Sunday, 30 November 2008




By Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum

Torah Reading: Gen. 25:19-28:9. Haftara: Malachi 1:1-2:7.


In the holy structure built by the patriarchs to reveal HaShem to the world, Abraham is the initial thesis: expansive energy, revelation, kindness -- CHESSED. Isaac is the antithesis: restriction, control -- GEVURAH, while Jacob, who enters the stage in our parshah, is the synthesis: balance, order, beauty -- TIFERET. Jacob, the most "perfect" (SHALEM) of the patriarchs, came to complete the holy House -- the House of Israel, to whom all the nations will turn at the end of history in order to find HaShem: "And many nations will go and say, 'Go, let us ascend to the mountain of HaShem, to the HOUSE of the G-d of Jacob'" (Isaiah 2:3).

As thesis and antithesis, Abraham and Isaac represent two opposite tendencies, each of which has an extreme aspect, an aspect of excess, that must be transmuted and directed to the holy in order for perfect balance and harmony to reign. Thus Abraham and Isaac each had a "first-born" (the aspect of excess) who was rejected from the holy structure. The last section of the previous parshah, CHAYEY SARAH, completed the story of Abraham's "first-born", Ishmael, the son of Hagar, and his descendants, who embody the "excess" aspect of Abraham: religious fanaticism -- "before all his brothers he fell" (Gen. 25:18, closing words of CHAYEH SARAH). In introducing Jacob, the perfect patriarch, our parshah of TOLDOS also introduces Jacob's challenger, his twin brother Esau, who embodies the excess aspect of Isaac: power and domination used arrogantly for the benefit of self instead of for G-d. The story of Esau is told partly in our parshah, left aside in next week's parshah of VAYETZE, which focusses exclusively on Jacob, and taken up again in the following parshah of VAYISHLACH. There the story of Esau and his generations will be concluded with the account of the "Seven kings who ruled in Edom before a king ruled over the children of Israel" (Gen. 36:31). Kabbalistically, the Seven Kings who "ruled and died" represent the World of Devastation (TOHU) produced by the "Breaking of the Vessels" for the purpose of bringing evil into the world. From the following parshah, VEYESHEV, until the end of Genesis, the Torah concentrates on Jacob and his generations, who represent the World of Rectification (TIKKUN), in which evil is eventually vanquished completely through the House of Israel. The vicissitudes of Joseph and his brothers are paradigmatic of the vicissitudes leading to the eventual revelation of Messiah.

Historically, the descendants of Ishmael and of Abraham's other sons from Keturah brought certain aspects of the monotheism of Abraham to many parts of the world, especially to the east and south, including the Arab lands and many parts of Africa and Asia (the descendants of Noah's son Ham), through Islam. The descendants of Esau brought other aspects of the tradition of Abraham to the north and west -- to Europe, Russia and America (descendants of Japheth) as well as many other parts of the world through Christianity. (See Rambam, Hilchos Melochim 11:4 uncensored version). Although the land given specifically to Esau is Mount Seir, which is south east of the Land of Israel, Esau-Edom is particularly associated with Rome (see Rashi on Gen. 36:43 and also on Gen. 27:39). Rome put its unique stamp upon western culture and its influence is felt until today. (Thus the U.S. Senate is named after the Roman Senate.)

* * *


The holy structure to be built by Jacob was to be constructed only through struggle and effort: Jacob's struggle is the struggle to elevate Isaac's power (GEVURAH) through its use not for the benefit of self, but in order to bring the spirituality of Abraham (CHESSED) to rule over the fallen GEVUROS, the refractory material world of practical action as represented in the figure of Esau (from the Hebrew root ASO, "doing"). Only through the struggle to sift and clarify truth and goodness from falsehood and evil IN THE REAL WORLD is the light of truth revealed in all its beauty and perfection.

