Month: October 2021

A Taste of Torah – Parshas Chayei Sara

Written by: Rabbi Avrohom S. Moller

Spare No Effort

In this week’s Parsha, the Torah describes Avrohom Avinu’s trusted servant Eliezer’s quest to find a suitable wife for Avrohom’s successor, Yitzchak Avinu. He goes to Aram Naharayyim and meets Rivkah at the well. He runs toward her after he sees her filling her jug and asks her for water. She responds by offering him water and also to water his camels. Rashi, quoting the Midrash, explains that Eliezer ran toward her because he was excited to see that the water rose toward her and she filled her jug with a minimum of effort. This fact is derived from the difference in the language describing her filling her personal jug, where it says ותמלא- she filled, in contrast to her watering the camels, which is described as ותשאב- she drew, implying that she had to lower her pail to the water.

The question is that if Rivkah was so righteous that the water rose to spare her extra effort when she came to the well, why didn’t it rise as she rushed to fill the trough with hundreds of gallons of water for the 10 camels?

Rabbi Levy Yitzchok of Berditchev (18th Century Chassidic master) explains that the righteous are granted favors in this world when pursuing their needs in this world. However, when they are doing Hashem’s work, they prefer that they exert the maximum effort to accomplish these tasks. This is supported by the Mishna in Avos – לפום צערא אגרא- The payment is commensurate with the difficulty.

Therefore, it would not have been a favor for Rivka to make the water rise while she did the chesed of watering Eliezer’s camels.

A Taste of Torah – Parshas Vayera

Written by: Rabbi Mordechai Raizman

Staying Focused

In this week’s parsha, after Avrahom completes the ten challenges, he becomes known as Avrahom Avinu, Avrahom, our forefather. The climax of the challenges appears to be the Akeidas Yitzchak when Avrahom faces the ultimate test to sacrifice his only son. However, Rabbeinu Yonah, one of the early Rishonim, disagrees with this thought and states that the tenth test, finding a burial place for Sarah, was the definitive test. Although, Avrahom was promised the land of Canaan, at the time of his wife’s death, he did not have control over it yet. Therefore, he could not find a place to bury Sarah there. In Rabbeinu Yonah’s opinion, Avrahom’s belief and trust in Hashem that he would find the appropriate burial for his wife was the ultimate challenge.

Many commentaries are perplexed by Rabbeinu Yonah’s outlook. How is it possible that any test would be greater than willing to give up one’s only son that Hashem promised would be the future of the Jewish people? Avrahom’s mission in life, to spread Judaism to future generations, was about to be lost if he sacrificed Yitzchak. Could any test be greater than that?

Rabbeinu Yonah’s idea teaches us an important lesson for our daily lives. I think all would agree that there is no comparison between the two challenges, Akeidas Yitzchak and finding Sarah a burial spot. There are times in our lives that we can muster up the strength to pass a really big test. However, the key to consistency for one that serves Hashem is to be able to pass the small test that follows the big one for all of them are important.

This idea is illustrated often in professional sports. Many times there is a mediocre team that rises to the challenge and beats a better team.  The very next week that mediocre team loses to a much weaker one.  In life, many times people tend to lose focus on the smaller issues. They rise to the occasion for the big challenge but fall short on the smaller one.                                     

Avrahom was able to become our forefather with his unwavering dedication to Hashem. He met each challenge, big or small, with steadfast faith in Hashem. Our job is to transmit this message to our children.  Value every challenge, big or small, for they are all opportunities to grow in our service of Hashem.

2021 Mayefsky Memorial Parenting Lecture

The community is invited to join the ATT for the 35th Annual Rabbi Isaac Mayefsky Memorial Parenting Lecture on Motzoei Shabbos, December 11, 2021 at 8:00PM at the Associated Talmud Torahs, (ICJA Entrance – 8233 Central Park Avenue) in Skokie. The theme of this year’s lecture will be “Raising Resilient Children in a Confusing World” and will be presented by Rabbi Jonathan Rietti, captivating speaker and renowned educator.  Rabbi Rietti will address how to enhance relationships with children and how to build a child’s resilience in our ever-changing world. He will explore the Torah’s timeless and successful parenting prescription. The program will provide parents with skills that can be applied to children of all ages. Admission is free.

