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The Weekly Share – 11 Cheshvan

The Weekly Share – 11 Cheshvan

Food For the Soul

Journey of the Soul

In the Parsha Lech Lecha (Genesis 12:1-17:27) G-d speaks to Abram, commanding him, “Go from your land, from your birthplace and you’re your father’s house, to the land which I will show you.” There, G-d says, he will be made into a great nation. Abram and his wife, Sarai, accompanied by his nephew Lot, journey to the land of Canaan, where Abram builds an altar and continues to spread the message of a one G-d.

Rabbi Menachem Feldman writes: “Abram’s journey was far from challenge-free. He was forced to descend to Egypt, where his wife was abducted. His close relationships with his nephew Lot and concubine Hagar were tested. G-d informed him that his descendants would be enslaved for 400 years. Yet Abram understood that the more challenging the journey, the greater the spiritual gain. Abram understood that a descent is critical to, and therefore part and parcel of, the journey upward.

The story of Abram is the story of every soul. The soul originates in the spiritual worlds, surrounded by divine wisdom and awareness. The soul is then called upon to begin the journey we call life. This journey from the spiritual worlds to life in this physical world seems to be a descent for the soul. No longer can it bask in the glow of spiritual enlightenment and closeness to the Infinite Light. No longer can it remain in the realm of abstract ideas. On this earth, the soul must attend to the concrete needs of the body: food, shelter and comfort. The soul is no longer in the world of av ram, the world of abstract knowledge and enlightenment. The soul is right here on planet Earth.”

Shabbat Shalom

Rachel (1553 BCE)

This Shabbat commemorates the passing of our matriarch Rachel, who died on the 11th of Cheshvan of the year 2208 from creation (1553 BCE). Rachel was born in Aram (Mesopotamia) approximately 1585 BCE. Her father was Laban, the brother of Jacob’s mother, Rebecca. Jacob came to Laban’s home in 1576 BCE, fleeing the wrath of his brother Esau. He fell in love with Rachel and worked for seven years tending Laban’s sheep in return for her hand in marriage. But Laban deceived his nephew, and on the morning after the wedding Jacob discovered that he had married Rachel’s elder sister, Leah. Laban agreed to give him Rachel as a wife as well in return for another seven years’ labor. Rachel was childless for many years, while her elder sister and rival gave birth to six sons and a daughter in succession. Finally, in 1562 BCE, she gave birth to Joseph. Nine years later, while Jacob and his family were on the road to Jacob’s ancestral home in Hebron, she gave birth to a second son Benjamin, but died in childbirth. Jacob buried her by the roadside, in Bethlehem; there, “Rachel weeps over her children, for they are gone [in exile]” (Jeremiah 31:14). Her tomb has served as a place of prayer for Jews for more than 35 centuries.

From an article in

Mind Over Matter

The Spiral Staircase

The Baal Shem Tov described life as a spiral staircase, constantly deflecting away from your target in order to attain it.

In Yiddish it’s called a “swindling staircase.” Some wise chassidim have pointed out a connection: Life swindles you into believing you are going in circles when really you are traveling higher each day. This is the way of every true and lasting ascent: Just as you’re making some progress upward, you see yourself falling away and stumbling in the dark.

If you could see the whole picture, how all things resolve in the end, you would see how those periods of darkness and failure are truly steps higher and yet higher. They must be. Because we did not create life. G-d did. And for Him, there are no failures—only a constant ascent upward.

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman

Moshiach Thoughts

Three Altars

In the course of our parshah [Lech Lecha] Abraham built three altars. The first was in Shechem, in gratitude for the tidings that he would have children and that they would be given the Land of Israel. The second one he built near Ai, as an intercession for his descendants. The third he built in Hebron, for the actual possession of the Land of Israel. The Midrash notes that he built it in Hebron because that is where all the elders of Israel entered into a covenant with King David and anointed him King over Israel.  In this context, the three altars allude to three stages in the worship of G-d and three corresponding eras in Jewish history: the times of the first and second Beit Hamikdash, and the time of the third Beit Hamikdash that will be with the coming of Moshiach.  

From an article by Rabbi J. Immanuel Shochet

Have I Got A Story

A Nation of Twinkling Stars

The first snow of the winter is always a delight, but not when it arrives in October. Despondent over the nasty storm, I woke up that morning and ventured out into a street strewn with fallen trees and downed wires. Traffic lights were out of order and streets were slick with ice, but the real surprise came when I discovered our synagogue was without electricity. Without lights, we were hard-pressed to hold morning services. A number of regular attendees arrived and shared my gloom; many left shortly thereafter to pray at home, but several stayed on. We lit candles, donned tefillin and sat down to pray. My gaze wandered about the room, and my spirits slowly lifted. I was enchanted by the quaint scene, the darkened synagogue, flickering flames and heads hunched over the candles reading in the dim light; it was a setting reminiscent of the shtetl.

A warmth spread through me as I surveyed the room, because in the darkness I beheld the heartiness of the Jew. It was dark, cold and icy, the synagogue was without heat or lights, yet nothing could stop these Jews from praying to their G-d. It was morning, and despite the elements, despite the obstacles, these hearty Jews were at synagogue. I realized that the Jew is indeed, as G-d promised to Abraham, like the stars of the sky.

This is indeed what G-d meant when he told Abraham, “Gaze toward heaven and count the stars—see if you can count them.” And He then said to him, “So (numerous) shall your children be.”1 Science has yet to discover, let alone count and identify, every star. This is because they operate in the distant reaches of darkened galaxies, and the naked eye cannot pierce the vast skies to behold them all. Yet, despite the darkness, an occasional star does peek out at us from across the distance. It is for this reason that the star is of so much comfort to us. We are drawn to them because their twinkling light beckons us; they remind us that every challenge can be surmounted, every distance can be traversed and every darkness can be illuminated.

Rather than an impediment to light, stars see the darkness as an opportunity to shine. Just like those Jews who prayed in the darkened synagogue, hunched over the dim and flickering light. These Jews are my stars: never daunted by challenge, never overwhelmed by the dark and never afraid of the night. These are the stars, who never allow an obstacle to get in the way of their commitment. These are the stars that inspire us in the night. These are the stars, in whose light we have no reason to fear the dark.

It was not the candles that enlightened me that cold morning, but the bobbing heads above those candles. In those bobbing heads I saw the stars of which G-d spoke to Abraham.

Rabbi Lazer Gurkow

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