The history of mankind has indeed been the history of the clash of cultures and civilizations. It may appear cyclical and pointless, but as revealed in our parshah, it has a purpose and an end goal. It is to reveal G-d's unity out of the intergenerational war between good and evil in all shapes and forms. The struggle has been protracted and painful, just as the struggle of the twins in Rebecca's womb was painful to her to the point of desperation. Yet the very pain itself forced Rebecca to "go to search out HaShem" (Gen. 45:22). Similarly, the many pains and troubles later suffered by Jacob (as a result of the hatred and envy of Esau and Laban and family tragedy with Dinah and Jacob) brought him time after time to turn to G-d for help. The way to G-d's truth is indeed often painful and riddled with conflicts -- with others and within our very selves. However, it is possible to give meaning to our pain, struggle and hardship and to actually grow through them when we learn to turn our very pains and trials into a springboard to seek out G-d.

* * *


The two twins early showed their different traits. Esau, "man of the field", took after Isaac, who "went out to the field" (Gen. 24:63, last week's parshah). Esau the hunter exemplifies the extreme and unholy distortion of Isaac's holy GEVURAH. Esau's is the cunning brute force of the mighty over the weak and unsuspecting. (Esau wears the clothes of Nimrod.) Jacob, on the other hand, "dwelled in tents" -- not one tent but two: the "tents" of learning of his two teachers, the tent of his grandfather Abraham Man of Kindness (Abraham was still alive until Jacob was 13) and the tent of Jacob's own father Isaac, Man of Power. Jacob's mission was to synthesize the two "tents" and build out of them a "house": to combine the differing paths of the first two patriarchs (Abraham, the paradigm convert and Isaac, the paradigm case of one born into religion) into a unitary tradition capable of constant self-renewal. Jacob, the TAM, possessing the quality of simple honesty, sincerity and the search for truth, was able to do this. Esau was not: he knew only to ensnare -- for he himself was ensnared in the mesh of evil.

According to the Midrash, the episode of Jacob's "purchase" of the birthright from Esau for a cup of soup took place on the day that Abraham died. Jacob cooked the soup as the SEUDAT HAVRA'AH, the "meal of comfort and invigoration" prepared for the immediate mourners after the funeral. As Rashi teaches (on Gen. 25:30), Jacob's lentil soup was intended to convey a profound message to his father Isaac, who was mourning the loss of his father. "The lentil is similar to a wheel, and so too death and mourning are part of the cycle of the world." It is impossible to explain the meaning of death rationally -- the lentil "has no mouth", the mourner has nothing to say. We have no option but to accept death and mourning as an inevitable part of the cycle of destiny.

Jacob's ability to use a material object, the lentil, in order to teach a spiritual lesson, is what gave him power over ASIYAH as represented in ESAU. Esau was preoccupied with the material externality of the soup. Esau, the twin brother with whom Jacob was locked in perpetual struggle, was in and of the material world. Esau was exhausted from a day of "hunting". He was hungry. He wanted the tasty, filling soup. He had no time for spiritual meanings. Esau, locked in the time-bound material realm, knew only that he was going to die -- so eat, drink and be merry now! What need did Esau have for a spirituality that brought no immediate gratification? Esau was thus unfitted for the BECHORA, the choice first-born portion that was "acquired" by Jacob through his superior wisdom. The superior wisdom of the Torah is itself the choice portion, as indicated in the opening word of the Torah: BE-REISHIS, "for the sake of the first."

One of the deep mysteries of the Torah is that the natural, apparent first-born are repeatedly rejected in favor of the true, "spiritual" first-born. Cain was rejected while Abel's sacrifice was accepted. Japheth was made subordinate to his younger brother, Shem (Rashi on Gen.10:28) -- Shem and his descendants were the "high priests" who brought knowledge of HaShem to the world. Ishmael and Esau were rejected in favor of Isaac and Jacob respectively. Later on, Jacob's first-born Reuven was rejected in favor of Levi, Judah and Joseph. Ephraim was given precedence over Menashe. Kehas, the son of Levi, was given precedence over Levi's first-born, Gerhson... and Moses attained kingship over the firstborn Aaron, who was three years his senior. Yet through Aaron's humble, joyous submission to his younger brother Moses, whose spokesman he became, Aaron earned the priesthood. Through the balance between the lawgiver and the priest, the transgenerational struggle between brothers that started with Cain and Abel was brought to a satisfactory conclusion: religious service (as represented in Aaron) must be subject to religious law (Moses). Otherwise service turns into excess.

