world with its powerful rays, but Rabbi Eliezer’s warmth enlightens this world and the next world through his deep and penetrating wisdom. Rabbi Tarfon added that Rabbi Eliezer is not only greater than the sun which shines its light from afar, but he is even more valuable than rain. The rain which descends to the earth and fuses with the growth below becomes part of its recipient. Rabbi Eliezer is such an embracing loving Rebbe that he unites with his students; he infuses some of himself into the fabric of their souls and invests in them life in this world and the next.
Rabbi Eliezer ben Azaryah added that indeed the sun and rain are extremely valuable and vital to the perpetuation of life, but what good are the sun’s rays or rain if there are no seeds in the earth to receive the blessings from above? Rabbi Eliezer therefore, is more precious than the sun and rain; in fact, he is even more precious than parents who are the progenitors of life itself. By teaching myriads of students Torah and proper conduct in Avodas Hashem he created a generation who will seek the life giving rays of the spiritual sun and rainfall to continue to nourish their souls.
All of these praises can also be applied to our great Rosh Yeshiva, the gaon, Reb Aharon zt’l. With his insight, perception, and brilliance, he has enlightened the Torah world. However, he was not only like the sun which shines from afar but he was like the rain which bonds with its recipients. He became involved, and cared for the welfare of every student and worried for them so much that their premonitions and anxieties became his concerns as well.

Let us analyze a few more sayings of Chazal that will help us further relate the personality of our Rebbe, the Rosh Yeshiva zt’l:
The Gemarah Bava Basra (94a) quotes Rav Chanan bar Rav who said in the name of Rav that on the day that Avrohom Avinu was niftar, all of the respected personalities from every nation stood in a line and declared, “Woe is to the world that has lost its leader! Woe is to the ship that has lost its captain!”
When a doctor sees a patient, the doctor will try hard to cure his patient. However, the doctor is well aware that his own life is not in danger. On the other hand, a captain at sea is on the same ship that the passengers are on and therefore, if their lives are in any sort of danger his life is in danger as well. Therefore, the efforts of the captain on the ship to ensure the safety of his passengers will be far more intense than the efforts of the doctor standing behind the operating table operating on his patient.
The Rosh Yeshiva was truly like the captain of a ship. He felt inextricably bound to his many students and his soul was intertwined with theirs. This was especially true because he personally shared their pain because of the massive and unspeakable losses which they suffered.
When the Rosh Yeshiva arrived on the shores of America, there was a massive deficiency in Torah study. There was hardly anyone who was dedicated to in-depth, analytical, penetrating Torah study. There were hardly any students who were interested in learning from the great Rosh Yeshiva.
It was at that point, that he began his final phase of greatness as a Rebbe, i.e. he became like a parent to his students. He dedicated himself to creating an army of disciples and was committed to planting seeds of people who would commit themselves to the ideals of serving G-d with their entire soul and being moser nefesh for Torah study.
At this point, there began another transition in the life of the Rosh Yeshiva. Rain does not only fall on plants and trees but it also falls on pavement, causing roads to become sullied. So too, the Rosh Yeshiva committed himself to lowering himself into the mud in order to draw out those who would support and help strengthen the Yeshiva.             
The pasuk (Shemos 18:21) says, “And you shall search from among the people, men of valor; those who fear G-d, men of truth, who hate insincerity, officers of thousands, officers of hundreds, officers of fifty, and officers of ten.” In every generation, there were elite Jews who were repulsed by money because they felt it had no value. The Rosh Yeshiva zt’l grew up with those feelings as well. But here in America, in order to sustain the yeshiva he was forced to busy himself with money. How much degradation and humiliation did he suffer because of money! How much time did he have to waste in order to procure the necessary finances to upkeep the yeshiva! This too, is part of the reason why the efforts of the Rosh Yeshiva are analogous to rain. Often he was forced to lower himself into the muck, just like the rain which falls and creates mud. Still-in-all, he remained as dedicated as always, constantly shining his ethereal light upon his students.

