Lech Lecha(Genesis 12-17)
Lech Lecha 5774
GOOD MORNING! Has there ever been a time when you've met someone with a disability, felt ill at ease and did not know how to respond? Perhaps you wanted to engage the person, to be compassionate and supportive, but didn't know how?
The following story is taken from Rabbi Paysach Krohn's Echoes of the Maggid (true stories of Divine providence that give incredible insights into life) which I found meaningful and helpful:
"It was a freezing night in Spring Valley, New York, and a crowd had gathered in a large auditorium to hear a talk I was to give on the topic, "The Carousel of Life -- Our Ups and Downs in Daily Living."
As I walked down the aisle toward the podium, I saw a girl in a wheelchair, near the front of the hall. From a distance it appeared she was in her early teens. It occurred to me it must have been difficult for her to come to the auditorium that night, as she had to brave the cold weather, be brought in a special van, and be wheeled through a crowd of a few hundred people. As I reached her, I stopped for a moment, bent over and said, "Thank you for coming tonight, I hope you enjoy the talk."
She turned to look at me and my heart fell. I was totally unprepared for what I saw. The girl had cerebral palsy and had no control of her body movements. She was constantly swaying, her head moving from right to left, but she was smiling buoyantly. She was saying something to me, but it was impossible for me to understand her in her high-pitched excitable voice. I felt helpless and humbled. A girl sitting next to her said, "I am her sister, she is saying 'thank you'. She's telling you 'thank you' for coming over to her."
"No," I replied, "it is I who should be saying 'thank you' to her for coming on this very cold night."
I was rattled from this short unexpected encounter. I resumed walking to the dais where I would be introduced as the evening's speaker. As I sat listening to the master of ceremonies setting the tone for the evening, someone handed me a sealed envelope. She indicated that it came from the girl in the wheelchair. The letter was startling and unforgettable.
I was later told that the girl in the wheelchair had dictated the letter to her sister. I share the letter with you, for there is much to be learned from her words:
Dear Rabbi Krohn, let me introduce myself. My name is Rivka Baila. I'm twenty years old. Unfortunately, I'm confined to a wheelchair. Until just about a year ago, everyone but my close family thought I was a 'dummy'. Finally, after nineteen years of misery, a psychologist name Dr. Sheenan let it be known (through a report of course) that I am "an intelligent lady!"
I'm deeply grateful to you, Rabbi Krohn, for providing me with stimulating and inspiring listening material. I enjoy all of your tapes and listen to them many times over.
Perhaps you can strengthen this most important point with my letter. People in wheelchairs are still people and should be treated that way. Those of us who cannot speak know so much more because we spend our time listening. If you have nothing nice to say, go elsewhere. DON'T STARE! Just smile, say hello -- nothing more. That shouldn't pose much of a problem. Then leave if you must.
In closing, do to others as you'd like them to do to you. Treat everyone well, like a human being. We were all created with a tzellem Elokim -- in the image of God. Thank you for listening to me. Sincerely, Rivka Baila.
Writes Rabbi Krohn, "When we hear or see a girl like Rivka Baila, our hearts go out to her. We visualize her challenge, so we feel her pain.
"We should, however, know that there are many people in 'emotional wheelchairs'. They feel impeded, restrained, and hampered because they don't have the friends, the funds, the family or the talents that others have. Some of those people are embarrassed by their situation, which is beyond their control. ... Everyone wants to be friendly with the 'haves' -- but our challenge is to be friendly with the 'have-nots'."
Torah Portion of the Week
Lech Lecha, Genesis 12:1 - 17:27
The Almighty commands Avram (later renamed Avraham) to leave Haran and go to the "place that I will show you" (which turned out to be the land of Canaan -- later renamed the Land of Israel). The Almighty then gives Avram an eternal message to the Jewish people and to the nations of the world, "I will bless those who bless you and he who curses you I will curse." Finding a famine, Avram travels to Egypt (once renamed to be part of the United Arab Republic) asking Sarai (later renamed Sarah), to say she is his sister so they won't kill him to marry her (the Egyptians were particular not to commit adultery ... so they would kill the husband instead).
Pharaoh evicts Avram from Egypt after attempting to take Sarai for a wife. They settle in Hebron (also known as Kiryat Arba) and his nephew Lot settles in Sodom. Avram rescues Lot -- who was taken captive -- in the Battle of the Four Kings against the Five Kings.
Entering into a covenant with the Almighty (all covenants with the Almighty are eternal, never to be abrogated or replaced by new covenants), Avram is told that his descendants will be enslaved for 400 years and that his descendants (via Isaac, "... through Isaac will offspring be considered yours." Gen. 21:8) will be given the land "from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates."
Sarai, childless, gives her handmaid Hagar to Avram for a wife so that he will have children. Ishmael (the alter zedeh -- the grandfather -- of our Arab cousins) is born. The covenant of brit mila, religious circumcision, is made (read 17:3-8), God changes their names to Avraham and Sarah and tells them that Sarah will give birth to Yitzhak (Isaac). Avraham circumcises all the males of his household.
* * *
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states:
"And (the Almighty) took (Avraham) outside and He said to him, 'Look up, please, at the heavens and count the stars, if you can count them.' And He said to him, 'So, too, will be your descendants'" (Genesis 15:5).
Was the Almighty just telling Avraham about the number of his descendants -- or was there a deeper message?
The Baal Shem Tov explained that the descendants of Avraham are like stars. We see the stars from a great distance and they appear to be mere tiny specks, but in reality in the heaven they are gigantic. So, too, in this world many people look very small. However, in reality they have greatness!
When you look at another person -- particularly, a child -- realize that he is like a star. He might seem small to you. He might not appear as having accomplished very much. Gain an awareness of the great potential of each person. View each person as an entire world, as an enormous being in the cosmos.
When you see people in this light you will behave towards them with great respect. When you show others this respect, they will gain greater respect for themselves. This can give a person the encouragement he needs to live up to his potential greatness!
CANDLE LIGHTING - October 11
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QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
The world little notes nor long remembers
individual acts of kindness ... but people do
-- Herm Albright
Rabbi Kalman Packouz
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