To see the brochure, click here.

For more information, contact the Associated Talmud Torahs at 773-973-2828.

A Taste of Torah – Parshas Lech Lecha

Written by: Rabbi Avrohom S. Moller

In this week’s parsha, Hashem appears to Avrohom Avinu and tells him to leave his birthplace to go to “the land I shall show you.” Hashem promises him great things, he will father a great nation, be famous and blessed, etc. The Ramban (Nachmonides) is bothered that we don’t get a better introduction to Avrohom. Usually, the Torah tells us more about a great personality and why he/she was beloved by Hashem. In the case of Avrohom, the Torah tells us that he was told to leave his ancestral land for a bright future in Eretz Yisroel without any explanation as to why he was chosen to be Hashem’s messenger to mankind. The Ramban suggests that since Avrohom’s greatness early in his life was his rejection of the idolatry in his birthplace, the Torah doesn’t want to discuss all of the decadence and depravity of that culture. The Torah just focuses on Avrohom’s loyalty and obedience to Hashem.

The Sfas Emes (Rabbi Yehuda Leib Alter, third Rebbe of Gur 1847-1905) gives a very novel answer to this question. He quotes the Zohar that the call of “Lech Lecha – go forth for yourself” was a challenge to all of mankind in every time. It is Hashem’s call to all of us to go and accomplish our mission in life. Avrohom Avinu was the only one in his time who heeded this call, and therefore, it became his personal charge. There is no introduction to Avrohom’s character and history since this is the essence of who he was. He was the one who listened and thought for himself and that is what endeared him to Hashem, earning the title of “Avrohom, My Beloved.”

As children and spiritual heirs to our great ancestor, we need to do as he did. We must go forth and do great things especially in making the world more hospitable to G-dliness. This is our destiny as a people and our duty as children of Avrohom. We declare Hashem’s sovereignty by conducting ourselves by the values and morality of the Torah. We work hard raising our children to perpetuate these ideals for the future of mankind.

When we do this, we can invoke the merit of our Avos, our Patriarchs, who centered their lives on this mission. May we heed the call and succeed in adding to the spirituality and goodness of this world in our lifetime.

A Taste of Torah – Parshas Noach

Written by: Rabbi Mordechai Raizman

In this week’s Parsha, it states that Noach was a Tzaddik (a righteous person) in his generation. The question that naturally arises is why is in his generation included in that statement. Rashi explains that the phrase implies that Noach was only a righteous man in comparison to the rest of his generation. If he had lived during another generation, such as Avrohom’s, he would not have been considered a Tzaddik. In fact, Rashi in his explanation uses a harsh description when comparing his stature to those of Avrohom’s generation. He states that Noach would be Lo Nechshav Lklum which means he would not be worthy of recognition. However, his clarification presents another issue. How can a person who is considered a Tzaddik in one generation possess such a low stature in another?  

A timeless lesson about the standards we set for ourselves and our children can be learned from Rashi’s explanation. Many times, a person tends to adapt to his/her environment’s standards, and more often than not, ends up settling for much less than what he/she is capable of doing and becoming. Instead, the individual becomes content with being a Tzaddik in an environment that is not very righteous and has a value system that places minimal demands. 

Perhaps this is the meaning of Rashi’s interpretation. Noach did not strive to fully reach his potential. He was content with just being better than everyone around him. However, the Torah demands more from us. It teaches us to continuously search for new ways to improve our character and to become better role models for our children. 

We have just finished celebrating the Yomim Tovim cycle of the Yomim Noraim (Days of Awe) and Sukkos. Let us take the inspiration from these special days to not be content to just be “good in our generation” but rather constantly strive to be the best individuals we can be and raise the bar of what we can accomplish. If we take that approach, most likely we will have an impact on many generations to come.