GOOD MORNING! If you had one prayer that you wanted the Almighty to fulfill, what would it be? Would it be wealth, fame, success? Judging by the people I meet, invariably they tell me, "Rabbi, if you have good health, you have everything!"
About 2,000 years ago the Sages redacted the Shemoneh Esray (also called the Amidah) -- the prayer we pray three times a day. It has 3 sections: 1) Praises of the Almighty (we should recognize the Source of all our blessings). 2) Personal and National requests. 3) Thanks to the Almighty for all that He has given us. What do you think the first request the Rabbis instructed us to ask from the Almighty each day? Wisdom! The Almighty should grant us the ability to think, to make distinctions, gain insights and to make decisions with wisdom.
Why not ask for health first? Many years ago I asked my teacher, Rabbi Noah Weinberg, of blessed memory, that question. He replied, "What would you say if I told you about a person I know who is over 100 years old and in perfect health?" After I replied that it sounded fabulous, he asked, "And what would you say if I told you that he's been in coma for 30 years? There is more to life than good health. Whatever the Almighty gives you --including health challenges -- is your opportunity to fulfill your purpose in this world for spiritual growth and character refinement. For that, you need awareness and the ability to think."
The Almighty is constantly speaking to us. Whatever happens to us, who we meet, what we see -- these are messages. It is up to us to be aware and to think about our lives and how we are progressing in all aspects of our life and our relations. I once saw a beautiful quote: There are 3 types of people: 1) Those who make things happen. 2) Those who watch things happen. 3) Those who ask, "What happened?"
One tool to build awareness and to aid in personal growth is to make a daily accounting before you go to sleep. Growth and accomplishment only comes through focus and effort. Each day ask yourself: 1) What am I living for? 2) What did I do towards my goal today? 3) What did I do away from my goal today? 4) What is a better goal to work towards? 5) What do I have in my life for which I should be grateful? If you do this, you will find that you will have more appreciation of life and greater accomplishment.
This week's Torah portion is Noah. The following anonymous piece was sent to me which I edited. Perhaps it's a bit whimsical, but hopefully it will encourage you to think about what you see, what you read, what you do --and to ask, "What can I learn from this?"
Torah Portion of the Week
The story of one righteous man in an evil generation. The Almighty commands Noah to build the ark on a hill far from the water. He built it over a period of 120 years. People deride Noah and ask him, "Why are you building a boat on a hill?" Noah explains that there will be a flood if people do not correct their ways (according to the comedian Bill Cosby, Noah would ask "How long can you tread water?"). We see from this the patience of the Almighty for people to correct their ways and the genius of arousing people's curiosity so that they will ask a question and, hopefully, hear the answer.
The generation does not do Teshuva, returning from their evil ways, and God brings a flood for 40 days. They leave the ark 365 days later when the earth has once again become habitable. The Almighty makes a covenant and makes the rainbow the sign of the covenant that He will never destroy all of life again by water (hence, James Baldwin's book, The Fire Next Time). When one sees a rainbow it is an omen to do Teshuva -- to recognize the mistakes you are making in life, regret them, correct them/make restitution, and ask for forgiveness from anyone you have wronged as well as from the Almighty.
Noah plants a vineyard, gets drunk and then occurs the mysterious incident in the tent after which Noah curses his grandson Canaan. The Torah portion concludes with the story of the Tower of Babel and then a genealogy from Noah's son, Shem, to Abram (Abraham).
* * *
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states:
"Noah was a completely righteous man in his generation" (Gen. 6:9).
The Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin 108a, is bothered by the seemingly superfluous words "in his generation." What are these extra words coming to teach us?
There are two opinions: 1) Praise of Noah. Even in an evil generation he was righteous. However, if he were in a righteous generation, he would have been even more righteous. 2) Denigration of Noah. In his own generation he was considered righteous, but had he lived in Avraham's generation he would not have been considered righteous in comparison to Avraham.
The Chasam Sofer, a great rabbi, explained that there really is no argument between the two opinions. If Noah would have stayed the way he was in his own generation, then in Avraham's generation he would not have been considered that righteous. However, the reality is that Noah would have been influenced by Avraham and have reached even greater heights of righteousness.
What do we learn from this? We are all affected by our environment. When we are close to people of good character, we are automatically influenced in positive directions. Choose well your friends and your community -- they strongly impact your life!
CANDLE LIGHTING - October 28
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QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
Your purpose is the essence of who you are.
-- Idelette Van Papendorp
With Deep Appreciation to
Dr. Geoffrey Weisbaum
Rabbi Kalman Packouz
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