Weekly Share

Food For the Soul

A Tree, an Orchard and a 5-Star Hotel

The Parsha Vayera focuses on the life and times of our patriarch Abraham, the first Jew. Every incident in his life is significant and contains valuable insights for us, his descendants. The Torah states that, “Abraham planted an aishel (tree) in Beer Sheva” (Genesis 21:33). What should we learn from this? The importance of Arbor Day? 

It is known that Abraham was in the business of welcoming guests. He invited complete and total strangers to come into his tent, eat his food, drink his wine, and relax from their journey. Abraham was a real mensch. It just so happened that he worked in the desert. Due to a tremendous lack of shade he planted a tree. What better way to welcome a sweaty wayfarer than with a well-shaded seat?

As the saying goes, “two Jews three opinions”—so too in our case. The Talmud lists two other opinions as to the nature of this aishel. According to one opinion it was not a shade tree, but rather an entire orchard of fruit trees. Once again Abraham’s focus was on the guests. Wouldn’t it be lovely after a long trek through the desert to run into a ripe piece of fruit? I think so. A third opinion maintains that Abraham built an entire five-star hotel complex, complete with a swanky lounge and full service restaurant. Yet again Abraham’s objective was to provide fabulous service to the weary traveler.

The lesson contained here is timeless and it is not a call to join the hotel industry or the Sierra Club. Abraham represents the embodiment of kindness. He did not merely give his guests the minimal requirements for survival – tepid water, stale bread, and a pinch of salt – rather he gave them fabulous food and displayed tremendous hospitality. Each of us has inherited Abraham’s attribute of kindness, hence we have the capacity to give of ourselves in the same manner as Abraham. We can assist and help others not only with their vital necessities but rather we can go above and beyond the call of duty and help others in a truly limitless fashion. 

From an article by Rabbi Simcha Levenberg


Shabbat Shalom

Miracles of Shabbat light

In Sarah’s tent, a special miracle proclaimed that the Divine Presence dwelled therein: the lamp she lit every Friday evening, in honor of the divine day of rest, miraculously kept burning all week, until the next Friday eve. When Sarah died (1676 BCE), the miracle of her Shabbat lamp ceased. But on the day of Sarah’s passing, Rebecca was born. And when Rebecca was brought to Sarah’s tent as the destined wife of Sarah’s son, Isaac, the miracle of the lamp returned. Once again, the light of Shabbat filled the tent of the matriarch of Israel and radiated its holiness to the entire week. (Bereishit Rabbah 60)

From an article by Rabbi Yanki Tauber


Mind Over Matter

The gift you don’t give

The act of giving allows the benefactor to feel important, valuable and productive — both as a person in general, and also in the context of a particular relationship. Giving is also the ability to transcend one’s own needs and care for another. And even on a selfish level, giving earns the giver respect and admiration. As nice as it is to be given gifts, receiving often has strings attached. The recipient may not be expected to reciprocate in kind but recompense in terms of gratitude and a feeling of indebtedness is certainly expected — and may well be the giver’s primary motive. Furthermore, a gift can sometimes be construed as a subtle attack on the beneficiary’s self-sufficiency. In Vayera, three angels visit Abraham while this elderly man was still recovering from circumcision and accepted his gifts of hospitality. As angels, they did not need his gifts. A lesson we can learn from them is to allow others to give gifts — even if it makes us a bit uncomfortable, even if we’d rather be on the giving end. 

Adapted from an article by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg


Moshiach Thoughts

Worldwide knowledge of G-d

When the inherent and pervasive presence of the Aleph (the “Master of the Universe”) is revealed and manifested, this will remove all the concealing obstacles of the galut (exile) which screen and cover its true reality and intent. There will be a revelation of Divinity within the world and in all mundane categories, to the point that “Everything that has been made will know that You have made it… and every besouled being will declare that G-d, the G-d of Israel, is King, and that His Kingship rules over all”.

