Friday, January 9, 2009

Weekly E*Torah by Rabbi A. Altein

Parshas Vayechi

This Shabbat's Torah Reading is called VaYechi, for life. Interestingly, the entire reading is about Jacob's death and funeral. It seems strange that the story of his death would be named "life."

Herein lies a beautiful lesson. Ordinary life is very temporary; it is not real because it passes us by liked a fleeting dream. True life is to live eternally and that we can achieve only by connecting our soul to eternal G-d.

After Jacob died and his children continued to live as loyal Jews, that was the indication that his life was to endure even after his physical death, and that is when his life became real. That's why the portion is called VaYechi, "he lived."

During the current crisis in Israel, every Jewish heart pounds with concern for the lives and welfare of our fellow Jews and for the safety and success of the young and courageous young men and women of the Israeli Army. It is obvious that we cannot rely on the world around us to stand up for Jewish lives. The hatred of Jews in society comes clearly through the thin guise of upside-down morality and crocodile tears for the defeat of Hamas.

It is important to recognize that Jews can only rely on each other and that primarily we need to reach out to G-d and pray for Divine intervention and assistance.

Our sages tell us that when Jews observe two specific Mitzvot, they are blessed with divine protection and Jewish soldiers are empowered with an extra degree of divine assistance.

One of these Mitzvot is donning Tefillin. The Tefillin contain passages of the Torah that testify to the unique bond between G-d and Israel. When we place these passages on our arm and head, they imbue our head with divine insight and the arms of the soldiers of Israel with the strength to overcome our mortal enemies.

The other Mitzvah is Shabbat Candles. The glow of the candles on the Shabbat table creates an atmosphere of serenity and peace that gives sanctity to a Jewish home. In a larger sense, the Mitzvah of lighting the Shabbat candles brings peace and serenity to the national "home" of the Jewish People--to Israel.

In an expression of tangible solidarity with the Israel, each of us should resolve to do these Mitzvot during the coming days. Every Jewish man should don Tefillin on the arm and head. It could be done anytime between daybreak to sunset. Recite the Shema Yisrael (it will only take three minutes of your time) before removing the Tefillin.

Every Jewish woman should light Shabbat Candles in her home this Friday night, by 4:30 pm. The brightness and warmth of the Shabbat that will fill Jewish homes will spread to our fellow Jews in Israel and give them a brighter and more peaceful future.

Every Mitzvah counts. Together, we can change the world, one Mitzvah at a time!

European Justice

It happened in France. A young man saw a pit bull attacking a toddler. He killed the pit bull and saved the child's life. Reporters swarmed around the hero and told him that tomorrow's headline will be: "Brave Frenchman Saves Little Girl from Vicious Dog!"

So the fellow says, "But I'm not a Frenchman, I'm a Jew from Israel."

The next day's headlines proclaimed: "Vicious Israeli Massacres Little Girl's Dog!"

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