Thursday, November 8, 2018



My rebbe, Rabbi Berel Wein, relates that during the Holocaust a Nazi in the gehtto was grabbing Jewish children off the street and throwing them into the back of a waiting truck, to cart them off to their deaths.
As he picked up one child, the youth looked defiantly at the Nazi and said, “You’re Eisav and I’m Yaakov. And even though right now you’re stronger, I would still rather be Yaakov than Eisav!”

When the Torah records the death of Avrohom Avinu it says, “And they buried him, Yitzchok and Yishmael his sons, to the cave of Machpeilah…”[2] Rashi comments that the fact that the pasuk records Yitzchak before Yishmael indicates that Yishmael allowed Yitzchak to precede him with the burial, which demonstrates that Yishamel repented.
Rav Shlomo Wolbe zt’l[3] explained that the mere fact that Yishmael allowed Yitzchak to precede him demonstrated that Yishamel recognized Yitzchok’s greatness. That realization and acceptance was itself an inextricable part of his teshuva process. The prerequisite for repentance is recalibrating one’s values and priorities.
Rabbi Wolbe continues that throughout our lives we are constantly evaluating. We evaluate whether a food is tasty and whether it’s sufficiently cooked. When we speak to people, we evaluate whether they are as smart as we are, and whether they share our viewpoints.
Every person has a different value system. What one values strongly effects the lifestyle he pursues and the kind of person he develops into.
The fact that Yishmael allowed Yitzchak to walk before him at the funeral of their father, demonstrated that Yishamel recognized Yitzchak’s primacy. That symbolized that Yishmael had altered his value system and recognized that the path of Yitzchak was more admirable than the path he had embraced until that point.

When Eisav flippantly sold the birthright to Yaakov for a bowl of lentils, he too demonstrated that his value system had changed. He no longer recognized the value of the birthright, which he now viewed disdainfully, and was more than willing to part with it. “Behold I am going to die, what is the birthright for me?”[4]
The gemara relates that on that day – the day of Avrohom Avinu’s death – Eisav had committed five cardinal sins, immorality, idolatry, murder, denial of G-d, and denial of the resurrection of the dead. The shift in his values was at the root of why he committed such severe sins.    

On the morning of November 18, 2014/26 Cheshvan 5775, two Palestinian men from Yerushalayim entered Kehilat Bnei Torah, in Har Nof , Israel, and attacked the innocent congregants with axes, knives, and a gun.
Four men were immediately killed, while donned in their talis and tefillin - Rabbi Moshe Twersky, 59, head of the Toras Moshe kollel, Rabbi Calman Levine (55), Rabbi Aryeh Kupinsky (43), and Rabbi Avraham Shmuel Goldberg (68).
One of the injured victims, Howard (Chaim) Rotman, spent nearly a year in a vegetative coma due to multiple cleaver wounds to the face and head, died of his wounds on October 23, 2015.

The following article appeared the day after the attack:
Day After Deadly Attack, Family Holds Brit at Har Nof Synagogue
  27 Heshvan 5775 – November 19, 2014

 …Even with the cloud of sadness that descended on Jerusalem’s Har Nof neighborhood, as the community mourned the gruesome murders and the bloodied synagogue, there was a spark of happiness felt – in the synagogue itself.
Shula and Dov Sorotzkin, Haredi residents of Har Nof, decided to hold the brit mila or ritual circumcision of their son, Eliyahu Meir, at the Kehillat Bnei Torah synagogue, where the attack took place 24 hours earlier.
“We woke up yesterday to the sounds of gunfire,” Dov Sorotzkin told Tazpit News Agency. The couple, who live right next to the synagogue, decided that despite the bloody attack, their synagogue was the best place to perform the brit mila of their newborn son.
“We chose to do the brit here today because of the symbolism that this place holds, especially in light of this important religious ceremony for our people. The brit mila is about the covenant and connection between G-d and the Jewish people,” Sorotzkin told Tazpit.
“The rabbis who were here yesterday were killed in the middle of a conversation with G-d, but we are here today, continuing that connection,” said Sorotzkin…
For Sorotzkin’s father, Yosef, the brit mila of his grandson is a sign of faith. “We are doing what the Jewish people have done throughout history; every time there has been death and destruction, we keep moving and creating,” he told Tazpit.

Our response to the attacks was with the sounds of Torah and tefilla and b’ris mila the following morning. At the same time, Arabs were giving out candies to their children to celebrate the murders that had occurred.
It is a stark representation of Rabbi Wolbe’s insight. Our values determine and direct our behaviors and the way we choose to live.

The week following the horrific attacks, while the families were still sitting shiva, the four widows sent out the following message:
“With tears and broken hearts for the blood that has been spilled - the blood of the sanctified ones, our husbands, the heads of our homes - we turn to our brothers and sisters, everyone from the house of Israel, in whatever place they may be, to unite so that we merit compassion and mercy from on High.
“We should accept upon ourselves to increase the love and affection for each other, between ourselves and between different communities within the Jewish people.
“We beseech that every person accepts upon himself/herself at the time of the acceptance of Shabbos, that this Shabbos, Shabbos Parashas Toldos, should be a day in which we express our love for each other, a day in which we refrain from speaking divisively or criticizing others.
“By doing so it will be a great merit for the souls of our husbands who were slaughtered for the sake of G-d’s Name. G-d looks down from above and sees our pain, and He will wipe away our tears and declare 'Enough to all the pain and grief.' We should merit witnessing the coming of Moshiach, soon in our days, amen, amen.
-Chaya Levine, Breine Goldberg, Yakova Kupinsky, Bashi Twersky”

In life and in death, our primary concern is for the sanctification of Hashem’s Name. That value system contains the secret to our eternal greatness.

“Eisav disgraced the birthright”
“They buried him, Yitzchok and Yishmael his sons, to the cave of Machpeilah”

Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW
Rebbe/Guidance Counselor – Heichal HaTorah
Principal – Ohr Naftoli- New Windsor

[1] The following is the lecture I delivered in Kehillat New Hempstead, Shabbos Kodesh Toldos 5775. It was the week following the terrible Har Nof massacre. It’s message about our response and perspective is especially resonant in light of the recent attacks in Pittsburgh.
[2] Bereishis 25:9
[3] Shiurei Chumash
[4] Bereishis 25:32


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