From an article by Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet


Have I Got A Story

Why Angels Won’t Multi-Task

When I was in the first grade, just beginning to study the book of Genesis, I was fascinated by the stories, the personalities and the drama. But nothing captured my imagination more than the angels. There was something so mysterious about them. Disguised as ordinary people, they would show up in the right place at the right time, and solve some problem with their supernatural powers.

And yet, I knew that however great the angels, they had a weakness. At the first mention of angels in the Torah, the commentators are quick to point out that the angels could not perform more than one action at a time. Why did three angels come to visit Abraham as he was sitting at the entrance of his tent, hoping to find people to invite? Because there were three items to be accomplished, and angels do not have the ability to multitask. As Rashi explains: “And behold, three men: One to bring the news [of Isaac’s birth] to Sarah, and one to overturn Sodom, and one to heal Abraham, for one angel does not perform two errands.” As a young child, I found this comforting. Maybe I couldn’t fly like an angel, but at least I could do two things at once, like run and shout at the same time.

Now, years later, I ask myself, why is it so important for Rashi to emphasize the angels’ weakness? Why is it so important for every child studying Genesis to know that angels cannot perform two things at once? Perhaps because it’s not a handicap. Perhaps it’s the secret to the angels’ power. Perhaps Rashi’s comment is a critique of the human condition.

The angel cannot do more than one thing at a time because the angel identifies with the task completely. The angel has no other dimension to his personality other than fulfilling G-d’s mission—no personal name, no personal agenda, no personal ego to get in the way. At that moment, he is nothing but the task. As such, he cannot perform two acts simultaneously, as it’s impossible to be, fully, in two places at once.

A person, on the other hand, even when performing the will of G-d. never loses his own ego. A person always maintains the sense that he has an independent identity, an identity which happens to be engaged in the mission. As such, he can never become one with the mission, and therefore, some aspect of his identity will always be able to engage in something else. Rashi understood that the child reading the story is no angel. Yet Rashi is teaching us how to be more like an angel. How to be fully engaged in what we are doing, to the point that we forget about everything else. How to help someone else, and, while doing so, lose our own ego. How to speak to our children, carefully look them in the eyes, and listen. Listen as if, at that moment, we have nothing else in our life. Listen as if we have no e-mails, no deadlines, no one to meet, no place to go, no other interests. He is teaching us to be present—like an angel.

Rabbi Menachem Feldman

Food For the Soul

Leaving the natural order

In the beginning of the Parsha Lech Lecha,  G-d promises Abraham to make him “into a great nation.” Years later, after undergoing trials and tribulations, G-d reassures Abraham and tells him, “Fear not, Abram; I am your shield; your reward is exceedingly great.”

Abraham responds, “Behold, You have given me no seed.” Of what purpose is all that You are blessing me with if I cannot have a child of my own to continue after me? At this point, “G-d took him outside and said, ‘Gaze now toward the heavens and count the stars, if you are able to count them!’ And G-d said to him, ‘So shall be your offspring!’” (Genesis 15:5)

Abraham said: “Master of the universe, I have studied my astrological pattern, and it is clear that I will not sire a son.” G-d responded, “Go outside the sphere of the stars, because no stars control the destiny of Israel!”

Abraham realized that according to the rules of nature, he was not destined to have a child. He realized that naturally Sarah would not have a child. But G-d was telling him: a Jew must go outside—he must leave the natural order, because his prayer has the power to reach his infinite G-d, who extends beyond the sphere of this world.

Prayer can create the miraculous by elevating us beyond the natural order. Indeed, thirteen years later, when that miraculous son is born to Abraham and Sarah, he is called Yitzchak (Isaac), which means “laughter.” From this son of laughter descends the great nation of laughter with whom G-d establishes His special bond. Because the very essence of the Jew and his existence is forever a laughing, miraculous wonder—explainable only through our prayers and our deep bond with our Creator.

From an article by Chana Weisberg


Shabbat Shalom

Two aspects of Shabbat

Two aspects of Shabbat are reflected in the two expressions found in the two different presentations of the Ten Commandments found in the Torah. “Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy…” (Exodus 20:8) and “Guard the Sabbath to keep it holy…” (Deuteronomy 5: I 2) were, according to tradition, heard simultaneously by the Jewish people at Mount Sinai.