* * *


History repeats itself because lessons learned by one generation are forgotten by the next and have to be relearned. Just as the generation of Abraham had been afflicted by famine, so too was the generation of Isaac. Just as Abraham had been forced into exile, so was Isaac. Abraham dwelled among the Philistines in Gerar, and so did Isaac.

The popular association of "philistinism" with barbarity is fitting, for the Philistines represent the very opposite of the CHESED that is the driving force of the religion of Abraham. The numerical value of the Hebrew letters of PhiLiShTYM (Phe 80, Lamed 30, Shin 300, Tav 400, Yud 10, Mem 40) is 860. 86 is the numerical value of the letters of the divine name ELoKiM, alluding to GEVURAH, might, power, limitation and concealment. The Philistines (= 10 x 86) represent the forces of limitation and concealment in full array. In each generation their king, AVIMELECH (= "I want to rule") wants to steal the Shechinah (represented by Sarah and Rebeccah) for his own selfish pleasure. In each generation the patriarchs had to teach the lesson that the law of G-d must prevail. The kidnapping of a married woman is a crime against the universal law of the children of Noah. Abraham had taught the lesson in his generation, but it had been forgotten, and it had to be taught again in the generation of Isaac. This is because the forces of evil constantly conceal lessons learned by earlier generations. "And all the wells that the servants of his father [Abraham] had dug, the Philistines had stopped up, and they filled them with earth." (Gen. 26:15). The mission of the patriarchs was to uncover the waters of spirituality and bring them to the world, but the Philistines closed up the very sources of the living waters of spirituality with earthliness and gross materialism. Rashi (ad loc.) points out that the Targum of the word "closed up" has the connotation of "closing up the heart" with insensitivity and foolishness. Accordingly Isaac had to start all over again, re-digging the very wells that Abraham had dug.

Isaac's very success -- which so aroused the ire and envy of the Philistines -- came about because he loyally followed in the ways of charity, generosity and kindness taught by his father Abraham. (Thus Rashi points out Isaac was careful to assess the lands he sowed with a view to how much they could produce in tithes for charity, see Rashi on Gen. 26:12). Isaac was blessed because he wanted to share his blessings. Faced with the threat of military might from the Philistines, Isaac's response was to call upon the name of G-d. Instead of fighting his enemies, Isaac made peace with them. He practiced the ways of peace: "And he made a feast for them and they ate and drank... and they went from him in peace" (Gen. 26:30-31).

* * *


G-d "made the earth blossom forth every kind of tree pleasant to the eye and good to eat" and bestowed rich blessings upon man to enable him to come to know and attach himself to his Maker. Adam had been tricked by the serpent -- his own pride and arrogance -- into eating of the very tree from which he was forbidden to eat, thereby separating himself from his Maker. Being too clever for his own good, man mixed up good and evil. As a result Adam's descendants were condemned to a multi-generational struggle against that selfsame serpent of pride and arrogance, struggling repeatedly through history to sort out the confusion.

The confusion was so great that the Blind Isaac was apparently ready to hand over the power of blessing he had received from G-d (Gen.25:11) to the seeming first-born, Esau, even though Esau was in fact the very incarnation of the serpent (see Targum on Gen. 25:27, where "knowing hunting" is translated as NACHASHIRCHAN, having the connotation of NACHASH, serpentine).

