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
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
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.