Zachor, “remember,” refers to the positive commandments of the day—the things we do. Shamor, “guard,” refers to the negative commandments—the things we may not do. The latter, including such activities as cooking, writing and turning lights on and off, are described generally by the word melachah, a certain type of work. Adapted from Spice and Spirit, The Complete Kosher Jewish Cookbook, published by Lubavitch Women’s Cookbook Publications


Mind Over Matter

Life’s ups and downs

The journey of life is like a car that moves forward but never stays on level ground. We ride up mountains and into deep valleys. Life is similar. The objective is to see the opportunity for growth at every twist in the road, and keep on trucking. On rare days, we coast along at the top of our game. We cruise the peaks of personal and spiritual fulfillment. On the bad days, we careen out of control and into a valley of personal problems and issues. On most days, we sit in traffic and question if we are moving at all. The lesson of Lech Lecha offers hope and support to those traveling through the ups and downs of life. We must recognize that the goal is forward movement. Hence, even a self-imposed pitiful state of being is a step forward in the journey. Just as Abraham needed to go to Egypt (in order to leave with great wealth), so, too, G-d needs us to be where we are. 

From an article by Rabbi Simcha Levenberg


Moshiach Thoughts

Why we hope and await 

Of the Messianic redemption it is written: “As in the days of your going out from the land of Egypt, I will show them wondrous things” (Michah 7:15). This means that it will be analogous to the redemption from Egypt: just as Israel was redeemed from Egypt as a reward for their faith, so too by virtue of our faith Moshiach will redeem us. Indeed, the Midrash (Shocher Tov,ch. 40) states that Israel is worthy of redemption as a reward for the kivuy (hoping for, and awaiting, the redemption). By virtue of Israel’s firm trust that “My salvation is near to come” (Isaiah 56:1), we shall merit that G-d shall redeem us with the complete and ultimate redemption, speedily, in our very own days.

From an article by Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet


Have I Got A Story

 The Last Time I Drove On Shabbat

In the spring of 1992, our family had been on the path to Torah observance for exactly one year, although we weren’t yet keeping Shabbat or kosher. Our daughter, Jen, was entering the second semester of her sophomore year at Binghamton University. She had bought a used Jeep with the money she made at her summer job. It had those oversized tires that she loved. Jen was planning to drive back to school on her own after the December vacation, but being the typical protective father, I thought it best that I drive with her, help her set up her room, and then take a bus back home.

She wanted to drive up on a Saturday, so that she could arrange her room by Sunday and be ready to start classes on Monday. The dilemma was whether to go to shul and then drive up, or get going first thing in the morning. I chose the latter. If we waited until after services to get on the road, I reasoned, I wouldn’t be back home until very late at night.

We got going and made a pitstop about halfway to our destination. Half an hour later, we began to hear suspicious noises. The car sputtered and smoke wafted from the engine. There were no gas stations in sight, so I turned off the main road and followed a sign to a town called Fish’s Eddy. The motor had died, it was cold, and we were lost in rural Upstate New York. We didn’t know anyone and we didn’t belong. It became apparent that our surroundings were desolate. We were alone with no contingency plan. (Keep in mind, this was before cell phones, WAZE, or internet.)

We had no choice but to wait for a passing car on this narrow lonely road. But being a young woman of faith, my daughter turned to me and said, “I feel safe because I’m with you, and with our goodness and kindness I know things will work out.” After huddling in the frigid Jeep with only the convertible canvas roof as cover and no motor to generate heat (not to mention the disappointing reality for Jen that in all probability her Jeep was headed for the junkyard), we finally saw a car approaching in the distance. Jen said, “Whatever you do, please don’t leave me alone.” That’s how scared we were. I could see my dear daughter struggling to keep it together.