The ultimate joke (Yitzchak means "he will laugh") is that Isaac, embodiment of GEVURAH, is overpowered and outwitted by his wife, Rebecca, who turns out to be his match in that attribute. Isaac's GEVURAH lay in the fact that he had been "born in" to the religion and brought up to a life of discipline, as symbolized in his being bound to the altar in the AKEIDAH that left his eyes blinded by the "tears of the angels" that dropped into them at that supreme moment. Rebecca's GEVURAH lay in the fact that even as a child, she had separated herself from the totally sinful environment in which she had been brought up -- she was the archetypal BAALAS TESHUVAH. Thus she knew the world better than "blind" Isaac -- and she knew that for the good of the entire world, it was vital that the blessings should go to Jacob. Since the serpent caused Adam's downfall by outwitting him and working on his wife, it was necessary for a woman, Rebecca, to outwit the serpent in order to restore Adam, incarnated in Jacob, to his true greatness. Thus Rebecca took Esau's beautiful clothes -- which he had stolen from Nimrod, who had stolen them from Adam -- and dressed Jacob with them.

"And [Isaac] smelled the scent of his clothes and he blessed him and said: See the scent of my son is as the scent of the field that HaShem has blessed. And G-d will give you of the dew of the heavens and from the fat of the earth and an abundance of grain and wine. The nations will serve you and the peoples will prostrate to you..." (Gen. 27:27-8).

Shabbat Shalom!

Avraham Yehushua Greenbaum


Post Colonial Hypocrisy

I don't know if the locals prefer to call their town Bombay or Mumbai. I'm willing to assume they prefer the latter. For a few centuries, however, the English name was Bombay, until sometime in the 1970s or 1980s, when someone (who?) decided this was a Colonial name, and disrespectful of the natives, so we all traipsed over to Mumbai. Or Beijing, or what have you.

But notice, this consideration is offered only to some natives, not to others. It would never occur to anyone that we must say Warszawa rather than Warsaw, Praha rather than Prague, and interestingly, not al-Halil rather than Hebron. Not to mention Jerusalem, which was called Yerushalayim while the distant forbears of the English speakers were still camping in forest clearings, nor el-Quds, the name given to the same town about the time the English language was still half a millenium away.

taken from :Yaacov Lozowick's Ruminations (

Roadside Rambles: Done with Edumacation

Roadside Rambles: Done with Edumacation

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Jewish Vengeance: Let it Shine

Jewish Vengeance: Let it Shine

Esser Agaroth: Tremping Update - Ariel

Esser Agaroth: Tremping Update - Ariel


Due disclosure: I've been at scenes of terrorist attacks, and I've been to war. So I'm personally empathetic to the sentiment of the American GIs in WWII who invented the term Snafu (Situation Normal All Fucked Up).
I doubt the same can be said of Ms. Christine Fair, senior political scientist and a South Asia expert at the RAND corporation, cited in today's New York Times, in an article that tries to understand who those murderous bastards in Mumbai are:

[S]he insisted the style of the attacks and the targets in Mumbai suggested the militants were likely to be Indian Muslims and not linked to Al Qaeda or Lashkar-e-Taiba, another violent South Asian terrorist group.

“There’s absolutely nothing Al Qaeda-like about it,” she said of the attack. “Did you see any suicide bombers? And there are no fingerprints of Lashkar. They don’t do hostage-taking and they don’t do grenades.”...

“There are a lot of very, very angry Muslims in India,” Ms. Fair said. “The economic disparities are startling and India has been very slow to publicly embrace its rising Muslim problem. You cannot put lipstick on this pig. This is a major domestic political challenge for India.

“The public political face of India says, ‘Our Muslims have not been radicalized.’ But the Indian intelligence apparatus knows that’s not true. India’s Muslim communities are being sucked into the global landscape of Islamist jihad,” she said. “Indians will have a strong incentive to link this to Al Qaeda. ‘Al Qaeda’s in your toilet!’ But this is a domestic issue. This is not India’s 9/11.”