What is the point of reciting kaddish? The commentators explain that we recite kaddish in order to fulfill our mission in coming to this world, i.e. to sanctify and promote the Name of G-d. The Navi (Yeshaya 43:7) expresses this idea, “Whoever is called by My Name and for My Honor, I have created him, I fashioned him, I made him.”  Thus, when a Jew passes away from this world the sanctity and holiness that he produced in his lifetime is lost. Therefore, the deceased’s son arises and declares, “Yisgadal v’yiskadash sh’may rabbah- May His Great Name be made Great and Holy.” It is as if the son is saying, “Father, you have departed to the next world. Therefore we commit ourselves to continuing your holy work of sanctifying G-d’s Holy Name so that once again, his Name will be sanctified and made great.”
The Rosh Yeshiva is no longer with us! There is no one who can fill his shoes! There is no one who can sanctify the name of G-d with his passion and vitality. It is now incumbent upon us, with our feeble abilities, to carry the Rosh Yeshiva on our shoulders, by continuing his holy work and efforts.
Yisgadal v’yiskadash sh’mey rabbah!


My aunt related that the only time she ever saw her father (‘Zayde’) cry was when he was informed of Reb Aharon’s passing. The eulogy he related was truly from the heart. Zayde, who was orphaned at a young age, truly viewed the Rosh Yeshiva as a father figure.

Yisgadal v’yiskadash sh’mey rabbah!
T’hay nafsho tz’rurah b’tzror hachaim!       

Thursday, December 1, 2016

New Series of Parenting Workshops


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PARSHAS TOLDOS 5777

STAM TORAH
PARSHAS TOLDOS 5777
 “PRAYER FOR CLARITY”

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean-favored and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
"Good Morning!" and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich, yes, richer than a king,
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine -- we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked and waited for the light,
And went without the meat and cursed the bread,
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet in his head.
Edwin Arlington Robinson



After years of prayers and tears, G-d finally hearkens to the prayers of Yitzchak and Rivka and Rivka becomes pregnant. “The children struggled within her, and she said, ‘If so, why am I thus?’ And she went to inquire of G-d. And G-d said to her, ‘Two nations are in your womb; two regimes from your insides shall be separated; the might shall pass from one regime to the other, and the elder shall serve the younger’.[1]
It is clear that this ordeal was not simply a matter of Rivka being unable to tolerate the intense pains of pregnancy. Rivka understood that the children she would bear would be responsible for the continuity of the traditions and lifestyle of her husband and father-in-law. Therefore, when she sensed an incongruity in the child’s behavior while yet in the womb she panicked.
When the children were born, their diverse personalities were immediately apparent. “Esav became one who knows trapping, a man of the field; But Yaakov was a wholesome man, abiding in tents (of Torah)[2].” The Torah relates that, ironically, Yitzchok possessed an uncanny love for Esav, while Rivka loved Yaakov.
Rabbi Meir Shapiro zt’l explains that Rivka’s prenatal concerns and the subsequent seeming preferential love that Rivka and Yitzchak had for their sons, is inextricably connected to the seminal first encounter between them.
“Yitzchak went out to speak in the field towards evening and he raised his eyes and saw, and behold camels were coming! And Rivka raised her eyes and saw Yitzchak; and she fell off from on the camel[3].” 
The Medrash[4] explains that Yitzchak’s ‘speech’ was actually prayer, as the gemara[5] relates, “Avrohom enacted the morning prayers, Yitzchak enacted the afternoon prayers, Yaakov enacted the evening prayers.”
A Jew stands in prayer before his creator three times every day, to ask for his needs, and to strengthen his faith in G-d. In addition, Rabbi Meir Shapiro explains that the three time-periods of prayer symbolize three eras of time in Jewish history.
The morning prayers recited when the sun is rising and the world begins to illuminate symbolizes the golden ages of our people, when our monarchy was established, the Temple stood in Jerusalem, and the Torah was abided. Conversely, the evening prayers symbolize the most ominous times in our history when things were bleak and dark during the many periods of destruction and exile that we have endured.
These two periods do not detract us from prayer. When life is good and we are physically and spiritually secure we call out to G-d in thanksgiving, and clearly feel his embrace. When we feel frightened and forlorn we cry out to G-d for salvation and redemption, knowing that we have no else to turn to but Him. Dovid Hamelech expressed these two sentiments when he declared[6], “Pain and sorrow I have encountered, and the Name of G-d I will call; A chalice of salvation I will raise and the Name of G-d I will call.”  Both in times of sorrow and salvation we turn to G-d.
However, there is an interim period that is neither day nor night. This is time that our Sages refer to as bain hashmashos (twilight). The day has begun to wane and the sun is making its rapid descent beneath the horizon, but the darkness of night has not yet shrouded the skies. It a period of confusion; it is neither day nor night, but a reality of its own.
This period of the day reflects the periods in our history of spiritual befuddlement and confusion. It is a time when we enjoy certain freedoms and widening of our limitations, yet at the same time there are some very precarious and perilous ensnarements that we must be wary of.
It was during this precarious period that Yitzchak went out to the field to pray. The Mincha prayer is recited in the afternoon as the day is waning but the night has not yet arrived. It was Yitzchak - who personifies spiritual strength and is undaunted by the luring temptations of this world - who is able to pray and connect himself to his Creator during that time of day.
As Rivka approached from afar with Eliezer and noticed Yitzchak in the distance, the verse relates that she was riding a camel. A camel is one of the few animals which possess one of the symbols that render an animal kosher but not the other[7]. In that sense the camel represents the time period of perplexity - when the boundaries of pure and impure can become obscured. It is while camels approach in the distance that Yitzchak recites Mincha to strengthen within himself the demarcation between light and dark, pure and impure.
Rivka, truly worthy of her role as the great Matriarch, realized the symbolism of this dynamic encounter. She understood the time period for which Yitzchak prayed and she was seized with fright. When things are unclear and the boundaries become clouded it is ever so much harder to maintain one’s faith. Thus, “she fell off from on the camel,” she feared the consequences of a world symbolized by the camel and how hard it would be to maintain faith during that time. 
When Rivka became pregnant and realized that within her womb was both a penchant for good and for evil, the fear she felt at the time of her initial encounter with Yitzchak were reawakened. She feared that she had a child who would be confused, possessing both a desire for greatness and an insatiable craving for sin. She feared that her child would be unable to withstand such an inner challenge and so she sought the Word of G-d.
Yitzchak however was undaunted by what occurred. He did not share his wife’s fears of what might become of such a child, because he personally was able to withstand such confusion.
Rivka was then informed that there were in fact two different children – two different worlds – that would emerge from her womb. Despite the pain of hearing that one of her children would be inclined towards evil, Rivka was assuaged. She understood that a child who sets out on an evil path may one day repent and return, but a child who is befuddled may never realize how spiritually ill he is and may never repent.
The difference in outlook between Yitzchak and Rivka manifested itself in their relationship with their children. Yitzchak, the symbol of strength and spiritual control, saw the potential within Eisav and so he loved him and wanted to give him the blessings to help keep him true to his mission and destiny. But Rivka who grew up in the lap of wickedness and sin understood that Eisav would be unable to withstand the tests he would face and so she loved Yaakov, who possessed the light of Torah and its study.  