Fortunately, the car that I flagged down turned out to be an elderly couple (with a small beagle) who wanted to help. We asked if there was a service station nearby, where we could have the car towed and possibly even repaired. They took us to a mechanic who agreed to tow the car and look into the repairs. The clock was ticking, and Jen desperately wanted to get up to Binghamton to settle in and be ready for Monday’s classes. But we had no choice; it seemed that G-d had other plans. The mechanic took us back to the car to get our belongings and proceeded to tow it to his shop. At this point, it was already late in the day. So much for my plans to arrive early!

The mechanic kindly took us to a local diner, where we were able to warm up over a cup of tea and regroup. The diner was small-town cozy, crowded with local people staying warm and enjoying a hearty meal. There was a payphone on the wall, and Jen began calling some friends to see if they could drive down to pick us up and bring us back to school. While Jen was busy making contingency plans, a stranger appeared at our table. Evidently, he had heard what was going on from Jen’s shaky conversation. He interrupted us and introduced himself as “the only Jew in town and a cab driver.” How did he know we were Jewish? How did we happen to be at this particular diner at the same time?

Miraculously, he agreed to take us to Binghamton and only charged us a minimal fee. By the time we got to school it was late, and Jen and I worked together to get her room into shape and ready for the second semester. Despite all my grand plans to skip shul and disregard Shabbat in an effort to make the best of my time, it had become quite evident that I was never in control.  G-d made that very clear, as He always does. But in His kindness, he sent us messengers and helpers to get us on our way comfortably.

That day was an object lesson in Torah—a day I cannot forget, because it was the very last time I drove on Shabbat.

Frederick Raven

Food For the Soul

Noach

The parsha Noach (Noah) is named after the famed builder of the ark. It is during this portion that we learn of the cataclysmic flood that destroyed life, save that of Noah, his family, and the animals he brought on board with him.

The Torah explains why this dramatic act was needed. Humankind had devolved into a moral abyss. Immorality in all of its forms was rampant. Hatred amongst the peoples of the earth was complete. There was one exception to this rule, Noah. Despite living in the most depraved of circumstances he maintained his dignity and righteousness. Noah “went with G_d,” as the Torah tells us. This means that G_dliness ennobled his life and the lives of those around him. 

Upon their emergence from the ark Noah and his family were given seven special laws. These include: 1. Belief in one G_d / Not serving idols. 2. Not blaspheming G_d. 3. Not murdering. 4. Not stealing. 5. Not committing immoral sexual acts. 6. Not being cruel to animals. 7. Establishing courts of justice. These laws are meant to be the basis for all human society for all future generations. These laws clearly establish codes of decency expected of every human being.

The ark represents different things depending on who is looking. For the Jew the ark is the protection afforded by our Torah that is to be found in our synagogues, Jewish schools, and our homes. The walls of these edifices safeguard us from the destruction found in the outside realm. For the non-Jew, the ark represents strict adherence to the Seven Noahide Laws. Those laws are the Torah’s clear instructions as to what should be the goals and aspirations of all humanity. 

During these trying times we must find refuge in our personal, communal, and even national arks. We must make sure that negative influences are securely locked out. Better still, we must allow the light of the enlightened to shine forth transforming the surrounding darkness into life-giving light! 

From an article by Rabbi Yeruchem Eilfort


Shabbat Shalom

The responsibility of service

Rabbi Elisha Greenbaum writes: “In many ways, our post-Holocaust generation bears distinct similarities to Noah and family post-flood. We too are survivors, a pitiful remnant of the world that was. The temptation is to throw up our hands in despair, to refuse to take part in the rebuilding of a world where such injustice and iniquity can exist. This response, however, would make a mockery of the very real debt of gratitude we owe for having been spared and would insult the memory of those who died.

Our responsibility is to take up the burden of service, reach out to others and exert ourselves to the utmost in providing for their spiritual, emotional and financial needs. It may be difficult, we may well suffer personal damage in pursuit of our holy charge, but we dare not forsake our purpose. Right now there are hungry people to feed, naked people to clothe and ignorant people to educate. We must not rest until we have expended our every last drop of sweat and blood and our ark is resting safely on the mountaintops of history.”