(Predictably, this article was cited approvingly over at Daily Kos).

How do you even start? The shooting in Mumbai isn't even over, no-one knows the number of the dead yet, nor the number of attackers or even if any of them have been arrested and if so who they are, and from the other side of the world Ms. Fair knows who they're not and what their agenda is. For all I know, she may even prove to be right, eventually - a week from now, or a month, or a year. Equally likely, she'll prove to be totally wrong.

Then you've got her "context" explanation: the Indians are nasty to their own Muslims, so of course, the Muslim extremists are murdering tourists, normal folks in Mumbai some of whom must themselves be Muslims, and Jews. Two hotels, a train station, a hospital and a Chabad house: that's pretty much what you'd expect from irate Muslim Indians, isn't it?

Where do they grow these "experts"?
taken from : Yaacov Lozowick's Ruminations :

Parshat Toldot: Giving Blessings

Parshat Toldot: Giving Blessings

Posted using ShareThis

What, Judaism can actually be fun?

What, Judaism can actually be fun?

Posted using ShareThis

Wednesday, 26 November 2008



By Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum

Torah Reading: CHAYEY SARAH Gen. 23:1-25:18. Haftara I Kings 1, 1-31


The parshah opens with LIFE -- the LIFE of Sarah -- even though it goes on to speak of her death, and later that of Abraham (Gen. 25:8). This is because it is the very limit that death puts upon life that makes every year of life and every day so precious. "Teach us to count our days" (Psalms 90:12). What gives true value to each day is not the material pleasures enjoyed or the wealth amassed but the eternal goodness attained through the mitzvos one accomplishes each day, each minute.

In the words of Rabbi Nathan of Breslov in his Introduction to Chayey Moharan, the Life of Rabbi Nachman: "There are countless gradations in the life and vitality found in the world. Real life is the life of true wisdom, as it is written: 'Wisdom gives life to those who possess it' (Eccl. 712). And the essence of wisdom is to labor and endeavor to know and acknowledge G-d, who is the Life of life. The closer one comes to God, the more his life is genuine life."

"And the years of the life of Sarah." (Gen. 23:1)

"And these are the days of the years of the life of Abraham that he lived." (ibid. 25:87).

* * *


"And the sons of Ches answered Abraham saying to him. No man among us would withhold his grave from you." (Gen. 23:5-6).

No one in the world is exempt from death. All Adam's children must pay the price of his sin by tasting death. Thus even the Canaanite children of Ches (who were later to prove bitter enemies of Abraham's descendants) were forced to take a share in the mourning for Sarah. ISH MIMENU -- "No man among us." The words imply an awareness that all mankind lives under the shadow of death (ARI).

Burial is one of several possible ways of removing the bodies of our dead from within our midst. Removal of the dead from the midst of the living serves the living, to whom the presence of a decomposing corpse is too offensive and humiliating a reminder of their own mortality. But dead bodies could be burned or disposed of otherwise: Why bury them?

The answer is that burial benefits the dead as well. "For you are dust and to the dust you will return" (Gen. 3:19). Burial brings KAPARA, atonement, to the dead person for the sins committed in this world through the body. Being lowered into the earth after a lifetime of proud living above it is the deepest humiliation. The concealment of the person's physical remains beneath the earth, where they decompose and are reabsorbed into the elements, signifies the concealment and atonement of his sins. Eventually everything is merged back into unity and even the sins are turned into merits.

