Food For the Soul
End of days concealed
In the Parsha Vayechi (Genesis 47:28–50:26) Jacob intends to reveal to his children the time of the coming of Moshiach (the Messiah). But at that moment, “the Divine Presence departed from him.” Jacob understood that he’s not supposed to tell. So life’s most urgent question remains a mystery. We know that the world will one day come to reflect the infinite goodness and perfection of its Creator. We know that our every positive deed is a step toward that goal, a brick in that glorious edifice. But when will it happen? Why can’t we see the finish-line approaching, why can’t we behold the rising edifice?
Some would say that this is G‑d’s way of keeping us under His thumb, so to speak. Perhaps if we knew too much, if we saw exactly how our every action and choice fitted in the master plan, we might take too many liberties, developing our own assessments of the goal and our own ideas on how to get there. So better keep man in the dark, so that he plod on toward his destiny in oblivion
The truth, however, is the very opposite. It is precisely because G‑d desired a creative, independent-minded partner to His endeavor, that He made life the mystery that it is. If we were consciously aware of the ultimate significance of our every action, our actions would be lifeless and mechanical — rehearsed lines recited by rote in a play whose script has already been read by every member of the audience.
It is only because each of our deeds, choices and decisions stands out in stark relief against the background of our lives, its train of causes and effects trailing off into the darkness of an unknown future, that our choices are truly ours, our decisions a true exercise of will, and our every deed is a meaningful contribution to our partnership with G‑d in creation.
From an article by Rabbi Yanki Tauber
G-d’s creation…and the soul of the week
On Shabbat we remember that the world is not ours to do with as we please, but G‑d’s creation. On Shabbat we also remember that G‑d took us out of Egypt and decreed that never again shall we be slaves to any alien master — our jobs, financial commitments and material involvements are the tools with which we fulfill our divine purpose, not the masters of our lives.
Shabbat is the soul of the week — the vision that vitalizes it and the vision towards which it strives. The Kabbalists teach: On Shabbat all the accomplishments of the previous week achieve fulfillment and elevation, and from the Shabbat all endeavors of the upcoming week are blessed. Keeping the Shabbat secures G‑d’s blessing for success for our entire week, and infuses purpose and meaning into our week-long existence.
Mind Over Matter
The journey and the destination
Does Judaism encourage critical thought? The answer is, absolutely yes. Critical thought is the precursor to wisdom. But critical thought alone is no longer enough because the Torah is no longer just a book of wisdom. It is now a book of divinity. And divinity is received through humility and acceptance.
Torah study is a journey of intellectual and spiritual inquiry. Questions and critical thought are the sign posts that direct our path. Humility and acceptance enable us to reach our destination.
From an article by Rabbi Lazer Gurkow
We are ready now!
When the pain is so strong that we cannot bear another moment, that’s when we turn to G‑d and beg Him for Moshiach. And that, in itself, is what gives us the strength to overcome the challenge and get through the final moments of exile. This is true especially in our generation, when we have completed all the necessary preparations. At this point, it is inexplicable why there is any delay at all. All that’s left for us is to turn to G‑d and say, “We are ready. Now.”
From an article by Chaya Schuchat
Have I Got A Story
Self sacrifice or self aggrandizement?
Jewish women (myself included) are notorious for advertising their martyrdom, Subtle intonations of what we give to others at our own expense tend to slide into many a conversation. For some reason, everyone else (including other martyrs) seems to find this habit annoying.
I’ve often wondered why my martyrdom seemed to irritate other people, until I came up with this theory: a martyr uses the façade of selflessness to win attention and recognition. In its most pathological form, a martyr is a co-dependant, desperately needing to be needed. Okay, I get how that can be annoying.
Luckily, the Torah provides us with the prototype of a true martyr, a woman (of course) who consistently puts aside her own agenda – but here’s the key – with no strings attached and no hidden motive. Let’s look at the story line.
Towards the end of the Book of Genesis, shortly before Jacob’s death, Jacob summons his son Joseph and is about to bless his grandchildren Manasseh and Ephraim. Suddenly, however, Jacob interjects and, with no introduction at all, proceeds to address Joseph, opening an old wound in their relationship. He tells Joseph, “And when I came from Padan, Rachel died unto me in the land of Canaan on the road…. I buried her there on the road to Ephrat which is Bethlehem.”
In the next verse he is already talking about his grandchildren. What’s this interjection all about?
A few verses earlier, Jacob had asked Joseph to bring his body up from Egypt and bury him in Hebron, in the vaunted Cave of Machpeilah alongside his illustrious parents and grandparents. And now Jacob is telling Joseph, Rachel’s oldest son, that “although I burden you to bring me to be buried in the Land of Canaan, and I did not do likewise for your mother, for she died near Bethlehem—” Rachel is the only Matriarch not buried in Hebron.
Joseph felt badly that his mother had lost out on the great honor of being buried in the Machpeilah Cave with the rest of the holy matriarchs and patriarchs. Jacob’s request for his own burial must have aroused this latent feeling of disappointment for his mother. “—but know that it was by the word of G‑d that I buried her there, so that she might help her children when Nebuzaradan would send them into exile [to Babylon, after the destruction of the first Holy Temple,] and when they would pass by her way Rachel would emerge from her grave and cry and beseech G‑d to have mercy on them. As it is said2 ‘A voices is heard On High [lamentation, bitter weeping, Rachel is weeping for her children].’ And the Holy One, blessed be He, answers her, ‘There is reward for your work,’ says G‑d… ‘and the children shall return to their own border.'”
How does Jacob soothe the aching heart of his son? In a sense he was saying, “Yes my son, your mother was a martyr, this was her conscious choice. G‑d commanded me to bury Rachel in the outskirts of Bethlehem because this was Rachel’s desire—to give up her honored burial place in order to provide comfort for her children as they passed by her grave, on their way down to exile in Babylon.”
Self-sacrifice was a central theme in Rachel’s life. She allowed her sister to marry the man whom she loved. And she did it with a full heart. Rachel never felt that she lost anything through giving. And she never did.
Listen to Jacob’s words of affection: “When I was in Padan Rachel died unto me.” She was the pillar of my home, and the pillar of my heart. She died on me. Jacob expresses his immeasurable love for Rachel within the context of her self-sacrifice.
He tells Joseph, “Don’t you see my son? This was your mother’s greatness. She gave endlessly of herself but never felt bereft of self-fulfillment. I loved her so, and I just knew that this is exactly where she’d want – where she’d demand! – to be interred. Being buried on the road to Bethlehem so that she could eventually come to the aid of her children—is completely in sync with her life’s legacy.”
True martyrdom is the conscious choice to put personal benefit on hold for the sake of a greater benefit. It leaves no room for self pity or even self aggrandizement. And the Holy One, blessed be He, answers her, “There is reward for your work.
From an article by Rochel Holzkenner