Mind Over Matter

Nobody ever died from a question

Rabbi Yossy Goldman writes: “There is an old Yiddish proverb, Fun a kasha shtarbt men nit–Nobody ever died of a question. It’s not the end of the world if you didn’t get an answer to all your questions. We can live with unanswered questions. The main thing is not to allow ourselves to become paralyzed by our doubts. We can still do what has to be done, despite our doubts. Of course, I’d love to be able to answer every question every single one of my congregants ever has. But the chances are that I will not be able to solve every single person’s doubts and dilemmas. And, frankly speaking, I am less concerned about their doubts than about their deeds. From a question nobody ever died. It’s how we behave that matters most. So Noah, the reluctant hero, reminds us that you don’t have to be fearless to get involved. You don’t have to be a tzaddik to do a mitzvah. You don’t have to be holy to keep kosher, nor do you have to be a professor to come to a Torah class. Perhaps his faith was a bit wobbly in the knees, but he got the job done. My kind of hero.”


Moshiach Thoughts

The rainbow

The Zohar (I:72b) states that the rainbow is one of the signs of the future redemption. Commentators note that the rainbow indicates the purification and refinement that the world underwent by means of the Flood. Before the Flood the clouds were very coarse, thus preventing a reflection of sunlight. Thereafter, however, the clouds became more refined; they reflected sunlight, thus bringing about a rainbow. This, then, is the connection between the rainbow and the future redemption: The entire world will attain the peak of refinement with the coming of Moshiach.

From an article by Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet


Have I Got A Story

Troublemakers

“Mommy, I think we broke some glass . . .”
It was time to intervene. I had pointedly overlooked the giggling, the dragging of every last sofa cushion, pillow and padding from the family room into the living room. I closed my ears to the swishing sound the bedding made as it was stealthily heaved down the hall. I ignored the thuds of little boys’ thumping onto piles of blankets and pillows piled high.

They knew I would disapprove of the mess, but they were having so much fun! Against my better judgment, I enjoyed listening to my boys as they schemed and planned, hoping to accomplish their covert mission below the radar of my watchful eyes. This was clearly a communal effort. They had formed their own building committee and constructed the best landing pad our furniture had to offer. But now, there was glass. Someone had the brilliant idea to see what would happen if a glass-framed photograph was placed on top of the pile. Would it catapult up? Indeed. Broken glass all over the carpet. It was time for dispersal. Boys were sent to put on shoes and return each item to its proper location. The vacuum was plugged in, and the crackling sound of shards being suctioned into the canister put a definitive end to the revelry.

You may ask why I did not intervene sooner. They were literally turning the house upside down, and putting more than the usual wear and tear on important household items. Why did I wait so long? I took my cue from the Ultimate Parent, G-d. The Torah shows us in this week’s Parshah that peace is so tantamount to a functional society, G-d is willing to overlook His children’s ungodly motivation if they are striving to achieve their goals harmoniously.

Parshat Noach relates two stories of human actions requiring divine punishment. First, and more prominent, is the flood which destroyed all of humanity save Noach and his family. The sages tell us that Noach’s generation committed all kinds of idolatrous sins. Their ultimate destruction, however, came as a result of stealing—the definitive disrespect of man for his fellow man. The second story is a bit more nuanced. We are told of a group who share one language. They come together to build a city with a tower that would reach up to the heavens. According to the rabbis, this tower would allow them to wage war on G-d. We read about the building of bricks and mortar, and what appears to be the completion of the tower, until G-d descends and prevents them from finishing the city by dispersing them all over the earth and mixing up their languages.

Rashi—the foremost commentator on the Torah—asks a brilliant question: why was the generation of Noach, whose major sins were not explicitly against G-d, completely destroyed, while this other generation, whose ultimate goal was to fight G-d, simply dispersed? In his answer Rashi teaches us a very important lesson about G-d and our role as members of the human race: The generation of the Flood were robbers, and there was strife between them, and therefore they were destroyed. But they (the builders) behaved with love and friendship amongst themselves, as it is said (Genesis 11:1), “One language and uniform words.” Thus you learn that discord is hateful, and that peace is great.