An integral aspect of the honor accorded to the dead through burial is that the atonement is accomplished in a concealed manner, thereby covering and hiding the shame of the dead. "And he shall cover it in the earth" (Leviticus 17:13)

Adam himself was buried in the earth: according to tradition, Adam and Eve were buried in the very Cave of Machpelah in which Abraham buried Sarah (Zohar VAYERA on the verse "And Abraham ran to the bull" Gen. 18:7). Burial of the dead is an integral part of the heritage of the children of Shem and Japheth -- their reward for the modesty they showed when they concealed their father Noah's nakedness after he became drunk (Gen. 9:21ff.). Rashi comments (ad loc.) that in the merit of this act, Shem earned for his children the modest body covering of the Tallis with its Tzitzis (fringes, Numbers 15:38), while Japheth earned burial for his descendants, the armies of Gog who are to be buried after falling in the war of Gog and Magog (Ezekiel 39:11). [Since Japheth earned burial for his descendants, how much more so did Shem! Significantly, it is customary to bury Jewish men in their Tallis.]

* * *


Abraham found it sufficient to live in tents for his whole life -- he was fully aware that he was but a "visitor and a resident" (Gen. 23:4) on this earth. Only when Sarah died did Abraham find it necessary to acquire permanent accommodation -- a final resting place for the body while the soul goes on to the life eternal. Thus Abraham teaches us that our most important acquisitions in this world are not the material houses on which most people lavish so much money and effort for their temporary stay here. Rather, our truest acquisitions are those that will truly serve us in the eternal life. Buying a burial plot is a SEGULAH for long life!

Abraham's acquisition of the Field and the cave of Machpelah from Ephron the Hittite is the first case of the acquisition of land in the Torah. [Eve "acquired" a child, Cain, naming him after the acquisition: "I have acquired (KANISI) a man with G-d", Gen. 4:1]. Fundamental lessons about KINYAN, acquisition or ownership, are derived from the account in our parshah of Abraham's purchase of land from Ephron, the classic example of how business dealings between the Children of Noah are to be characterized by the rule of law and integrity in accordance with the Seventh Universal Law. The negotiations and the transaction were carried out with perfect "transparency". The ears of the Children of Ches heard everything and their eyes saw it all (Gen. 23 vv. 10, 13; 18 etc.) Abraham did not ask for any bargains and he did not receive any. He paid the full price with silver. [Money is soul: people put their very soul into the acquisition of the liquid asset known as KESEF. KESEF is soul, for soul is desire: KISUFIN.]

Earlier in the story of Abraham, when Malki-tzedek (= Shem) king of Shalem (=Jerusalem) had come out to greet him after he rescued Lot from the Four Kings [Parshas LECH LECHA], Malki-tzedek blessed Abraham in the name of " the Supreme G-d, OWNER of Heaven and Earth" (Gen. 14:19). Abraham swore by the same G-d -- "owner of Heaven and Earth (ibid. 22).
Only when man acknowledges that G-d owns everything can man be said to own anything -- "for if you lack DA'AS (knowledge), what have you acquired?" [KINYAH requires DAAS.] Everything belongs to G-d: "The earth is the Lord's and all it's fullness" (Psalms 24:1). When man understands this and blesses G-d before he takes anything from this world, then G-d brings man to his true glory. G-d gives the world to man and allows him to own it: "And He has given the earth to the children of Adam" (ibid. 115:16).

Although Ephron had been the titular owner of the land, it had meant nothing to him -- it was dark and concealed -- because he did not possess this knowledge. Since Abraham had the knowledge, when he purchased the land it became truly his and associated with his name for ever: "And the field of Ephron stood." -- ("It had TEKUMAH, an upstanding" -- Rashi) -- ". to Abraham as an ACQUISITION" (Gen. 23:17-18).

* * *


Everyone knows that G-d rules over the heavens -- even the nearest star is way beyond man's reach. What is concealed from many people is that G-d rules over the earth and over every detail of what happens here. This was what Abraham came into the world to teach.

Rashi tells us (commenting on why Abraham, speaking to Eliezer, invoked "HaShem, the G-d of the heavens" but did not mention "and of earth" -- Gen. 24:7): "Abraham told Eliezer that now He is G-d 'of the heavens AND the earth' because I have made this phrase habitual on people's lips. But when He took me from the house of my father, He was 'G-d of the heavens' but not 'G-d of the earth' because people in the world did not recognize Him and His name was not familiar on the earth".

