Food For the Soul
Wrestling with a torch
In this week’s Parshah (Vayishlach; Genesis 32:4–36:43) Jacob returns to the land of Israel, traveling to meet his brother, Esau, after a 20-year stay in Haran. The night before he meets his brother, Jacob encounters a mysterious man, and they wrestle all night long: Who is this man? What is the meaning of this encounter? The sages teach that the man wrestling with Jacob was Esau’s guardian angel disguised as a man. Before Jacob could reconcile with his brother, Esau, he first had to wrestle with Esau’s guardian angel. The Kabbalists elaborate, explaining that Jacob and Esau represent conflicting aspects of life: spiritual and material, body and soul. Body and soul are in constant warfare, each trying to draw the other towards what they appreciate and enjoy. The body tries to pull the soul towards materialism, while the soul tries to pull the body towards spirituality.
This struggle between body and soul is not fought via intercontinental ballistic missiles. Body and soul are not waging warfare from different continents. Body and soul are literally hugging each other; they are as close to each other as two entities can possibly be. Body and soul are wrestling.
The root word in Hebrew for “wrestle” also means “torch”. With its use of a single root word, the Holy Tongue teaches us about the goal of this wrestling match between body and soul. The goal is not to obliterate material concerns and pleasures from one’s life. The goal is to create a torch. A torch is not a single candle, but many points of combustion merged together. To create spiritual light, the soul must not retreat from the world; it must embrace the material world and fuse it into a torch of light. It must use the objects and pleasures of the material world as a tool to spread spiritual light. It must use the material blessings it has and fuse them into a torch, producing light, warmth and inspiration to illuminate the world. We wrestle with the material, we embrace it, we elevate it. We weave it into our soul’s torch.
Adapted from an article by Rabbi Menachem Feldman
The Shabbos goy
Many people believe that whenever they wish to do something forbidden on Shabbat, they can just ask a non-Jew to perform the act for them. Commonly known as a “Shabbos goy,” the friendly gentile is seen as the panacea to all Shabbat needs.
In fact, we may not ask a non-Jew to desecrate Shabbat. However, one may ask a non-Jew to perform an act that is itself forbidden on Shabbat if it will facilitate the observance of a mitzvah, benefit a sick person or a child or for other specific situations. Similarly, there are instances where a Jew may benefit if the non-Jew performed the forbidden act for his or her own benefit, without being asked.
From an article by Rabbi Menachem Posner
Mind Over Matter
Why did G-d create Darkness?
G-d turned out the lights so we could make decisions on our own. Free choice is the quintessential expression of G‑d, for He alone is truly free. G‑d breathes within the human being, and so we too become free to choose our path home.
Darkness, confusion and the possibility of evil—all this then has a purpose of its own: It provides a stage for us to find G‑d within ourselves, when we make the right choice, all on our own.
Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
What will the Redemption be like?
One of the most important aspects of the Redemption is the promise of the ingathering of the exiles from the Diaspora, with all Jews settling in their tribal portion of the Holy Land. We are assured that no Jew will be left behind—including the Ten “Lost Tribes.” The rebuilt Holy Temple in Jerusalem will be the central focus of all humanity—as Isaiah says, “My home will be considered a ‘House of Prayer’ for all the nations.”
The Messianic Era will be one of tremendous prosperity and all the nations of the world will be preoccupied with one pursuit: the study of G‑d and the Torah. Furthermore, while our present-day knowledge of G‑d is limited to intellectual perception, when Moshiach will teach about G‑d, we will actually “see” what we are studying.
Have I Got A Story
Chanukah alone at home
This year Chanuka begins Thursday evening, December 10, 2020 and continues through Friday, December 18, 2020. Karen Kaplan, who’s become somewhat of an expert at spending Jewish holidays alone at home because of the Coronavirus, shares her holiday plans in Chabad.org:
“A big part of Chanukah this year will be spent connecting with my friends and family on Zoom, Facetime, and other platforms. I do not spend the day in pajamas. I don’t settle for challah, a jar of peanut butter, and a bottle of cheap kosher wine for Shabbat dinner. Taking shortcuts makes me feel shortchanged. So, this Chanukah, I’ll set the table with my nice dishes, open the wine I’ve been saving for company, and polish the menorah. I’ll get the kitchen messy making latkes from scratch instead of buying frozen ones. I’ll wear my favorite blouse, even though I have to iron it. My enjoyment of the holiday – and every day – is in direct proportion to the effort I make.”
“Although you can only say the blessings over one menorah, you can light as many as you want after that. Many homes have multiple menorahs. Over the years I’ve collected eight of them. I’ll use a different one each night for saying the blessings. And I’ll get extra sets of candles so I can put other ones in other windows. How can there ever be too much light on a dark winter night? The candles will multiply each night, becoming brighter and brighter, until the darkness is banished entirely.”
“Nothing resets my mood like music. From Maoz Tzur to the more modern compositions, I’ll rotate through old and new Chanukah classics. I’ll spin like a dreidel and dance the hora, and be a complete klutz doing it, because I’m as graceful and light on my feet as a three-legged elephant. And I’ll sing along with the music, loud and off-key as usual. If the neighbor’s dog isn’t howling along with me, I know I’m not singing loudly enough. There’s a level of silly that can only be achieved when no one is watching. That’s what I’m aiming for. You should, too!”
“ I’ll get myself a little gift to open each day. A pair of snuggly socks. A crossword book. A new spice for the kitchen rack. A bar of chocolate. A scented soap. A trip to the dollar store can keep the cost down if your budget is tight. There’s nothing like setting aside something you like and anticipating when you will enjoy it. Knowing it’s there and looking forward to it is half the fun. With the end of the pandemic not yet in sight, give yourself eight days when all you have to do is wait until sundown for a little satisfaction.”
“This year will be different no matter how much we try to make it li other years. I’ll miss the party I always attend, the people I always see, and all the social activities I look forward to each year. When I’m feeling anxious about the future, depressed about the present, or nostalgic for the past, I don’t bury those feelings, or worse, let myself believe that I’ve failed somehow. We’re living in uncharted waters; sometimes it’s smooth sailing, sometimes it isn’t. These emotions are real, and I acknowledge them, but I choose not to make them permanent. It’s Chanukah, a time of miracles, a time to celebrate our history of overcoming challenges far worse than we face now. Let the lights of the candles ignite sparks of strength, joy, and resilience in you!
Car-Top Menorah Parades
Rabbi Menachem Posner writes: “A beautiful new iteration of the age-old imperative to spread the Chanukah message to the masses is the car-top menorah parade, where people with menorahs attached to their cars drive around, spreading awareness, good cheer, and hope. Since you can do this from the safety of your closed car, this is the ultimate socially distanced Jewish ritual. Call your local Chabad to join their parade. If there isn’t one, go online, order a menorah, create an online event for people to sign up, and start your own.”
Chag Chanukah Sameach!