Shacharis is recited before one engages in his daily affairs while Ma’ariv is recited after one has concluded his work and is returning home. Many people have fixed study sessions before leaving to work and many have in the evening after a full day at the office. But Mincha is recited in the middle of the day. While we are in the middle of engaging in our daily pursuits replete with meetings, deadlines, phone-calls, etc. we have an obligation to put everything on hold so that we can spend a few moments in quite meditation and reflection praying to G-d. That is the prayer of Yitzchak, the clarity of prayer in midst confusion and distraction.
 This idea should sound very familiar to us because our world is “a world of Mincha”. In the Western World we enjoy freedoms and comforts that our ancestors could hardly dream of. We have achieved notoriety, success, and wealth that no previous generation has. At the same time our generation is spiritually feeble and in grave danger. The insidious distractions of the outside world have crept into our communities and our lives and threaten us very deeply.
  
There are so many examples of this idea. Perhaps this is most clearly symbolized by the internet, which today is ubiquitous. There is so much value on the internet, including endless amounts of Torah – audio, video, and written. Yet at the same time the dangers of the internet hardly need to be enumerated. There is no more glaring example of a confusion of the greatest good and the greatest evil.
It was of challenges such as this that caused Rivka to fall off her camel. Yitzchak taught us that at such times we must pray Mincha.
The gemara says that Elyahu HaNavi’s prayers were answered specifically during the Mincha prayers. We are answered then as well – specifically because it is so hard to concentrate and focus at that time of day, when we are engaged in our daily affairs and business.

“Yitzchak went out to speak in the field”
“Rivka fell off from on the camel”


Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW
Rabbi, Kehillat New Hempstead
Rebbe/Guidance Counselor – ASHAR
Principal – Ohr Naftoli- New Windsor





[1] 25:22-23
[2] Ibid, v. 27
[3] 24:63-64
[4] Bereishis Rabbah 60:14
[5] Berachos 27b
[6] Tehillim 116
[7] A camel chews its cud but does not have split hooves