We see an image of G-d deriving pride from His children, even when they are actually out to get Him! But, after enjoying a moment of considering that generation’s love for one another, He needed to put a definitive stop to their antics. As a mother, I have a responsibility to teach my sons to do the right thing. But the right thing can mean, at least ephemerally, getting along and cooperating. When this brotherly love is not ultimately for the greater good, I do need to put an end to it. In the meantime, though, for a few brief moments, I can kvell (take pride) over how beautifully they play together and the mutual respect my sons are developing for one another.

Stacey Goldman

Food For the Soul

Did you or didn’t you?

In the story of Adam and Eve, G-d comes into the garden of Eden and asks Adam: “Have you eaten from the tree from which I commanded you not to eat?” A simple question — did you or didn’t you? Adam replies: “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree and I ate.” G-d then approaches Eve and asks, “What is that, that you have done?” Eve replies “The serpent deceived me and I ate.” By the time that G-d gets to the serpent, he doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

Being direct descendants from Adam and Eve, perhaps some of us may have inherited this human weakness — to look for others upon whom we can place blame when mistakes occur. Some smokers blame the government for allowing cigarettes to be sold in the shops, and some overweight people blame the supermarket for selling fatty foods. We often forget that every time we point a finger at somebody else we are, at the same time, pointing three fingers back at ourselves. Children may learn this attitude and look for whom they can blame for their mistakes. You can hear them say things like “It’s my teacher’s fault,” “It’s my sister’s fault,” and so on.

One of the best ways of teaching children to own up to their responsibilities is by being living examples. A good leader — and every parent is a “leader” in their family — is one who can stand up and say: “I made a mistake, I’m responsible, and there is an important lesson I have learned about how to avoid such a thing happening in the future.” There are some adults who are in their forties and fifties who have difficulty in making choices. When faced with a dilemma, they still go back to their parents, asking them what to do. Perhaps this is because they grew up in an environment where people were afraid to own up to their mistakes.

When a child sees that their parents are not afraid to admit that they made a mistake, and are prepared to take full responsibility for their actions, this child will feel more comfortable and confident in making choices. If things go wrong they learn from them and keep going to become a better and more responsible person.

From an article by Rabbi Yaakov Lieder


Shabbat Shalom

Shabbat Bereishit

October 2 (26 Tishrei) is the first Shabbat immediately following the holidays, known as Shabbat Bereishit (or Shabbos Bereishis in European Hebrew). Why is it thus named? Every week of the year we read another portion of the Torah. The cycle ends and begins anew on the joyous holiday of Simchat Torah, when we read the final portion of V’Zot HaBerachah and the opening lines of the first portion, Bereishit. On the following Shabbat, the full portion of Bereishit is read from the Torah. It is said in the name of the third Chabad Rebbe (known as the Tzemach Tzedek) that the way one conducts oneself on Shabbat Bereishit sets the tone for the entire year.

Appropriately, this Shabbat is often earmarked for inspiring farbrengens (gatherings) and resolutions to increase in Torah study. These farbrengens have an additional function, since this Shabbat is also Shabbat Mevarchim, when we bless the upcoming month of Cheshvan.

From an article by Rabbi Menachem Posner


Mind Over Matter

Let there be light!

“Light” is the purpose of existence as a whole. Further, each individual is a microcosm of the world. “Light” is therefore the purpose of each Jew: that he or she transform his or her situation and environment to light, goodness, instead of darkness. If light is the purpose of every created thing, it follows that it must also be the purpose of darkness itself. Darkness does not exist only in order to be conquered or avoided, thereby presenting man with a choice between good and evil; the fulfillment of darkness is when it is changed, when the bad becomes good—when darkness is transformed into light.

The problems that we meet in life might sometimes make us despair even of winning the battle of light over darkness, let alone of turning the bad itself into good. But with the words “Let there be light!” the Torah presents the goal for each of us as individuals and also for humanity as a whole. This is the Divine purpose for our existence: and if this is G-d’s purpose for us, there is no doubt that we will be able to succeed!