Abraham's could not allow his work to end with him. It was an integral part of his mission to have a worthy successor who would in turn have a worthy successor to ensure that the knowledge of G-d would never again be hidden from the world.

As a "Prince of G-d" (Gen. 23:6) and leaof the progeny of Shem, Abraham could not but be discriminating about the family that would provide the appropriate wife for his son and successor. Contrary to the widely held fallacy that people of any and every family and national backgrounds are all "equal", Abraham was unwilling to make a family alliance with any other than his own family back in Padan Aram. This was where they had stayed when Abraham went on his journey of destiny to the Land of Canaan.

Abraham was unwilling to make a family alliance with the Canaanites, for Canaan, son of Ham, was under the curse of Noah. On the other hand, Abraham could not allow his son Isaac to return to Padan Aram even for the sake of being married. This would have undermined the whole purpose of Abraham's departure from that "Old World". Padan Aram (with it's high priest, Laban = Bilaam, brain of all the forces of evil, the KELIPOS) was the old World of Devastation (OLAM HATOHU, Breaking of the Vessels), whereas Abraham had gone to turn the Land of Canaan in to the Land of ISRAEL (Yeshurun, Yosher) in order to create OLAM HATIKUN, the world of repair and healing.

Accordingly Abraham sent his servant Eliezer to Padan Aram to redeem the spark of TIKUN -- Rebecca -- from the World of Devastation, Padan Aram, a place characterized by DECEPTION.

* * *


It is significant that Eliezer is the one sent on this mission. Eliezer, son of Nimrod, son of Kush, eldest son of the accursed Ham) was himself an example of a rescued spark. By attaching himself to Abraham, Eliezer himself became "blessed" -- Laban greets him as "Blessed of HaShem" (Gen. 24"31). [Just how blessed this attachment proved to Eliezer's soul is seen in the fact that he was later incarnated as Kalev son of Yephuneh -- who had a particular attachment to Hevron and the patriarchs -- see Rashi on Numbers 13:22, as Benayah ben Yehoyada in the time of King Solomon and as Shemayah and Avtaliyon, leaders in the early rabbinic period and both converts. ARI.]

The Torah devotes gives much space to the account of Eliezer's journey to Padan Aram because witnessing closely Abraham's devoted servant in action, we learn deep lessons about Abraham and his mission in the world.

Eliezer goes first to the well, because, as "that Damascan" (Gen. 15:2) -- DAMASEK -- Eliezer's task was to be "Doleh u-MaSHKeh miToras Rabo", drawing and giving out to drink from the waters of the Torah of his master: "Ho, everyone that is thirsty, come for water!" (Isaiah 55:1). Deeply embedded in the account of Eliezer's mission is the concept of the DLI ("the bucket = Aquarius) and the drawing of the waters of spirituality into the world for all to drink. [Bney Issaschar, Shevat.]

The first thing Eliezer does at the well is to pray to G-d for help. He asks G-d to make events happen in a way that will enable the kindness of Abraham to be handed down to future generations. Eliezer's request to G-d to make events happen this way is founded upon the belief -- received from Abraham -- that He is "G-d of earth" and not only "G-d in heaven." G-d is in complete control of what "happens" on earth, down to the last detail. It is no "coincidence" that Rebecca steps out to "draw water from the well" just as Eliezer completes his prayer.

The test Eliezer devises for the candidate suited to marry Isaac and bring Abraham's kindness to the world is a test of CHARACTER. What counts is not what people say (like Ephron, who said a lot but did hardly anything.) What counts is what they actually DO.

Rebecca does MORE than Eliezer asks her. Not only does she want to give him to drink. She wants to perform kindness, GOMEL Chessed, to the very camels, GAMALIM. She has the expansive quality of CHESSED characteristic of the true family of Abraham: she was fitted for the role of consort to the new Prince of G-d.

