GOOD MORNING! My friend, Tuvia Chaim Ariel, of blessed memory, grew up in New York. One of his best buddies was a nice Jewish boy -- who became a guru in India with a considerable following of spiritual seekers. Whenever the guru would come to New York, he and Tuvia would head to the nearest kosher deli for a hot pastrami sandwich. Though this was against the precepts of the eastern philosophy he espoused, the guru had a passion for pastrami.
One time Tuvia and the guru were sitting in the deli when lo and behold -- one of the guru's followers spotted him, entered the deli and beseeched the guru, "Oh, guru -- how is possible that you are eating a pastrami sandwich?" To which the guru replies, "The swallow wings skyward as the moon waxes full. Meditate upon it."
When the follower left, Tuvia asked, "And what is that supposed to mean?" And the guru replied, "What am I suppose to tell him? That I love pastrami?" I like the story for its own sake, but if you want a lesson: Look for consistency and honesty in your leaders -- and in yourself.
Q & A: WHAT DOES THE CHOSEN PEOPLE MEAN AND IS IT A RACIST CONCEPT?
The Torah refers to the Jewish People as a Chosen People (Deuteronomy 7:6). Many people find this term distressing feeling that it is a racist concept which appears to fly in the face of the Western ideal of all people being equal before God. However, it cannot be racist. It is impossible to define the Jews as one monolithic race; Jews are as racially diverse as there are races. Caucasians, blacks and Orientals are all part of our nation.
While the concept of Chosen People does not mean a racially superior people, it implies something about the Jewish people. The Torah describes us as a "treasured nation" with a special closeness to the Almighty.
The Midrash (Bamidbar Rabba 14:10) tells us that the Almighty went to the nations of the world and offered them the Torah. Each one asked, "What's in it?" The Almighty replied with a commandment that would be the most difficult for that particular nation and then each nation rejected it. The Jewish people, however, said "Na'aseh V'nishma" -- we will do (the commandments) and we will analyze afterwards how they impact our lives.
Because of our voluntary acceptance, the Almighty made an eternal covenant with us that we will be His people and He will be our God. Any individual can come close to the Almighty, but the ultimate relationship comes through entering the covenant of Abraham and fulfilling the Torah. This special relationship is open to any member of humanity who wishes to enter the covenant.
The concept of Chosen People means both chosen and choosing. Chosen for the responsibility to be a light unto the nations, to be a moral signpost for the nations of the world. Choosing means that the Jewish people accepted on Mt.Sinai to fulfill this mandate and to do the will of God. We are not chosen for special benefits; we are chosen for extra responsibility.
Every nation, every people, every religion thinks that it is better than any other nation, people or religion. The Jewish people know that the issue is not whether we are better than anyone else, but whether we fulfill our part of the covenant with the Almighty to hold high the values of the Torah and to do the Almighty's will.
Portion of the Week
Here begins the story of the Ten Plagues which God put upon the Egyptians not only to effect the release of the Jewish people from bondage, but to show the world that He is the God of all of creation and history. The first nine plagues are divisible into three groups:
- The Water Turning to Blood, Frogs, Lice
- Wild Beasts, Pestilence/Epidemic, Boils
- Hail, Locust, and Darkness
Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch explains that these were punishments measure for measure for afflicting the Jewish people with slavery. The first of each group reduced Egyptians in their own land to the insecurity of strangers, the second of each group robbed them of pride, possessions and a sense of superiority; the third in each group imposed physical suffering.
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states, "And Pharaoh sent word and summoned Moses and Aaron. He said to them, 'This time I am guilty! God is just! It is I and my people who are wicked! ... I will let you leave. You will not be delayed again.'" Shortly thereafter, Pharaoh refused to let them leave.
Why did Pharaoh change his mind once the pressure of the plague was removed? Rabbi Noson Tzvi Finkel of the Mir Yeshiva explains that Pharaoh viewed suffering as a punishment. That is why he said, "The Almighty is a righteous judge and His punishment is fair because I have done evil."
The reality is that there is a strong element of kindness in the suffering that the Almighty sends to us. In part, it is a Divine message that we have something to improve. Pharaoh viewed suffering only as a punishment. Therefore, as soon as the punishment was over, he changed his mind and refused to let them leave.
Our lesson: View suffering as a means to elevate yourself and you will find meaning in your suffering. Try to accept it with love and appreciation. And ask yourself, "How can I use this as a tool for self-improvement?"
CANDLE LIGHTING - January 26:
Guatemala 5:40 Hong Kong 5:45 Honolulu 6:00
J'Burg 6:44 London 4:22 Los Angeles 4:53
Melbourne 8:20 Miami 5:37 Moscow 4:34
New York 4:30 Singapore 6:59
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
The price of greatness
-- Winston Churchill
Dedicated by...In Loving Memory of
Michael & Jackie Abels