From an article by Dr. Tali Lowenthal


Moshiach Thoughts

The spark of Moshiach in every Jew

Mystics note that adam is an acronym for the names of three central figures: Adam, (King) David and Moshiach. The Baal Shem Tov derives from this that there is a spark of the soul of Moshiach within every single Jew. Thus he concludes that it is incumbent upon every individual Jew to perfect and prepare that part of the spiritual stature of Moshiach to which his soul is related. By virtue of his bond with every Jew, because there is a part of him within every Jew, Moshiach is able to redeem the entire Jewish people. Conversely, every Jew is able to effect and hasten the actual manifestation of Moshiach. This is accomplished by means of Torah and mitzvot.

From an article by Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet


Have I Got A Story

Why my rich friend is poor

I have an old friend who, due to life’s circumstances, floats in and out of my life. She’s a special person with a great soul and a grand character, but there’s always something that seems to be holding her back from growing in life. Something that won’t let her feel or experience happiness. She calls me in tears, and I listen to the same speech over and over again. “I’ve ruined everything,” she cries. “I’ve lost all my money,” she sobs. “I’m alone. I’m miserable.” I brace myself because I know what will come next. “I’ve ruined my life. What have I done? What do I have to live for? I just want to die!” She wails with drama.

I have heard the rhetoric so many times, but I still gasp in disbelief at the last sentence. I know this woman. I know that she has her pain and her sorrow. Like everybody else on this planet, she’s been through her fair share of tests. Difficulties, challenges—yes, she has them. Who doesn’t?

But over the years, I’ve seen the other side as well. I know that G-d gave her many skills and talents. I know that G-d gave her great material wealth. She loses money, yes, but she also makes it—in fact, much more than even she could possibly spend. She has family and people who love her, but there always seems to be the emphasis on “being alone, lacking, miserable.” She also always seems to be repeating the same mistakes over and over again. “Why?” I ask myself. “Why is this woman always a prisoner to the past and to what she lacks?”

I listen to her, and then take a good long look at myself. How many times to I complain and cry, thinking about what I “did wrong,” what I “don’t have”? When I do this, am I happy? Am I growing? Of course not! I feel a sinking feeling of misery, isolation and negativity. When I get like this, I feel stuck.

And L-rd G-d commanded man, saying to him: “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Bad, you must not eat thereof; for on the day you eat of it, you shall surely die.” (Beresheit 2: 16-17) Now the serpent was cunning beyond any beast of the field that L-rd G-d had made. He said to the woman: “Did perhaps, G-d say: ‘You shall not eat of any tree of the garden.’ ” (Beresheit 3:1)

Reading these lines from the Torah, do you know what jumps out at me? The way that cunning snake attacked the woman’s very existence by making her see and focus on what she didn’t (or shouldn’t) have. G-d gave man and woman a garden full of trees with delicious abundance. They had bounty, plenty. One tree—only one single tree—they were forbidden to eat from (because this one tree wasn’t good for them—eating from the tree, they were warned, would bring death).

And so, the serpent—the symbol of evil, the symbol of destruction—put all of its energy into luring the woman away from the good G-d gave her and enticed her to sin with negativity.

The woman fell into the snake’s trap; she ate from the single prohibited tree, among all the permitted ones in the garden. She gave the prohibited fruit to man, and as a consequence, brought death to mankind. Pretty intense, no? She brought such destruction for getting off-track by eating a piece of fruit!

Yes, that’s what can happen when a person is focused on what went “wrong,” what “they” lost, what they “don’t” have. They can destroy themselves (and others). When I feel bad about myself, it never pushes me forward. If anything, it pushes me backwards or makes me feel stuck. It wasn’t just the fruit the woman ate from the one forbidden tree; she exhibited a lack of faith and trust in G-d as well.

King David tells us: “Turn away from evil, and do good.” (Psalms 34:14). I once read a beautiful interpretation of the saying, “Turn away from seeing yourself as evil! So that then you can do good!” Turn away from the negative thoughts of what is missing or lacking and wrong. The very act of turning away will propel you forward, and give you the strength and desire to move on, to make positive changes, to learn from your experiences—and do good.

Elana Mizrahi