The loss of one member of the family, Sarah, who went into the grave, HaKeVeR, opens the way for the entry of a new member to build the family: RiVKaH. The death of the old generation and their descent into HaKeVeR turns out to be HaBoKeR, a new morning, a new day!

* * *


Rebecca's first sight of Isaac was when "Isaac went out to meditate in the field towards the evening" (Gen. 24:63). This was the field of submission, the site where Isaac had been bound on Mount Moriah. Isaac turned his submission into a daily devotion: the devotion of set prayer and meditation.

Prayer is where we make Him "G-d of the earth", involving Him in all our daily affairs and activities and shining His light into the innermost depths of our hearts.

The Talmud tells us that the three founding fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, were all engaged in laying the foundations for the Temple on this site. Each made his own unique contribution -- and conceived it in a different way: Abraham as a "Mountain"; Isaac as a "Field" and Jacob as a "House". And it is as a "House" that it is destined to be built in Jerusalem in the near future (Pesachim 88a)

At first, attachment to G-d is like a high mountain. To scale the mountain, we must discipline ourselves like oxen to plough daily and turn the mountain into a cultivated field. This is the work of Isaac. Finally we come to the stage where spirituality is part of our lives and comes into our very homes, houses, domestic and family affairs (see Likutey Moharan I:10). This is the work of Jacob, to whom we will be introduced in next week's parshah, and whose garments had the fragrance of the "field that G-d has blessed" (parshas Toldos, Gen. 27:27).

Shabbat Shalom!

Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum

Monday, 17 November 2008


Sunday, 16 November 2008

Saturday, 8 November 2008




My Mom's Recipes And More#links#links

My Mom's Recipes And More#links#links

My Mom's Recipes And More#links

My Mom's Recipes And More#links




The Vatican has been making steps towards the canonization of WWII-era Pope Pius XII, and Jewish and Israeli spokesmen have been decrying this. This issue has been going on for well over a decade; in recent months it seemed to flare up and then die down again, but yesterday the flames were stoked again by none less than Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State:

Speaking at a ceremony marking 50 years since Pius' death, Bertone castigated those who say Pius did nothing to save Jews. He said historians who espouse such views "are infuriating and historically inaccurate." He called the allegations against Pius a "defaming legend.
"Earlier this decade the Vatican and Jewish organizations set up a joint commission of historians to clarify the issue, but shortly thereafter the Jewish historians on the panel, who included world-class scholars, all resigned when the Vatican refused them free access to the documentation. Given that historians, unlike journalists or bloggers, try to base their contentions on documents and not merely hearsay, this was a bit of a problem.
As the news item thoughtlessly parrots:

It is believed the process of cataloging and releasing the Vatican's documents from the World War II era will take another six or seven years.
Who exactly is doing the "believing"? We're not told.
I'm reminded of an instance in December 1998, methinks, when the US State Department convened a gigantic conference of folks from dozens of countries who all came to Foggy Bottom to talk about "Holocaust Era Assets", which were all the rage in those days. There were many of hundreds of us there, in a mostly cynical attempt to demonstrate, I don't know, that everybody was great or something. Though we weren't more cynical than politicians diplomats and power brokers generally are, so perhaps there wasn't anything particular about this convention.
Anyway, one of the panels I participated in was made up of archivists, and we were talking about ensuring that all archives be open to research and so on. If memory serves, I was sitting right next to the Monsignore from the Vatican's archives. Given that by 1998 his archive was one of the very last ones anywhere in the relevant parts of the world that were still closed, you don't have to envy him, and indeed he read out a statement that was unusually cynical even by the standards of the general context. At the end of the discussion I remember that I said to him that in democracies, opening archives is a hallmark of the freedom of investigation, and that as a general rule one shouldn't fear the truth that careful investigation of archives will bring forth.
He look straight at me and said "The Vatican is not a Democracy, Dr. Lozowick". End of that discussion.

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